Friday, September 09, 2005

“Mädchen, Mädchen” – a must see teen-sex comedy

In Switzerland, Thursday night is for going out: it was traditionally pay day; the shops open late (until 9pm - they normally close by 6pm on weekdays, 5pm on Fridays and all day Sunday – shopping malls are not places of worship here) and families and couples head for the cinemas and restaurants. One consequence of this is that, on Thursday nights, Swiss TV sucks.

The six main Swiss channels transmit many programmes “Bi-Canal” which means that two sound tracks are transmitted for a programme and your TV can choose between them. The second sound track is in the original language – usually English – so I get to watch CSI Manhattan or Alias without having to deploy my meagre skills in French or German.

But last night there was nothing but sport and local discussion programmes. I was grimly flipping channels, almost ready to resign myself to a dose of BBC Prime’s diet of house makeovers, garden makeovers, celebrity chefs, ancient comedy shows and reality TV documentaries about people desperate to live somewhere else other than their native England, when I stumbled across one of the best comedies I’ve seen in a long time. It was in German but even if you barely speak the language this was a movie that grabbed your attention.

It’s called “Mädchen, Mädchen” (literally “Maidens, Maidens, but more accurately translated as “Girls, Girls” but with the understanding that we are talking teenage girls) and it’s about three teenage girls in Munich whose early sexual experiences aren’t matching up to the descriptions of sex that they get from the magazines (or from their fairly active parents). Determined to find the orgasms that they are sure that they deserve, they work their way through fumbling boyfriends, internet flirting, and even risk falling in love.

Now I know that this sounds like a German version of “American Pie” but the point here is that this is the German version. In Munich, 18 year old girls aren’t seen as children, public nudity is perfectly fine if you’re sunbathing in the park or at one of the local lakes, sex shops sit next to the supermarket in the high street, and no one pretends to be surprised that young people like to get drunk and have sex – not always in that order.

So, “Mädchen, Mädchen” treats sex completely differently from “American Pie”. There’s nothing “naughty” about it. There is a lot that’s absurd and some stuff that’s downright confusing and the sex in the movie isn’t cleaned up and airbrushed. This is what most of us in Europe would remember from our teenage years (long, long ago, in a land far away from here…)

The main distinguishing feature of the movie is that it is done from the point of view of the three young girls.

Their friendship for each other, their willingness to take risks, their astonishment at what they discover, and the emotional highs and lows that they go through on a daily basis make this a movie about what its really like to be a teenage girl, with just a touch of “Gregory’s Girl” type whimsy.

There are some classic set pieces: Inke’s face as her boyfriend works away on top of her and she’s not-so-patiently-waiting for something interesting to happen or her reaction to her first (accidental) orgasm, brought on by riding her bicycle (see picture above). Or the revenge taken by Lena (the redheaded girl) on a loutish friend who embarrassed her publicly (she feeds him two Viagra tablets telling him that they’re e. He spends the evening so erect that he can only pee in the urinal if he does a handstand).

But the best part of this feel-good movie is the sense that friendship is more important than sex, people aren’t who you expect them to be, and if you stay true to yourself and open to new things, you can get through it all.

Now here’s the thing: I’m a movie junkie and I’d never heard of this movie. As soon as it was over, I went to IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase) and looked it up to see if I could get an English version (preferably, in the original German – I hate dubbing – with English subtitles). Here’s the IMDB review.
The movie was made in 2001 and there was a sequel in 2004.

Great, I thought, I’ll be able to buy a two for one package from Amazon. If only life was so simple. Neither nor sell this movie. sell the movie but only in German and as far as I can see, there are no subtitles in other languages. sell an English Language version of the movie called “Girls and Sex” which appears to have been dubbed into English and French but with subtitles only in French. A Swiss vendor sells both movies together at a reduced price, in German, with subtitles in French and Dutch.

This is why Hollywood gets away with making second-rate remakes of European films. Of course it could be that this movie would get an X-rating in America where the girls would be seen as children (Inke has her 18th birthday party in the movie and she’s already found out that sex isn’t living up to her expectations by then –enough to send American censors into a frenzy).

That’s OK, I thought, I’ll just recommend people to pick up the either the English language dubbed version or the original German one. It doesn’t cost much to ship DVD’s between Europe and America, I do it often.

Then I remembered the other problem the film industry puts in the way of getting to good movies: DVD Zones.

In Switzerland, most DVD machines play any Zone - this has something to do with the Swiss not having signed some of the international copyright laws – so it’s easy to forget that Hollywood has convinced itself that Zoning is necessary because they can’t handle the logistics of simultaneous global movie release. This is the same “I’m not very bright but I’ve always made a lot of money so I must be right” thinking that saw downloadable music as a threat and not a revenue stream.

So, see this movie if you can. And if you are restricted to Zone 1 viewing, find a patch on the internet, load it to your DVD drive on your computer, and watch it anyway.

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