January 2019, arsenal cinema

Magical History Tour
 – Staging spaces

[Translate to english:] NATIONAL GALLERY, 2014

Between landmarks and moments of confusion – the Magical History Tour invites the audience on a journey through spaces that are significant, staged, narrative and social. Each film takes place in a defined space, whose construction is of great importance for the film's impact on the viewer. The variously arranged spaces not only allow for the marking of different styles (naturalism or artificiality) but also evoke moods and feelings (of vastness or confinement) in a cinematic manner. We are showing films in which space plays a particular role, for either the plot or the protagonists' expression of feelings.

PIROSMANI (Georgi Shengelaia, USSR 1969, 1. & 6.1.) The poetically condensed and fragmentarily narrated life story of the naive painter Niko Pirosmanashvili (1862–1918), who became known as Pirosmani. The loner from a small village tries out different professions but repeatedly fails; he flees his own wedding, starts working as a decorative artist and wall painter, lets himself be exploited and humiliated. Shengelaia develops the structure of the film using Pirosmani's pictures: Plane tableaux lend the rooms a two-dimensional effect, long shots and stylized genre images reflect Pirosmani's aesthetic.

LE BAL (Ettore Scola, Italy/France/Algeria 1983, 2. & 8.1.) takes place in a single place. A Paris dance hall becomes the location of a journey through the 20th century, from the 30s to the 80s of the present, with numerous references to French film history and its iconic stars. First the waiter enters, preparing the space for the evening and putting music on; then the women turn up individually and finally the men. The characters disperse themselves around the room and the table. In the course of the film, they emerge in different constellations, dancing, flirting, arguing and making up. Shot with the Théâtre du Campagnol ensemble, the film imparts a picture of 20th-century France and human relationships without the use of dialogue.

SÅNGER FRÅN ANDRA VÅNINGEN (Songs from the Second Floor, Roy Andersson, S/N/DK 2000, 3. & 13.1.) A panorama of single, absurd episodes - a man is fired and refuses to let go of his boss’ legs, the owner of a furniture store sets it on fire to claim the insurance on it and is then haunted by ghosts, a girl is sacrificed to prevent a catastrophe from descending on the world - which fluctuate between despair and comedy and tell of stagnation, resignation and meaninglessness. In his masterfully composed takes of long corridors and dreamlike spaces, Andersson creates an apocalyptic vision with a claustrophobic atmosphere in which deathly pale people are plunged into a livid, grey-yellow-green light.

GERTRUD (Carl Theodor Dreyer, Denmark 1964, 4. & 17.1.) With long, observant takes, Dreyer frames both the spaces and the people within them and fixes their relationships. In reduced, slow and deliberate fashion, the Danish director captures Danish bourgeoisie at the turn of the century. Center stage is Gertrud who, in search for unconditional love, leaves her husband and  breaks off from her childhood friend and also eventually her lover. A story of emancipation and loneliness.

EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR (The Exterminating Angel, Luis Buñuel, Mexico 1962, 5. & 10.1.) A glamorous party takes place in a bourgeois villa. When the guests get ready to leave, they are held back from crossing the threshold by what seems to be an invisible band. This inexplicable condition lasts several days, and the policemen who are called do not succeed in entering the building. Nervousness, hysteria and signs of disintegration start to spread, the previously distinguished guests fall victim to their urges. The room in which the elegant party took place has turned into a prison and undergoes a change: The luxurious ambience is replaced by disorder, chaos, dirt, and anarchy.

DER LETZTE MANN (The Last Laugh, Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, G 1924, 11. & 15.1., on piano: Eunice Martins) depicts the fate of an aging hotel porter (Emil Jannings) at the luxury Atlantic hotel. Dressed in a plush uniform, he proudly receives the guests before they go through the revolving door. But because of his age and loss of strength, he is banished to the basement to be in charge of the toilets. Karl Freund’s “unbridled camerawork” moves effortlessly through the hotel’s spaces, going from the shiny facade and sumptuous lobby to the shabby basement. This is a film of particular visual and poetic strength that reflects the transition from Expressionism to Neue Sachlichkeit and is a cross between studio production and a portrait of a dynamic urban environment.

TYSTNADEN (The Silence, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1963, 12. & 16.1.) Anna and her older sister Ester are estranged. The two of them come with Anna’s son Johan to an unfamiliar city, whose inhabitants speak a language they do not know. They find rooms in a hotel, where each tries to find a way out of the paralyzing isolation and lack of communication. Whereas Anna abandons herself to sexual adventures, Ester locks herself in her room. In its artificiality, the labyrinthine and almost empty hotel, a once magnificent building with wide corridors that Johan roams, highlights the atmosphere of existential alienation and suggestive menace.

SPACE IS THE PLACE (John Coney, USA 1974, 14. & 18.1.) The universe as a space of utopia, in which African-Americans could live free of repression and exploitation becomes  a reality in the avant-garde jazz musician and composer Sun Ra’s Afro-futuristic musical sci-fi film. After some exploratory journeys into space and time, Sun Ra returns to earth to transport like-minded people to a strange planet through the intergalactic medium of music. “His spaceship and its crew named Arkestra is the opposite of a slave ship. It will literally rescue his fellow people and all those once erased from history or intended to be. Sun Ra and his Arkestra go outer space because “space is the place”. Space has the double meaning of being somewhere all those who love freedom dream of and a place where one can be free of racism and segregation.” (spex)
 
NATIONAL GALLERY (Frederick Wiseman, F/USA/GB 2014, 19. & 30.1.) Since 1996, Frederick Wiseman has filmed public and private institutions - predominantly in the US. For some years now, he has turned his attention increasingly to European institutions and the spaces they shape. In this film, he looks at a museum, which houses one of the most famous art collections in the world, and observes - very patiently as always - how paintings are exhibited, presented and seen from different perspectives. He looks at what goes on behind the scenes, how the budget is managed or the artworks restored, but the paintings and how they are looked at form center ground. Who is watching whom?

TOKYO MONOGATARI (Tokyo Story, Yasujiro Ozu, Japan 1953, 20. & 23.1.) An aging couple from a small provincial town travels to Tokyo for the first time in their lives to visit their adult children for a few days. They discover that there is no space for them and they are a disturbance in the cramped living spaces and the demands of the modern work world. Filmed largely in interior spaces, the sliding doors, windows, bars and corridors impart a sense of being confined and limited freedom of movement. Eschewing dramatic climaxes and focusing on the essential, Ozu tells a film about the fleeting nature of life.  

PERRET IN FRANKREICH UND ALGERIEN (Perret in France and Algeria, Heinz Emigholz, G 2012, 21. & 27.1.) Rainer Gansera described this encounter with 30 buildings and ensembles designed by the French architect and construction engineer brothers Auguste and Gustave Perret as a “drama of spatial construction”. Working in parallel to the execution of numerous construction projects in France, Perret was building under conditions of colonialism in North Africa. The film traces this division chronologically.

WAVELENGTH (USA 1967, 22. & 24.1.) and BACK AND FORTH (USA 1969, 22. & 24.1.) These two medium-length films by Canadian filmmaker, artist and composer Michael Snow are milestones of North American avant-garde cinema and in-depth explorations of space, movement and perception. While in WAVELENGTH, a hypnotizing zooming in onto the window wall of an apartment and the image of the moving surface of the sea are interlaced with an increasingly loud sine wave tone (as well as other sounds), in BACK AND FORTH the camera moves through a classroom with alternately fast and slow horizontal and vertical pan shots. Snow’s attempt to create a “pure film space and a pure film time” (MS) in WAVELENGTH meets a study of the perceived three-dimensionality of a room in BACK AND FORTH.

A TORINÓI LÓ (The Turin Horse, Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky, Hungary 2011, 25. & 31.1.) Incessant, roaring wind, a bleak wooden house, the most barren of landscapes, a coachman, his daughter, and a horse. For five days, each day the same as all the others, as a daily routine that is as heavy and full of efforts as it is minimal is repeated, only interrupted by neighbor bringing reports of dark happenings, or the drifters who stop by to ask for water. Then, bit by bit, the well runs dry, the light goes out and the horse gives up the ghost. Mysterious, rigorous, highly concentrated (and equally demanding of a high degree of concentration), Tarr's "cinematic monolith" (H.P. Koll) inverts the story of creation in barely 30 shots (cinematography: Fred Kelemen). At the end, there is no resolution, to say nothing of redemption, just a final darkness and an existential film experience. 

AWAARA (The Vagabond, Raj Kapoor, India 1951, 26.1.) A young vagabond is charged with attempted murder. While the judge writes him off as being merely the product of a criminal family bound to turn to crime because of his background, his legal representative argues that he went astray because of the behavior and guilt of others who feel elevated by crime. Behind the seeming light-hearted nature of this comically staged gangster ballad lie social criticism and a aroused sense of humanity and justice. A precisely depicted social space combines with a sumptuous artistic world in musical interludes. Cruel reality is suspended. (mg/al)

arsenal cinema: Unknown Pleasures #10
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The Pain of Others

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DCP OV 71 min

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour
 – Staging spaces

08:00 pm Cinema 2


Le Bal

Le Bal Ettore Scola Italy/France/Algeria 1983
35 mm without dialogue 110 min

arsenal cinema: Unknown Pleasures #10
 – American Independent Film Fest

09:00 pm Cinema 1


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The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Desiree Akhavan USA 2018 DCP OV 91 min