July 2013, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – Cinema in Plural (2)

It is not just collectives, groups or factories that mark the pluralist nature of cinema. The ensemble film is a similarly plural collective work and undermines classical norms in similar fashion. While this wildly varied dramatic and narrative category with the potential to become its own genre has experienced a surprising revival over the last few years, its use stretches way back across film history too. Both then and today, these hugely dynamic cinematic patchworks create worlds of interlinked character constellations, intricate networks of relationships and deliberately de-centered group portraits: complex universes marked by outstanding acting ensembles, hosts of stars each given their chance to shine.

THE CONNECTION (Shirley Clarke, USA 1961, 1. & 3.8.) A group of drug-addict jazz musicians wait in a New York apartment for their "connection", with a two-person documentary film team filming them in the process. Together, they explore questions of society and morals as well as the relationship between reality and fiction in a dizzying choreography of different states: sagacity, intoxication and withdrawal. THE CONNECTION dissects cinema itself – a milestone of cinéma vérité which went down in film history as a jazz musical and ensemble film.

SHORT CUTS (Robert Altman, USA 1993, 2. & 6.8.) Altman skillfully weaves together fragments from the lives of 22 protagonists – figures from all of Los Angeles' various social strata – to form a cinematic mosaic whose starry cast extends all the way to the smallest supporting roles, with the ensemble receiving several acting awards. The result is an impressive puzzle of different narrative vignettes: an apocalyptic portrait on a grand scale that straddles tragedy and satire, a story of everyday life in south California from the end of the 20th century.

DIE ENDLOSE NACHT (Will Tremper, West Germany 1962, 4. & 9.8.) In this sober West German status report, all take-offs and landings at Tempelhof airport have been cancelled due to fog. An exceptional situation which interferes with the plans of the stranded passengers on both a large and small scale: business deals fall apart, love affairs present themselves or fall apart, people sell themselves, dreams are created or are revealed as such. The monumental architecture of Templehof airport forms the external framework for this elliptical, episodic ensemble film.  

CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz, USA 1942, 7. & 13.8.) Casablanca 1941: for many émigrés fleeing from the Nazis, the north African port city forms a temporary stop on their way to America. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband (Paul Henreid) are also hoping to get transit visas for the onward journey, but end up meeting Ilsa's former lover (Humphrey Bogart). An emigration drama, portrayed by an "émigré ensemble":  Curtiz cast famous German (speaking) actors in numerous roles, such as Peter Lorre, Conradt Veidt, Curt Bois and Szöke Szakall, who had themselves had to emigrate from Germany and Europe a few years previously

DUOLUO TIANSHI (Fallen Angels, Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong 1996, 8. & 15.8.) Directionless, with no history to rely on and an uncertain future, a young contract killer, his ex-girlfriend Punkie, her agent, a mute small time criminal and the garrulous Cherry roam through the nocturnal neon thicket of the vast metropolis of Hong Kong. When their paths cross, the hectic propulsion of the city seems to stand still for a moment and its brash lights seems to be slightly dimmed – moments in which the city and its inhabitants seem to dissolve.

BRONENOSEZ POTEMKIN (Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR 1925, 10. & 17.8.) Eisenstein's revolution drama in five acts about the sailor's revolt in Odessa in 1905 and the attempts to suppress it by Tsarist troops creates a picture of revolution as the work of the masses or a heroic collective. With each act, more actors join the revolutionary ensemble: what starts with the ship’s crew soon spills over into the city population before finally reaching those sailors of the admiral's fleet still loyal to the government.

SHICHININ NO SAMURAI (The Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, Japan 1954, 11. & 16.8.) A group of samurai warriors thrown together by chance stands guard over a village for a paltry wage and defends it against the yearly raids carried out by plundering bandits. The film ends with the farmers being victorious over the robbers but also with a swansong to the samurai era. The melancholy of passing time anchors the film and is uniquely contrasted with the dynamism of the camera, editing, movement and battle scenes. 

PULP FICTION (Quentin Tarantino, USA 1994, 14., 21. & 26.8.) A gangster couple (Tim Roth & Amanda Plummer), a killing duo (John Travolta & Samuel L. Jackson), four young thieves, the wife of a gangster boss (Uma Thurman), a has-been boxer (Bruce Willis) and his girlfriend (Maria de Medeiros) are just some of the figures that populate Tarantino's demimonde milieu and initiate a series of often funny, often brutally dark episodes about money, gold and power. Beyond time and space and good and evil, a fantastic ensemble of actors performs within a complex universe of audiovisual quotes and film historical references.

TODO SOBRE MI MADRE (All About my Mother, Pedro Almodóvar, Spain 1999, 18. & 24.8.) An actresses' film that begins with a journey into the past. Manuela (Cecilia Roth) decides to travel to Barcelona following the death of her son in an accident and look up the protagonists of her previous life there. Here she meets transsexuals, prostitutes, an actress (Marisa Paredes) and a nun (Penélope Cruz), all of whom are, like Manuela herself, confronted with existential difficulties. A quiet, moving film about the unbending power of women and a world without men.

WARNUNG VOR EINER HEILIGEN NUTTE (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany 1970/71, 20. & 28.8.) A group of actors are waiting in a hotel in Spain for the arrival of the director, the star (Eddie Constantine as Eddie Constantine) and the film material. When the director arrives with his star, chaos immediately breaks out around him. "Although the film is about working on a film shoot, its actual theme is how groups function and how leadership positions are created and exploited." (RWF)

MENSCHEN AM SONNTAG (Robert Siodmak, Curt Siodmak, Edgar G. Ulmer, Fred Zinnemann, Germany 1930, 22. & 30.8., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) A directing ensemble (supported by screenwriter Billy Wilder and cameraman Eugen Schüfftan) meets an ensemble of non-professional actors: a "reality film" in the tradition of the New Objectivity is thus created, the precise depiction of a weekend in the life of five young Berliners. At the summer resort of Wannsee, interests shift, couples come together and split up again, new acquaintances are made and the next weekend planned. A lively collage of documentary footage and fictional scenes.  

PAISA (Roberto Rossellini, Italy 1946, 23. & 27.8.) is the second part of Rossellini's (Post-) War Trilogy following "Roma, città aperta" (1945) and precediing "Germania, anno zero" (1948). In six episodes shot at original locations with a cast consisting almost entirely of non-professional actors, the film describes Italy’s liberation from fascism and the German occupying forces. Rossellini concentrates in the process on the marginal zones and private locations of the war in Sicily, Naples, Rome, Florence, Tuscany and the Po Valley.

VOUS N'AVEZ ENCORE RIEN VU (You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet!, Alain Resnais, France 2012, 29. & 31.8.) This tripartite ensemble film unites Resnais' standard acting ensemble and has them come together as an acting troop in the country house of a recently deceased playwright. Here, the illustrious group (Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, Mathieu Amalric, Lambert Wilson, Michel Piccoli and many more) is shown a film: footage of another acting ensemble rehearsing Anouilh's play "Eurydice". This look at their younger colleagues becomes a look into their own past, as a self-reflexive game of variation and repetition, love and death, theatre and films takes its course.

arsenal cinema: Retrospective Andrei Tarkovsky

07:30 pm Cinema 1


Stalker USSR 1980
35 mm OV/EnS 163 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – Cinema in Plural (2)

08:00 pm Cinema 2

The Connection

The Connection Shirley Clarke USA 1961
35 mm OV/GeS 103 min