Bagdad Cafe (1988): Director Percy Adlon’s Oscar-Nominated Comic Fable, Starring the Incomparable Marianne Sagebrecht

Percy Adlon’s “Bagdad Café,” written by him, his wife Eleonore Adlon, and Christopher Doherty, based on his story is an odd, even whimsical tale, set in a shabby motel in the middle of nowhere (that is, the Mojave Desert).

Adlon decided to make his first English-speaking movie with a charming oddity, a moody tale that features interesting characters and is visually interesting but is basically plotless.
Adlon’s favorite actress Marianna Sagebrecht plays Jasmin, a German housewife abandoned by her husband in the desert, who checks into a dusty run-down motel, owned by a tough black femme (CCH Pounder). At first the two women represent the Odd Couple, with nothing in common, but after the initial culture collision, the begin to know each other and end up joing forces in turning the motel into a clean and successful place.
Jack Palance plays Sagebrecht romantic interest, Rudi Cox, a painter who insists on doing her portrait.
In narrative, mood and tone, Bagdad Café assumes the shape of a postmodern comic fable. The movie is visually exhilarating, a self-conscious saga that’s more impressive in spirit and ambience than in storytelling per se. Even so, it makes a strong case for the magic that evolves when two cultures meet and are open to change, rather than fight and collide.
Grade: B+ (**** out of *****)
Oscar Nominations: 1
Song: “Calling You,” music and lyrics by Bob Telson
Oscar Awards: None
Oscar Context:
The Oscar winner was “Let the River Run,” by Carly Simon, from Mike Nichols’ comedy, “Working Girl.”
Jasmin Munchgstettner (Marianne Sagebrecht)
Brenda (CC pounder)
Rudi Cox (Jack Palance)
Debbie (Christine Kaufman)
Phyllis (Monica Calhoun)
A TV series, based on the film’s concept and starring Jean Stapleton and Whoopi Goldberg, failed.
German director Percy Adlon, born in Munich in 1935, began his career in theater, radio, and TV, before
About Percy Adlon:
making a splash with his 1978 feature docu, “The Guardian and His Poet,” about the peculiar relationship between writer Robert Wasler and publisher Carl Seelig.
The movie that put him on the map was the original and offbeat “Celeste,” in 1982, which deals with the seminal writer Marcel Proust, as seen from the subjective POV of his maid Celeste.
The two films showed his interest in exploring in innovative or non-conventional ways the issue of creativity and the daily lives of artists.
However, his most popular film to date is “Sugarbaby,” in 1987, a whimsical romantic comedy about the relationship between a subway driver and a large woman (the wonderful actress Marianne Sagebrecht), who becomes smitten and obsessed by him.
Sagbrecht plays a single 38-year old woman, who out of boredom and loneliness indulges in food and candy, resulting in overweight that’s borderline obesity. Vastly disappointed with her daily life, she’s almost accepted her status—until she accidentally spots a very young and handsome subway driver. Instantly smitten with him, she bgeins to follow him and collect all kinds of details about his life, until one day, she pulls courage and makes direct contact with him.
Sagebrecht was also the star of Adlon’s next features, “Bagdad Café” and “Rosalie Goes Shopping.”
In the 1990s, his career decline after the cold critical reaction to Salmonberries” in 1991, and “Younger & Younger”, in 1996.