November 2015, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 - Painting in Motion

SAJAT NOVA, 1968

Color design, lighting, composition, mood, subject: Painting – the works themselves, images, sketches, and the people that create them – has always been and continues to be a point of reference for filmmakers, cinematographers, scriptwriters and not least production designers. Using film to breathe movement into motionless pictorial art provides the visual worlds of the original artworks with new contexts and paves the way for a whole range of different semantic and perceptional shifts. Grappling with aspects of the lives and creative processes of artists and stylistic movements in cinematic terms opens up new perspectives on art history as an echo chamber for the production of film images. The Magical History Tour is showing examples of the productive relationship between painting and film that span nine decades.

SAJAT NOVA (The Color of Pomegranate, Sergei Parajanov, USSR 1968, 1., 2. & 3.11.) In a series of sometimes surrealist, sometimes lovingly ironic, but always opulently excessive tableaux vivants, visual virtuoso Parajanov shows the different stations in the life of Armenian poet, composer, and singer Sayat-Nova, who initially lived at the court of the king in the 18th century, went on to move across the realm as a travelling singer, and was finally murdered and became a martyr. The focus is less on the poet’s biography than on the universe of his poems, which Parajanov translated into magical moving still lives, careful compositions of clothing, carpets, books, flowers, animals, and people. We are showing the 2014 print restored by the Cineteca di Bologna/
L'Immagine Ritrovata and the Film Foundation's World Cinema Project.

PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1960, 3. & 8.11.) There is no other painter's oeuvre who has found a comparable echo in film than that of Edward Hopper. Hitchcock's films also contain numerous allusions to Hopper, not least in PSYCHO, which many different people have referred to as his most "Hopperesque" film. Hitchcock's urban panoramas and his way of positioning the film's protagonists within space – above all motel owner Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and thief-on-the run Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) – are reminiscent of Hopper’s visual compositions. It's impossible to overlook Hitchcock's quote of Hopper's famous picture "House by the Railroad" (1925) in the form of the Bates motel. At once threatening and all-powerful and solitary and cut off from the world, it looms over the scenery in both film and painting and overshadows the motel in PSYCHO, which is home to probably the most famous shower scene in the history of cinema.

SHIRLEY – VISIONS OF REALITY (Gustav Deutsch, Austria 2013, 4. & 10.11.) "A series of snapshots from the life of a fictional actress named Shirley serves to weave together thirteen paintings by Edward Hopper into a fascinating synthesis of painting and film, personal and political history. Each station in Shirley's professional and private life from the 1930s to 1960s is precisely dated: It is always August 28/29 of the year in question, as the locations vary from Paris to New York to Cape Cod. A supremely elegant "animation" of a most unusual kind, which, in moving from single images to film, takes advantage of the seemingly inherent cinematic and narrative qualities of Hopper's paintings." (Anna Hoffmann)

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (John Ford, USA 1946, 4. & 12.11.) Frederic Remington is one of the most well-known American painters of Wild West subjects. His riding scenes, military formations, campfire settings, or landscape panoramas left their mark on the image of the Wild West at the start of the 20th Century and are also to be found in the films of John Ford. Such as in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, Ford's great mythic-poetical Western in which cattle rancher Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) takes on the job of the sheriff in the desert town of Tombstone in order to avenge his brother's murder. With the help of local doctor Doc Holliday, he picks up the trail of his brothers' killers. Aside from the inexorable showdown, it is about all Ford's description of everyday scenes that stick in the memory: at the barbers', at the saloon and at a dance.  

GOYA (Konrad Wolf, East Germany 1971, 5. & 11.11.) Based on the novel by Lion Feuchtwanger, Konrad Wolf shows the Spanish painter as a man of contradiction, as an artist torn between different things, oscillating between loyalty to the king and his own career on the one hand and criticism of church and state on the other. Aside from the literary adaptation, Wolf's opulent historical drama also creates another achievement in translation and integration: Wolf interweaves nearly 80 paintings, pictures, and drawings by Goya into his colorful artist’s biography, that moves away from superlative production design to concentrate more and more on the figure of the lonely, despairing Goya and thus morphs here at the latest into a contemporary parable.

DIE STRASSE (Karl Grune, Germany 1923, 13. & 18.11., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) The unadorned film title doesn't just make reference to the plot and starting point of this petty bourgeois drama about a man from the provinces who becomes hopelessly entangled in the undergrowth of the big city streets and their criminality and prostitution. The title also refers to a source of inspiration from the world of painting: Kirchner's famous expressionistic series of street scenes whose motifs, composition and depictions were drawn on both by director Grune as well as set designers Görge and Meidner when creating the urban canyons and interiors.

CARAVAGGIO (Derek Jarman, GB 1986, 14. & 19.11.) A dual homage to both Caravaggio (1571–1610) as well as the technique of chiaroscuro he mastered, the deliberate accentuation of light and dark to generate dramatic effects. Jarman draws on this stylistic device again and again to depict the baroque painter's inner turmoil, only ever illuminating certain portions of the scenery. In this way, Caravaggio's love triangle with a thief and a prostitute as well as his life in the world of his rich patrons are brought into the light.

UNE PARTIE DE CAMPAGNE (Jean Renoir, France 1936, 15. & 24.11.) 60 years separate the impressionist paintings of Auguste Renoir and this film by his son Jean, who sets the swing, the river, the rower and the walker in his father’s paintings in motion. Renoir Jr injects a sense of melancholy into the airy, liberated atmosphere of the original paintings, as a summer outing en famille becomes a memorial to a lost love. The film will be preceded by LA PETITE MARCHANDE D'ALLUMETTES (Jean Renoir, France 1928).

Three Short Films by Jürgen Böttcher (16. & 25.11.): VENUS NACH GIORGIONE (East Germany 1981), DIE FRAU AM KLAVICHORD (East Germany 1981), KURZER BESUCH BEI HERMANN GLÖCKNER East Germany 1985)
Under the working title "Transformation", Böttcher used three different art postcards as a canvas for new paintings at the start of the 80s, with the camera looking on in each case. It was the works of respected masters that were transformed in this way: Paulus Potter (1625–54), Giorgione (around 1477–1510) and Emanuel de Witte (around 1617–92). Böttcher superimposes his own creative process onto the pictures, playing with forms, alienation techniques, accentuations and associations, thus letting past and present flow together. Böttcher's cinematic tribute to Hermann Glöckner, one of the most important people active in the visual arts in East Germany, is equally the document of a creative process.

THE AMERICAN FRIEND (Wim Wenders, West Germany/France 1977, 21., 26. & 29.11.) "A weighty American art volume was for a long time my standard point of reference when it came to Edward Hopper. The book suffered under my many different moves, but above all during the shoot for THE AMERICAN FRIEND, when my cameraman Robby Müller and I were so mad about Hopper that we always had his pictures with us and used them as pre-images for many of the shots in the film. In the end, we actually removed some of the pictures from the book and pinned them up on the walls of our hotel rooms and production offices. Afterwards, they were stuck back into the book, but the many pinholes still bear testimony to how the book was abused in this way." (WW) Wender's reverent take on Hopper revolves around art forger Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) persuading a terminally ill frame-maker (Bruno Ganz) to commit two contract killings.

PASSION (Jean-Luc Godard, France 1982, 22. & 28.11.) The reenactment of a painting in a film studio: Director Jerzy (Jerzy Radziwiłowicz) stages classic paintings by Ingres, Goya and Delacroix in elaborate, painstaking fashion. Production difficulties, a labor dispute with a young employee (Isabelle Huppert) and an affair with hotel owner Hanna (Hanna Schygulla) increasingly distract Jerzy from his cinematic investigations of art history, composition and light. An episodic collage of images and quotes about the artistic process in painting and film.

ACCATTONE(Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italy1961, 27. & 30.11.) Pasolini set his startling debut in the The 'borgate romane', the dismal residential areas on the outskirts of Rome, are the locations for Pasolini’s sensational debut. He first encountered the life and inhabitants of the borgate when he was in Rome during the early 1950s and felt a close connection to them his whole life. The film centers on Vittorio (Franco Citti), who calls himself Accattone (which means "scrounger" or "beggar" in Italian) and can barely make ends meet with theft, wheeling and dealing, and pimping. His wife has left him. His girlfriend, who prostituted herself for him, is in jail. When he falls in love with the young Stella, he tries - in vain - to change his life. Chased by the police, he has an accident and dies. In this film that features amateur actors and is set against the backdrop of a bare, neo-realist suburban desert, Pasolini develops a haunting "Passion" whose tragic hopelessness he frames with exact, almost sacred, image compositions that are reminiscent of Italian painting of the early Renaissance. (mg)