Rosemary

At the Brattle through Saturday

Along with the Italians, the Germans have a film about their own strain of decadence. Rosemary is a common streetwalker who sexes her way to a controlling position in the Wirtschaftswunderland of postwar prosperity.

Given this resume, one might expect all sorts of lascivious bedroom and nightclub interludes; but Rosemary is no Dolce Vita. It is a typically German film made, like Elsie's pastrami sandwiches, with a "heavy hand."

The black Mercedes 300's roll by, carrying wurst-stuffed tycoons to Rosemary's love nest, but the action inside resembles a high-level business conference. Once those Marks have changed hands, the camera shifts elsewhere.

Now I am not trying to say a good film needs prurience. But I do think that art is poorly served by a rapidfire series of fiscal transactions. Not even so beauteous a salesman as Nadja Tiller can make drama out of cash-and-carry.

The entire cast lacked what Henry James called "intensity."

The actors goosestep through their roles so rigidly they give the impression that some dire punishment awaits them if they show emotion. Nadja Tiller manages to enchant at least ten men without showing any more warmth than a champion poker player.

The photography is fairly conventional, but it has its moments of pretension. The opening sequence is filmed through a window that reflects the slipshod buildings across the street. Then, one of the magnates, looking the other way through the same window, sees Rosemary undulating below. This sort of flashy technique jars with what follows, because so little of the movie involves any attempt at such pictorial effects.

In the midst of all this stolidity, two seedy musician-pimps (former companions of Rosemary) stroll along the streets improvising songs that comment on the story as it progresses. They add the only touch of fluidity to a stilted manikin act. And their songs are fine street ballads.

Rosemary baldly criticizes postwar Germany for its cold, businesslike attitude to everything, especially love. The trouble is that the movie itself never rises above the crass except briefly, with the street musicians. It's a really great shame the feature had to be so bad this week, since the Brattle has acquired a classic Donald Duck cartoon that shouldn't be missed.