Movie Review: An Austrian lounge singer hustles and croons into the sunset in “Rimini”

“Rimini” is a darkly-comic Austrian tale of a Lounge Singer in Winter, figuratively and literally.

This Ulrich Seidl film is set in the Italian resort city in the off-season, when the snow blows and the water park is closed. That’s when the penny-pinching German and Austrian seniors make the trek South to stay in discounted resorts, to play the slots and listen to the aging pop crooner Richie Bravo sing Italian love ballads in German.

Yes, every single thing about that is amusingly messed-up. The writer-director of the ironically titled “Paradise” trilogy is giving us a “Broadway Danny Rose” set in a forlorn, seen-better-days “Atlantic City,” here on the Adriatic Coast.

Seidl’s frequent alter ego Michael Thomas plays Richie, a glad-handing, dyed-blond, Van Dyked and biker-burly “star” whose voice has aged into a light baritone.

We meet him as he shows up at the Austrian house he grew up in, drinking, horsing around and reminiscing with his brother (George Freedrich). He’s come to bury their mother. And that means they must fetch their aged, demented father from the nursing him and hope he doesn’t break into Austrian marching songs from WWII during the almost-empty service.

That deadpan get-away isn’t exactly a vacation from Riche’s real life. But as Richie lives in a vacation Mecca, that’s poetic justice. He strides along the snowy boardwalks in his snakeskin boots and elkskin coat, muttering at the homeless Middle Eastern refugees he sees everywhere.

He gets dolled-up for his stage aact, singing along to a backing track for busloads of tourists. He works the crowd after shows, drinks with the customers and collects a pittance for his labor, it being the off-season. And he answers his always-ringing phone. Richie is a man in demand. The ageing crooner’s ageing fans have needs. He’s a singer and sex worker.

“Angela, my darling! How could I forget!” (in German and sometimes Italian with English subtitles). He’ll be right over.

The singing is credibly corny, the sex scenes drily comical. “Ageing gracefully” doesn’t fit into the picture when your fan/”client” has her bedridden, even-older mother not-really-asleep in the next room as you slake her um, thirst.

But Richie’s got a nice townhouse, filled with costumes and mementos. He’s not really “living the dream,” but he is managing to live the delusion. We almost feel sorry for him, but not quite

Then his angry, long-estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) arrives, stalks him and eventually reintroduces herself to the old creep who came onto her after his show the night before. She’s come of age, and she wants all the child support — and NOTHING else — that he owes her.

A guilt-ridden Richie has to scrape together cash for a raging fury who won’t agree to just sit down and talk and reconnect. Her tone and the silent Arabic boyfriend who accompanies her to their meet-ups just reinforce the feeling that this is a shakedown.

It’s probably what Richie deserves, but man, does this cramp his style. He’s got to sell jewelry, beg borrow and steal, and all of that could give a sex worker performance anxiety in the bargain.

Seidl has a droll, straightforward way with this material. As with his name-making “Paradise” films of a dozen years ago, he’s not content to let a single film make his points about personalities, Austrian life and the Austrian psyche in a single movie. He’s made a follow-up film, “Sparta,” focusing on Richie’s brother’s lot in life.

The inclusion of the aged, tuned-out father (Hans-Michael Rehberg, who died after filming his scenes) suggests a sort of Austrian guilt as subtext. Dad is dying alone, miserable and trapped. The generation folks like this raised has its reasons for keeping its distance. But they aren’t happy or guilt-free, either.

Thomas’s engagingly repellant, larger-than-life turn as Richie hints at the way Hollywood could cast and remake this. Because we all know how much the burly and vain Russell Crowe loves to sing.

But why wait? “Rimini” gives us the unadulterated melancholy of living your worst life in the best place you could hope, only not at the time of year anyone would prefer.

Rating: unrated, sex, nudity, smoking

Cast: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Georg Friedrich and Hans-Michael Rehberg

Credits: Directed by Ulrich Seidl, scripted by Ulrich Seidl and Veronika Franz A Big World Pictures release.

Running time: 1:55

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
This entry was posted in Reviews, previews, profiles and movie news. Bookmark the permalink.

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