February 2014, arsenal cinema

Hommage à Ingrid Caven


"The last German star was born in Saarbrücken: part Marlene Dietrich, part Greta Garbo," wrote the French journalist Guy Teisseire in 1974 in relation to Ingrid Caven's interpretation of the main part in Daniel Schmid's LA PALOMA. The queues in front of the Paris cinemas in which the film was shown 40 years ago were akin to those today when Ingrid Caven performs as a singer. As soon as a Paris concert of the "Callas of European cabaret" (Village Voice) is announced tickets sell out within two days. From February 25 - 28 we are repeating some of the films that were presented earlier this month.

In Germany today, Ingrid Caven is mostly known in connection with Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Her acquaintance with him led her, his "kindred spirit" (RWF), in 1967 to the "Antiteater" that he had founded in Munich with Peer Raben. Between 1969 and 1979, she played in 20 of his films. Their short marriage ended after only two years in 1972. Caven played in many films by other directors, including Jean Eustache, Werner Schroeter and Daniel Schmid, whose LA PALOMA brought her international acclaim in 1974. After moving to Paris, she began a second career in 1978 as a singer of chansons. With compositions by Peer Raben, texts by Fassbinder and Hans Magnus Enzensberger and a dress designed especially for her by Yves Saint Laurent, she was celebrated in France as the "child of Brecht and Marlene", or as the new Marlene Dietrich, Zarah Leander, Lotte Lenya, Edith Piaf or Juliette Gréco. Triumphant concerts in New York followed: "Simply spectacular" (The New York Times), "A comet passing once in a hundred years" (Village Voice). In 2000, her companion the writer Jean-Jacques Schuhl, wrote a "biographical novel" that became a bestseller in Europe and won the Prix Goncourt in France. The description of Caven's life develops into a panorama of West Germany.

Ingrid Caven's filmography comprises over 50 film and TV productions. We present a selection of seven films, including her 1965 screen debut and the Berlin premiere of Bertrand Bonello's 2012 concert film.

MES PETITES AMOUREUSES (Jean Eustache, F 1974, 1.2., Ingrid Caven will be our guest & 28.2.) Daniel is 13. He leads a carefree life in a village. He has a close circle of friends, he's successful at school and has a good relationship with his grandmother with whom he lives. The situation changes when his mother (Ingrid Caven) fetches him to live with her in the city. He's received without flourish in Narbonne and his relationship with his mother's companion is cool. Forced to leave school so that he can contribute to the family's income, he takes a job in a bike repair shop. He experiences the reality of the world of adults: social hierarchies, mundane everyday life and attempts at distraction through sexual adventure. In the final part of his autobiographical trilogy, which also comprises "Le Père Noël a les yeux bleus" (1966) and "La maman et la putain" (1973), Eustache depicts his path from a "normal" childhood to marginality with calculated distance without emotion or anger. "To show people revolting only serves the general appeasement." (Jean Eustache).

SCHATTEN DER ENGEL (Shadow of Angels, Daniel Schmid, CH/FRG 1976, 2.2., Ingrid Caven will be our guest) tells the story of the prostitute Lily (Ingrid Caven), who is too beautiful for her customers and lives with her pimp (Rainer Werner Fassbinder). A realtor (Klaus Löwitsch), the "rich Jew" as he calls himself, advises her to stop talking and to take money for listening and remaining silent. La Paloma becomes the garbage can of the powerful – she no longer sleeps with her customers but listens to them. When she herself has become rich and powerful, she can no longer stand the situation. Only death seems a realistic solution. The film was based on Fassbinder's play Garbage, the City and Death,which was written in 1975 during his tenure as director of the Theater am Turm in Frankfurt. The attempt to analyze anti-Semitic stereotypes was itself interpreted as anti-Semitism and led to controversial heated debates and animosity. The play was never performed in Fassbinder's lifetime. Daniel Schmid filmed his friend's play in a cautiously distanced manner which reveals the text's fascination for despair, grief and fear.

INGRID CAVEN, MUSIQUE ET VOIX (Ingrid Caven: Music and Voice, Bertrand Bonello, F 2012,3. & 27.2.) Bertrand Bonello recorded a concert that Ingrid Caven gave at the Cité de la musique in May 2006 with two cameras. The German, French and English repertoire features songs by Peer Raben, Jean-Jacques Schuhl, Fassbinder, Joyce, Cage, Brecht and Weill, Schönberg and Brahms. As the title indicates, the concert film concentrates completely on the music and voice of Ingrid Caven. The camera perspective never leaves the stage – there are no pans to the audience, no backstage scenes, no snippets of interviews.

HÄNDLER DER VIER JAHRESZEITEN (The Merchant of Four Seasons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, FRG 1971, 4. & 25.2.) West Germany during the "economic miracle" of the 1950s. The former policeman Hans Epp (Hans Hirschmüller), who has never been able to live up to his mother and wife's (Irm Hermann) expectations, is a fruit trader who lugs his cart through courtyards. He drinks and beats his wife; and then he has a heart attack. The doctor bans him from physical work so he employs his old comrade from the Foreign Legion (Klaus Löwitsch) who not only manages to boost sales but also wins over the people in his surroundings. Hans for his part becomes more and more depressed. His situation is not improved by the reappearance of his great love (Ingrid Caven) who cannot afford to marry a fruit trader or doesn't want to. He smashes a commemorative record of the hit song "Alles, was du willst, kannst du nicht haben" (Everything you want, you can't have) and abandons all hope.

FRÜHSTÜCK IN ROM (Max Zihlmann, FRG 1965, 4. & 25.2.) Ingrid Caven's screen debut takes place in Munich's cinephile circles of the mid-1960s and refers to the paragons of the Nouvelle Vague: the seduction game, the relaxed tone, the city as a setting with its cafes, cinemas and bars with their pinball machines and jukeboxes. A marriage proposal is made to Sandra (Ingrid Caven), there are flippant remarks about wedlock and about film criticism. Two young critics agree that "criticism is a question of morality" as they talk in the cinema foyer in front of a poster for Truffaut's "La Peau Douce". And Klaus Lemke flirts with Sandra by of course inviting her to go and see "a new Swedish film". "I'm married," she lies. "You're not wearing a ring." "It's at the pawnshop."

LA PALOMA (Daniel Schmid, CH/F 1974, 5.2.) Earl Isidor (Peter Kern) has been courting the nightclub singer La Paloma (Ingrid Caven) for years - in vain. Only when she falls seriously ill with tuberculosis does she give in to his advances. Isidor brings her to Europe's most luxurious sanatoriums where she regains her health. She also learns to love his great love for her if not him himself – she agrees to marry him. When her belief in his love begins to wane, she falls ill again and seeks revenge. "Schmid has Ingrid Caven to thank for the fact that LA PALOMA"works", that its heavy perfume really does have an intoxicating effect. He stylizes her into an erotic fetish like Sternberg Dietrich, Stiller Garbo, and Mae West herself. She, destroying Isidor but also herself, certainly follows in the tradition of the "femme fatale" that Hollywood created during the First World War. Flawlessly waxen, with red lips and blond hair, she comes across like a ghost. And when she presents the song "Shanghai" in the manner of "Alcazar", winding herself in the spotlight brilliantly in wine-red velvet, it is impossible not to succumb at least for a few film minutes to the magic of this decadence that Schmid has an ambivalent fondness for." (Kraft Wetzel)

MUTTER KÜSTERS' FAHRT ZUM HIMMEL (Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, FRG 1975, 6. & 26.2.) is about the wife (Brigitte Mira) of a worker who shoots himself and his superiors as a result of threats of mass redundancies. It is Fassbinder's counterpart to Piel Jutzi's "Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness" (1929). Mother Kusters' son Ernst and his wife turn away from her because they don't want to be connected to the "factory murderer" in public. Her daughter Corinna (Ingrid Caven), a nightclub singer, uses the unexpected publicity to boost her career. Fighting for her husband's memory, Mother Kusters defends herself against the sensationalist reporting of the tabloid press. When her husband's hoped for rehabilitation does not take place thanks to a journalist (Karlheinz Böhm) from the German Communist Party newspaper either, she turns to an "anarchist" for help. He promises to make her cause public with action. (hjf)

With the kind support of the Institut français and the Embassy of France.