Men To Kiss
(Männer zum Knutschen)

TLA Releasing,

Robert Hasfogel

Frank Christian Marx,
Andre Schneider

Frank Christian Marx,
Udo Lutz,
Alexandra Starnitzky,
Marcus Lachmann,
Sascia Haj,
Dominik Djialieu

Unrated, 83 minutes

Berlin Story
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online August, 2013

It isn’t often that I get to say German cinema and screwball comedy together in the same sentence. (I think the last time was ten years ago when I reviewed 1997’s Das Trio.) I’m not saying that all German cinema is like Fassbinder at his most melodramatic – or that all German literature is like Kafka - but I usually don’t see many farces coming from the banks of the Rhine.

2012’s Men To Kiss (the title may have lost something in translation - Männer zum Knutschen) is one of the funniest films I have seen in a long time. Directed by first-timer Robert Hasfogels from a script by the film’s star, Frank Christian Marx, Men To Kiss mixes outrageous comedy with ample doses of heart. While the lead-in to the last act was too over-the-top for my taste, the film’s first hour borders on brilliance. This is a story about two complete opposites who fall in love, and a vindictive childhood friend who tries to break them up.

Earnest (Marx) works in a conservative bank and Tobias (Udo Lutz) is a free spirited performance artist. They couldn’t be more different - or more happy - together. These guys are in love, and they certainly are having fun. Tobias knows “everyone and his brother” and life is a perpetual party. Their best friends are Leo - whose relationship with Alex is complicated - and Steffi, a daffy psychologist. Her latest boyfriend, Kurt, is younger by fifteen years but, in one of the film’s many role reversals, he is the more mature and settled of the two. At one point, he humorously introduces himself as “her boy toy.”

Earnest fled the small town where he grew up so that he could experience life in Berlin. He tells us how Tobias “danced into my life the day I arrived… like a whirlwind he pulled me into his world of glamour, clubs and crazy characters.” But, as much as he loves Tobias, he is overdosing on experience and wonders if this is what he really wants. He’s having a blast but he wishes for things to slow down a bit so he could just have more time alone with the man he loves.

Enter his childhood friend, Uta (Alexandra Starnitzky). Uta has been away for five years, working for the Israeli Secret Service and – out of the blue – calls Earnest to tell him that she’s in Berlin. He rushes to meet her and their reunion is a happy one. They run around town, taking photos and clowning around like lovers. Earnest has been overwhelmed by Tobias’ friends and it feels so good to be with his old pal again. He looks forward to introducing her to Tobias and the gang.

It’s hate at first sight. Tobias secretly followed Earnest and Uta as they frolicked through Berlin and he feels confused and threatened. Uta feels more than threatened. It is obvious from the start that she wants Tobias out of the picture so can have Earnest to herself. In fact, she attacks him with a nutcracker and tells him he has a week to pack his bags. Can you say... psycho bitch?

Earnest throws a small welcome party for her. Uta arrives, to music that sounds like it came from a French spy movie, looking like a punkish Charles Addams cartoon, all dressed in black. (Come to think of it, she’s always dressed in black.) Tobias is speechless – as are Steffi and Kurt - by this refugee from a Tim Burton movie. The mood of the film changes. It is still funny but now the laughs are coming from a different place. For the first half hour, everything was joyful and exuberant without a care in the world. Now, it is all tension. Uta cackles away, getting on everyone (except Earnest’s) nerves with her annoying laugh. Tobias forces himself to smile while loudly crushing nutshells in his hand.

Now there’s real stress, for the first time, in their relationship. It’s sad to see but, at the same time, it’s uplifting that these guys are still hot for each other despite Uta’s scheming. The steamiest love scene occurs here when they have "make up" sex after a fight. Some of their best screen moments together enfold and you watch these scenes with hope that the love these guys still feel is strong enough to withstand hurricane Uta. All we need now to finish the film is a major third act crisis to really test their love.

The only thing marring Men To Kiss for me is the overdone scene that ushers in the last half hour. Tobias and his friends plot to get rid of Uta. It’s not that she doesn’t deserve it, but what they do is so extreme and unbelievable that it almost derails the entire movie. Thankfully the film recovers, and Act Three features enough drama and humor to delight the viewer along the way to its satisfying conclusion. And, yes, Uta gets her comeuppance.

The entire cast is terrific. Marx and Lutz are adorable as Earnest and Tobias, and their on-screen chemistry couldn’t be better. Starnitzky knows how to be annoying as Uta and she chews the scenery with gusto. It’s an over-the-top performance but it’s nicely complimented by the shocked reactions of her co-stars. The supporting characters are all memorable and each gets at least one moment to shine. Wait until you see Tobias’ mom.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I said that I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie in a long time. With the exception of the one scene that I detested, much of the script crackles with wit. Sometimes the humor is quietly cute and other times it flies at you at warp speed, taking the laughs to the stratosphere. The comic acting is superb and, from time to time, enhanced by flashy camera work, jumpy editing, and clever uses of sound. There is a pot smoking scene that ranks among the funniest in cinema history. (All I can say is that this must have been some really good weed.) When an angry Kurt lectures them for getting stoned, his voice is slowed down and speeded up. They stare at him, dazed, uncomprehending, and struggling not to laugh - while this reviewer was collapsed over, having the giggles.

I have to confess that the character development is a little thin, but it hardly seems to matter. We know enough about them to delight in the humor, and to feel for them when things go askew. Everything comes together in this film and it’s a fun ride. In an interview on, writer/star Frank Christian Marx states that Men To Kiss is the first gay romantic film in Germany that doesn’t deal with coming out. No gay issues are explored at all in this film but that can be refreshing. Not every movie has to have a message or a big dramatic point; it’s okay to just be entertaining once in awhile. It’s way past the time when it was unthinkable to have gay people on the screen without the film having to be about them being gay. Check this one out, you’ll have a blast. At the very least, it’s a fun date movie if you don’t mind subtitles.