Undoubtedly the weirdest of Tribeca’s Midnight offerings this year was Der Samurai, a dream-like nighttime odyssey from German writer-director Till Kleinert. The film concerns handsome cop Jakob (Michel Diercks, adroitly conveying inner turmoil) who’s drawn to a mysterious dress wearing slasher, “Der Samurai” (Pit Bukowski). What follows is the most bizarre and violent representation of suppressed homosexuality since those pretty boys stumbled into the Hostel.
Kleinert sets his film up like a nightmarish fairy tale. There’s a wolf on the loose that the red-headed Jakob is tracking down; before you can say “little red riding hood,” the also ginger haired Der Samurai shows up looking like a Chelsea boy who decided to go as Uma Thurman’s Bride for Halloween. Jakob is both attracted and repelled by the wigged, muscular man, whose blood red lips are both ominous and alluring. The two engage in a seductive game of cat and mouse through the small town Jakob patrols, with a civilian woman and the officer’s grandmother drawn into the madness.
There’s a Queer Identity thesis paper to be written on this weird, metaphorical movie, from the long samurai sword so central to the plot to Der Samurai’s invitation to Jakob to “baptize” himself in the river (a device that recurs in countless coming out stories). The sexual tension between the two builds even as the blood flows (their cups runneth over?), culminating in the most outlandish dance sequence this side of Step Up 3D. It’s a testament to Kleinert’s style and skill that none of this seems too ridiculous, and the actors sell the ambiguous conflict as best they can. The climax, though, goes so far off the rails all credibility is demolished, and ultimately Der Samurai is too elusive and surreal for its own good. It’s a fascinating oddity that will appeal to gay horror fans and those who appreciate the offbeat, but it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
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