The Black Square [Das schwarze Quadrat] — German Film Festival 2022

Review by John P. Harvey.

Having stolen a famous painting, Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, former artist and now professional art thief Vincent (Bernhard Schütz) has taken on an inexperienced younger accomplice, Nils (Jacob Matschenz), to assist in its sale to a Russian businessman.

With the sale set to occur on a cruise ship, Nils’s other accomplice, who’s supposed to meet Vincent and Nils at the docks with their tickets and falsified documents, fails to show up.  Vincent and Nils must find their own way aboard, which they manage by mugging a pair of passengers to whom they have a passing resemblance.

The transaction itself promises danger, but more dangerous still is the Russian customer’s art expert, Martha (Sandra Hüller), whose skills and interests extend well beyond art.

Vincent and Nils must face many other difficulties, though, even before facing Martha, beginning with the horrifying discovery that the pair they mugged are cruise entertainers, whose roles they must attempt to fill as Elvis and David Bowie impersonators.

As suspicions escalate and various ship’s officers realise that “Elvis” and “David Bowie” may be the Black Square thieves, Vincent and Nils have to contend with competing attempts to wrest the work from them.

Initially seeming to be merely bumbling crooks, Vincent and Nils grow more likeable as they confront an increasingly complex set of difficulties with genuine concern for artistic integrity as well as preservation of their own lives.

This madcap comedy proves just how badly things can go wrong when you need to keep yourself safe from the police, the crew, the passengers, your customers, contract killers, and maybe even your accomplice — and teaches the inestimable value of a couple of eggs in emergencies.  Even its darker moments, when things turn genuinely nasty, can’t detract from the fun in store for you.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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