The Most Desired Man

(Der Bewegte Mann, aka Maybe ... Maybe Not, Sönke Wortmann, Germany, 1994)


This is a movie that, unlike Welcome to the Dollhouse (1996), gets its humorous tone exactly right.

The Most Desired Man is a clever comedy of sexual manners in the recent tradition of Ang Lee's films and Hollywood's better portrayals of gender-role confusion. It treats nothing seriously, but nonetheless manages to be a deftly observed chronicle of the times.

Axel (Til Schweiger) is indeed a desired man. His lover Doro (Katja Riemann) catches him in the next toilet cubicle having casual sex, but she still can't rid him from her mind and heart. Two gay men, Norbert (Joachim Król) and Walter (Rufus Beck), find themselves bickering over Axel when he falls into their lives. And Axel's old flame, Elke (Antonia Lang), turns up too.

As in many sex-role farces, the plot hinges on a misunderstanding: just as the pregnant Doro welcomes Axel back into her life and plans for marriage, she comes to believe that he has had an affair with Norbert. For his part, the affable and passive Axel just keeps inadvertently tying everyone around him in knots.

The storyline in The Most Desired Man is mainly only a pretext for spinning out various vignettes related to contemporary sexual behaviour. Most of these are hilarious. When Doro discovers Axel in flagrante delicto, she still manages to inquire: "Are you using a condom?" Scenes of a men's therapy group, with its drawn, chain-smoking, self-censoring participants, are superb.

And in that gentle way familiar from Blake Edwards' films (such as Victor/Victoria, 1982), the strict lines between gay and straight are lightly blurred as diverse characters are hurled together in ever more fanciful combinations. When Axel accuses Norbert with, "Every hetero is a closet gay to you, right?", he responds perfectly: "Only the good-looking ones".

Writer-director Sönke Wortmann handles basic strategies of screen comedy with considerable aplomb. Almost every laugh depends on the puzzled reaction of one person to the behaviour of another, and Wortmann deploys such inserts quite brilliantly.

The actors (especially Schweiger) have a fine way with the broad, physical tics of farce: freezing suddenly in panic or surprise, walking haughtily out of a room, going instantly gaga.

The Most Desired Man is a modest but masterfully tuned entertainment.

MORE Wortmann: The Miracle of Bern

© Adrian Martin December 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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