August 2018, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour - Montage


Montage belongs to the most important tools in cinema and is largely unique to the medium. Montage structures space and time, creating continuities and breaks and generating dynamism and rhythm. Soviet avant-garde filmmakers already recognized and tested the effectiveness of montage at an early stage. The cinematic language that birthed an entire style and affects our viewing habits to this day was also learned in Hollywood: the découpage classique, which evokes a fluid continuity of movement and gives the impression of a light, effortlessly flowing narrative with a minimum of fuss. Examples of cross-cutting, match or jump cuts, invisible, jagged, dialectical, or associative editing styles all come together in August’s Magical History Tour to give an impression of the myriad forms and strategies relating to montage which span different eras and regions.

SHOCK CORRIDOR (Samuel Fuller, USA 1963, 2. & 10.8.) A psychological drama and B-movie about an ambitious newspaper reporter named Johnny Barrett who wants to win the Pulitzer Prize at all costs and has himself committed to a psychiatric institution to solve a murder there. There follows a true tour-de-force through the lowly spheres of everyday clinic life, although Fuller makes it abundantly clear that the institution stands for a phenomenon affecting the whole of society: the country is sick. Electroshock treatment is experienced in visual terms via the staccato-like editing and the patients’ thoughts become colorful dream landscapes in this black and white film.

À BOUT DE SOUFFLE (Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard, France 1960, 3. & 15.8.) The paradigmatic Nouvelle Vague film throws all cinematic conventions overboard in radical fashion: shot on a handheld camera and without artificial light, sharp montage sequences, jump cuts, and rapid pans characterize Godard’s debut about a Parisian car thief named Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) who shoots a policeman dead before trying to get his hands on some money and spend some time with his girlfriend Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American student who sells the New York Herald Tribune on the Champs Élysées.

NORTH BY NORTHWEST (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1959, 4. & 9.8.) "Film montage is the only new art form that the 20th century has produced," Hitchcock once remarked to François Truffaut. Following the principles of classical narrative cinema, he placed montage at the service of the plot, which here revolves around an oblivious New York ad man (Cary Grant) mistaken by turns for a spy, an alcoholic, and a murderer by various different people. A breathless chase right across the US begins, with one of the most famous match cuts ever waiting at its end.

MEIN LANGSAMES LEBEN (Passing Summer, Angela Schanelec, Germay 2001, 5. & 16.8.) Keeping her distance while remaining true to reality, Schanelec observes a handful of people around the age of thirty over a summer and a fall in Berlin. The focus is on everyday life, on banal events and open-ended situations which Schanelec approaches in a formally meticulous, highly self-contained manner. Lingering on the images and pushing them to the fore, the various delays in the editing (Bettina Böhler) allow the passage of time to be perceived and experienced.

W.R. – MISTERIJE ORGANIZMA (WR – Mysteries of the Organism, Dušan Makavejev, Yugoslavia 1971, 7. & 17.8.) “More than a documentary about Wilhelm Reich, the controversial psychoanalyst and sex researcher who had been chosen as adoptive father by the sexual revolution, it is a brilliant, entertaining, associative montage of documentary material, narrative sequences, and quotations from other films that contemplates on the idea that a free (communist) society and free love are inseparably intertwined.” (Anna Hoffmann)

DER FALL GLEIWITZ (Gerhard Klein, East Germany 1961, 8. & 12.8.) Klein’s precise, objective staging of the faked attack on Gleiwitz radio station on 31.8.1939 by members of the SS dressed in Polish uniforms begins with a bold, rhythmic sequence of cuts. To edit this “attempt to make a documentary with artificial means” (Kohlhaase), Klein commissioned montage master Evelyn Carow, who was one of DEFA’s most renowned editors. The stylized, experimental form of the film led the SED party apparatus to make the dreaded accusation of “formalism” and restrict the film’s circulation to a considerable degree.

MAGNOLIA (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA 1999, 11. & 24.8.) Unpredictable cuts which connect different locations, as well as rapidly edited sequences and dynamic crosscutting are all hallmarks of P.T. Anderson’s work. They can equally be found in his episodic ensemble film which tells a series of vignettes from the lives of nine interrelated people in the San Fernando Valley over a period of 24 hours. The leading players include TV producer and cancer patient Earl Partridge, his “lost” son Frank (Tom Cruise), nurse Phil (Philip Seymour Hoffman), Earl’s wife Linda (Julianne Moore), television presenter Jimmy Gator, his daughter Claudia and the question of the guilt of the father and the power of children to forgive.

TWENTY CIGARETTES (James Benning, USA 2011, 13. & 30.8.) Benning’s films usually contain exactly what the title suggests. TWENTY CIGARETTES thus shows 20 people, each of whom smoking a cigarette. One shot for every cigarette, with a cut following each other. As is so often the case with Benning, it’s about time and how it passes. “The portrait would last as long as the cigarette: each smoker determined the length of each shot. I like how nicotine slowly reduces self-consciousness.” (James Benning)

TENGOKU TO JIGOKU (High and Low, Akira Kurosawa, Japan 1963, 16. & 18.8.) A brilliant thriller that employs the mechanics of the genre at times and suspends them at others. The tension arises from a production manager’s inner conflict which is depicted in detail at the start of the film, who must decide whether to buy the freedom of his son’s kidnapped friend or rescue his own career. The contrast between the static and the hectic and minute-long tracking shots and dynamic cross-cutting (editing: Akira Kurosawa) reveals the dilemma between responsibility and corruptibility in a modern world spun off its axis.

THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (Martin Scorsese, USA 1993, 19. & 31.8.) Between brutal cuts and long, flowing superimpositions (editor Thelma Schoonmaker), between immeasurable riches and subtle oppression, between passion and the rigidity of the social order: Martin Scorsese's lavishly mounted adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel of the same name is set in the New York upper class of the 1870s. Lawyer Newland Archer is engaged to marry a young woman from a distinguished family (Winona Ryder) befitting his rank, but falls in love with her divorced cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer) instead. Social convention and longing prove impossible to reconcile.

SANS SOLEIL (Chris Marker, France 1983, 20. & 26.8.) A flow of images from Japan, Guinea-Bissau, Iceland, and San Francisco; a cascade of sounds, thoughts, letters and poems, travel descriptions and anecdotes. In a true editing tour de force, the worlds of sound and image merge into a complex web of associations and reflections, into “a bold attempt to depict how memory function in cinematographic form. SANS SOLEIL still staggers to this day due to its virtuoso shifts in perspective and layering of time – it is a film that ultimately ‘recalls itself’”. (Constantin Wulff) The film is showing in the German version authorized by the director.

DOM NA TRUBNOY(The House on Trubnaya, Boris Barnet, USSR 1927, 21. & 25.8., with a live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins) A crazy, furiously paced practical application of Eisenstein’s montage theories placed at the service of an exuberant comedy about a young woman from the country who comes to the city and has to get her bearings in perplexing Moscow. After initial difficulties in finding accommodation, she becomes a maid at a hairdressers’ and ends up turning an entire tenement house on its head.

2001 – A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick, GB/USA 1968, 22. & 27.8.) Easily one of the most famous match cuts in the history of film: a primate tosses a bone into the air, which metamorphoses into a bone-shaped spaceship at the highest point of the throw, which moves into turn through the expanse of space around a circular space station to the sounds of Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube. A cut that traverses four million years and condenses the whole history of the world and humanity into the blink of an eye. What follows is the discovery of a black monolith on the moon, whose origins a group of astronauts are supposed to research.

MATERIAL (Thomas Heise, Germany 2009, 22. & 29.8.) A montage of film material from East Germany in the late 80s all the way into the present, either shot by Heise himself or created as part of his films, but all unused until now. New connections and relationships were forged between this abundance of heterogeneous documents in the editing room. Yet Heise doesn’t edit his material into a historical panorama here, but rather opens up a temporal space in quite literal terms, an echo chamber in which sentences, images, stories and memories are all made to resonate.

BRONENOSETS POTYOMKIN(Battleship Potemkin, Sergei Eisenstein, USSR 1925, 23. & 28.8., with the original music by Edmund Meisel) In his revolutionary drama about the sailors’ uprising in Odessa in 1905 and the attempt by Tsarist troops to put it down, Eisenstein applied his own “montage of attractions” to the plot, which regarded the relationship between two shots more as a collision than a link. “A symphony of the masses in which all forms of movement, calm, tumult and collision are offset by the ecstasy of Sergei Eisenstein’s montage.” (Harry Tomicek) (al/mg)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour - Montage

07:30 pm Cinema 2

Mein langsames Leben

Mein langsames Leben Passing Summer
Angela Schanelec Germany 2001
35 mm 119 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour - Montage

08:00 pm Cinema 1

Tengoku to jigoku

Tengoku to jigoku High and Low
Akira Kurosawa Japan 1963 With Toshiro Mifune
35 mm OV/GeS 143 min