Corrections or additions?

This article by Jack Florek was prepared for the July 18, 2001

edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

At the Movies: The Wedding Cow

As everybody from Jack Kerouac to Bob Hope and Bing

Crosby can attest, the road can be a heck of a good place to tell

a story. Whether it be comedy or drama, travel implies adventure.

On the road, we encounter strange people doing strange things. And

in strange lands. We can only ask, will the heroes reach their

destination

unscathed?

The most recent addition to the on-the-road genre is Tomi Streiff’s

light-hearted romantic comedy, "The Wedding Cow." Winner of

this year’s Best Feature Film Award at the New Jersey International

Film Festival, it will be screened (on a double bill with the

award-winning

Brazilian documentary "Strong Roots") Friday through Sunday,

July 20 through 22, at 7 p.m., at Scott Hall 123 at the Rutgers

University

College Avenue Campus.

Despite a light-hearted exterior, "The Wedding Cow" is a film

that packs a wallop by stuffing layers of heart-felt emotion into

a simple but quirky story, all brought to life by a very charismatic

actor.

Streiff, a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, has been

screening

"The Wedding Cow" at film festivals all across the U.S. and

Europe in hopes of garnering a distribution deal. Performed in German

(screened here with English subtitles), the film has won good reviews

and plenty of awards.

Set in present-day Germany, "The Wedding Cow" tells the story

of Flora (Isabella Parkinson), an offbeat young woman who is heading

off on a long journey to Appenweier to become a librarian. Seemingly

naive to the ways of the world, she allows a smooth-talking young

man to steal all her money before she is even manages to buy her train

ticket.

Forced to hitchhike for the first time in her life, Flora is given

a ride by a big, good-hearted plumber named Tim (Oliver Reinhard)

who is driving his pink truck across country to the Black Forest to

get married. In the back of the truck is a cow named Hannah, a wedding

gift from Tim’s aunt.

Trying her best to be helpful, Flora manages to botch things up enough

to put Tim’s scheduled arrival at the altar into serious question.

Soon Tim and Flora find themselves on a journey full of surprises,

strange events, and — quite to their surprise — they begin

to feel the awkward stirrings of love.

"The Wedding Cow" is an entertaining film, and the chief

reason

is Isabella Parkinson, as Flora, who injects a bucketful of energy

into every screen moment. Director Tomi Streiff is savvy enough not

to get in the way of his own film, and allows the camera to fixate

on her. (Flora is on camera almost all the time). Armed with the power

of contradiction, Parkinson has a kind of Chaplinesque, ragamuffin,

screen presence that is comic, heart-rending, and subtly evocative

of complex human emotions — all at the same time. Not an easy

thing for any actor to pull off.

As the film unfolds, the complexities Parkinson brings to her

character

proceed to pile up. Watching Flora dissolve into tears (as she does

more than once), is she expressing real sadness or faking it to gain

a psychological edge? One simply can’t be sure. Is she innocent or

manipulative? Kind or cruel? Smart or dumb? We are never explicitly

told, and it doesn’t matter. Parkinson’s performance allows us to

like her anyway. And when Tim begins to like her, we like him, too.

On another level, Parkinson evinces a subtle undercurrent of eroticism

that keeps Tim’s character, as well as the audience, on their toes.

In fact, it is nearly impossible to determine just how old Flora is

supposed to be — she could be anywhere between age 16 and 26.

Dressed like a schoolgirl, in ankle socks and a plain cotton print

dress buttoned to the throat, Flora seems at first all innocent and

bubbly. But when she lifts her skirt to kick at a rusted water spigot,

the effect hints at an eroticism that the audience is only dimly

prepared

for. Such are the subtleties that later in the film, when she plants

a big wet kiss on Tim’s mouth, the effect still comes as a surprise.

Flora’s ping-ponging between cutey-pie girlishness and being a woman

looking to be loved gives the film a resonance that goes beyond the

trappings of a standard romantic comedy, and is one of the reasons

why "The Wedding Cow" is such an interesting film to watch.

Parkinson’s acting finesse contributes in a big way.

Filmmaker Streiff also has the filmmaking smarts to avoid the cheap

laugh and sentimental gut-wrench so often found in standard Hollywood

romantic comedies. He keeps things just quirky enough to be

interesting,

without resorting to Coen Brothers-type cynicism. Streiff packs his

film with small human moments and trusts his audience to catch the

nuances. A rare but welcome trait in a filmmaker.

Of course, it’s not all roses. Streiff’s ubiquitous cow motif does

get a bit heavy-handed, and the rock-and-roll score that seems to

pop up at the oddest moments is downright annoying.

But with its evocation of love "on the road," set in front

of a backdrop of gas stations, rural landscapes, motels, and roadside

restaurants, "The Wedding Cow" has the feel of another fine

"road" picture — Wim Wender’s "Paris, Texas"

(despite

a very different perspective). Poetic, without being pretentious,

life-affirming without sentimentality, both films depict characters

struggling to reach out for a little love in a cynical and dangerous

world.

— Jack Florek

The Wedding Cow , New Jersey International Film

Festival,

Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue Campus (near the corner of

College

Avenue and Hamilton Street), 732-932-8482. $5. Website:

www.njfilmfest.com

On a double bill with "Strong Roots." Friday to Sunday,

July 20 to 22, 7 p.m.

The Witness . Jenny Stein’s documentary prize-winner about

a construction worker’s aversion to animals. With three short films

by New Jersey media artists and/or winners of the NJ Film Fest

competition:

"Stop the Violence" by April Allridge; "The Melody

Bar"

by Robert Bertrand; and "Mighty Mutts" by Anne Paas; Friday

and Saturday, July 27 and 28.

South Brunswick Public Library , International Film

Festival, 110 Kingston Lane, Monmouth Junction, 732-329-4000, ext.

286. Screenings are Thursdays at 7 p.m.; free, but space is limited.

East-West, from France, 1999; July 19. Crouching Tiger,

Hidden

Dragon, the 2001 Oscar winning film by Ang Lee, in Mandarin; July

26.


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