February 2018, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 – Lost Films Found

KARLA, 1965/90

An immeasurable amount of lost or incomplete films are hidden in the shadows of film history. Films can disappear for all sorts of reasons: they fall victim to political upheavals, are inexpertly stored or given inadequate attention and thus damaged, or - as is the case for the nitrate film material that was widely used up into the 1950s - they succumb to chemical decay. Until the end of the silent movie era, films were deliberately destroyed on a regular basis because they were not considered valuable. Some 70 to 80 percent of all silent movies were lost. Databases, websites and campaigns of all kinds bear witness to the major efforts of institutions and individuals to unearth and make visible individual films. The British Film Institute once published a list of the “75 Most Wanted”, with Alfred Hitchcock's first feature film (1926) in first place - it hasn’t been found to this day. With eight films, the Magical History Tour presents stories about loss and censorship, about seeking and (sometimes chance) finding.

KARLA (Herrmann Zschoche, GDR 1965/90, 1. & 12.2.) After the eleventh plenary session of the Central Committee of the SED in December 1965, DEFA feature film production was suspended for a whole year - 12 films were affected, including KARLA, which was accused of "ideological shortcomings" as well as offering "a distorted image of socialist education policy". It first premiered  in 1990. Karla (Jutta Hoffmann) is a passionate young woman just out of school who turns up at a small town high school to teach German and history. Her idealistic efforts to encourage the young students to think for themselves, trigger a conflict with the school authorities and their idea of reality. She refuses to adapt - and pays a price.

ORG (Fernando Birri, Italy/Argentina 1967–78, 2.2.) premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 1979 and was soon almost forgotten. A shortened version of the film circulated and was screened very rarely. The director left a print in our archive after the film was shown at Arsenal in 1991. It was rediscovered, digitalized and re-released as part of the Living Archive project in 2012.  Produced by the main actor Terence Hill, ORGis an excessive, mushrooming experiment about perception, a "non-film" (Fernando Birri), a compendium of the aesthetic and political currents of the 1968 movement.

BABY FACE (Alfred E. Green, USA 1933, 3. & 6.2.) A time of exceptional freedom and openness towards societal realities in Hollywood history came to an abrupt end when the Hays Code was enforced in 1934. Many of the pre-Code films of the early 1930s could no longer be screened and were forgotten. Lily Powers, embodied majestically by Barbara Stanwyck, is an exemplary pre-Code heroine. She grows up in her father's seedy speakeasy and he forces her to prostitute herself. When he dies, she takes to heart the advice of the only man to ever show her any kindness - to use men instead of letting them use her. She takes her chance and jumps on a freight train to New York, where she determinedly lands a job in a big bank building in Manhattan ("Have any experience?" - "Plenty!"). She plans her social and financial rise ruthlessly and unsentimentally. We will show a pre-release, uncensored version of the film that was discovered in the Library of Congress archives in 2004 and has since been restored.

KOMISSAR (The Commissar, Alexandr Askoldov, USSR 1967/87, 4. & 13.2.) Banned as soon as it was completed, KOMISSAR premiered in Moscow in 1987 and was an immediate international success. Askoldov’s visually stunning feature debut is set in 1922, during the civil war. A heavily pregnant Red Army commissar moves in with a Jewish family. She is an insistent follower of party orders while the family lives according to humanist principles - the commissar experiences a gradual transformation through the contrast. Dream sequences of horrific visions of the pogroms in Russia and Ukraine and later of the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews are juxtaposed with the realistic narrative. The film was accused of being “anti-Soviet”.

A TOLONC (The Undesirable, Michael Curtiz, Hungary 1914, 7. & 11.2.) Mihály Kertész started making films in 1912 in Hungary before going on to Hollywood where he would change his name to Michael Curtiz and enjoy a successful career with Casablanca and other films. Thought lost, A TOLONC was found in the cellar of the Hungarian House in New York a few years ago. The Hungarian National Film Archive restored it and added a new soundtrack by Attila Pacsay. At the center of this melodrama set in the rural and picturesque Carpathian Mountains is a young woman. The man whom she has always thought was her father tells her on his deathbed that he is actually her uncle and he raised her after her mother went to jail for killing her husband. She goes to the city to become a maid with a family in the city after her father/uncle’s death. She falls in love with the son but the mother accuses her of theft and dismisses her. In a parallel plot, her mother, who is presumed dead, searches for her daughter.

LYRISCH NITRAAT (Lyrical Nitrate, Peter Delpeut, the Netherlands 1991, 9. & 14.2.) is a compilation of scenes from films that were made between 1905 and 1915. It is almost a miracle that the films survived. They were found in the attic of an Amsterdam cinema after the death of the Dutch director Jean Desmet (1875 – 1956). The film directs the viewer’s gaze to the fragile and ephemeral material of nitrate film. Liberated of an ongoing narration, the film pays tribute to the aesthetics of early cinema and the visual power of conviction of images largely colored monochromatically. Unfiltered pure emotions are evoked - film history as a sensation not a teaching experience.

TOUCH OF EVIL (Orson Welles, USA 1958, 10. & 15.2.) The memo that Orson Welles sent to Universal Pictures after he saw the re-edited version of his rough cut was 58 pages long and included multiple recommendations for editing changes. Universal saw no reason to take the his objections and criticism into account and released the film as it was. This is the version of the legendary film noir that was shown until the 1990s, when the film editor Walter Murch started reconstructing it using the memo as his basis. The complicated thriller focuses on a murder case in a small town on the Mexican border, which leads to a fatal duel between a young Mexican drug enforcement agent and an old US police captain.

METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang, D 1927, with music by Gottfried Huppertz, 15. & 27.2.) For decades, Lang's early science-fiction work existed only as a torso: The film was brutally trimmed after it premiered and the scenes that had been cut out disappeared. Over 80 years later, a version of METROPOLIS turned up in Buenos Aires, in the archive of the Argentinian film museum. It is very similar to the original and enables a new examination of this classic about the futuristic city of Metropolis, in which the enslaved working masses of the dark subterranean city rebel against society above ground which revels in luxury. A riot triggered by an artificially created person threatens to destroy the city, but is kept under control by a love that transcends class barriers. (mg/al)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – 
Improvisation in Film

07:30 pm Cinema 2


Nashville

Nashville Robert Altman USA 1975
With Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine
DCP OV 159 min

arsenal cinema: Ernst Lubitsch Retrospective (2)

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Cluny Brown

Cluny Brown USA 1946
With Charles Boyer, Jennifer Jones
35 mm OV 100 min