April 2017, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – No mans lands, parallel societies and half worlds in film

GILDA, 1964

A life in the shadows of society, defined by uncertainty, rebellion and rejection, rootlessness, loneliness and emptiness – these are some of the particular characteristics of the filmic sketches of existence in no man's lands, parallel societies and half-worlds that we are presenting in April's Magical History Tour. Our tour d'horizon, which runs the gamut of eras and genres, unfolds a widespread map of different universes, each with their own aesthetic and dramaturgical topography. The film's common denominator is a coordinate system for social co-existence or human relationships that has come out of sync, leaving the viewer with an impression of a sometimes razor-thin line between the center and the periphery.

LES BAS-FONDS (The Lower Depths, Jean Renoir, France 1936, 1. & 4.4.) In his adaptation of Maxim Gorky's eponymous play, which he imbues with a strong Russian flavor, Renoir adds a sub-plot and a friendship between men that not only levels societal hierarchies - a ruined baron (Louis Jouvet) befriends the petty crook Pepel (Jean Gabin) - but also wrote film history. The unequal pair meets in a bleak poorhouse in which a man who is severely ill, a penniless pilgrim, an alcoholic actor and the corrupt restaurateurs lead a sad life. Despite the tragic drama, Renoir always strikes light tones and absurd and comic notes of moments of parody. The camera is similarly flexible and in the end leaves the dark night refuge for a bright fluvial landscape.

GILDA (Charles Vidor, USA 1946, 5. & 8.4.) Location: the closed world of a casino in Buenos Aires. An illegal yet high-class establishment provides the background for criminal machinations. While it may seem as if this luxurious underworld is concerned with nothing less than world domination, everything actually revolves around a woman: Gilda (Rita Hayworth), who is caught between two men. A classic film noir, whose pace and tension are only surpassed by the glorious Rita Hayworth. In an unforgettable scene, she puts the film's leitmotif in a nutshell when she sings "Put the Blame on Mame!".

WERCKMEISTER HARMONIAK (Werckmeister Harmonies, Béla Tarr, Hungary/G/F 2000, 6. & 12.4.) In the middle of a snowless, bitter cold winter an alien world violently descends on a small town in the Hungarian lowlands, threatening the social order. A travelling circus arouses the curiosity of the locals who queue in their hundreds to see the main attraction - a stuffed whale, behind whom hides a mysterious prince. Their wait culminates in an inexplicable uprising. An apocalyptic wave overcomes the whole region leaving nothing and nobody untouched. A bleak atmosphere hovers over Béla Tarr's expressive black and white film, an apocalyptic vision of the struggle between barbarism and civilization, with images of great intensity.

DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Robert Wiene, Germany 1920, 7. & 11.4, with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) Crooked lines, sloping walls, contorted perspectives: We are showing a recently restored print of perhaps the most famous film of German Expressionism, one that leads the viewer into an in-between realm of hallucination, in which the whole world seems to have come off the rails. At a fair, Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauß) puts his medium, the somnambulant Cesare (Conrad Veidt) into a trancelike state, whereby he is able to tell the future of the various bystanders present. At night though, the gaunt sleepwalker makes his murderous way through the small town, once again under Caligaris influence. The search for the murderer leads to a terribly discovery.

DIE 3-GROSCHEN-OPER (The Threepenny Opera, G.W. Pabst, Germany 1931,9. & 17.4.) Pabst set his adaptation of Brecht's beggars' opera/gangster ballad with music by Kurt Weill in a twilight world: it is here that beggar king Peachum (Fritz Rasp) and corrupt police chief Tiger Brown (Reinhold Schünzel) conspire against Peachum's recently married daughter and her new husband. The "chase" through dives and shady harbor districts, brothels and prison cells ends in another parallel world, this time of a more bourgeois nature: a bank! 

NIGHT ON EARTH (Jim Jarmusch, USA 1991, 10. & 23.4.) Across five episodes consisting of five taxi journeys taking place simultaneously in five different cities, Jim Jarmusch portrays the taxi as a no-man's land in which meetings between the most varied of people are possible. With his usual laconic approach to narrative, moments of unforeseen intensity emerge due to the random meetings that take place inside the taxis, under the cover of both night and urban anonymity. The episodes take place in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome und Helsinki and bring together an international star ensemble ranging from Gena Rowlands to Matti Pellonpää, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Béatrice Dalle to Roberto Benigni.

THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE (John Cassavetes, USA 1976, 13. & 15.4.) After seven years of paying by installments, Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) finally ends up owning the Crazy Horse West strip club in Los Angeles. It is his home, the strippers are his family. A party to celebrate his new ownership ends in disaster: Cosmo loses the strip joint in a poker game. To get it back, he has to kill a Chinese bookie. His journey into the night leads him to shady bars, cafes and grim warehouses, through spaces of uncertainty, agitation and destruction.

BLUE VELVET (David Lynch, USA 1986, 14. & 18.4.) In Lynch's disturbing thriller, a revealingly artificial suburban idyll in bright saturated colors comes into contact with dark, mysterious crime world, or, to be more exact: young, innocent student Beaumont (Kyle Mac-Lachlan), who has returned to the town of his childhood following the death of his father, falls into the clutches of perverted, masochistic super criminal Booth (Dennis Hopper), who spends most of his time in shady hideouts. 

THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed, GB 1949, 16. & 29.4.) Expressionistic shadows at a suitable slant dominate the ruined labyrinthine landscape of postwar Vienna, where an initially unsuspecting American writer (Joseph Cotton) sets out to discover the truth behind the alleged death of his friend (Orson Welles). He is revealed to be a cold-blooded criminal, whose death at the appropriate location made film history.

KRÓTKI FILM O ZABIJANIU (A Short Film About Killing, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Polen 1988, 19. & 28.4.) A world with no colors, de-saturated greens and browns, strangely without light. Kieślowski depicts a cold, bleak no man's land, an urban underbelly in which a double murder takes place. A young man kills a taxi driver, is arrested and sentenced to death despite being defended by a newly sworn-in lawyer, and executed. Kieślowski stages both the murder and the execution with extreme precision and in a radically cool manner. The film is an impressive appeal against state-sanctioned violence and an urgent indictment of society's inhumanity and lack of remorse.

ICE (Robert Kramer, USA 1970, 20.4.) In a totalitarian America of the future, a left-wing radical underground movement called the North American National Committee of International Independent Revolutionary Organizations prepares the armed overthrow of the regime. On the outside, the police state flexes its muscles, while within the group a parallel society comprised of young New York revolutionaries conducts long, crippling discussions about how to organize the resistance and what tactics to use, before taking up arms. A feature film/documentary that is as agitated as it is claustrophobic. Jonas Mekas called it "the most original and most significant American narrative film of the 60s."

YOIDORE TENSHI (Drunken Angel, Akira Kurosawa, Japan 1948, 21. & 30.4.) Gangster film, expressive milieu study, underworld drama: within these parameters, two people wrestle both with one other and themselves. Run-down, alcoholic Doctor Sanada (Takashi Shimura) doggedly urges young gangster Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune in his first role for Kurosawa) to get treatment for his life-threatening lung condition. But instead of fighting his disease, he channels his energies into a final showdown against his former accomplices. Kurosawa's postwar film is often compared with Roberto Rossellini's "Paisà" (1946) and Vittorio de Sica's "Ladri di biciclette" (Bicycle Thieves, 1948) both with respect to its atmosphere and mood as well as its significance for Japanese cinema.

THE LAST OF ENGLAND (Derek Jarman, GB 1987, 22. & 25.4.) is a furiously edited and brilliant swan song to England and a rigorous reckoning with the country under Margaret Thatcher. The British Empire has become a rotting nation, a half-world and underworld, with landscapes of ruins and industrial wastelands, death zones and street battles.

BILDNIS EINER TRINKERIN (Ulrike Ottinger, West Germany 1979, 27.4.) Following an urgent impulse to forget the past, "She" (Tabea Blumenschein) a mixture of Medea, Madonna, Beatrice, Iphigenia and Aspasia buys a one-way ticket to Berlin in order to drink herself to death on a grotesque foray through the pubs, hotels, casinos, and bars of West Berlin. Alienated and unapproachable, she becomes immersed in a stylized late-70s version of the city, meeting protagonists from the island underground during her nocturnal wanderings: drinkers, rock singers (including a spectacular Nina Hagen), writers, artists, taxi drivers. A melodrama.  (mg)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – No mans lands, parallel societies and half worlds in film

07:30 pm Cinema 2

Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet David Lynch USA 1986 With Isabella Rossellini,
Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell
35 mm OV 120 min

arsenal cinema: Manoel de Oliveira Retrospective

08:00 pm Cinema 1

"Non", ou A Vã Glória de Mandar

"Non", ou A Vã Glória de Mandar
The Day of Despair,
Portugal/Spain/France 1990
35 mm OV/EnS 112 min