One of the most compelling and consistent motifs to be found in cinema is that of the fish out of water. It’s a premise which works particularly well in comedies. The likes of Back to the Future, Enchanted, Pleasantville, Big, The Gold Rush and The Jerk all use the notion of a person thrown into the unknown to great effect. Percy Adlon’s first English-language film, Bagdad Café, uses this conceit to open-up a menagerie of unique and usual characters.
Whilst travelling through the Mojave Desert, German tourist Jasmin Münchgstettner (Marianne Sägebrecht) finally snaps and leaves her husband. She arrives at a remote truck stop café tired, confused and unsure of what to do. She encounters Brenda (CCH Pounder), the irascible and hard-nosed proprietor, who is instantly suspicious of her motives. Jasmin slowly immerses herself into the lives of Brenda and the ragtag and oddball community of residents, with an ex-Hollywood set-painter (Jack Palance) taking instantly to her.
Whilst Bagdad Café might be thirty years old, it feels as fresh and unusual as it did on initial release. Compared to the current crop of independent films flooding the market, it feels extremely odd and unformulaic. Adlon’s charming fable about a catalyst entering the lives of a disparate group and bringing them together is an absolute delight. In an increasingly cynical world, it’s the kind of cinema we need right now. Bagdad Café is an uplifting and distinctly humane culture-clash comedy which will thaw the coldest heart.
- The Trip to Bagdad
- Bagdad Café: The Story
- Restored Trailer
- Audio commentary with Percy Adlon and Marianne Sägebrecht
The 30th anniversary edition of Bagdad Café is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download by Studiocanal on 13 August.