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by Andrea Maria Dusl

grade: 7

In Blue Moon, we witness, with the structure of a road movie, a tender love story with thriller overtones, in which two cultures and two distinct worlds – East and West – meet, and which gradually discover that they have much more in common than it might initially seem.

From Vienna to Odessa

The Odessa Steps. What comes to mind when we read that name? Impossible not to think of the famous Battleship Potëmkin, Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 masterpiece, which depicted on the famous steps one of the bloodiest scenes ever filmed, namely the suppression of the popular uprising by the Tsar’s Cossacks. It is precisely with an evocative image of the Odessa Steps, then, that the feature film Blue Moon, made in 2002 by Andrea Maria Dusl, opens, a stage within which two apparently distinct worlds such as East and West finally meet, resulting in something unique and fascinating.

The story staged here, then, is that of the courier Johnny Pichler (played by Josef Hader), who, after being threatened by a Russian mobster during a money exchange, manages to escape with the latter’s car and money, thanks also to the help of the beautiful escort Shirley (Viktorija Malektorowytsch). The man, falling in love with her at first sight, will be fascinated by her reserved and mysterious character and even when the girl suddenly disappears from his life, he is willing to undertake a long journey first to Kiev (where he will meet her twin sister), then finally to Odessa.

This original Blue Moon, then, was an immediate success for Dusl, as her debut feature, winning the Grand Prize Diagonale for Best Austrian Film in 2003, as well as the Thomas Pluch Award for Best Screenplay, also as part of the Diagonale.

And so, with the structure of a road movie, we witness a tender love story with thriller overtones, where two cultures and two distinct worlds – East and West – meet, and gradually discover that they have much more in common than it might initially seem.

Andrea Maria Dusl plays mainly on details in her Blue Moon. And if faded black and white photographs reveal unsuspected past secrets, a dancer inside a music box in turn symbolises very deep feelings. It is precisely around these details, then, that the entire feature film unfolds, and alongside moments that, at times, seem to go around in circles – such as those, for instance, concerning Johnny’s encounter with another travelling salesman played by Detlev Buck – at the end of the feature film, the director manages to ‘save the situation’ and produce a small and pleasant film, within which there are numerous influences from different social and cultural realities.

All this is possible thanks both to a directorial approach that skilfully avoids useless virtuosity, with a camera that knows where to focus its attention, and, of course, to an excellent cast, in which, above all, the good Josef Hader stands out, perfectly capable of changing tone from one scene to the next without ever seeming over the top.

All this is Blue Moon. A film in which no one is really a victim and no one is completely innocent. A film where a welcome touch of suspense blends well with the romantic aspect, without the latter being exaggerated or cloying. A meeting of two different worlds, to which welcome references to the great cinema of the past definitely add value.

Original title: Blue Moon
Directed by: Andrea Maria Dusl
Country/year: Austria / 2002
Running time: 90’
Genre: comedy, romance, drama, thriller
Cast: Josef Hader, Victoria Malektorovych, Detlev Buck, Ivan Laca, Walter Grund, Peter Aczel, Pavol Secnik, Ladislav Buocik, Milada Ostrulcka, Jaroslav Duris, Anna Hulmanova, Andrea Karnasova, Emöke Vinczeová, Bogdan Andruch, Galina Levchenko
Screenplay: Andrea Maria Dusl
Cinematography: Wolfgang Thaler
Produced by: Interfilm Production Studio, Lotus Film

Info: the page of Blue Moon on iMDb; the page of Blue Moon on the website of the Lotus Film