[box cover]

Christiane F.

Director Ulrich Edel's Christiane F. (full title: Christiane F.: Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo) is an obscure film, at least in North America, but it is not without its admirers. Based on a series of articles first published in the German Stern magazine, which later became a popular book, the true story concerns 14-year old Christiane Felscherinow (played by Natja Brunckhorst), a Berlin teenager who, with a fractured family life and little in the way of ambition, falls into the cyclical trap of heroin addiction and prostitution. At first Christiane — a pretty, slender girl with model-good looks — is only interested in the Berlin nightlife, and in particular the music of David Bowie. She falls for fellow club-hopper Detlev (Thomas Haustein), but soon after she learns that he turns tricks at the Zoo Train Station, picking up sordid men for sex, which pays for his heroin. Christiane at first is horrified, but the lack of guidance at home (with a frequently absent mother) and the desire to fit in with people her own age soon has her hooked on the "H" — and turning to prostitution herself in a relentless downward spiral of sex, junk, and trying to get clean. Released in 1981, Christiane F. addresses the subject of drug addiction in a straightforward manner — more straightforward perhaps than in such later films as The Basketball Diaries, Sid and Nancy, and Trainspotting. There isn't much in the way of character development, and indeed the film almost functions as a high-octane After-School Special, with plenty of stock characters jabbing needles into their arms and looking like zombies (more than few scenes are not for the squeamish). The morality play will not be lost on young people either, as Christiane slowly withers away from her svelte beauty into an emaciated, bruised, filthy girl who vomits blood — obviously, shooting smack will not get you more boyfriends. However, with a 2:08 running time, Christiane F. could do with some trimming, as it makes most of its points in the first half of the film, taking the second half merely to repeat them, perhaps for emphasis. Of special interest is the soundtrack taken from a few late-'70s David Bowie albums, and a live concert appearance by Bowie (performing "Station to Station"). Image Entertainment's DVD release of Christiane F. is bare-bones, with a 1.85:1 transfer from an acceptable source print, and both the original German soundtrack and an English dub available in DD 1.0. However, the lack of English subtitles is an enormous oversight for fans who would like to hear the film in its proper language. And the dub track is shabby as well, with the voice artist reading for Christiane clearly much older than 14 — comparing the dub to the original German only makes the lack of subtitles that much more frustrating, and hopefully Image will see their way clear to revising this title so we can add another star to our overall rating. Keep-case.

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