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July 2021, arsenal cinema

Homage Marina Vlady – Star, cosmopolitan, activist

[Translate to english:] 2 OU 3 CHOSES QUE JE SAIS D’ELLE, 1967

Marina Vlady, born Catherine Marina de Poliakoff in France to Russian parents, is one of the most fascinating and expressive actors of her generation. She was one of the greatest stars of the 50s and 60s worldwide, working with a series of significant directors and actors. Her filmography comprises over 80 works, which transgress political and cultural borders and reflect the rich and varied landscape of post-war European cinema. There is barely a European country, including West Germany, in which Vlady did not work, thus creating bridges between two systems. She was able to take on various national identities that she combined very convincingly with her very own screen personality. She was a committed feminist from the start, and she helped artists persecuted by communist regimes, either with funds and/or by finding contacts for them in the West. She continues to actively support disadvantaged people today. At the end of the 1980s, she began to work as a writer and found worldwide acclaim with her book about her tumultuous marriage with the Soviet singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky. Though many of her films were popular when they came out in Germany, many have since been forgotten. There has not been a comprehensive representative overview of her performances in Germany or France, yet this is long overdue. Gary Vanisian has curated a program of 21 feature films and one documentary, which presents an adventurous and militant artist and a multifaceted cartography of European auteur cinema and its potential for cinematic expression. (29.7.-30.8.)

We are showing SUZHET DLYA NEBOLSHOGO RASSKAZA (Subject for a Short Story), the only Soviet production in which Marina Vlady played the lead, part of our 70mm series. (31.7.).

2 OU 3 CHOSES QUE JE SAIS D’ELLE (Two or Three Things I Know About Her, Jean-Luc Godard, France 1967, 29.7., Guest: Marina Vlady & 14.8.) "This is Marina Vlady, she's an actress, she is wearing a blue pullover with two yellow stripes. She is of Russian descent. She has dark chestnut or light brown hair. I'm not sure which," whispers the director Godard in his voiceover. This was his only work with Vlady. It is one of the most important films of his "sociological" phase of the second half of the 1960s. Godard's theory that "in order to live in a society in Paris today, on no matter what level, one is forced to prostitute oneself in one way or another—or to put it another way, to live under conditions resembling those of prostitution [...] in a modern society, prostitution is the norm" underlies the film. The pronoun elle ("she") refers less to the protagonist Juliette (Marina Vlady) whose daily life as a wife, mother and occasional prostitute the film sketches than to the region of Paris, the "brutality of neo-capitalism", the circulation of ideas, the high-rises of the banlieue, prostitution and half a dozen other subjects that Godard lists in the trailer. Juliette speaks directly to the camera about her situation and how she is trapped in the capitalist system.

MARINA (Sylvie Carlier, France 2015, 30.7.) Barely an hour long, this documentary paints a portrait of Marina Vlady and traces a career that began in childhood and was constantly in flux. It features interviews with Vlady herself and the people she has known, extracts from her films, including from rare early works, footage of her theater performances and also of a series of concerts in Russia where she sang the songs of her third husband Vladimir Vysotsky who died prematurely at the age of 42. Sylvie Carlier creates a gripping mosaic of a rich life and of a personality who is always reflected and curious.

UNA STORIA MODERNA – L’APE REGINA (The Conjugal Bed, Marco Ferreri, Italy/France 1963, 30.7., Guest: Marina Vlady & 29.8.) Alfonso (Ugo Tognazzi), a dapper 40-year-old decides to marry Regina (Marina Vlady), a young woman brought up strictly Catholic, and enlists the help of an old school friend who has become a priest. Before the wedding, Regina rejects all of Alfonso's approaches but afterwards she develops a sexual drive that he cannot keep up with. In his first Italian directorial work – after three films made in Spain – Marco Ferreri created his own form of Commedia all’italiana: told in an effortless manner. This increasingly satirical and paradoxical story astutely reveals the absurdity of bourgeois and Catholic bigotry. Traces of the intervention of the Italian censors remain today, but this did not prevent the film from being a major box office success. It paved the way for Ferreri's later career, revealing Ugo Tognazzi to be a key figure of Italian comedy and earning Marina Vlady the best actress award at the Cannes film festival, the most prestigious award of her career.

SIROKKÓ (Miklós Jancsó, Hungary/France 1969, 31.7., guests Marina Vlady and János Kende) In 1934, in a remote snowy region of Hungary, not far from the Yugoslavian border, members of the Ustasha, the Croatian fascist movement, prepare to assassinate King Alexander I of Yugoslavia. When the charismatic freedom fighter Marko Lazar refuses to sacrifice his revolutionary ideals for a nationalist cause, the leaders decide to liquidate him. The director had used historical material to disguise his criticism of the current political system, but SIROKKÓ was more explicitly formulated as a warning against "radical far right extremist movements". It was also his most radical film in terms of form as well as his first cooperation with foreign actors. The project was initiated and produced by the lead actor Jacques Charrier. It consists only of 12 takes, in which János Kende's camera occasionally thrusts itself from the wintry vastness into the interior of a house. 

FOLLOW ME (Maria Knilli, FRG 1989, 1.8., Guests: Maria Knilli and Monika Aubele) Pavel Navrátil, who teaches philosophy at Prague University is dismissed after the Prague Spring. He first works as a gravedigger and then as a porter at an airport in a western country, where he encounters other stranded characters, including the melancholy Russian brothel owner Lyuba (Marina Vlady). After five years abroad, he decides to go back to Prague to bid a final farewell. For her second feature film, Knilli opted for a poetic and symbolic visual language to convey the protagonists' disorientation. She had met Vlady a few years earlier on the shoot for Vojtěch Jasný's television film Bis später – Ich muss mich erschießen (1984).

LA NUIT DES ESPIONS (Double Agents, Robert Hossein, France/Italy 1959, 6.8.) Two agents meet in a remote cabin during the Second World War: The man (Robert Hossein), wearing an SS uniform, calls himself Philip Davis; the woman (Marina Vlady), in civilian clothing, introduces herself as Helen Gordon. At the same time, a female German agent has apparently been sent out to get hold of important war documents. Davis and Gordon spend the night together but do not shake off their mutual distrust. This was the last of four films that Hossein and Vlady worked on together between 1955 and 1959; it was also the most experimental and demanding. Hossein took the Kammerspiel, betraying a somewhat ironic approach to the genre of the spy film, and created a kaleidoscope of the potential of cinema: masterfully lit black-and-white compositions, sensual close-ups and a dynamic exploitation of the narrow space.

IL SAPORE DEL GRANO (The Flavor of Corn, Gianni Da Campo, Italy 1986, 6.8., introduced by Gary Vanisian & 25.8.) Lorenzo's first post as a teacher is in a small village on the outskirts of Venice. One of his pupils is a 12-year-old farmer's son called Dullio, who is sensitive, attentive and hungry for knowledge. He gives him private lessons and the two develop a close relationship that the boy's parents and the teacher's superiors find suspect. Between 1967 and 1986, Gianni Da Campo made three feature-length films that all found critical acclaim but were not successful with audiences. Yet, they remain fascinating for their sensitivity and their exploration of bold themes (the director's second film in 1970 was one of the first Italian films to explore feminism). Da Campo was 10 when he fell in love with Marina Vlady after seeing her L’età dell’amore (1953). He started building a private archive dedicated to her. Vlady fictionalized his devotion in her 1990 novel "Le Collectionneur de Venise" (The Collector of Venice).

SPLENDOR (Ettore Scola, Italy/France 1989, 7. & 27.8.) "Ettore Scola's SPLENDOR is melancholy and bitter. When Jordan, the owner of the 'Splendor' movie theater is forced to sell up, he tells the buyer a businessman who sells furniture that he will give him a discount if he can also slap him in public. The buyer agrees and is slapped, but then he laughs about the disgrace. The cinema is torn down, it seems as if enemies of the cinema have won. At the beginning of the film, a poster for 'Nostalgia', Scola's password for a flight through film history, is seen." (Andreas Kilb) Scola's ode to a golden age of cinema, told with long flashbacks, also symbolized the end of an era for Vlady: It was her last main role in a classic studio film and the last of three performances alongside her friend Marcello Mastroianni.

LA SORCIÈRE (The Blond Witch, André Michel, France/Sweden 1956, 7.8., introduced by Svetlana Svyatskaya & 28.8.) The French civil engineer Laurent Brulard is supervising the construction of a road in a remote part of Sweden. He decides to fight against the superstition of the locals and finds support from a female landowner who is in love with him. One day he meets Ina, a mysterious young woman with luminous blonde hair who has lived in the forest since her childhood. He tries to convert her to "civilization". The film was adapted from a novella by the Russian writer Aleksandr Kuprin and transposed to a dreamlike, inscrutable and archaic-seeming Sweden. Vlady's innocent yet sensual performance as Ina, which was very sexually explicit for the times, made her into a worldwide (erotic) idol for a whole generation of filmgoers, just as Brigitte Bardot's contemporary performance in Et Dieu créa la femme did. "Koldunya" – the film's Russian title - enjoys cult status in Russia to this day.    

AVANT LE DÉLUGE (Before the Deluge, André Cayatte, France/Italy 1953, 10.8.) At the center of this incredibly rarely screened film are five youths after the Second World War, at the beginning of the Cold War, who are terrified of the nuclear threat. When the Korean War begins, they decide to escape to a Pacific island. One of them then murders someone and they end up in court. The trial forms the frame for a film that indicts the parents and politicians. André Bazin praised the film in the Cahiers du cinéma: "This film is upsetting, it shakes up the viewers, plunges them into a sense of violent and surprising unease. Indifference is impossible."

UNA CASA IN BILICO (Tottering in the Dark, Antonietta De Lillo, Giorgio Magliulo, Italy 1986, 12.8.) “One morning, in 1985, a young Italian duo turned up at my house in Maisons-Laffitte to offer me a role in their first feature. They didn’t look any older than 17. I was astounded by their courage but even more so by the plot of their script: an old seductor inherits a large apartment from one of his lovers. He decides to let his oldest and best friends move in: a childhood friend who collects watches and a Russian woman who takes care of illegal immigrants. They start a new life there until the seducer dies unexpectedly, which ushers in a whole series of complications. The tone of the dialogue is tender and without any trace of violence. It exudes a particular sort of wisdom. We shoot without a schedule, often on the street, with a minimum of equipment, but with live sound and lots of improvisation. It’s exhausting, but the result is really beautiful. We are directed by the duo: each of them gives as a series of instructions and the synthesis takes place before the camera. The Taviani Brothers work in exactly the same way.” (Marina Vlady).

CAMPANADAS A MEDIANOCHE (Falstaff [Chimes at Midnight], Orson Welles, Spain/Switzerland 1965, 13. & 24.8.) "The film pays homage to the hero, to the love of life, to sensual pleasures and to the director himself. Welles called Falstaff 'the greatest conception of a good man, the most completely good man in all drama'. He said that his goodness was like 'bread, like wine'. But Falstaff here is no longer at his best, he is losing his lifeblood and his long-time companion for his misadventures, Prince Hal, rejects him and his friendship as soon as he becomes king. Like a lost troll, a ball-shaped organic relic from a previous age, Falstaff strides through the  court, a hostile state machine composed of walls of lances and shields. Even when set in an open wintry landscape, the pictures come across as architectural compositions. As always with Welles, the camera tells its own salacious story - an independent film in a film." (Harry Tomicek)     

GIORNI D’AMORE (Days of Love, Giuseppe De Santis, Italy 1954, 14. &. 26.8.) Angela (Marina Vlady) and Pasquale (Marcello Mastroianni) are young and in love. They live in a village in southern Italy, the children of poor peasants. They cannot marry because their parents cannot afford a big wedding. Their families suggest that they elope to save on the costs. Giuseppe De Santis' 1952 Roma ore 11 (1952) was a key work of neorealism that was fiercely debated by audiences and politicians alike. In GIORNI D’AMORE, the director dressed his social criticism in a comedy that provides a twist on the Romeo and Juliet topos. This was also one of the first Italian color films, with the bright Ferraniacolor images transporting the realistic footage of the peasant population's difficult daily life into the realm of dreams.

QUE LA FÊTE COMMENCE … (Let Joy Reign Supreme …, Bertrand Tavernier, France 1975, 17.8.) Bertrand Tavernier's second feature film examines a little-known episode of the French monarchy. It begins four years after the death of the Sun King, Louis XIV. Since his successor Louis XV is still a minor, it is Philippe II Duke of Orleans (Philippe Noiret) who is serving as Regent of the Kingdom. He is a liberal and in favor of reform, he can see through all the court intrigues to gain personal advantage and enrichment, but he is also fascinated by the pleasures proffered and not inclined to introduce changes. The film is a clear indictment of the depravity of the powerful and the decadence of the nobility. In its orchestration of evil in a baroque and epic manner, it relates to Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma that came out the same year, as well as to Ferreri's La grande bouffe (1973) – a provocative vision of political cinema.

LA RAGAZZA IN VETRINA (Girl in the Window, Luciano Emmer, Italy/France 
1960, 19.8., introduced by Claus Löser & 27.8.) Like thousands of other Italians in the 1950s and 60s, Vincenzo (Bernard Fresson) goes to the Netherlands to earn money. He finds a job at a local mine where the working conditions are inhumane. One day, he and his fellow countryman Federico (Lino Ventura) are caught in an accident and buried. It takes days to free them. Vincenzo decides to go back to Italy but not before going to have some fun in Amsterdam's red-light district where he meets a prostitute called Else (Marina Vlady). Pier Paolo Pasolini co-wrote the screenplay for the film, whose first part consists of social criticism, presenting a breathtakingly physical depiction of the life of "guest workers". The second part is a much more dreamy and idyllic counterpart. The Italian censors were particularly not happy about the first part and the film did not receive much attention from audiences. It was the 1990s before Luciano Emmer was able to find funds to make a cinema film again. His powerful, ageless work was rediscovered only a few years ago.

PARDONNEZ NOS OFFENSES (Robert Hossein, France 1956 | 20.8.) Robert Hossein’s second film as a director, a rarity not screened anywhere for many years, is set on the banks of a large inland port, where a gang of young men and women have set up a base for trading whiskey and cigarettes. Their leader René and the group’s good conscience, tomboy Dédée (Vlady), also look for refuge there from the aggression and neglect they all suffer in their families. They dream of leaving behind the dreary docks and setting off on a ship to real beaches. One day, they meet a large group of Roma close to their base. Initial sympathy and affection, particularly between Dédée and young Roma Vani (Giani Esposito), soon give way to a fateful spiral of violence and revenge.  Like many of Hossein’s films, PARDONNEZ NOS OFFENSES lives primarily from its rich atmosphere, which is more closely related to the fairy-tale nature of a film like Valahol Európában (Somewhere in Europe, 1947) than to the so-called “Halbstarke” films, which created uproar in the USA and Europe at the time and on which Hossein was riffing.

ŐK KETTEN(The Two of Them, Márta Mészáros, Hungary/France 1977, 20. & 22.8.) Mária (Marina Vlady) has been married for 20 years; her two children are almost adult. She is sent to the provinces to run a women's hostel, where she meets Juli, a younger woman who has fled her alcoholic husband with her seven-year-old daughter. The more interest she takes in Juli's life, the more Mária begins to question her own marriage. This largely unknown film is a poetic and empathetic depiction of friendship and solidarity between two women. Working with the cinematographer János Kende, Mészáros created silent and intimate images that almost come across like those of a documentary. In one scene, Vlady walks with Vladimir Vysotsky, her husband at the time, along a snowy floodlit street and kiss farewell to each other – this was the only scene the two ever played in together.

CRIME ET CHÂTIMENT (Crime and Punishment, Georges Lampin, France 1956, 21.8.) "Réné Brunel (Robert Hossein) is not Raskolnikov, Paris is not Saint Petersburg. But the old story of criminal entanglement and religious sublimation is the same in Paris of the 1950s as 90 years earlier in the imperial city on the Neva. Director Georges Lampin, himself born in St. Petersburg, decided to set his 1956 adaptation of Dostoevsky's novel in contemporary Paris. The film reduces the literary original down to its criminal essence, without completely ignoring the philosophical implications. The grimness of the deteriorating buildings in the old parts of Paris serve to conjure up the novel's oppressive atmosphere. With every take, the film attests to its director's accomplished approach and unobtrusive skill, which he puts to the service of the story. In the bistro on the corner, Lino Ventura serves coffee and Jean Gabin mimes a gnarled police inspector." (Steffen Jacobs)

ADORABLE MENTEUSE (Adorable Liar, Michel Deville, France 1962, 21.8.) The sisters Sophie and Juliette are successful both in their jobs and their love lives, but each in different ways: Sophie (Macha Méril) wants to force her fiancé to marry her with the implacable truth, while Juliette (Marina Vlady) deceives and lies to men. Deville made several comedies in the 1960s which gained acclaim for their playful Nouvelle Vague-inspired mise-en-scene and refined humor. „What was most important for Deville were the permanent innuendoes in a somewhat bland text. It was a lot of fun because - while uttering words of great banality - you could, with looks and mimicry that contradicted what was being said, give plenty of spice to the situations.“. (Marina Vlady)

TANGOS – EL EXILIO DE GARDEL (Tangos, The Exile of Gardel, Fernando Solanas, Argentina/France 1985, 22.8.) A group of exiles living in Paris after Argentina's military putsch of 1976 long for Buenos Aires. They form a dance troupe and rehearse a "tanguedia" (Solanas called his film this - a tango, part tragedy, part comedy) loosely inspired by the life of the "king of tango" Carlos Gardel. Combining tragedy and comedy, the film's episodes and fragments are interweaved with music by Astor Piazzolla and enchanting choreography. "I wanted to merge the story of the music and creativity and the exiled people's own stories. This acting within another type of acting has no end and the theme of seeking a language and an identity is part of a whole." (Fernando Solanas)

PENNE NERE (Black Feathers, Oreste Biancoli, Italy 1952, 23.8.) Pietro (Marcello Mastroianni) and Gemma (Marina Vlady) are two young lovers in a mountain village on the border with Austria. Just after their engagement, the Second World War begins. Gemma stays at home, while Pieri goes to fight in Albania. After the armistice of September 1943, Pieri sets off on the long and arduous way home, while Gemma faces danger in the village. The film is a telling reflection of Italy at the time of its making: A country which after the end of fascism struggled to find its moral values and adopted a very dubious perspective on the war. It was the first time that Vlady played with Mastroianni. Their youthful purity functions as a counterweight to the film's intention to make a stirring war movie from this material.

QUELQUES JOURS DE RÉPIT (A Few Days of Respite, Amor Hakkar, France 2010, 30.8.) The gay lovers Hassan and Moshen have escaped Iran, where they would have faced the death penalty. On their way to Paris, they land up in a small town in the department of Jura. When Moshen meets Yolande (Marina Vlady), a widow in her 60s, she takes a shine to him and offers him work. He doesn't tell her that he has a partner and the two start an affair. This is a calmly told film that is also tremendously moving because of its foreseeable tragedy. Marina Vlady's performance as a woman who desires intimacy is one of the most memorable and courageous of her career. (gv)

This program was made possible by support from the Capital Cultural Fund.