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Ingredients of Comedy
From the farcical funeral scene via the mass orgy under the influence of an aphrodisiac, this film situates itself as comedy, a dominant genre in German cinema of the mid-1990s. We do well however to observe the following context: "the German Comedy Wave of the 1990s, often credited with revitalizing the German national film industry, making
German film popular again for Germans, actually was not a specifically German phenomenon but part of a European trend" (Halle 2008: 27). In that sense Akin yet again seizes on the European possibilities of German culture. But he also returns us to the mayhem of the silent era, where Chaplinesque comedy had translated across cultures as visual Esperanto. Roughly a century later, Akin combines comedic elements emerging within a transnational community.
Soul Kitchen's approach to satire is typified by its approach to food; with a keen eye for the ridiculous, it nonetheless tracks foibles lovingly. Food had played an important role in crucial scenes of Head-On and The Edge of Heaven, not to mention the establishment of the Ruhr pizzeria in Solino. The closeups, vibrant colors, and accelerated footage of the first two examples are signatures of mediated cooking instruction, and typify what Shayn has to impart to Zinos. Cookbooks by icons in the Englishspeaking world such as Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson adorn German bookshop windows too.
In Kebab Connection, harmony across the fraught historical interactions of the Mediterranean neighbors Greece and Turkey is forged through food. The same happens here with a broadened sense of neighbors—Sokrates is no longer the cranky man next door when consuming Shayn's new dishes. The challenge provided by those dishes is mirrored by new and unforeseeable transnational combinations. The fact that "La Paloma" accompanies the farewell from Nadine shows that China is not on Zinos's radar. Not China itself, but global commerce takes Nadine away from Hamburg and Zinos, and ultimately to her Chinese lover. Altogether Akin revels in puns that are a further product of transnationalism and that slide with relish across stereotypes and languages. A classic example is the restaurant client Ali Davidson, beyond the cultural blend of his name. Just as Sokrates is a beached mariner, this indelible secondary figure is a domesticated Easy Rider minus his Harley Davidson. Hamburg, this film proclaims, makes such blends possible.
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