Red Sun [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Radiance Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (7th August 2023).
The Film

Layabout Thomas (Deadlock's Marquard Bohm) hitches his way from Hamburg to Munich to reconnect with discotheque barmaid Peggy (supermodel Uschi Obermaier). Uninvited, he moves into the flat she shares with writer Christine (Barry Lyndon's Diana Körner), boutique owner Sylvie (Sylvia Kekulé), and switchboard operator Isolde (Gaby Go). In spite of her affection for him, Peggy is only second to icy Christine in resenting Thomas' parasitic ways while Sylvie is amused by him while Thomas surmises that Isolde is troubled solely by her treatment by married boyfriend Howard (Don Wahl) who he is told has gone to Canada despite Thomas observing the man's fervent interest in her the night before.

When Sylvie's boyfriend egotist Lohmann (Le Coup de grâce's Henry van Lyck) also abruptly leaves the country after taking her for a spin in his brand new Mustang, it takes more than the intimations of Lohmann's brother (Ali: Fear Eats the Soul's Peter Moland) for Thomas to believe that Peggy and her friends are involved in his disappearance. Even with the growing possibility that he is next on the women's hit list, Thomas cannot resist playing cat and mouse with them, manipulating and sparring with each of them as much for blackmail material as an attempt to wrest Peggy away from their influence… but he may be sorely overestimating his own irresistible "broken charm" as he is underestimating Peggy's seeming passivity and malleability – helped rather than hindered by Obermaier's very in-character tendency to look down or away when the camera is on her – as the film draws to a tragicomic close under the Red Sun of Lake Starnberg.

A pulpy, violent, and sexy scenario, Red Sun's Pop Art set design rich in neons lights and eye-poppingly saturated comic strip colors – the opening title sequence opticals are right out of an Edgar Wallace color krimi – is nevertheless so coolly (almost icily) and clinically observed by director Rudolf Thome (Detektive) as if documenting the formation of some terrorist cell in the period between the Paris riots of 1968 and what was to come from the Baader-Meinhof Group without question or comment. Thome's nonjudgmental approach extends to Thomas whether he has the shameless audacity to ask almost anyone who has even a minimum of interaction with him for a few bucks, dismisses compelling but circumstantial evidence of crime with a wave of the hand, casually watches a random execution by silencer, or dismantles a homemade bomb set up in a public place. The film is interesting to watch in the context of Marleen Gorris' later film A Question of Silence in which the lack of any offered motive for three women's sudden and violent murder of a male boutique owner proves as maddening for a female psychiatrist as it does for the predominantly male legal system putting them on trial.

The viewer has a right to be cynical about the depth of his interest in Peggy, and to even sympathize with her as she puzzles him out; however, Thomas may be as blinded by Peggy's beauty as the viewer is to the aura of Uschi Obermaier, the successful fashion model who was as much a style icon as a dedicated member of the Kommune 1 (with an internationally-distributed 2008 biopic Eight Miles High proving the viewers even today know her face if not her name). The viewer may find it easy to share Thomas' chauvinistic and reductive dismissal of Peggy's roommates and their motives despite Isolde's claim that it was Peggy who got them active, with Isolde's reticent but submissive nature, Sylvie's flightiness, and Christine's coldness and seeming possessiveness that he could dismiss with the retrograde tropes of lesbianism despite the four women's overt interest in the male sex as both lovers and prey. The climax seems to shift from Thome's carefully-composed tableaux to New Wave handheld while still coolly observing a fight for survival between two armed lovers; and yet, it all plays out like the fateful outcome of how far each character has let things go rather than a moral commentary on his cynicism or her nihilism, with the recurring use of Albinoni's "Adagio in G Minor" giving the relationship a tragic dimension.


Although well-received in West Germany, Red Sun – not to be confused with the 1971 Charles Bronson film was little seen elsewhere outside of German film festivals. The film was first released on DVD in Germany in 2001 in an edition with English subtitles, and variations of that release followed from different distributors throughout the 2000s. Radiance Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen comes from a newer HD transfer overseen by director Thome and is utterly spotless with rich hues and deep blacks apart from a few guerilla shots. Damage is only evident in a few missing frames that result in one blink-and-you'll-miss-it a jump cut.


The sole audio track is an uncompressed German LPCM 2.0 mono track in which the post-synched dialogue and music has more presence than the sound effects, with silencers and small pistols having about the same presence. Optional English subtitles are free of any noticeable errors.


Ported from the DVD edition is the select scene commentary with director Rudolf Thome and actress Uschi Obermaier's boyfriend and Kommune 1 member Rainer Langhans which is viewable in separate chapters or with a "Play All" option. Thome takes the lead, discussing the willingness of Bohm to do the film and the difficulty of getting Obermaier who agreed under the Kommune 1 stipulation that she work four days and get flown back to Berlin at the production's expense for the other three days, and how her fee was utilized by the commune to buy things. Thome and Langhans reflect on how the film continues to appeal to younger generations, with Thome observing that it is often the highlight of screenings of his films, as well as Thome's feelings about the proposed remake scripted by Rolf Peter Kahl (Angel Express). They also discuss the focus on female characters, how the film only seems to Thome to have been inspired by the events of 1968 in retrospect, working with Bohm (who was drunk and kept offscreen during Gaby Go's monologue), his experience with the Schwabing riots, and the revelation that Werner Schroeter (The Kingdom of Naples) was on set to observe filming on the days at Lake Starnberg.

The disc also includes "Rote Sonne Between Pop Sensibility and Social Critique" (20:39), a visual essay by author Johannes Von Moltke who discusses how social issues and film influences ("a palimpsest of 1960s cultural influences") – including the film as a response to the Oberhausen Manifesto calling for a new film movement of which Thome did not belong – underly the film's sense of irreality, comic strip characaters, and a refusal to ground the characters in anything but a "pop noir" with Thome only explicitly acknowledging in subsequent interviews Valerie Solanas' SCUM Manifesto. Moltke also notes the enthusiastic response to the film by then-critic Wim Wenders whose Kings of the Road would feature Bohm.

"From Oberhausen to the Fall of the Wall" (49:53) is a visual essay by film programmer Margaret Deriaz who notes how the changing attitudes of government and television network funding bodies towards German cinema alternately opened and shut doors to young filmmakers, with alternating importance on box office and social issues. Deriaz notes that Oberhausen Manifesto's signatories were all men and how in the ensuing decades female and queer filmmakers struggled for representation with opportunities coming from television and international "art house." The piece not only highlights some of the familiar works of German post-war cinema but serves as a reference to a number of titles worth rediscovery.


Not supplied for review are the two-thousand copy limited edition 52-page booklet featuring new writing on the film by Samm Deighan, newly translated archival letters by Wim Wenders, critic Enno Patalas and the German Film Evaluation Office on the film’s official submission, newly translated archival interview with Rudolf Thome, and an overview of reviews.


A pulpy, violent, and sexy scenario, Red Sun's Pop Art set design rich in neons lights and eye-poppingly saturated comic strip colors is nevertheless so coolly (almost icily) and clinically observed by director Rudolf Thome to stimulating results.


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