We are focusing on grand gestures for this month's Magical History Tour - on films located in the space between excess and opulence, whose exuberance is manifested either by the director's unlimited personal involvement or by an unfettered artistic vision. However, opulence and excess are by no means an end in themselves, but instead represent the expression of a desire for change asserting itself against manifold constraints and obstacles. Our program features films that are committed to absolute realism alongside ones that find their appropriate form in extreme stylization.
LA GRANDE BELLEZZA (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 2013, 1. & 3.3.) The Roman society reporter Jeb Gambardella is about to turn 65 and plans to celebrate with a massive party. Tired and cynical, he analyzes the superficiality of a world of which he is a part. A baroque portrayal of society that totally yields in melancholy and voluptuous reverie to Rome's beauty.
Alluding to the same-named novel by Lampedusa, Luchino Visconti draws a grandiose panorama of the declining Sicilian nobility in IL GATTOPARDO (The Leopard, I/F 1962, 2. & 16.3.). The elderly Prince of Salina recognizes that times are changing and that he can no longer find a place in the new world. An era is melancholically coming to an end, symbolized by the final glorious prom sequence.
HOLY MOTORS (Leos Carax, F / G 2012, 4. & 7.3.) Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) has his chauffeur (Edith Scob) ferry him all over Paris in order to carry out his profession, which consists of taking on different roles. A man with a variable identity: industry boss, hitman, beggar and monster. On the roof of the abandoned department store "La Samaritaine" in view of Pont Neuf and the lights of the city at night, Eva (Kylie Minogue) sings him a song full of longing. A journey through Paris by night and day, a brilliant rush of images and, not least, a film about cinema itself: from the photo series of Marey all the way through to digital motion capture techniques.
NUIT DE CHIEN (Werner Schroeter, F/D/Portugal 2008, 5. & 8.3.) A city, somewhere in the south, is in a double state of siege – from the outside, enemy troops are fast approaching and inside nobody trusts each other anymore. Ossorio (Pascal Greggory) arrives in this bleak, apocalyptic setting to meet his lover - at the end of this "night" they try to escape. With grand dramatic gestures, of which he is an unrivaled master, plenty of imagery and sound, Werner Schroeter develops a dreamlike parable about the state of the world at the turn of an era.
HEAVEN'S GATE (Michael Cimino, USA 1980, 6. & 9.3.) is a hypnotizing, opulent epos about the last settlement phase of the American West. Based on historical events that took place around 1890 in Johnson County, Wyoming, the film re-creates the atmosphere of that time. The historical setting from which the plot unfolds is recreated with great love for detail. A group of long-established cattle owners fear that they will lose their privileges and wealth because of a new wave of immigrants. At first using the law in their favor but then resorting to more violent methods, they try to drive the new settlers away. Conflict escalates. This is a parable about justice and morality.
SEDMIKRÁSKY (Daisies, Věra Chytilová, ČSSR 1967, 10. & 23.3.) Two bored and inseparble girls, Marie I and II, decide to lead a "perverted" life in face of the world's moral depravity. They go out for dinner with men and then disappear, they organize a banquet with pieces of meat cut out of magazines, set paper garlands on fire and lay to waste the room where an ample cold buffet has been laid out: An anarchical and debauched feast of destruction that goes against all norms.
A program featuring three films by the legendary underground director Jack Smith, who created spectacular fantasy worlds that crossed camp with experiment. FLAMING CREATURES (USA 1963) This travesty of Hollywood B-movies such as "Ali Baba" and tribute to the actress Maria Montez was seized at the premiere because of its graphic depiction of sexuality and not shown for decades. I WAS A MALE YVONNE DE CARLO (USA 1967–70) derived from a series of films and slide-shows in which Smith staged himself as a mock celebrity. JUNGLE ISLAND (USA 1967) featured in his "Horror and Fantasy at Midnight" program. (11. & 24.3.)
BARRY LYNDON (Stanley Kubrick, GB/USA 1976, 12., 18. & 25.3.) In his period movie set at the end of the 18th century, a loose adaptation of a novel by William Makepeace Thackeray, Stanley Kubrick depicts the stations of the Irishman Redmond Barry's life on an epic scale. He meticulously reconstructs the era, having costumes made according to original designs and filming interiors with a special camera lens developed for use by NASA, scenes illuminated only by candlelight. Panoramas and portraits and an impressive use of color lend the film the static quality of paintings. Music of different genres - folk, military, romantic chamber - marks the switch between social milieus and comments on the main protagonist's social rise and fall.
GOYA (Konrad Wolf, East Germany 1971, 19.3.) Based on the novel by Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Wolf shows the Spanish painter as a man of contradiction, as an artist torn between different things, oscillating between loyalty to the king and his own career on the one hand and criticism of church and state on the other. Aside from the literary adaptation, Wolf's opulent historical drama also creates another achievement in translation and integration: Wolf interweaves nearly 80 paintings, pictures, and drawings by Goya into his colorful artist’s biography, that moves away from superlative production design to concentrate more and more on the figure of the lonely, despairing Goya and thus morphs here at the latest into a contemporary parable.
IVAN GROZNIY (USSR 1943–45, 21. & 28.3.) In his last film, Sergei Eisenstein created a new dimension of historical cinema. His extremely unconventional sense of aesthetics comprising rigorous picture composition, claustrophobic spaces and expressive acting create an immensely oppressive atmosphere of passion, death, guilt and calamity. At the center of the two-part film (three parts were initially planned) is the 16th-century autocrat Ivan IV. One of the film's leitmotifs is the tsar's loneliness that triggers a self-tormenting sense of brooding within him. The atmosphere of general distrust, one of the film's founding elements, provokes a fatal cycle of evil into which Ivan is sucked into almost against his will.
IVAN GROZNY II (Ivan the Terrible, Part 2, S.M. Eisenstein, USSR 1943–46/1958 | 22. & 29.3.) While Sergei Eisenstein portrayed Ivan's rise in Part 1 for which he was awarded the Stalin Prize, in Part 2 he depicted Ivan's terrible aspects. Stalin banned the film in 1946. Almost all the material for a third part, of which four acts had been edited, was destroyed. Eisenstein and his lead Nikolai Cherkasov met Stalin in 1947 to talk about possible changes to Part 2. These did not end up being made since Eisenstein died the following February. The film's first public screening in the Soviet Union was in 1958, five years after Stalin's death.
TABU. A STORY OF THE SOUTH SEAS (F.W. Murnau, USA 1931, 26. & 30.3., on piano: Eunice Martins) A paradisiacal primitive state of innocent and pure life is what Murnau wanted to conjure in his last film TABU. "Paradise" and "Lost Paradise" are the titles of the two chapters of the film. Paradise is the life of Reri and Matahi, two lovers on the island of Bora-Bora in the South Seas. When a priest declares Reri a virgin hallowed by the gods and who from now on can no longer be touched and coveted, the two flee. They wind up in the destructive sphere of civilization and its dependencies. Murnau realized his world of longing at original locations and with lay actors and actresses. Before the screening, we will show Ulrike Ottinger's film essay ALOHA (G 2016, 26. & 30.3.), made on the occasion of an homage to Murnau at Munich's Lenbachhaus (25.10.2016 to 26.2.2017). "The filmic structure of ALOHA develops from layers and associative games with similar gestures in Murnau's TABU and my films, which express astonishment, enthusiasm, grief or ecstasy. My film's soundtrack only selectively corresponds to the original sound; it is mostly freely associated with the images and works with a wide spectrum of additional sounds and music so that a new composition of sound and image emerges. In ALOHA the great significance of dance - epic dance drama - and the music is highlighted. Even fish hunting seems to follow an elaborate rhythmic choreography." (Ulrike Ottinger)