June 2014, arsenal cinema

Between Dread and Laughter – Alfred Brendel Goes to the Cinema


… and to be precise to the Arsenal in June and we're very pleased to welcome the great pianist! As one of the most significant pianists of his generation Alfred Brendel has, during a career that has spanned six decades, played with the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, recording countless records and CDs and receiving numerous awards. More recently, he has also intensified his literary activities and public engagements, holding lectures, readings and masterclasses, and also curating film programs! Exposure to cinema from an early age was the foundation stone for his ongoing interest in international cinematography, which is now reflected in a program comprising 14 films. In "Between Dread and Laughter", Brendel combines his knowledge and passion for film with his interest in humor and the grotesque, presenting key works of European and American cinema from the 1920s to the 70s. He wrote as follows about his selection: "The films gathered together in this series function outside of bourgeois codes, and the American dream invented by Hollywood; far from, or in opposition to, illusions and ideologies. They are subversive because they question convention. They show that the world is absurd and they find this absurdity comical. They do not want to portray the world as it could or should be, but instead – at least that’s how it seems to me – as it is." Alfred Brendel will briefly introduce all the films and talk in more detail at the beginning and end of the program. There will be an opportunity to talk to him when the documentary ALFRED BRENDEL: MAN AND MASK (UK 2000) is screened and after the program's last film CITY LIGHTS (USA 1931).

THE SCARECROW (Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton, USA 1920, 3.6., Introduced by Alfred Brendel) and STEAMBOAT BILL JR. (Charles Reisner, Buster Keaton, USA 1928, 3.6.) The Great Stone Face is seen here in two wonderful films that have not been bettered in the absurdity and wit of the plot, the wealth of detail and the fast-paced slapstick. In THESCARECROW,Buster Keaton shows himself to be an inventive house-husband and surprisingly realistic scarecrow before he gets closer to his beloved. Keaton also encounters various borderline situations in STEAMBOAT BILL JR. playing a lanky captain's son who is determined to rescue his father's business in a film that features breakneck, oneiric choreographies and the elegance of dance. DIE 3-GROSCHEN-OPER (The 3 Penny Opera, G. W. Pabst, D/F/USA 1931, 4.6.) Pabst transposed his adaptation of Brecht's Beggar's Opera/gangster ballad to the semi-darkness of the shadows and staged it as a fairytale full of wit and lightness of touch: In dens, brothels and gloomy port districts, the king of the beggars Peachum (Fritz Rasp) and the corrupt police chief Tiger Brown (Reinhold Schünzel) conspire against Peachum's newly-married daughter (Carola Neher) and his new son-in-law (Rudolf Forster).

FREAKS (Tod Browning, USA 1932, 5.6.) Tod Browning leads the cinema in 1932 back to its fairground roots: people of small stature, Siamese twins, people without arms or legs - Browning's horror melodrama is about a "club" of physically deformed people who are displayed as sideshow attractions, and exploited and cheated by their "normal" circus colleagues. The contemporary audience considered scandalous the film and itsdepiction of the physical disability of the "freaks", as well as their desire for love and passion, - in the UK the film was banned for 30 years shortly after its premiere.

JEUX INTERDITS (Forbidden Games, René Clement, France 1952, 5.6.) 1940: German troops have arrived when the five-year-old Paulette loses her family in an attack on a column of refugees fleeing Paris. The orphan is taken in by a family in a small village and finds a substitute brother in 11-year-old Michel. Their childish games echo the war. They erect a cemetery for dead animals. In an environment where cruelty reigns, the children's world has long ceased to be idyllic.

ALFRED BRENDEL: MAN AND MASK (Mark Kidel, UK 2000, 6.6., guest: Alfred Brendel) This documentary in six chapters gives an insight into the life and work of the renowned concert pianist. The film goes from Brendel's childhood to the 50th anniversary of his professional debut, putting the spotlight on rehearsal talks with Simon Rattle ahead of several joint concerts and on Brendels eclectic interests in painting, sculpture, architecture, as well as his penchant for the grotesque, and his literary and essayistic activities.

DINNER AT EIGHT(George Cukor, USA 1933, 6.6.) The status-conscious wife of a bankrupt shipping magnate invites guests to the dinner of the films title. They include uncouth nouveau riches, arrivistes, English aristocrats, (ex-) actors and the hostsdaughter whose engagement has just been broken off. Before the dinner, the diverse relationships (mainly extra-marital), financial dependencies and abstruse neuroses of the invitees surface. Even if the irony is sometimes scathing, Cukor never adopts a denunciatory tone. He leads his ensemble of stars to acting brilliance.

MORGAN: A SUITABLE CASE FOR TREATMENT (Karel Reisz, UK 1966, 7.6.) The eccentric young painter Morgan, who has a pronounced obsession with gorillas, does everything to prevent his ex-wife Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave) from marrying a rich art gallery owner. When he's not putting skeletons in Leonies bed, programming sound signals in the house or manipulating the furniture, he visits the grave of Karl Marxwith his mother who wants to instigate the revolution. A grotesquely surreal comedy that ends with one of the most original hommages to British garden art. MOZNOSTI DIALOGU(Possibilities of Dialogue, Jan Svankmajer, ČSSR 1982) will be shown before the main feature.

IF (Lindsay Anderson, UK 1968, 7. & 13.6.) IFis one of the most important films of the late 1960s. In eight chapters, Anderson shows the unbearable circumstances at a private school in Britain, at which military tone, strict hierarchies, drill and sadism are part and parcel of daily life, in an increasingly stylized and alienating way. Three new pupils (including Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis in his debut role) react to the repression in imaginative, anarchical fashion and trigger a bloody revolt.

FRENZY (Alfred Hitchcock, UK 1972, 8.6.) Killing and eating, British humor and an unusual sense of the drastic come together in Hitchcocks late work about a London serial murderer.At the beginning, the ex-husband of one of the victims is falsely accused and arrested. He escapes from jail and tries to find the real perpetrator on his own. Brilliance in the mis-en-scene, perfect timing, fast-paced editing and an elaborate use of the camera turned the rather trivial plot into a perfect thriller. HISTORIA NATURAE/SUITA (Jan Svankmajer, ČSSR 1967) will be shown before the main feature.

CRÍA CUERVOS (Raise Ravens, Carlos Saura, Spain 1976, 9.6.) "Raise ravens and they'll take out your eyes" - with sensitivity and criticism, Saura sheds cinematic light on this Spanish proverb about the consequences of a failed education. Ana is eight years old. After her mother dies, a strict aunt brings her up. She thinks she can determine life and death with a mysterious powder. Ana escapes her traumatic childhood by immersing herself in a fantasy world of dreams, memories and delusions that develops on two time levels. A dark look at Spanish society at the end of the Franco era.

LE FANTÔME DE LA LIBERTÉ(The Phantom of Liberty, Luis Buñuel, Spain 1974, 9.6.) A surrealist round dance comprising 20 episodes in which what seems normal becomes absurd: police searches for people who are present, death sacraments and poker games, a  "dinner" on a toilet, lonely intake of food in dark larders. Buñuel's penultimate film was the third in his trilogy aboutthe search for truth, "as well as the necessity of abandoning it as soon as you've found it." (L.B.)

CITY LIGHTS(Charlie Chaplin, USA 1931 | 10.6., Q&A with Alfred Brendel) A cross between silent movie and talkie, irony and social criticism, blind flower girls and a mutablemillionaire. CITY LIGHTSwas made at a time of technological change and although it enjoys experimenting with sound it is very much beholden to Chaplin's art of pantomime. He not only "rescues" a millionaire with a penchant for alcohol but also the captures the eye of a young woman. A film full of bottomless imagination, social criticism and slapstick. (mg)

An event in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek Museum für Film und Fernsehen and with the support of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Berlin, Berlin. Special thanks to Hans Hurch.