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Nobody Loves Me

Not rated, 104 min. Directed by Doris Dörrie. Starring Maria Schrader, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Michael Von Au, Elisabeth Trissenaar.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 5, 1996

Fanny (Schrader) is 29 years old and German. She has a decent but unfulfilling job in airport security frisking passengers prior to boarding. She lives in an urban housing project that is in the process of being renovated into upscale apartments. She desperately searches for meaning in her life and for true love and happiness. As she pushes 30, Fanny feels her life is passing her by, and she reaches out for any solution. She lights candles in a church; she takes a class called Conscious Dying in which she builds her own coffin and attends her own funeral. Thus, when, in her apartment elevator, she meets the curious Orfeo -- a tall, gay black man who is decorously covered in elaborate body paint and whose strange chant exerts power over the malfunctioning elevator -- it's not long before Fanny is knocking on his door in response to Orfeo's claim to be a fortune teller. Orfeo predicts and describes Fanny's true love; it's not Orfeo's fault that Fanny misidentifies the man when he finally shows up. While Fanny is busy chasing love and happiness, we begin to see the unraveling of the fragile underpinnings of the “all-powerful” Orfeo's life. Not only is he marginalized as a gay black man in Germany, he is desperately broke and five months behind on the rent. He works as a drag performer lip-synching pop standards; his lover, a famous TV newscaster, won't help him out financially; and his health is failing dramatically. It's only when Fanny's mistaken romance goes sour that she begins to see the reality of what is happening to Orfeo. And through her devotion to her friend, she finally comes to discover a sense of love and purpose in her life. Despite the potential sappiness of its plot, Nobody Loves Me generally works because it's played as a comedy rather than a lament. Fanny is somewhat ridiculous, though Schrader's radiant depiction of the character keeps her from succumbing to caricature and buffoonery. The expressiveness of Schrader's face and body movements, combined with the inbred theatricality of Sanoussi-Bliss' Orfeo, keeps the movie hurtling forward with its own internal logic and focus. In many ways, Fanny brings to mind the American TV character Molly Dodd -- another single woman grappling with modern complications to the age-old questions, and she uses humor, perseverance, intelligence, and life's absurdities as her shield. Writer-director Dörrie is best known in this country for her 1985 hit Men, a biting comedy that achieved quite a bit of international success. For women who have found their biological clocks to have gone digital, they may have no better spokesperson.
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