Howard Hawks (1896–1977) is one of classical Hollywood cinema's great directors. He is regarded as the consummate Hollywood professional, creating narratively and directorially accomplished entertainment full of fast-paced thrills, humor and tension. His oeuvre spans the period from 1926 to 1970 and takes in nearly all the genres of the time: comedies, westerns, musicals as well as war, adventure and gangster films. Until the end of January, we will be showing a 20 film retrospective that presents famous classics alongside some less well-known discoveries.
After studying engineering and architecture, Hawks started out in the film industry as a props assessment, going on to rise through the ranks in almost textbook fashion to become one of Hollywood's most successful filmmakers in the space of just a few years. Nearly all of Hawks' films were commercial successes, a fact that allowed him to work more freely and independently within the studio system than almost any other Hollywood director, even at the beginning of the sound film era at the start of the 30s. Hawks produced most of his films himself, was nearly always involved in writing their scripts (usually uncredited), and only signed contracts on a film-to-film basis without ever tying himself to one of the studios. While the straightforward nature and sheer efficiency of his narrations were immediately acclaimed by audiences, film critics only began to honor Hawks' class following his "discovery" as an auteur by Cahiers du cinéma in the 50s. The narrative understatement of "craftsman" Hawks, the unobtrusiveness of his visual style, and the great simplicity attached to his camerawork – the camera at eyelevel, with camera movements only permitted when required by the narrative – are now recognized as comprising Hawks' unique stance, which was the result of an "ethic of efficiency and production" (Tavernier/Coursodon). This stance also left its mark on his chosen material and their aesthetic. The adventure films are often about the things that Hawks, himself a pilot, racing driver, fisherman and passionate hunter, knew and loved. Hawks draws sparingly on action to this end, with it never becoming a means to itself in his work, but rather serving to characterize the figures involved. Hawks prefers to either tell stories about men, primarily hardened professionals working in small groups, or confident women who serve as a suitable foil. They are complex stories about human triumphs and weaknesses, notable for their deeply humane worldview; films with wit, drive and tempo in which there is no place for sadness or sentimentality. Hawks shows a world of agency, friendship and solidarity and of fighting and control, in which humanity has not yet given up on a dignified life without alienation despite the justified skepticism brought about by fate.
Catherine Deneuve, who has left her mark on French cinema for more than the last 50 years, comes from a family of actors: her mother Renée was a theatre actress, while her father Maurice Dorléac acted in films and headed the Paramount dubbing studios. Deneuve made her screen debut at the age of 13, before achieving her international breakthrough as an actress with Jacques Demy's LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG at the age of 21. She has appeared in over 100 films of every different genre. In the early years of her career, she worked with directors such as Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut and Roman Polanski, collaborations that are now celebrated as film historical classics. Her versatility knows no bounds, not least when she works with younger directors and gets involved in experiments such as JE VEUX VOIR. Catherine Deneuve has again and again proven her ability to undermine her own image as a cool, unapproachable beauty.
On December 7, Catherine Deneuve will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the European Film Academy in Berlin. It gives us great pleasure to be able to welcome her to Arsenal on December 6 as well as to show ten films in which she starred from 6.-11.12.
Color design, lighting, composition, subject: Painting has always been and continues to be a point of reference for filmmakers, cinematographers and production designers. Using film to breathe movement into motionless pictorial art provides the visual worlds of the original artworks with new contexts and paves the way for a whole range of different semantic and perceptional shifts. The Magical History Tour is showing examples of the productive relationship between painting and film from seven decades.
In 2010, the Croatian feature CRNCI (The Blacks) made its way through the international film festival circuit. A chamber piece that uses small gestures to explore the big questions of conscience in Croatian society in metaphorical terms, it served to indicate the courage of filmmakers Goran Dević und Zvonimir Jurić. This drama about the inherent contradictions of the postwar period is one of a series of films to break with reasons of state, no longer speaking of the “War of the Fatherland”, but rather of the atrocities large and small still lying dormant in the subconscious of the collective psyche, having remained largely unaddressed until that point.
While the process of coming to terms with the crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars has since moved on in Croatia, CRNCI, the psychological study of a group of people grappling with the extreme nature of the civil war, continues to resonate as a piece of cinematic art whose possible interpretations stretch far beyond the historical framework of the region. Croatia's accession to the EU this year is a more than suitable occasion to dedicate a short retrospective to the work of Dević and Jurić, both of whose work remains largely unknown in Germany. Both directors operate between history and the everyday to scrutinize their country’s mentality in laconic, pinpoint style, shifting between the bitter undertone of investigative journalism, the tongue-in-cheek irony of the distanced observer and the critical self-interrogation of the humanist.