|Directed by||Percy Adlon|
|Edited by||Norbert Herzner|
|Music by||Bob Telson|
|Distributed by||Island Pictures|
|108 minutes (German)|
95 minutes (U.S.)
Bagdad Cafe (sometimes Bagdad Café, titled Out of Rosenheim in Germany) is a 1987 English-language West German film directed by Percy Adlon. It is a comedy-drama set in a remote truck stop and motel in the Mojave Desert in the U.S. state of California. Inspired by Carson McCullers' novella The Ballad of the Sad Café (1951), the film centers on two women who have recently separated from their husbands, and the blossoming friendship that ensues. It runs 95 minutes in the U.S. and 108 minutes in the German version. The song "Calling You", sung by Jevetta Steele and written by Bob Telson, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 61st Academy Awards.
German tourists Jasmin Münchgstettner (Sägebrecht) from Rosenheim and her husband fight while driving across the desert. She storms out of the car and makes her way to the isolated truck stop, which is run by the tough-as-nails and short-tempered Brenda (Pounder), whose own husband, after an argument out front, is soon to leave as well. Jasmin takes a room at the adjacent motel. Initially suspicious of the foreigner, Brenda eventually befriends Jasmin and allows her to work at the cafe.
The cafe is visited by an assortment of colorful characters, including a strange ex-Hollywood set-painter (Palance) and a glamorous tattoo artist (Kaufmann). Brenda's son (Darron Flagg) plays J. S. Bach preludes on the piano. With an ability to quietly empathize with everyone she meets at the cafe, helped by a passion for cleaning and performing magic tricks, Jasmin gradually transforms the cafe and all the people in it.
- Marianne Sägebrecht as Jasmin Münchgstettner
- CCH Pounder as Brenda
- Jack Palance as Rudi Cox
- Christine Kaufmann as Debby
- Monica Calhoun as Phyllis
- Darron Flagg as Salomo
- George Aguilar as Cahuenga
- G. Smokey Campbell as Sal
- Hans Stadlbauer as Herr Münchgstettner
- Alan S. Craig as Eric
- Apesanahkwat as Sheriff Arnie
The script was inspired by a road trip across U.S. Route 66 taken by director Percy Adlon and his wife Eleanor, a producer, in 1984. The town of Barstow, California reminded the couple of "purgatory". The film was shot in sequence.
Roger Ebert awarded the film 3½ stars in his review:
"[Percy Adlon] is saying something in this movie about Europe and America, about the old and the new, about the edge of the desert as the edge of the American Dream. I am not sure exactly what it is, but that is comforting; if a director could assemble these strange characters and then know for sure what they were doing in the same movie together, he would be too confident to find the humor in their situation. The charm of "Bagdad Cafe" is that every character and every moment is unanticipated, obscurely motivated, of uncertain meaning and vibrating with life".
Awards and nominations
- 1988: won Best Foreign Language Film at the 23rd Guldbagge Awards
- 1988: won Bavarian Film Award Best Screenplay (Eleonore & Percy Adlon)
- 1988: won Ernst Lubitsch Award (Percy Adlon)
- 1989: nominated for the Oscar for Best Music, Original Song (Bob Telson) for the song "Calling You"
- 1989: won Amanda Best Foreign Feature Film (Percy Adlon)
- 1989: won Artios Best Casting for Feature Film, Comedy (Al Onorato and Jerold Franks)
- 1989: won César Award for Best Foreign Film (Percy Adlon)
In 1990 the film was re-created as a television series starring James Gammon, Whoopi Goldberg, Cleavon Little, and Jean Stapleton, with Stapleton as the abandoned tourist, and Goldberg as the restaurant operator. In the TV version the tourist was no longer from Germany. The series was shot in the conventional multi-camera sitcom format, before a studio audience. The show did not attract a sizable audience and it was cancelled after two seasons.
The setting, Bagdad, California, is a former town on U.S. Route 66. After being bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1973, it was abandoned and eventually razed. While the town had a "Bagdad Cafe", the film was shot at the then Sidewinder Cafe in Newberry Springs, 50 miles (80 km) west of the site of Bagdad. The cafe has become something of a tourist destination; to capitalize on the film, it changed its name to Bagdad Cafe. A small noticeboard on the cafe wall features snapshots of the film's cast and crew.
The soundtrack features the songs "Calling You", written by Bob Telson and sung by Jevetta Steele, and "Brenda, Brenda" with lyrics by Lee Breuer and music by Bob Telson, sung by Jearlyn Steele, featuring the harmonica of William Galison, and also has a track in which the director narrates the story, including the film's missing scenes.
The principal piano pieces, performed by Darron Flagg, are preludes from Book I of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier: the C major, no. 1, BWV 845; the C major, BWV 846, no. 2; and the D major, no. 5, BWV 850.
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