November 2016, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 – The Wild Ones

I PUGNI IN TASCA, 1965

Rebellious, non-conformist and cool – barely ten years after the Second World War, it was attitudes such as these that put parts of the younger generation on a collision course with a largely authoritarian society, not just in the USA and other countries around the world, but also in West Germany in the midst of the Adenauer era. While in America, the neutral term "teenager" was widely used to refer to this newly established social group, a word from the turn of the century became the much-cited German label for this youth movement and eventually also the title of a film: DIE HALBSTARKEN (Teenage Wolfpack, Georg Tressler, West Germany 1956) – for some an expletive, for others an accolade. Some of the cornerstones of this "deviant" behavior included coolness and criminality, insurgency and protest against established values, rock’n’roll and motorbikes. November’s Magical History Tour sets its sights on this area of tension and presents adolescent wild ones, rebels, rockers, troublemakers and their spiritual cousins from earlier days or other geographical contexts.

THE WILD ONE (Laszlo Benedek, USA 1953,1. & 4.11.) Tilted caps, boots and leather jackets are biker leader Johnny's trademark (Marlon Brando calling a whole new style into life as a raw, melancholy biker boy). 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, and the shocked locals form a vigilante committee. "This is a shocking story,'" reads a caveat that distributors put in at the beginning of the film to calm audiences. "It could never have taken place in most American towns."

SOMMAREN MED MONIKA (Summer with Monika, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1953,2. & 3.11.) Monika (Harriet Andersson) looks into the camera in piercing, unyielding, demanding fashion: the carefree summer with Harry by the sea, far from overbearing parents and the crushing world of work, is now nearly a year in the past. An unwanted pregnancy, the return to the big city, and setting up house with Harry lead Monika to try and escape once again. Passion, freedom, and the demand for liberty culminate in a rebellion against each and every one of society’s expectations, a stance that Truffaut’s young rebel in "Les 400 coups" showed his reverence for.

SEISHUN ZANKOKU MONOGATARI (Naked Youth, Nagisa Oshima, Japan 1960,3. & 5.11) Rebelliousness both in front of the camera and behind it: in his second film, Nagisa Oshima, the most important representative of the Japanese Nouvelle Vague and an enfant terrible at the same time, sets himself apart from established Japanese cinema in radical, piercing, and harsh fashion. The protagonists of the film, student Kiyoshi and high school girl Miyuki, distance themselves from their parents, the police, and traditions in much the same way. The young couple earn their money with petty crime but soon drift into proper criminality. Their feelings are unleashed with raw violence, which Oshima renders in captivating style on the Cinemascope screen, close-up and full of fury.

RUMBLE FISH (Francis Ford Coppola, USA 1983,6. & 9.11.) Conceived as a pendant to his earlier film "The Outsiders", Coppola’s film revolves around two young brothers – aggressive, naïve gang leader Rusty (Matt Dillon) and his melancholy older brother Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke). The film takes place somewhere in America at some indeterminate point in time (a disconcerting mix of 1950’s pool halls and 1980s industrial wastelands) and creates an appropriate realm for the rootless protagonists, who becoming trapped in youth cultural roles in increasingly self-destructive fashion. A dark, highly stylized, oddly timeless exploration of the emotional world of lost and alienated adolescents.

HERBST DER GAMMLER (Peter Fleischmann, West Germany 1967,8.11.) This documentary is a snapshot of social trends in 1960s West Germany. Young "beats", as they called themselves, talk in exhaustive interviews. They are kids who live in homes, who have dropped out of school, who have given up their apprenticeships or simply cannot stand the rigid structures of the companies they work at or the educational establishments where they are enrolled – all of them dream of freedom. To begin with, the passers-by display a guarded understanding of those they call "Gammler" ("bums") but this turns to blank hatred and 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.

LOS OLVIDADOS (Luis Buñuel, Mexiko 1950,12. & 18.11.) The living conditions of the youth gang that surround the aggressive, treacherous Jaidbo and the younger Pedro, whose overwhelmed mother can’t give him the love and affection he needs, are totally desolate. Their dwellings in the drab outskirts of Mexico City are run down, interpersonal relations are dysfunctional at best. The daily battle for survival extends from theft and violence all the way to murder. In unflinching, inexorable fashion, Buñuel shows the raw rebellion of the younger generation – as the realm of evil is measured out, by way of Neorealism at the start and surrealism at the end..

NORRTULLSLIGAN (The Nurtull Gang, Per Lindberg, Sweden 1923,13. & 24.11.) Pegg, Baby, Eva, and Emmy form the titular gang of unmarried women, who live together in a highly unconventional set-up for Sweden of the time, as they attempt to stand up to a world dominated by men and eventually spark a strike. Based on a novel by writer and journalist Elin Wägner, Per Lindberg creates an enjoyable, emancipatory comedy of manners that doubles up as a precise description of the living conditions of the four young women.

JAHRGANG 45 (Jürgen Böttcher, East Germany 1966,15. & 16.11.) After two years of marriage, the young Li, who works as a nurse at a maternity ward, and her car mechanic husband Al, have grown apart. The divorce proceedings have begun. Following a diffuse urge for freedom and the longing for a different life, Al drifts through East Berlin, sits in music pubs, meets his motorbiking pals, goes to work, isolates himself, and demands space. A rebellion on a small scale, yet a serious and emphatic one nonetheless. “Not representative enough” and “glorifying the outsider” were just two of the accusations leveled at the film by the state, which led to the film being banned for nearly 25 years, with the first screening only able to take place in 1990. The short BARFUSS UND OHNE HUT (Jürgen Böttcher, East Germany 1964,15. & 16.11.) will be shown beforehand, a sort of preliminary study for JAHRGANG 45: impressions of young people in summer at the Baltic sea – a film whose playful lightness of touch was seen as a provocation.

IF… (Lindsay Anderson, United Kingdom 1968, 17. & 18.11.) In eight chapters of increasing stylization and distance, Anderson shows the insufferable state of a British public school in which military commando tones, strict hierarchies, drills, and sadism are the order of the day. Three new pupils (including Malcolm McDowell as Mick Travis in his film debut) react to the repression there with a fantastical, anarchistic act and spark a bloody revolt.

L’EAU FROIDE (Cold Water, Olivier Assayas, France 1994,19. & 23.11.) Somewhere in the Paris banlieueat the start of the 70s: Christine (Virginie Ledoyen) and Gilles, both 16 years of age, attend the same school, and live in similarly unhappy circumstances as children of divorced parents. It is only their love for one another that gives them strength. When Christine is committed to a closed facility and is able to flee, Gilles also runs away. They meet again in an abandoned house in the country, where a noisy party takes place, which forms the 30-minute centerpiece of the film. Criss-crossed with songs from the late 60s and early 70s and hemmed in by a wandering, circling handheld camera, the life feeling of the adolescents comes into focus, somewhere between desire and a lack of direction, between loneliness and despair.

DIE HALBSTARKEN (Georg Tressler, West Germany 1956,20. & 22.11.) Different worlds collide: A group of adolescents are dancing to rock 'n' roll in an espresso bar when suddenly a Prussian march sounds from the jukebox. The young dancers get mad and leave the café, making their derision for German military culture clear. Among them is Freddy (Horst Buchholz, the German James Dean), the fractious leader of a marauding group with whom he plans to attack a post van to finally get hold of some decent money. Shot on location in Berlin, Tressler's feature debut creates a new space for the young that moves beyond the narrow, petty bourgeois world of adults. Street corners, parks, bombed out industrial zones, or basements form the backdrop for a portrait of youth culture during the years of Germany’s economic miracle.

MALENKAJA VERA (Little Vera, Vasili Pichul, USSR 1988,21. & 25.11.) A slow pan over gray industrial complexes, smoking chimneys, dismal high-rises, and derelict wasteland introduces the setting in which Russia's younger generations are in constant conflict with their parents and authority, just as the Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse. Forceful 17-year-old Vera also resorts to drastic measures to escape the restrictions of her home, the career as a switchboard operator she’s being pressed into, and state control. When she brings her fiancée back home, the situation soon spins out of control. Pichul's breathless feature debut fluctuates between the grotesque and the tragic, and the hysterical and the calm, taking a merciless look at an empty future.

I PUGNI IN TASCA (Fists in the Pocket, Marco Bellocchio, Italy 1965, 28. & 30.11.) A furious debut and nothing less than a head-on attack on Italian postwar society. Created faraway from the official film industry and made with modest means, the family is dissected as the nucleus of social and societal wrongs. A widowed mother lives with her physically and mentally scarred four children in an upper middle class villa, their life determined by narcissism, inertia and melancholy. Alessandro’s (Lou Castel) attempts to break out of the repressive structures soon take on grotesquely destructive dimensions

THE GRADUATE (Mike Nichols, USA 1967,26. & 27.11.) After graduating from college with honors, 20-year-old Ben (Dustin Hoffman) lacks the drive, if not also the conviction to prepare himself for the career as a businessman that’s been laid out for him. The Bermuda triangle of lethargy, hidden resistance, and a lack of autonomy is neither beneficial for Ben’s professional progress, nor for his relationship with the married friend of his parents Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). When he falls in love with her daughter Elaine, the resultant turbulence temporarily catapults the comfortably middle class Ben into the role of the accidental rebel, including a fast-paced show down and an ambiguous ending to the sound of Simon & Garfunkel: “Hello darkness, my old friend…”

PUTJOWKA W SHISN (Road to Life, Nikolai Ekk, USSR 1931,29.11.) 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 civil war and famine who roamed through the Soviet Union in the early 1920s. A success in both the East and the West, the film follows a group of young homeless kids - played by non-professional actors – who wander through Moscow fighting and stealing. At a re-education camp, Sergeev, a social worker and Party loyalist, takes them under his wing and despite many setbacks tries to instill in them the ideal of the hard-working, disciplined and athletic Soviet man. (mg)

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 – The Wild Ones

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The Wild One

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