July 2013, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – Music in Film

BERLIN. DIE SINFONIE DER GROSSSTADT, 1927

The connection between music and film goes all the way back the start of cinematography. Alongside the film narrator, the music that accompanied early film screenings formed an integral part of the cinema experience, a fascinating relationship that continues this day. This month's Magical History Tour draws on various examples to present different positions within the comprehensive subject of "Music in Film", with portraits of musicians or musical portraits, (original) film compositions, concert films, music staged with cinematic means, sampled soundtracks and musicals from off the beaten track all providing insights into the meaning and function of music in cinema.

KUHLE WAMPE (Slatan Dudow, Germany 1932) & BUSCH SINGT TEIL 3 (Konrad Wolf, East Germany 1981, 8. & 14.7.) Eisler wanted to use his music not just to arouse the audience's sympathy for his protagonists, a working class Berlin family, but also to transmit a protest stance against social wrongs. Ernst Busch can be seen in one of the leading roles. BUSCH SINGT TEIL 3 is collage of sound, visual and documentary material that serves to illuminate the year 1935.

JALSAGHAR (The Music Room, Satyajit Ray, India 1958, 9. & 17.7.) An homage to Bengali music but also a swansong to the Indian aristocracy. A lonely nobleman lives in a palace and is ruined by his love of music, using all that is left of his fortune for in-house concerts and dance performances. "The proud old aristocrat is too far from reality, too fossilized for Ray to critically dismantle, he just sinks into the music, which plays a decisive role in the suggestive idiosyncrasy of the film." (Urs Jenny)

PARIS, TEXAS (Wim Wenders, West Germany/France/United Kingdom 1984, 10. & 13.7.) Ry Cooder's hypnotizing guitar sounds and images of the inhospitable Texan desert form the unforgettable opening for Wenders' love story/road movie and also set its elegiac tone. The central focus is on the cautious coming together of a family: Travis and his small son Hunter, who have to find their way back to one another after years of separation as they set out together in search of Hunter's mother/Travis' wife Jane.  

IL VANGELO SECONDO MATTEO (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Italy/France 1964, 11. & 16.7.) A mixture of Bach and Mozart pieces, folk songs and spirituals provides the musical backbone for Pasolini's adaptation of the Gospel of St. Matthew about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Shot in Calabria with non-professional actors, IL VANGELO borrows from Neorealism and shapes the original text into an appeal for fair action. "As paradoxical as it may sound, Pasolini's films is as Marxist as it is Christian." (Enno Patalas)

BIRD (Clint Eastwood, USA 1988, 12. & 15.7.) Jazz-lover Eastwood approaches one of jazz history's greats in associative fashion: Saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker (Forest Whitaker), who left his mark on bebop like few others. Episodes from a life dominated by alcohol and drug addiction, self-doubt, personal setbacks and creative geniality, all held together by the feverish rhythm of the music.

STOP MAKING SENSE (Jonathan Demme, USA 1984, 18. & 22.7.) This concert film begins with David Byrne playing the song "Psycho Killer" solo on an acoustic guitar. Song by song and musician by musician, the other band members gradually assemble on stage until the Talking Heads are complete. Jonathan Demme filmed the band at a performance at the Pantage Theater in Los Angeles and fused together music and image into a dense, exciting whole.

BERLIN. DIE SINFONIE DER GROSSSTADT (Walter Ruttmann, Germany 1927, 19. & 25.7. with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) One day in the city of Berlin, portrayed chronologically at five different times of day. In a rhythm that switches between rapidity and calm, Ruttmann allows images of the city, urban life and its inhabitants to unfold. Edited together according to principles of movement and contrast, the footage of urban canyons, trains, streets, masses of workers and office workers, machines, advertising lights and evening entertainment comes together to form a visual symphony.

PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1960, 20. & 23.7.) Bernard Herrmann was one of Hollywood's most influential film composers. For PSYCHO, he wrote an insistent, portentous score which seemed to be making a direct attack on the audience's nerves. The insanity of psychopathic murderer Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is directly transposed into piercing violin staccatos. The famous shower scene with its dissonant, screeching violin sounds went down in film history.

FLUG DURCH DIE NACHT (Ilona Baltrusch, West Germany 1980, 24. & 28.7.) An "existentialist musical" set in the West Berlin of the 80s, whose locations are the Café Mitropa and its music box, stairwells and room walls. It is here that the director enters into discussion both with herself and the two leading actors Gretel Kemeny and Martin Peter as the camera runs. The cinematic process becomes part of a mental game about the death of the living in the city.

ORNETTE: MADE IN AMERICA (Shirley Clarke, USA 1985, 26. & 31.7.) "Whatever the idea is, it will never be something you can explain to someone else so that they'll exactly understand, so just play the music!" This statement by Ornette Coleman tallies with Shirley Clarke's own approach to shooting a portrait of the legendary jazz musician: it begins with his symphony "Skies of America" and ends with applause. In between, the former dancer explores the music and colorful life of the free jazz pioneer.

ASCENSEUR POUR L'ECHAFAUD (Elevator to the Gallows, Louis Malle, France 1958, 27. & 30.7.) In Malle's cool thriller about crime and punishment and love and distrust, a woman (Jeanne Moreau) and her lover plan to murder her husband. But the lover ends up stuck in the elevator after the deed. The fantastic film music by Miles Davis was created during a session involving Davis and various French accompanists. The film scenes were played to them on a screen in the studio while they improvised to them live.

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – Music in Film

07:30 pm Cinema 2


Ornette: Made in America

Ornette: Made in America
Shirley Clarke USA 1985
35 mm OV/GeS 77 min

arsenal cinema: The Real Eighties – Neo Noir

08:00 pm Cinema 1


At Close Range

At Close Range James Foley USA 1986
With Sean Penn, Christopher Walken
35 mm OV/GeS 113 min