Berlinale: with Rimini Ulrich Seidl once again shows a hopeless world

In competition in Berlin, the Austrian filmmaker presents a film in which an ex-star of the song lives in a world without love.

Italian beaches, he prefers them in winter, shrouded in fog: in Riminiin competition in Berlin, filmmaker Ulrich Seidl films with fascinating rawness the loneliness of an ex-star of the song in a world without love, or almost.

Family abandonment, alcoholism, felony, greed and sad flesh…”I show people as they are“, declared the 69-year-old Austrian director, accustomed to festivals and critics who have often reproached him for the sordidness of his works, where nothing is spared to the spectator.

In Rimini, the filmmaker follows Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas), an Austrian crooner who survives by pushing the song for 200 euros a night to groups of retirees, in low-end hotels in this seaside town on the Adriatic coast. A quasi-documentary style, a setting à la Michel Houellebecq, to ​​film a pathetic Casanova, a man without honor, a charmer but a profiteer, hypocrite and ready to monetize everything.

The film opens just after the death of Richie Bravo’s mother. The latter comes to visit his father, suffering from dementia, in the retirement home where he ends his days, mumbling Nazi songs. A way of showing that there is nothing left to save in his native Austria, which Richie Bravo left to settle in a villa with kitsch decoration, his “pirate shipfrom Rimini.
Richie Well done”is a singer whose golden age has long passed. It distracts groups of elderly tourists who go looking for a bit of fun in Rimini“, explained the director.

This anti-hero seems incapable of establishing a healthy relationship with anyone: neither the women he seduces before making them pay for his sexual services, nor the Italians he meets, even less the asylum seekers who wander the deserted streets.

Ulrich Seidl, a pessimistic filmmaker?

Ulrich Seidl does not consider that he made a film less “pessimistic» than his previous opuses, in particular the trio Paradise: Love, Heaven: Faith and Paradise Hopeon adolescent obesity, sex tourism or fanaticism.

And yet, the director manages to cultivate in this desolate soil a small seed of improbable love, between Richie Bravo and his daughter Tessa, who had cut ties with him 18 years earlier and appeared out of nowhere to hold him accountable. Two lost characters in search of happiness, who will end up taming each other despite everything, to the kitsch rhythm of love songs sung by the fallen star.

Richie Well done”is fat, he’s an alcoholic, he works as a gigolo (…) These are things you don’t normally attract, but in the end you feel sympathy for him», underlined Ulrich Seidl, whose film (first part of a diptych in preparation) also wants to be a reflection on the past which always catches up with us.

To his detractors who accuse him of wallowing in ugliness and gloomy, Seidl always answers with a question: “What is ugliness and what is beauty?. Is beauty really crowded summer beaches with millions of deckchairs and parasols, or is it not the sea in winter, shrouded in clouds and with deserted beaches?“.

Rimini by Ulrich Seidl in 2022, trailer


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