August 2020, arsenal cinema

Forum 50

JAMES OU PAS, 1970

The Berlinale Forum is taking place for the 50th time this year and we are celebrating! 21 programs were shown during this year's festival, 22 more were to be presented in March in the Arsenal. Forum 50 will continue in July and August with a selection of five films. This will provide an insight into an era full of upheavals for society and culture and offer the opportunity to examine the films’ relevance today. When Ulrich and Erika Gregor and their co-founders set up the International Forum of Young Cinema, they had a clear sense of the radical changes in cinema, the sociopolitical situation and the necessity of keeping alive film history. Films from countries not yet on the global radar of cinema premiered here, as did films that experimented with form or others without narratives. From the start, no distinction was made between documentary and fictional films; older and re-discovered films stood side by side with films with a political message. Already known classics made references to utopias and cinematic traditions. A large part of the first Forum program comprised works of artistic innovation and political agitation. Many saw themselves as providing “counter-information” to the mainstream media, for example with regard to the Civil Rights Movement or the protests against the Vietnam War. In films that explored (neo-)colonialism and exploitation in South America and Africa, the camera was a tool of the class struggle. Some of the films we are screening are part of our own collection. Since the very beginning, it has been our policy to preserve and make accessible films with German subtitles to a broader public outside of the festival context.

VOTO MÁS FUSIL (Vote Plus Gun, Helvio Soto, Chile 1970, 2.7., Introduction: Cristina Nord) Made after Salvador Allende won the election in 1970, this film explores the historical development of the Chilean Left from 1935 to the present. It depicts the consciousness of a socialist in the last few days before the elections of November 4th 1970 and shows how political events are registered and processed: Memories of the “Lenin Brigade” (1937) but above all the Right’s conspiracies to bring down the economy and the government, and the murder of General Schneider, the commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army on October 24th 1970.
LA BANDERA QUE LEVANTAMOS (Mario Jacob, Eduardo Terra, Uruguay 1971, 2.7.) A left-wing coalition from different political areas formed in 1971, election year in Uruguay. Some 100,000 people participated in a demonstration in March, where the Left’s presidential candidate Liber Seregni introduced himself. The directors used this event and  his speech as a departure point for analyzing the country’s social and political realities.

UMANO NON UMANO (Human Not Human, Mario Schifano, Italy 1969, 8.7.) Though he became famous as a painter and collage artist and as one of the main representatives of Italy’s postmodern art scene, Mario Schifano he was also a filmmaker. The films that he made from 1964 were very much influenced by US experimental films, like most works by Italian avant-garde directors at the time. At the end of the 1960s, Schifano also made a trilogy of feature-length films in the spirit of Pop Art. The middle part - UMANO NON UMANO, - enjoys a legendary reputation. It is a pulsating, completely unpredictable and eclectic (in the best sense of the word) collage of a dazzling Rome, where Schifano was a key figure, akin to New York’s Andy Warhol at the same time. Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg crop up in the film, as do demonstrating students; Alberto Moravia and Adriano Aprà reflect upon art and philosophy and comrades and poets such as Carmelo Bene fill the screen with their presence.

JAMES OU PAS (James or not, Michel Soutter, CH 1970, 5.8.) “With a plot that cannot be recounted and single scenes that are loosely but whimsically connected, this film is a criminal farce and then again it is not; two shots, a dead man and two strange detectives only form the basis, the framework for the film. What is more important here are the types: Eva, who comes to Lake Geneva at the weekends from Zurich, to provide the wealthy but very isolated James with a minimum of human contact, and Hector, an odd taxi driver, who is happy when he can help people out and sometimes simply turns off the meter. The zany and sometimes melancholy dialogues, the finely-tuned series of shots and some beautiful car journeys to the music of Chopin make JAMES OU PAS a very gentle, unobtrusive and very intelligent film.” (Arndt F. Schirmer)

LA SALAMANDRE (Alain Tanner, Switzerland 1971, 9. & 19.3.) Was it an accident or a murder attempt? Rosemunde (Bulle Ogier), a young woman who just manages to keep her head above water with odd jobs, is accused of shooting her uncle. She says that he injured himself cleaning his weapon. A television station commissions the journalist Pierre to use the case as the basis for a screenplay. He elicits the support of his friend Paul, a writer currently working on a construction site. Each of them works in their own way to find out the truth, one of them making a meticulous investigation, the other letting his imagination run wild. Both fail, however, because Rosemunde turns out to be impulsive, rebellious and unfathomable. She is like an intrepid anarchist, running away if something doesn’t suit her and not allow herself to be controlled. “A definitive incarnation of post-1968 freedom”. (Frédéric Bas)