Walter Ruttmann's BERLIN. DIE SINFONIE DER GROSSSTADT (D 1927) is not only a singular portrait of the dazzling metropolis in the mid-1920s but also the linchpin of an eponymous series of short and long documentaries from the 1920s and 30s. The city symphonies employed rhythmic montage and associative sequences of images to capture the increasing dynamism, mechanization and modernity of cities. Rhythm, tempo, movement, abstraction and the joy of experimenting shaped these filmic approaches to Berlin, Nice, Moscow, New York and Paris. Those we are showing in June are taken from across film history and include specimens which revere the first city symphonies as well as distant echoes of the early cinematic urban explorations.
BERLIN. DIE SINFONIE DER GROSSSTADT (Symphony of a Great City, Walter Ruttmann, D 1927, 2. & 8.6., with Eunice Martins on the piano) One day in Berlin, portrayed chronologically in five phases. Alternating fast-paced scenes with calmer ones, Ruttmann fans out images of the city, of urban life and people - street canyons, trains, streets, masses of workers, machines, neon commercials, evening entertainment. The images are cut according to a principle of movement and contrast, merging into a visual rhythm, a gush of impressions and a pulsating river of images.
DER SCHÖNE TAG (Thomas Arslan, D 2001, 3. & 6.6.) Moving through the city - all day long, Deniz (Serpil Turhan) progresses through summery Berlin, going from Kreuzberg to Wannsee, from Alexanderplatz to the Tiergarten. Berlin is not only a picturesque backdrop for Arslan, instead the city acts much more as a catalyst, giving rhythm to the film. Deniz's forays – often by subway – measure up the city and link up the momentary coordinates of its life. Moving between her boyfriend, mother, sister, her place of work where she is a dubber, auditions and a chance encounter in the evening, Deniz tests her own expectations of life.
City symphonies shorts program (9. & 17.6., with Eunice Martins on the piano): MANHATTA (Paul Strand / Charles Sheeler, USA 1921) is the first city symphony in the history of film – it is a lyrical composition of architecture, space and movement based on a poem by Walt Whitman. RIEN QUE LES HEURES (Alberto Cavalcanti, F 1926) Juxtaposing scenes from documentary and feature films, Cavalcanti develops an impressionist view of Paris from early morning to midnight. A PROPOS DE NICE (Jean Vigo, F 1930) is a satirical and absurd portrait of the French seaside resort and its bourgeois inhabitants. Vigo described his film as a "social documentary" citing classic urban symbols à la Ruttmann and Vertov – machines, movement, work environments – to caricature Nice as a city that was neither very dynamic nor modern.
MY WINNIPEG (Guy Maddin, Kanada 2007, 15. & 24.6.) "A multilayered journey through the hometown in his head, Guy Maddin's film is a vigorous caprice of fact and fiction." (Eddie Cockrell) Like all Maddin's films, this surreal, essayistic and personal portrait of the director's hometown refuses to be pigeonholed as belonging to a particular genre. However, there are echoes of the city symphony, such as dynamic montage, roaming through the city and the evocation of its myth. The city of Winnipeg at once becomes a place of dreams and the location of all our childhoods.
THE LITTLE FUGITIVE (Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, Ruth Orkin, USA 1953, 19. & 27.6.) Without this film, there would have been no Nouvelle Vague. This key independent American movie depicts the experiences of the seven-year-old Joey, who runs away from home in fear that he has killed his brother, and spends a day and a night on Coney Island. He is totally absorbed by this world of entertainment and moves effortlessly between the hot dog stands, the beach and pony tracks. The camera also moves effortlessly through all the activity on Coney Island, documenting the afternoon throngs as well as the more relaxed evening atmosphere and the storm that clears the air – this is an island symphony about a world that has disappeared.
THE NAKED CITY (Jules Dassin, USA 1947, 20. & 23.6.) Concrete canyons, playgrounds, fire alarms, street scenes, newspaper boys, life on the streets in the oppressive summer heat – the legendary shots of this semi-documentary-like portrait of New York came about with the help of a truck that had a reflective surface. The plot revolves around the murder of a young model but the huge city is an equally important protagonist.
SUITE HABANA (Havana Suite, Fernando Pérez, Cuba 2003, 22. & 29.6.) This film's Havana does not have the morbid gloss of gone-by days and the clichés of Cuba. Pérez shows 24 hours in the life of 10 completely different inhabitants of the city – from the railway worker who dreams of a life as a musician to the professor whose wife is forced to sell peanuts – and survives without commentary or interviews. Images and sounds merge into a poetic whole of the city, into a melancholy suite that follows its daily routine.
In MOSKVA (Moscow, Ilya Kopalin, Mikhail Kaufman, USSR 1927, 28. & 30.6., with Eunice Martins on the piano), which was commissioned for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, the directors Kopalin and Kaufman, Vertov's brother, traced the changes that had taken place in Moscow and the contradictions. A surprisingly dynamic camera documented the barely changed façades of the city's Tsarist villas and palaces, behind which a new Soviet reality had developed.
*<b>M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder</b> Fritz Lang Germany 1931 With Peter Lorre Restored Version 35 mm <b>GV</b> 117 min
Slaughter Jack Starrett USA/Mexiko 1972
Mit Jim Brown, Stella Stevens 35 mm OF 91 min