december 2017, arsenal cinema

A City Called Home – Ten Films from Los Angeles

Berlin and Los Angeles have been twin cities for 50 years now. In both cities, numerous events have been held to celebrate this anniversary, with a film series by the UCLA Film & Television Archive set up by the Deutsche Kinemathek bringing the year of festivities to close. As both institutions work together closely as members of the Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film (FIAF), it made perfect sense to commemorate the city partnership by exchanging film programs. Ten films from and about Berlin thus travelled to Los Angeles this autumn and were shown at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood, while the return visit to Berlin now follows from 7-14 December with ten films from the UCLA's expansive collection, curated by the head of its film archive Jan-Christopher Horak.

 

december 2017, arsenal cinema

Ernst Lubitsch Retrospective

Ernst Lubitsch (1892–1947) was a master of wittily directed comedies, which bear his unmistakable hallmark and whose popularity and acclaim remain undimmed to this day. A playful sense of levity, subtle innuendo, eloquent ellipses, dialogue accentuated via sarcasm, irony, concision, and exact timing are characteristic of the proverbial "Lubitsch Touch".

Ernst Lubitsch began working as an accountant in his parents' Berlin confectionary company, before he joined Max Reinhardt’s ensemble at the Deutsches Theater as a 19-year-old acting student. In 1913, he was able to take on his first film roles, which were followed one year later by his first works as a director. Between 1914 and 1918, Lubitsch directed numerous one- to three-acters, primarily comedies with a propensity for coarse humor, in which he also appeared as an actor. In 1918, Lubitsch began directing more lavish, feature length films. His first large-scale historical film "Madame Dubarry" and the two comedies "Die Austernprinzessin" and DIE PUPPE, which marked his transition from comedy to satire, brought Lubitsch truefame in 1919. In the year that followed, he frequently moved between genres, with chamber dramas following film epics, and folk plays following melodramas and comedies. As one of the outstanding European filmmakers of his era, Lubitsch went to Hollywood in 1923, where he was able to continue working successfully without a break. He made use of the invention of sound film for inventive film operettas and musicals as well as to perfect his society comedies, with which he, if one believes the quote attributed to Jean Renoir, established modern American cinema. His sophisticated comedies shaped the style of the comedy as a genre of genuine quality, which connected the discriminating with the popular. The recurring themes of the films were the illusion and the reality of high society, love triangles, and the conventions of bourgeois partnership models. Due to the virtuosity of his directing, the subtle art of leaving things out, and the many ideas communicated indirectly, Lubitsch's frivolous allusions and veiled sexual crudities were passed by the censors without comment, even after the Hays Code came into force in 1934.

Arsenal is showing 20 films from Lubitsch's comprehensive oeuvre until the end of January, with a focus on the comedies he made in Hollywood.

december 2017, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour: 
Make Them Laugh – Laughing in the Cinema, Laughter in Film

"Make them laugh!" – The Lumière brothers seemingly already made this appeal their own: the first laughter in film history can be seen in the short sketch L'arroseur arrosé (or also Le jardinier), one of ten short films from the 1895 Grand Café program, the first very public film screening worldwide that was held at the Indian Salon in Paris. What we have no record of is whether the audience members present reacted to this first comedy short by laughing themselves or whether the entire screening wasn't accompanied by laughter of wonder and disbelief at the technical miracle of the moving image. 122 years later, cinema has diversified and amplified laughter, run through all its possible categories and pushed it in infinite different directions. We no longer just laugh at comedies – pars pro toto, one can mention here the classical "comic relief", when feelings of tension, fear, or sadness reach their highpoint and suddenly dissolve in a moment of laughter.

Several of these huge varied forms of laughter in film and cinema and the equally wide-ranging ways it is produced and interpreted are being presented in December's Magical History Tour. Moving away from films by and with the comic greats and possible classics of the genre, the program also turns its attention to the apparent (no less amusing) byways of film history and all the many variations of the laugh, whether that which stems from liberation or unease, bursts out of the throat or ends up sticking there, or comes across as uncontrollable or cryptic.

January '18
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