No other actor has ever mastered the art of the smile to the same extent as Setsuko Hara (1920–2015), a celebrated star and highly regarded idol who was one of the outstanding actors of 40s and 50s Japanese cinema. Her radiant smile floods whole scenes and at times cautiously undermines the expectations made of her in coy, ironic fashion. Yet her smile's impressive range also encompasses its darker shades: Hara's delicate, dignified, melancholy smile with which she responds to disappointments, papers over the emotions churning under the surface, and flanks life's sobering realizations. Her smiles don't just function as a condensed version of her ever-precise, expressive, yet understated acting ability, they also allow the very essence of the films they appear in to shine through for a brief moment, often studies of the everyday, post-war dramas which revolve around the break-up of family structures or the failure of marriages. Her performances tread a fine line between social expectation and personal desire in post-war Japan, as Hara attempts to lay claim to the autonomy of the female characters she plays – frequently with a smile.
Between 1935 – her brother-in-law helped her land her first role at the tender age of 15 – and 1962 Setsuko Hara acted in more than 100 films, of which those that emerged from her creative partnership with Yasujiro Ozu are the most well known, a collaboration which started with BANSHUN (Late Spring, 1949) and ended with KOHAYAGAWA KE NO AKI (Early Autumn, 1961). We are happy to present four films from this collaboration while also taking the series as an opportunity to broaden the view of this great actress, who died last September. We are thus showing her performances in films by Mikio Naruse, Keisuke Kinoshita, Akira Kurosawa, Kozaburo Yoshimura, and a German-Japanese co-production by Arnold Fanck, most of which are seldom screened in Germany.
Film’s ephemeral, eerie, and uncanny nature takes shape in the fleeting form of shadows, ghosts and doppelgangers, coherent and unstable in equal measure. Ghosts of history, cultures, and myths, shadows ranging from those cut out of paper to those created by moonlight, and the dark sides of protagonists often brought to light by the figure of the doppelganger all foretell the uncanny, the strange, and the unknown. In the darkness of the movie theater, we encounter the shudder as the original principle of cinema, just like how it plays with time, identities, perception, and disbelief, as we perhaps also sometimes feel something of our own shadows in these projected, imaginary images.
This month's Magical History Tour invites viewers to attend 17 very different encounters – with magical rites, restless ghosts, illusionary shadows, and doppelgangers on the loose.
Even if NO HOME MOVIE had not become the legacy of the Belgian filmmaker and video artist Chantal Akerman, who died in 2015, this portrait of her elderly mother's last days would have provided a starting point for a review of her radical, experimental, rich and often autobiographical oeuvre, which comprises about 50 works and has left profound marks on the history of contemporary cinema. In all its forms and genres, Akerman's oeuvre is steeped in an existential "homelessness" because of the trauma of the Shoah; as the director herself put it, at its center stands her mother, Natalia (Nelly), a Polish Jew who was the only one of her family to survive Auschwitz and never talked about it. She can be seen in person in NO HOME MOVIE and TOUTE UNE NUIT, whereas in other films she appears offscreen as a disembodied voice, cited or in fictionalized form. In memory of the great avant-garde director Chantal Akerman, who saw herself as a nomad who did not belong anywhere, Arsenal is showing a diverse selection of her films which enter into dialogue with her last work NO HOME MOVIE from September 1-6.
What do 16mm, 35mm and 70mm actually mean? What is screen masking and what is it used for? How does a dissolve work? And what is actually happening when the image on the screen stops moving and begins to melt? If you’re interested in finding out how films get on to the screen, Arsenal would like to invite you to take a peek behind the scenes on one of our projection room tours. Our projectionist Bodo Pagels will show you round the projection room, tell you all about film formats, projectors and projection techniques, demonstrate how films are fed into the projector and provide a full introduction to the secrets of film projection. He will also be happy to answer any questions you might have about the cinema set-up and will adapt the tour to your wishes and interests as far as possible. The next scheduled tour will take place on Saturday September 3, at 4pm. Please register in advance.
On September 4, film expert Vaginal Davis presents our new series "Rising Stars, Falling Stars – Sweet 16 mm" for the second time at silent green Kulturquartier. On show is NOT A PRETTY PICTURE (USA 1976) by Hollywood director Martha Coolidge, who began her work as a documentary filmmaker. NOT A PRETTY PICTURE is based on her own experiences of date rape as a teenager. She mixes fictional scenes with documentary footage of herself working on the film and discussing the issues of sexual violence with her cast and crew, pushing all the participants to their limits. Made in 1976 and set in the 1960s, the film is also about the processes of social change which lends it particular relevance today.
*The Halfmoon Files Philip Scheffner Germany 2007
Blu-ray 87 min
Akibiyori Late Autumn Yasujiro Ozu Japan 1960
With Setsuko Hara, Yôko Tsukasa, Mariko Okada
DCP OV/GeS 128 min