The Good, The Bad and The Critic

Established on March 19th, 2012 and pioneered by film fanatic Michael J. Carlisle. The Good, The Bad and The Critic will analyze classic and contemporary films from all corners of the globe. This title references Sergei Leone's influential spaghetti western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review #985: In Heaven There is No Beer? (1984)

Title: In Heaven There is No Beer? 
Year: 1984
Director: Les Blank
Country: US
Language: English

Polka Music is perhaps the most nerdy of all music genres. It's so square that it rarely gets mainstream recognition, though when it does its mainly due to pop-culture geek Weird-Al Yankovic. Les Blank doesn't seem to care about his street credibility and thus makes movies about the most "outside" of outsiders. In Heaven There is No Beer? is a film about an unlikely phenomenon that hit the US in the early to mid 80's. 

This is a portrait of the life, culture and food surrounding the lovers of Polka music. The title is taken from an old Polka standard. Stars of the Polka world are highlighted. 

"All my friends get drunk and go to parties on the weekend," says a young woman in her twenties to the curious camera "I join polka tournaments!" I'm not sure whether to feel happy or sad for this poor woman. Les Blank wants us to feel joyous however; as he portrays the Polka movement as a wonderful occasion where people of all ages rejoice in a blissful community. 

Taking years to complete this film, Les Blank shows a collage of images that feature birds fluttering, women dancing and men comfortable in their "I'm a Polka Pal!" t-shirt. Juxtaposed with audio interviews, concert footage, and lots of polka tunes, these little details reveal cultural nuances that major documentaries tend to miss. 

Winning the Special Jury Recognition Documentary prize at the second Sundance Film Festival in 1985, Blank's film is ripe with contagious enthusiasm for this strange Polka world. We get a sense of a thriving sub-culture, and the movement is just enticing enough to make us envy their wonderful and odd world. 

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