September 2012, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour: Rebels with a Cause – Halbstarke at the cinema


Rebellious, ill-adjusted and cool – the attitude harbored by certain members of the younger generation in the US and other countries, including West Germany during the Adenauer era, clashed with a society that remained authoritarian some 10 years after the end of the war. A German term that dates back to the turn of the 20th century was used to label Germany's rebellious youths and later became the title of a film - DIE HALBSTARKEN (Teenage Wolfpack, Georg Tressler, BRD 1956). For some, the term was a snide insult; for others it was a compliment. Whether in Germany or in the US, the deviant youths indulged in criminal activity, created a disturbance and protested against traditional values. They were cool and into rock 'n' roll and motorbikes. Many films of the 1950s examine this social conflict, several wag a finger and some manage to depict precisely the daily realities of youth. The first charismatic heroes of this generation, which recognized itself in the unruly protagonists of THE WILD ONE (László Benedek, USA 1953) and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (Nicholas Ray, USA 1955), were Marlon Brando and James Dean. In Germany, Horst Buchholz, the star of Tressler's DIE HALBSTARKEN became a hero. This month's Magical History Tour is dedicated to American and German teenage rebel classics as well as film representations of similarly-minded young rebels from earlier days, or different social and geographical contexts.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE(Nicholas Ray, USA 1955, 1. & 4.9.) is a central film of the "juvenile delinquency" genre, the American ancestor of Germany's Halbstarken films. The formal godfathers in the "story of a generation" announced in the credits are the gangster movies of the 1930s and film noir. The director conducted comprehensive research in juvenile archives and police stations. This is where the three young protagonists Judy (Natalie Wood), John (Sal Mineo) and Jim (James Dean) meet one night. They end up crushed by fatal gang rituals, helpless parents and disinterested police.

DIE HALBSTARKEN (Georg Tressler, BRD 1956, 2. & 5.9.) Different worlds come crashing together: Some youths are dancing rock 'n' roll in an espresso bar when suddenly a Prussian march resounds from the jukebox. The young dancers get mad and leave the café making fun of German military culture. Among them is Freddy (the German James Dean), the fractious leader of a marauding group he plans to attack a post van with to finally get hold of some decent money. Shot, whenever possible, on location in Berlin (Heinz Pehlke was the cameraman), Tressler's feature debut creates a space for youth that goes beyond the narrow, petty bourgeois world of adults. Street corners, parks, bombed out industrial zones and basements form the backdrop for youth culture during the economic miracle years.

ENGELEIN (Urban Gad, D 1914, 6. & 9.9., with Eunice Martins on piano) Jesta Schneider (played fantastically by Asta Nielsen) wages terror In her boarding school where she has been sent to be turned into a lady. At her leaving party, there is alcohol, cigarettes and card games - this is the peak of her scandalous behavior which certainly counts her among the first Halbstarke of film history. When her rich uncle turns up a little later, she has to pretend to be a 12 year old and take it easy. A spirited wild child emerges from the youthful protests. This turbulent comedy earned one of the most unusual actresses of the 1910s and 20s the reputation of a star.

BERLIN – ECKE SCHÖNHAUSER (Gerhard Klein, GDR 1957, 7. & 11.9.) A few months after Tressler's West Berlin-based DIE HALBSTARKEN, the director Gerhard Klein and screenplay writer Wolfgang Kohlhaase presented their perspective of East Berlin's Halbstarke. The film's setting is betrayed by the title - right under the underground arch of Schönhauser Allee in Prenzlauer Berg. That's where a group of youths meets regularly to chat or dance, often clashing with the passers-by or the police. It's not far to West Berlin where Dieter, Karl-Heinz and Kohle are later forced to move to, but a tragic accident occurs at the reception center…Neo-realist street scenes featuring trams, cars and people are the backdrop for a remarkably open depiction of rebellion and the desire for freedom in the GDR.

RUMBLE FISH (Francis Ford Coppola, USA 1983, 8. & 21.9.) Coppola described his highly stylized, dark and timeless examination of alienated and lost youths as an "art film for teenagers." Conceived to go with his earlier film "The Outsiders", RUMBLE FISHis about two young brothers - the younger aggressive and naïve gang leader Rusty (Matt Dillon) and the melancholy Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke). The film takes place somewhere in America sometime (with a confusing mix of 1950a pool halls and 1980s industrial wasteland) and creates an appropriate realm for the uprooted protagonists trapped in the roles defined by youth culture in a way that is increasingly self-destructive.

HERBST DER GAMMLER (Peter Fleischmann, BRD 1967, 12. & 22.9.) This documentary inventories social trends in 1960s West Germany. Young "beats", as they called themselves, talk in exhaustive interviews. They are kids who live in homes, have dropped out of school, given up their apprenticeships or simply cannot stand the rigid structures of the companies they work at - all dream of freedom. To begin with, the passers-by display a guarded understanding of those they call "Gammler" ("bums") but this turns to blatant hatred and there are calls for jail, labor camps and Adolf Hitler - the "voice of the people" in the Federal Republic of Germany just a few years before the protests of 1968.

THE WILD ONE (László Benedek, USA 1953, 14. & 16.9.) Tilted caps, boots and leather jackets are biker leader Johnny's trademark (Marlon Brando invented a style). All hell breaks loose when he rides into small town California alongside his 40 "Black Rebels" and a rival gang turns up on the scene. The streets are occupied, the local bars are overrun, the prison is attacked - the shocked locals form a vigilante committee. "This is a shocking story,'' reads a caveat that the distributors put in at the beginning of the film to calm audiences. ''It could never have taken place in most American towns." Raw and melancholy on his bike, Brando is as impressive as ever.

TOUKI BOUKI (Djibril Diop Mambéty, Senegal 1973, 15. & 17.9.) Mory and Anta dream of a better future in Paris. They perceive Dakar to be a place of bone-crushing traditions, social restrictions and isolation. Mory has to suffer being insulted as a "useless roamer", whereas Anta is seen as an outsider since her decision to study. Fired up by hostility, the youthful rebels use all kinds of tricks to find money for their trip by sea. As they approach their desired destination, the first doubts surface. Mambéty's experimental feature debut, shot in the lurid colors of the 1970s, is at once a road movie, an episode film, an initiation story and a satire, in which the borders between reality and imagination, documentary and fantasy are blurred - a vehement milestone of African cinema.

PUTYOVKA V ZHIZN(Road to Life, Nikolai Ekk, USSR 1931, 18. & 20.9.) This is an early sound film made by Mezhrabprom, the renowned German-Soviet film cooperative. The historical context is provided by the "besprisorni", ("waifs") - some seven million children orphaned by the civil war and famine who roved around the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. In the film that was a success in both the East and the West, a group of young homeless kids - played by amateur actors - roam around Moscow fighting and stealing. At a re-education camp, Sergeev, a social worker and Party loyalist, tries to instill in them the ideal of the hard-working, disciplined and sporty Soviet man, despite many setbacks.

MALENKAYA VERA (Little Vera, Vasili Pichul, USSR 1988, 19. & 29.9.) A slow panned shot of gray industrial complexes, dismal high-rises and derelict wasteland introduces the setting in which Russia's younger generation, as the Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse, is in constant conflict with parents and authority. The forceful 17-year-old Vera resorts to drastic measures to escape the narrowness of her home, others' ambition for her to become a switchboard operator and state control. When she brings her boyfriend back home, the situation spins out of control. Pichul's breathtaking feature debut fluctuates between the grotesque and tragedy and hysteria and calm, casting a merciless glance on an empty future.

LA HAINE (Hatred, Mathieu Kassovitz, F 1994, 23. & 30.9.) Wild, angry and equally lacking in orientation and goals, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Hubert (Hubert Koundé), three kids who live in Paris' banlieue, recall the young American rebels of the 1950s. They too are looked upon with distrust and get involved in conflicts, whose nature and background are at times very different. One night, a friend held in police custody after rioting is injured. He dies… Kassovitz depicts social implosion in the hell of Paris' inner cities using disturbingly emphatic imagery.

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour: Rebels with a Cause – Halbstarke at the cinema

07:30 pm Cinema 2

Rebel Without a Cause

Rebel Without a Cause Nicholas Ray USA 1955 With James Dean, Natalie Wood
35 mm OV 111 min

arsenal cinema: Alain Resnais Retrospective

08:00 pm Cinema 1

Vous n'avez encore rien vu

Vous n'avez encore rien vuYou Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
France 2012 With Mathieu Amalric, Sabine Azéma, Michel Piccoli
35 mm OV/GeS 115 min

Introduced by (in English) : François Thomas (Author of the book "L'atelier d'Alain Resnais")