Are you familiar with the “Cities of Love” franchise? You might be familiar with the “Cities of Love” franchise. The idea dreamed up by Emmanuel Benbihy and Tristan Carné is a combo deal: a way to celebrate and highlight certain cities while also driving tourism there. (“Our films have become promotional vehicles creating global visibility for a higher purpose,” the franchise’s website claims.) There was a movie about Paris, a movie about New York City, and a movie about Rio, and Berlin, I Love You just premiered last week, on Fri. Feb. 8.
These movies somehow manage to attract casts of interesting, varied, mostly B-level and some A-list actors, and Berlin, I Love You is no exception. Keira Knightley! Helen Mirren! Jenna Dewan! Jim Sturgess! Dianna Agron! Luke Wilson! As I’m typing out these names, I’m realizing that most everyone who has a major role in this movie is white! Diego Luna is here too,
but he plays a trans woman, and that isn’t great! and he plays a drag queen. (ETA on 2/15/2019: I’ve changed “trans woman” to “drag queen” here per the request of the PR company repping the film. I think the dialogue in the segment makes this characterization ambiguous, hence my mistake, but I’ve made this change per their request.) These are issues I did not expect to approach in this piece but here we are! Please take what you will out of this paragraph as I move onto crazier things!
Because there is one very specific element I want to discuss regarding Berlin, I Love You, and it’s this: If your movie has to pad time with an incest storyline, then maybe your movie didn’t need to be long. Maybe the entire premise of your “Cities of Love” franchise has run its course. Maybe Mickey Rourke in his tighty-whiteys crying on a bathroom floor after realizing that he was trying to fuck his daughter is not the way your movie should go!
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, this all happens in Berlin, I Love You! The things to know about these films is that they’re mostly a series of vignettes (that’s why these actors sign on, I think, because they get paychecks for snippets of a film, not an entire production) and that the segments are often scripted and directed by different people. The one with Rourke is called “Love is in the Air,” it’s directed by German actor and filmmaker Til Schweiger (Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz from Inglourious Basterds) and is written by the playwright and writer Neil LaBute, and I don’t understand what either of them thought this story had to do with Berlin. The entire scene takes place in a hotel. The characters aren’t then necessary to the rest of the storylines. Rourke appears in one scene wearing a zip-up sweatshirt and no shirt underneath. WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. WHAT CHOICES DID I MAKE THAT LED ME HERE?
The gist is this: Hotel bar, tall blonde (Toni Gorrn) walks in, every single man turns to look at her, she sits down and is approached by Rourke. I guess what they do next is flirt? He opens with “What’s shaking, baby?” and then they sort of talk about feminism, or something? (“I don’t have time for a movement, I work for a living,” she says.) AND THEN APROPOS OF NOTHING she leans and kisses him, and then the bartender looks upon them approvingly when Rourke’s character says that he thinks his chances of getting lucky are 50-50, AND THEN he says he wants to “love you until your eyeballs roll to the back of your head” (PEOPLE THOUGHT? THIS WAS GOOD WRITING? GOOD ENOUGH FOR A MOVIE?), AND THEN he tells a story about his greatest regret in life, which was not connecting with a daughter he left as a child.
At this point in my notes, I scrawled, THAT IS GOING TO BE HIS DAUGHTER!!!, and hell yeah, it was! For some reason, this woman comes to his hotel room! Rourke already has his pants off! Then they move to a chaise lounge! Where he starts kissing her face! But she’s not participating, even though she tells him, “You know, I came into the bar to fuck you” (aside: WHY!), and so Rourke’s character reassures her that they don’t have to do anything, they can just sleep, whatever.
CUT TO THE NEXT MORNING. The woman is gone, so Rourke walks into his bathroom, and this is what he sees:
YES, YOU ARE SEEING WHAT I AM SEEING: “I forgive you Daddy,” scrawled on the mirror in lipstick, with an accompanying heart. Girl! You need a comma before that “Daddy”! Then dramatic music plays, and Rourke cries a lot and slides down onto the floor of the bathroom, and I have no fucking idea what any of this is supposed to say about Berlin.
Did the young woman KNOW that Rourke’s character was her father all along? Is that like that story I read in The Cut about a teenage daughter and her biological father engaging in a sexual relationship because they didn’t spend her childhood together? (The Pajiba Slack nearly broke down in our frenzied back and forth about the concept of genetic sexual attraction.) Or is the “I came into the bar to fuck you” line just really sloppily written? It seemed like Rourke’s story about leaving his daughter behind clicked for Gorrn’s character in the bar—why then COME UP TO HIS ROOM, see him approach you in his underwear, and not tell him then and there what you already realized about your relationship? AND I MUST REPEAT: WHY IS THIS SCENE IN A MOVIE CALLED BERLIN, I LOVE YOU?
I can’t figure it out. I don’t know! And with there being no end in sight to the “Cities of Love” franchise (Benbihy’s Wiki page claims future movies about Shanghai, Jerusalem, Venice, Delhi, and New Orleans), can we at least instate a “no more incest” dictum going forward? That can’t be too much to ask, can it? CAN IT?
Image sources (in order of posting): Saban Films/Berlin, I Love You, Saban Films/Berlin, I Love You, Saban Films/Berlin, I Love You, Saban Films/Berlin, I Love You