The name Hans Holzel may not make anyone stand up and take notice but those around during the pop boom of eighties will certainly remember him, likely under his stage name, Falco. Now the subject of a bio-pic from director Thomas Roth, well, even if this film isn't likely to cause a resurgence in popularity for the late artist, it'll at least bring him some attention.
The film begins when Holzel is a young boy in his native Austria where we see him at a piano recital, his musical talent quite obvious. Sadly, this is hampered by domestic disputes and abuse issues in the home, which causes Hans to rebel and to start skipping school. As puberty sets in and he hits his teenage years, he starts a band with a few friends, aping successful British acts like Bowie, The Rolling Stones, and more obviously The Beatles. His interests change, he experiments with post-punk sounds, and then changes his stage name to Falko Weisspflogg and taps into Germany's sense of pride by singing in German (while most of the other bands were singing in English). He changes his style, changes his look and soon starts climbing that stairway to stardom. Crowds are starting to show up at his performances and even if he's not getting the airplay his career needs, he's reaching people and recording. Then by change, his track Der Kommissar catches on in a big way and his career takes off like a rocket.
As his star starts to shine brighter, he succumbs to the pressures of fame as so many before and after him did. While churning out bestselling albums and carving out his place in pop music history with his best known track, Rock Me, Amadeus, Falco develops a fairly amazing cocaine habit and quickly starts taking out his issues with binge drinking, drug fueled nights and one night stands. But Falco is never able to rekindle the success of Rock Me, Amadeus and despite various attempts by the record company to get him to the top of the charts another time, he ultimately burns out and is killed in a car accident while gallivanting around the Dominican Republic in the late nineties.
Like so many bio-pics, the success of Falco depends almost entirely on the lead performance. You can have all the great music, coke fueled binges, awesome soundtracks and impressively staged musical scenes you want but if your lead isn't up to par, it's not going to work. While this is true to a certain extent for every film, really, it's even more important with a bio-pic because the audience is already familiar with 'the real thing.' Thankfully, Manuel Rubey is up for the job. He looks like Falco, he sounds like Falco, and he's got the mannerisms and speech patterns down pat. He obviously did his research to get this part and it pays off in an impressive recreation of the eighties pop icon. The supporting cast are all fine, each do a decent enough job with the material, but it's Rubey's show all the way here and he definitely makes the most of it.
Thomas Roth , who also wrote the screen play, does a fine job with the pacing here and while we could maybe have delved a bit deeper into Falco's family issues and spent a little more time exploring his formative years before rushing to the heights of success (and in turn the heights of excess), he gives the audience what they want here. The script does at least give us enough insight into the up's and down's of his personal life that we can understand some of the poor choices he makes along the way, even if we can't necessarily respect them. This does make for quite an interesting story and while history ensures that we know ahead of time how it's all going to play out, it's still an entertaining trip that we're taken on. Roth doesn't put his subject on a pedestal nor does he succumb to hero worship here, instead he lays it all on the table and with Rubey in the lead manages to paint an interesting and entirely believable portrait of a talented man who burned out very quickly.
NOTE: This review is based on a test disc that may or may not represent finished retail product.
Falco's 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shows nice detail and even better color reproduction. Though the earlier scenes of the film are intentionally flat looking for artistic reasons, once our lead becomes the pop star we all know him as the colors really start to come out quite nicely. Black levels are generally decent as well, and skin tones look pretty good. A little bit of shimmer is present here and there but there are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts or edge enhancement problems to complain about.
The German language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix gets the job done, but you can't help but wish that some of the musical numbers had been opened up a bit with a 5.1 mix. Regardless, what's here sounds fine. Levels are well balanced and the dialogue is clean, clear and free of any distortion. Optional English subtitles are included which are free of any obvious typos and which are easy to read.
Aside from menus and chapter stops, we get a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Stand Releasing DVDs available now or coming soon.
Falco is a better than average bio-pic thanks to some solid directing and a very good lead performance. Enough style to match its substance, it's both entertaining and interesting and Strand's DVD seems to be a good one, offering up a fine transfer and decent sound, if not much in the way of extras. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.