You probably know the music, but you may not necessarily know where it is from. Bagdad Café is one of these little treasures, known without being known. Released in 1987 and directed by Percy Adlon, it stars Marianne Sägebrecht, CCH Pounder (that we saw briefly in Face/Off) and Jack Palance.
A German couple is arguing in the middle of the Mojave desert – at some point the wife, Jasmin, takes off on the deserted road and eventually arrives at the Bagdad Café, a run-down motel and diner where she meets Brenda, the owner, whose husband has just left her. With nowhere to go, Jasmin uses her love of cleaning and her love for magic to change the lives of the people around her.
During the first ten minutes I got worried those 97 minutes of film would be long and painful. There is not really a scenario here, Marianne Sägebrecht makes the movie. Somehow the viewer grows fond of all the characters and what seems at the beginning to be a grim story turns into a colorful, happy musical. Jasmin is the glue bringing and holding everyone together. At first, she is lonely and shy, Brenda is suspicious and, as each character opens up and learns how to tame the others, affection grows. Because this is primarily a story of friendship.
The evolution can be seen when Rudy starts painting Jasmin. As the number of paintings grows, Jasmin is more and more flirtatious and reveals more of her body. This is not a movie about sex, violence, or suspense. Because of that, it makes those scenes more sensual.
It was argued to me that many questions are left unanswered: why did she leave her husband, what happens to the husband, why and how does she come back, why does Jasmin go there and not to a bigger city. Well, I cannot answer these questions, however I would say this movie is like a fairy tale and, to be frank, I do not think we need to know about this information!, which may be irrelevant to the story. Like in a fairy tale, Jasmin is a bit like the fairy Godmother to me. This is about magic – it starts with basic tricks, but the really magic is about opening up to people, bringing people together, and transforming the Bagdad Café from a ditch to a “must” destination! One of the residents of the area, Debby, in charge of a tattoo parlour, end up leaving because of that:
Brenda: Now why would you want to leave?
Debby: Too much harmony.