April 2015, arsenal cinema

Camera: Sophie Maintigneux

LE RAYON VERT, 1986

The French camerawoman Sophie Maintigneux, who has lived in Berlin since 1988, is one of the most renowned and productive in Europe. During the course of her career, she has marked about 70 films with her composition and visual style, winning many awards. She has worked with Eric Rohmer, Jean-Luc Godard, Michael Klier, Rudolf Thome, Marcel Gisler, Jan Schütte, Philipp Gröning, Helga Reidemeister and many others, but often chooses projects by less well-known filmmakers. For many years, she taught at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin and other film schools and since 2011 she has been Professor for Artistic Cinematography at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. She has been behind the camera on both fiction films and documentaries and her extensive body of work is very diverse. It attests to a penchant for artistic and thematic challenges and is based on a combination of creative curiosity and longstanding experience. Her camera work, lighting, framing and composition vary from one film to the next, but the way that she brings faces and bodies into the picture is always characterized by the remarkable sense she always has for a particular concrete situation. The quality of her creation, her interest in reflecting upon her own work and cinema generally, her commitment to the equal treatment of women in the film industry and her active support of young filmmakers distinguish her as an artist who thinks within a greater context and enriches the contemporary film business in every way. Arsenal is showcasing Sophie Maintigneux's camera work with four feature films and five documentaries made between 1986 and 2013. We are very pleased to announce that she will be our guest for the opening weekend.

F. EST UN SALAUD (Fögi is a Bastard, Marcel Gisler, F/CH 1998, 17.4., in the presence of Sophie Maintigneux & 30.4.) Zurich, early 1970s. The 16-year-old Benni has fallen in love with Fögi, a rock musician who is addicted to drugs. He experiences his first great love with unconditional self-abandonment, allows himself be humiliated like a dog by his boyfriend and starts prostituting himself so that he can finance their life together. When his lover dissolves the band and becomes rapidly more apathetic, he tries to hang on to his life - until they make the joint decision to exit life together. Based on a Swiss cult novel, the film lasts for as long as the flashback that is narrated by Benni himself. The camera uses overexposure, close-ups and   close-ups and pan shots - particularly in the scenes involving getting high - to create intensity and psychedelic quality.

DIE DÜNNEN MÄDCHEN (Thin Girls, Maria Teresa Camoglio, G 2009, 18.4., in the presence of Sophie Maintigneux) Eight young women attempt to overcome their eating disorders in a special clinic. They are all anorexic. Some have been there before. The film shows them in group discussions, in the dining room, cooking together, counting calories, weighing themselves together, discussing the works of Edvard Munch, in flamenco classes - practicing looking proud, standing up straight, appearing more confident and being confronted with their own reflection. They present their individual cases in a reflective, tranquil way. Maintigneux's camera sets them in a soft light and looks at their faces sensitively (allowing them to radiate), highlighting their beauty and dignity. Impressive images of their moving confrontation with themselves and their illness emerge.

ROSIE (Marcel Gisler, CH 2013, 18.4., in the presence of Sophie Maintigneux & 26.4.) Rosie has fallen. Her daughter decides life can't go on like this and calls upon her brother Lorenz, a writer who lives in Berlin, for help. Back home in eastern Switzerland, he realizes that his mother who loves life has no intention of allowing herself to be parked away in a home. She defends her life in her own obstinate and stubborn way, chain-smoking, drinking substantially, telling dirty jokes and scaring off the care-workers who come. On top of his conflictual but affectionate relationship with his mother, Lorenz has to deal with his own love life. Gisler weaves a thick and subtle network of relationships within and outside of the family. The confinement of the mother's apartment is contrasted with the panoramic shots of the Rhein Valley of St. Gall and Lorenz's car journeys from Berlin to Switzerland lend structure to the narrative flow.

LE RAYON VERT (Summer, Eric Rohmer, F 1986, 19. & 25.4.) It's summer in Paris and Delphines vacation plans have fallen through. Indecisively, she travels to and fro, visiting friends in the countryside, traveling to the mountains and then to Biarritz on her own. She is accompanied by her longings - for something big, beautiful to happen, for love to take hold of her, but she is always disappointed. However, in the end, a miracle does happen. On the coast, in a place that is promisingly called Saint Jean de Luz, she witnesses the green ray over the sea. This was Maintignieux's first great work - she was 23 at the time. Eric Rohmer made the film, a kind of journey with the actress Marie Rivière, without a screenplay and with a small team made up only of women.

BALORDI (Mirjam Kubescha, G/I 2005, 21. & 30.4.) Mirjam Kubescha's documentary is set in a high-security jail in Tuscany, where the prisoners stage Bertolt Brecht's "Threepenny Opera". Apart from the often amusing rehearsals, everyday life in jail is tough, shaped by isolation and oppressive routine. There is a gap between the reality of the cell and the on-stage fiction, which slowly closes during the course of the film: To the point that levels are blurred and theater no longer seems so different from life, when a real biography is reflected in costume too. The film becomes a reflection about how an individual can assert him or herself despite being locked up.

VENUS BOY'Z (Gabriel Baur, CH/USA/G 2002, 23.4.) An examination of masculinity, transformation and the crossing of gender boundaries: Gabriel Baur's journey goes from New York's drag king scene in which various drag kings create masculine alter egos and experiment with masculine eroticism and power strategies, to London where the protagonists experiment with hormones and thus remove the border between men and women. This intimate documentary, with its beautifully composed pictures of people who expand and  subvert the social norms of gender, is an investigation of the question of what inner and outer freedom look like.

OSTKREUZ (Michael Klier, G 1991, 25. & 28.4.) This was the first fiction film to be set in the new Germany: The 15-year-old Elfie (Laura Tonke in her first role) and her mother came to West Berlin via Hungary from the GDR. They live in a container camp because the mother is unemployed and cannot afford the deposit needed to get an apartment. Elfie decides to find the money herself. Soon she meets a young Polish petty criminal whom she starts working with. The second collaboration between Maintignieux and Michael Klier was shot in Super16 and depicts a dismal Berlin in winter with desaturated colors and sparse sounds composed by the musician Fred Frith. The camera works with subtle lighting effects, in which Lauras largely laconic relationships, and not only with her mother, emerge coldly and clearly.

DAMEN UND HERREN AB 65 (Ladies and Gentlemen over 65, Lilo Mangelsdorff, G 2002, 26.4.) Twenty years after she had staged her work about relationships and gender Kontakthof for the first time with her dance theater troupe in 1978, Pina Bausch decided once again to produce it, but this time with people aged between 60 and 80 only - amateur dancers who had no experience of the stage but plenty of life. The film follows the rehearsals for one year, showing the seniors as they learn, their enthusiasm and their frustrations, the struggle with their physical limitations, inner barriers, and the challenges of being beginners again and having to deal with criticism. The individual protagonists express themselves in short interviews. Maintignieux is unobtrusive behind the scenes, keeping the balance with her hand camera marvelously precisely and unspectacularly.

GOTTESZELL EIN FRAUENGEFÄNGNIS (Gotteszell - A Women's Jail, Helga Reidemeister, G 2001, 27.4.) The film portrays six prisoners on charges of manslaughter, homicide, drug-dealing, arson and other crimes, who are in Gotteszell jail, the only women's prison in Baden-Württemberg. The leitmotif of suffered violence and wounds winds through their life stories. The women's painful experiences do not justify their crimes, but they shed light on paths which were bound for catastrophe. The camera focusses closely on the womens faces that are are etched with the traces of time, the consequences of the lack of light. The female wardens are also involved in the discourse over good and evil, right and wrong, guilt and atonement. The film opens with a quote by Marguerite Duras "Nobody is safe when struck by an idea. Nobody can say, I would never do that." (bik/al)

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – 
Between fiction and documentary: cinematic intersections and bridges

07:30 pm Cinema 2


Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit – Redupers

*Die allseitig reduzierte Persönlichkeit – Redupers
Helke Sander FRG 1978 With Helke Sander 35 mm 98 min

arsenal cinema: „Souls made great by love and adversity“
 – Frank Borzage retrospective

08:00 pm Cinema 1


History Is Made at Night

History Is Made at Night USA 1937
With Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur
35 mm OV/GeS 97 min
Preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.