Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene is an enchanting glimpse, not only of some of Marlene Dietrich’s most recognised numbers but also of her intriguing connection with Lemper, a singer from a new generation and yet who interprets Dietrich’s nuance with a breathtaking presence.
In a carefully created movie, Lemper curates a loving yet honestly delivered tribute to one of Europe’s most recognised divas of the 20th century. Drawn from an astonishing real-life event in 1989, when Dietrich, then 89 and resident in Paris, tracked down Lemper who was performing in the city – and in the ensuing conversation, only enriched the younger singer’s understanding of Dietrich’s life and her art.
The narrative plays out through a re-enacted phone conversation between Lemper and Dietrich (played by Lemper) that touches upon much of Dietrich’s remarkable journey through Germany in its Weimar, Nazi and latterly its post-war era. While the telephone conversation is rooted in fact, Lemper takes some artistic licence with the spoken detail – and yet the recollections are as fascinating as, at times they are chilling.
Musically, Lemper’s take on Dietrich’s gems are a delight with interpretations that are modern yet classic. 15 songs are woven into the recording that range from Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind and Pete Seeger’s Where Have All The Flowers Gone? through to the gorgeous ratpack work of Johnny Mercer with One For My Baby (a sublime take) and of course Dietrich’s signature number, Lili Marleen.
Lemper’s work is flawless and the movie is a revelation in its detail and its storytelling. But ultimately this is a cabaret-style gig filmed, and that proves a distraction. For cinematic/streamed storytelling to work well visceral visuals are needed. The heavy hanging Gauloises smoke would work sublimely well in a late night basement cabaret venue – but in this streaming the relentless close-ups of alternating dialogue make for occasional heavy going. And furthermore, a real-life two hour cabaret set would likely include more numbers.
But for those who appreciate fine songs, beautifully sung – as well as an eye-opening glimpse into modern Europe’s history and society, then these autumn streams are not to be missed.
Produced by Alan Cumming and Ute Lemper
Ute Lemper: Rendezvous With Marlene’, filmed at Club Cumming in New York with Alan Cummin and Ute Lemper as producers, will be streamed globally on two evenings this month: Wednesday 25 November at 01.00 and Saturday, 5 December 2020 at 19.00 - All times GMT