March 2018, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour – 
Two become one

SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS, 1927

It is well known that most films are the result of a creative group process. March’s Magical History Tour focuses on the smallest possible community in the cinematic creation process: A creative team of two that often works closely together over years and decades to create a characteristic body of work which bears the mark of both members.

THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (Josef von Sternberg, USA 1935, 1. & 4.3.) The spectacular metamorphosis of an actress in seven joint films: From the cheerful, easygoing but somewhat bawdy Lola Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) to the ethereally beautiful mysterious vamp in THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN. The transformation of Marlene Dietrich in the films of Josef von Sternberg and his molding of a new cinematic character are legendary. THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN, was the last  film that the two made together: Completely shot in the studio, this exuberant, artificial melodrama - Marlene Dietrich playing a Spanish singer turns two friends into bitter rivals - was a disaster for Paramount. Not only did it flop with the public and critics alike, but the Spanish state believed it had been slandered by the film and insisted on all copies and negatives being destroyed.

BAISERS VOLÉS (Stolen Kisses, François Truffaut, F 1968, 3. & 6.3.) In 1959, Les quatre cents coups, the debut film of both the director and of the main actor Jean-Pierre Léaud playing Antoine Doinel brought them overnight fame. Four more films were made between 1962 and 1979, with Léaud embodying Doinel, an alter ego of both the director and the actor. The third part is about saying farewell to youth and dreaming of great, passionate love. Dishonorably discharged from the army, Doinel drifts from one job to the next, trying his hand at night porter, detective, shoe-seller and TV technician. Emotionally he is torn between his peer Christine (Claude Jade) and the wife of the shoe store owner Fabienne Tabard (Delphine Seyrig) – for him, the embodiment of a mature woman of the world and his ideal of absolute love.

SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS(F.W. Murnau, USA 1927, 9. & 14.3.) The screenplay writer or “film poet” (Joseph Roth) Carl Mayer and the director F.W. Murnau, who made seven films in total, were one of the most famous teams of Weimar cinema. In SUNRISE, their last (still existing) cooperation and Murnau’s Hollywood debut, a farmer is seduced by a glamorous urban beauty and almost persuaded to kill his wife. “A film of enchantment like a long dream that doesn’t want to end - the sum and highpoint of Murnau’s oeuvre. This German  Hollywood set in East Prussian/American no-man’s-land consists of an effortless and yet totally controlled sequence of contrasts that spark each other off: men and women, love and being torn, city and countryside, studio and nature, tragedy and comedy, lyrical atmosphere and drama, depth of field and soft blurring.” (Harry Tomicek)

SÅSOM I EN SPEGEL (Through a Glass Darkly, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1961, 10. & 13.3.) Over a period of three decades, Sven Nykvist was the cinematographer for over 20 of Bergman’s films. For this film, the two developed what would become known as the “pencil sketch tone” to explore the visual possibilities of using light as an expression of simplicity and clarity. The film begins a trilogy about faith, with the title referring to Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians letter “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” This glass to self-awareness in the film is the terminally-ill Karin (Harriet Andersson). Their encounter with a woman, who appears to be schizophrenic and has religious delusions, seems to trigger change in a family broken by impoverished relations and alienation.

TOKYO MONOGATARI (Tokyo Story, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan 1953, 11. & 25.3.) Chishu Ryu was Ozu’s favorite actor, playing in 52 of his 54 works and marking them with his finely nuanced and reserved acting, where often a quietly expressed “hm” said more than words. In Ozu’s films, which are always variations on similar themes, he often played the role of the father. This is also the case in TOKYO MONOGATARI, in which an aging couple visit their children and grandchildren in Tokyo only to discover that the family has fallen apart. A melancholy swan song to the myth of the Japanese family.

PIDÄ HUIVISTA KIINNI, TATJANA (Tatjana, Take Care of Your Scarf, Aki Kaurismäki, Finland 1994, 15. & 17.3.) No actor had such an impact on Aki Kaurismäki’s early films as Matti Pellonpää (1951–1995): “He was not only the main protagonist in many of my films, he was one of my kind, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry puts it.“ In this tribute to rock-and-roll and 1960s Finland, Valto and the rocker Reino (Matti Pellonpää) go on a jaunt in a newly-repaired Volga and meet Tatjana (Kati Outinen, the main female face in Kaurismäki’s oeuvre) whose bus has broken down. The communication in the shared car is made more difficult by the mens’ awkwardness with women. While Valto is stubbornly silent, Reino tries to trigger a conversation with the question: “Did you know that the 14mm ring spanner is the one that’s most often needed?”. With little success. However, without having to resort to words, he and Tatjana succeed in communicating in one of Kaurismäki’s most beautiful love scenes.

AGUIRRE, DER ZORN GOTTES(Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Werner Herzog, FRG 1972, 16. & 21.3.) was the first great cooperation between Werner Herzog and the actor Klaus Kinski. Herzog’s documentary, Mein liebster Feind (1999), whose title set the tone, talked about the difficult relationship between the two. In AGUIRRE, Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), a 16th-century Spanish conquistador rejects the Spanish crown during an expedition to the Amazon and tries to found his own state. He openly renounces god and nature and becomes obsessed with conquering the mythical kingdom of El Dorado. When he fails, he goes insane. A historical chronicle shot at original locations about madness, imperialism and a monstrous leader.

CESARE DEVE MORIRE (Caesar Must Die, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, I 2012, 18. & 31.3.) Born in 1929 and 1931 respectively, the brothers Vittorio and Paolo Taviani have been making films together since the 1960s. CESARE DEVE MORIRE, which won the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlinale, takes them into a Roman jail where they observe the rehearsals for a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. The convicts engage with the play and their roles, which trigger change in each of them. "Since I have discovered art, this cell has turned into a prison,” says the actor playing Cassius after his performance, when the applause is but a distant memory.

KLASSENVERHÄLTNISSE (Class Relations, Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub, FRG/F 1983, 19. & 29.3.) Over four decades, the radical filmmakers Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub made more than 30 films together, all of which were based on literature or music and openly displayed the filmic interpretation work of the "adaptors". This is especially the case for KLASSENVERHÄLTNISSE, based on Kafka's "Amerika". In clear, piercing pictures, they stage the life of a young man named Karl whose family has outcast him and sent him to the US. He has to fight a merciless existential battle with capitalism and lives in a multifaceted net of dependencies and oppression.

ZUR SACHE, SCHÄTZCHEN (May Spils, FRG 1968, 20. & 30.3.) The director May Spils and the actor Werner Enke changed the tone of German cinema with this film, which was followed by four sequels until 1983. This anarchist and playful comedy about a “loafer” from the Munich district of Schwabing protested in a more private way, choosing denial rather than weighty sentences. The protagonist Martin (Werner Enke), a songwriter prefers to spend his days in bed drawing flip-books. His unemployed friend Henry (Henry van Lyck) has to use sophisticated techniques of persuasion to get him to write some texts for a few pop songs.

THE BIG SLEEP (Howard Hawks, USA 1946, 23. & 28.3.) Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were a couple both on and off the screen and their four common films were all film noirs. Based on the eponymous novel by Raymond Chandler, THE BIG SLEEP is a classic of the genre. The private detective Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) is employed by the millionaire General Sternwood to find out who is blackmailing him and threatening to go public with information about his addict daughter Carmen’s links to the underworld. Marlowe soon discovers that Carmen’s opaque sister Vivian (Lauren Bacall) also has ties with a gang of criminals and finds himself entangled in a network of crimes that he can barely get a grip on.

BLACK NARCISSUS (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, GB 1947, 24. & 27.3.) “Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger”: So began the films of this unique auteur-director-producer team. Five Anglican nuns endeavor to set up a  nunnery in an abandoned harem palace in a remote part of the Himalayas. But in the unfamiliar environment, old passions and difficultly suppressed erotic tensions flare. The film was shot completely at Pinewood Studios in London. In it, Powell and Pressburger create a completely artificial world whose excessive colors and extreme contrasts are echoed in the feelings of the nuns. (hjf/mg/al)

arsenal cinema: Splendid Isolation: Hong Kong Cinema 1949–1997

07:00 pm Cinema 1


Tin joek jau ching

Tin joek jau ching A Moment of Romance
Benny Chan 1990 With Andy Lau, Jacklyn Wu, Ng Man Tat
35 mm OV/EnS 88 min
Courtesy of Media Asia International Distribution Limited

Introduced by Fabian Tietke
arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour – 
Two become one

08:00 pm Cinema 2


Baisers volés

Baisers volés Stolen Kisses François Truffaut France 1968
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claude Jade, Delphine Seyrig
35 mm OV/EnS 90 min

arsenal cinema: Splendid Isolation: Hong Kong Cinema 1949–1997

09:00 pm Cinema 1


Xia dao Gao Fei

Xia dao Gao Fei Full Contact Ringo Lam
1992 With Chow Yun Fat, Anthony Wong, Simon Yam
35 mm OV/EnS 104 min