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THE LAST REAL MEN

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by Ulrich Seidl

grade: 7.5

In The Last Real Men, Ulrich Seidl’s camera remains constantly fixed on showing us the protagonists as they recount in turn their experiences. For almost the entire documentary, as often happens in his work, reality is shown to us as it is. And in showing itself as it is, it comes out with all its absurdity and ridiculousness, revealing itself to be much more dangerous than it might initially appear.

Happiness that comes from afar

He has always analysed every single aspect (and, consequently, every flaw) of the society in which we live, Ulrich Seidl. World-famous for his documentaries and feature films that depict every facet of the human soul and the dangerous dynamics of the present and the past that underlie what is wrong in our world, the Viennese director immediately stood out for his witty gaze, his intelligent irony and his particular directorial approach that, through a minimalist but extremely sophisticated and personal mise-en-scène, gave us ruthless and truthful portraits of characters we will not easily forget. This has been evident since his first documentaries made in the early 1980s, as well as in The Last Real Men, made in 1994.

Perfectly in line with the canons of his cinema, then, the documentary The last real Men (whose title is already rather ironic in itself) closely follows the vicissitudes of the teacher Karl, a divorced martial arts enthusiast, who, following a sort of ‘trend’ that is particularly in vogue, decides to choose his future wife from a sort of catalogue. A catalogue that features numerous women mainly from Thailand and the Philippines. Women who, in the opinion of many men, are much more quiet and helpful and have much less ambition than Western women.

Will our Karl finally find the love of his life? Will the numerous testimonies of the many men who have already married a woman in the same way ever be helpful to him in any way? In The Last Real Men, Ulrich Seidl’s camera remains constantly fixed on showing us the protagonists as they recount in turn their own experiences. Only when the director decides to show us the empty rooms of a perfectly clean and tidy flat do we notice some essential camera movements. For almost the entire documentary, as often happens in his works, reality is shown to us as it is. And in showing itself as it is, it comes out with all its absurdity and ridiculousness, revealing itself to be much more dangerous than it might initially seem.

One laughs a lot while watching The Last Real Men. One laughs when we see these gauche and grotesque characters recounting their experiences and ideas before the camera. One laughs when we see the protagonist practising martial arts in his living room, as if to show the audience his virility. One also laughs when we see the latter bitterly disappointed when things do not go as initially hoped. Yet at the same time, one also reflects on how certain ways of thinking and certain dynamics are still, unfortunately, sadly relevant today. Ulrich Seidl knows very well what to communicate to the viewer. And ever since his debut, he has done so in a completely direct, courageous and personal manner, immediately revealing himself to be one of the most interesting and controversial names on the contemporary film scene.

Original title: Die letzten Männer
Directed by: Ulrich Seidl
Country/year: Austria / 1994
Running time: 60’
Genre: documentary
Screenplay: Ulrich Seidl
Cinematography: Peter Zeitlinger
Produced by: Lotus Film

Info: the page of The last real Men on iMDb; the page of The last real Men on the website of the Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion; the page of The last real Men on the website of the Lotus Film; the page of The last real Men on the website of the Austrian Film Commission