August 2017, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – Manifestos and Pamphlets 


PATHER PANCHALI, 1955

Flaming manifestos, trailblazing texts, and dynamic blueprints for the future are at the heart of the Magical History Tour in August. All these writings revolve around nothing less than a fundamental renewal or a liberation of cinema from restraints and conventions of a commercial, aesthetic, narrative or political nature, about proclaiming a new form of cinema that formulates clear political and artistic positions. Each of the selected manifestos has a film placed alongside it, which is either a cinema "adaptation" of the text or is mentioned within the text and is usually written by the author in question.

TSCHELOWJEK S KINOAPPARATOM (The Man with the Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR 1929, 1. & 13.8., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Dziga Vertov is not only one of the most important pioneers of early film history but also one of the first film theorists to also become known for his militant manifestos. The introductory text to TSCHELOWJEK S KINOAPPARATOM also resembles a short manifesto: "This experimental work aims to create a truly international, absolute film language based on the total delimitation from the language of theater and literature." What follows is a flood of images that illustrates the various facets of a day in the turbulent life of a city.

RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX (Laura Mulvey, Peter Wollen, United Kingdom 1977, 2. & 4.8.) Laura Mulvey's seminal essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975) is one of the classic foundational texts of feminist film theory. Her film RIDDLES OF THE SPHINX continues the same examination of narrative and aesthetic codes in cinematic form and offers an alternative structure for female representation in film in three sections and 13 chapters.

ES (Ulrich Schamoni, West Germany 1966, 3. & 29.8.) The 1962 Oberhausen Manifesto is the most well-known German postwar film manifesto, with the 26 signatories declaring their "demand to create a new German cinema.” The first features shot in the spirit of the Oberhausen Manifesto – diverse in terms of both style and content, more than willing to experiment, and embodying a critical view of Germany, its society, and West German politics – were produced in the mid-60s. Schamoni's ES was also created at the time: fast-paced and informal, the film revolves around a young unmarried couple living in Berlin. When the wife falls pregnant and secretly has an abortion, the seemingly non-bourgeois couple experiences a crisis.

LES 400 COUPS (François Truffaut, France 1959, 5. & 11.8.) Even if it's clear there was no central Nouvelle Vague manifesto, Truffaut's text "The French Cinema is Crushed by False Legends" (1957) functioned almost as such for the movement forming at the time. It ends with the following words: "The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them". LES 400 COUPS is founded on autobiography accordingly, the story of the 12-year-old Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud), who grows up in poverty and without love.

PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray, India 1955, 6. & 25.8.) Satyajit Ray made his feelings clear in a 1948 essay entitled "What Is Wrong with Indian Films?", saying that Indian directors should make life itself the raw material of their films once again. He demanded less glitz, less music, and less mysticism, all paired with an unobstructed gaze for the images and sounds of reality. In 1955, he implemented this manifesto for Indian auteur cinema in the form of his directorial debut PATHER PANCHALI. At the heart of the film is the childhood of the young Apu, who lives with his family in the countryside.

TERRA EM TRANSE (Land in Trance, Glauber Rocha, Brazil 1967, 8. & 15.8.) A pivotal text of the Cinema Novo movement is Glauber Rocha's 1965 text "The Aesthetics of Hunger", in which he defines Brazilian culture as a culture of hunger and demands a revolutionary aesthetic of violence. In TERRA EM TRANSE, he draws a complex picture of the power relations in his country. The protagonist Paulo, a poetry-writing intellectual, first joins a rightist conservative politician and then starts following a populist reformer. To his disappointment, he is forced to recognize that both only seek power and not social change.

DESERTIR (Vsevolod Pudovkin, USSR 1933, 9. & 17.8.) “The dream of sound film has become reality" is stated in Sergei Eisenstein, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Grigory Aleksandrov's manifesto on sound film (1928), in which they further developed the theory of montage to grapple with the possibilities and problems of sound film. "Only the contrapuntal use of sound will allow new possibilities of developing and perfecting montage." An example of how this might be implemented is found in Pudovkin's first sound film, DESERTIR, which follow a dock worker who becomes a strikebreaker, to then be given a second chance by his communist colleagues.

L’ÂGE D’OR (The Golden Age, Luis Buñuel, France 1930, 10. & 16.8.) "I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory, into a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, if one may so speak." In his 1st manifesto on surrealism, André Breton defined the concept as a "psychic automatism" in which the free association of thoughts shouldn't be controlled by reason. The key movie of surrealism is Luis Buñuel's L'ÂGE D'OR, whose flood of images, metaphors and symbols formed a provocative pamphlet against the social order of the time.

DIE ARCHITEKTEN (Peter Kahane, East Germany 1990, 12. & 18.8.) In 1988, a group of young DEFA filmmakers created their so-called “Manifesto of the New Generation”, making a plea for “a break with any kind of taboos” and demanding "that emphasis be placed on intervening in processes of reality whose results are not yet clear". One of those to make a stand against the obstacles hindering film production in East Germany was Peter Kahane, whose film DIE ARCHITEKTEN shows the unsuccessful efforts to create a new, modern city district, which is at the same time a piercing metaphor for the situation of the young DEFA filmmakers.

BEIQING CHENGSHI (A City of Sadness, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan 1989, 20. & 22.8.) The manifesto written by a group of Taiwanese filmmakers and journalists surrounding Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Edward Yang is largely unknown. In 1987, they expressed their concerns about Taiwanese cinema, which they saw as being threatened by a one-sided, commercially oriented film policy. The manifesto became the foundation stone of the Taiwanese New Wave. BEIQING CHENGSHI was shot a short time later and depicts the fate of the country as reflected in the life of a family who become entangled in the unrest and confusion that reigned there between 1945 and 1949.

REMINISCENCES FROM A JOURNEY TO LITHUANIA (Jonas Mekas, USA 1971, 21. & 27.8.) "We have had enough of the Big Lie in life and the arts. (…) We don't want false, polished, slick films—we prefer them rough, unpolished, but alive." These are the closing words of the first declaration made by the New American Cinema Group, a group of independent filmmakers, producers, and distributors in the orbit of Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger, John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke and others, who pursued the goal of creating a distribution platform for artistic, avant-garde, independent film. The Film-Makers' Cooperative that developed out of the declaration exists to this day and has a distribution catalogue as comprehensive as it is impressive. It also includes REMINISCENCES FROM A JOURNEY TO LITHUANIA – a cinematic poem by Jonas Mekas, one of the central figures of the New American Cinema Group, that functions as a report of a journey into the past, a journey back to the start: to his own origins and those of the medium.

ZHANTAI (Platform, Jia Zhang-ke, China 2000, 23. & 26.8.) In answer to the question of what the decisive force in the development of filmmaking will be, Jia answered without any hesitation: "The age of amateur cinema will return!" Shortly afterwards, he summarized his thoughts in a manifesto of the same title and posited a rejection of the artistic and creative ossification. He demanded instead greater cultural diversity in film, a greater sense of openness towards new paths, and more passion, conscience, and integrity in filmmaking. Jia's ZHANTAI – made three years previously – already takes the countercultural movements within the mainstream as its theme and observes the dramatic political, social, and cultural changes in China in the 80s. The focus is on the members of a theatre group in a small Chinese town, who experience upheavals big and small both on and off stage.

GENUINE (Robert Wiene, Germany 1920, 24. & 31.8., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) The most comprehensive text in the writings collected in this Magical History Tour is without doubt Rudolf Kurtz’s 1926 treatise on expressionist film. As an advocate of the expressionist art movement, the film critic presented this first comprehensive snapshot of expressionist filmmaking in Germany. Kurtz’s key focus here included Wiene's GENUINE, which was in his view one of the truly expressionist films. The film revolves around a mysterious house, where a female vampire lives in an underground cave. When a young man enters the house, this tragedy of murder and love, madness and passion takes its course.

FESTEN (Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark 1998, 28. & 30.8.) The Dogma 95 manifesto sold itself as a "vow of chastity", which was presented in 1995 to coincide with cinema’s 100th birthday. Within it, the two Danish directors Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg criticized the illusionary character of contemporary cinema and how alienated it had become from real life and set out 10 rules that were supposed to create a new relationship to reality. The first Dogma film, FESTEN, dissects a family intact only on the surface on the 60th birthday of the family's patriarch. Hidden depth gape open beneath the upper-class façade – the ballroom becomes the location for an unflinching settling of scores. (mg)

August '17
arsenal cinema: Robby Müller – Master of Light

07:30 pm Cinema 1


Breaking the Waves

Breaking the Waves Lars von Trier Germany/S/F/NL/N/IS 1996
DCP OV/GeS 158 min

Introduced by Kristina Jaspers
arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – Manifestos and Pamphlets 


08:00 pm Cinema 2


Desertir

*Desertir Vsevolod Pudovkin
USSR 1933 35 mm OV/GeS 106 min