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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

Some quick thoughts

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

Since I got into grad school, I figured that I should brush up on my film knowledge before heading off because I say the following phrase too often: I’ve heard of the film, I know some things about it, but I haven’t watched it. Because of this, I am going to watch some films from my to-watch list. It’s about freaking time that I watched some of these!
I’m too tired to write fully thought out entries so this is the best I could muster.

8½ (1963)
Director: Federico Fellini
Actors: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimée, Sandra Milo
Country: Italy, France
I FINALLY WATCHED THIS FILM. I FINALLY DID. AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE OF IT. My god, it’s beautifully shot and there were some parts of it that I loved but this was my reaction:
First third of the film: What is going on?!
Second third of the film: OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GOOD.
Last third of the film: What what what what?! (à la Kyle’s mom from South Park)
I will have to rewatch this after 10 years have passed, although this movie did make me wonder if I would give it a second chance if it wasn’t such a well regarded film. Also, ANOUK AIMÉE IS SO GORGEOUS IN THIS MOVIE.

Asphalt (1929)
Director: Joe May
Actors: Albert Steinrück, Else Heller, Gustav Fröhlich, Betty Amann
Country: Germany
I really loved the way the title was filmed along with the city scenes since it reminded me of Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt — I think I read that the film was filmed by the same people? It was nice to see Gustav Fröhlich in a movie that isn’t Metropolis (will forever love his pants in that movie) and Betty Amann was such a babe in this film! Can I please look awesomely vampy as her one day?! Her as Else in this movie is my vamp idol. I didn’t find the movie to be too enjoyable to watch although I found it very interesting in that I felt like the movie was a morality film. It’s like: LOOK AT ALBERT’S PARENTS. THEY ARE OLD FASHIONED THUS HAPPY AND GOOD PEOPLE BUT LOOK AT HOW THE CITY HAS CORRUPTED ALBERT BECAUSE ELSE IS THE EMBODIMENT OF MODERNIZATION. Outside of that point, the story itself was nothing special and seemed trite. I did like the happy ending though :)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
Director: Tay Garnett
Actors: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames
Country: U.S.A.
I DON’T REALLY CARE FOR THIS FILM BUT THIS MOVIE GAVE ME SO MANY FEELLLLLSSSSSSS. Cora, played by the oh-so-beautiful Lana Turner, is often labeled as a femme fatale and maybe I have the wrong idea of the definition of femme fatales, but to me, I always see that label as connoting something negative. Well, I don’t think Cora is a femme fatale and any trouble Frank got into in his movie was his fault. I found Frank so unlikable that I couldn’t help but side with Cora and couldn’t see her as anyone bad. I think it is because she is shown to be quite human (she is often stating her goals and she is jealous when she finds out Frank had a fling) whereas my personal ultimate femme fatale is Phyllis Dietrichson, who is cool as a cucumber and has an air of mystery. If you ask me, Cora doesn’t have that cool or steeliness that Phyllis does, although that kissing scene is AMAZING when she wipes her mouth and reapplies her lipstick after the kiss.
I wouldn’t watch this film for fun again but I really need to make a gif of that kissing scene because it is too great.

The Misfits (1961)
Director: John Huston
Actors: Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter, Eli Wallach
Country: U.S.A.
I adore Marilyn Monroe and a long time ago, I decided that I’ll watch all the films she starred in but I kept pushing off watching The Misfits. I enjoyed it in the same manner that I enjoyed watching The Night of the Iguana because both films portray the characters so well.
Thelma Ritter was A+ as usual but what I found so disturbing about the film was seeing Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable. The Gable I know is the way he looked and sounded in the 1930s and to see him in this film looking so old and not having that voice of his was shocking. I didn’t know how to digest it and I felt like the charisma he had in all his older films was gone. He was good in the role but he didn’t have that sparkle that he has even in his most banal roles from the 1930s. I always associate Clift with his role in A Place in the Sun because that was the first film I saw him in and he made such a big impression on me. In The Misfits, he looked so haggard that I couldn’t get over it. What made it worse was that I felt like Marilyn Monroe looked so beautiful in this film and to see her with these two stars looking very different than what I am used to emphasized how I viewed her character in this film. Roslyn is so different from everyone around her and her beautiful appearance emphasized that amongst the other actors. The character of Roslyn is actually how I imagine Monroe to actually be: a very sensitive soul that isn’t understood by many people.

Die Frau im Feuer ; 1924

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Because this blog is a free for all, I decided to post about my movie related travels.

For my last semester in college, I decided to undertake a research project related to Asta Nielsen and Mary Pickford and was able to travel to Germany and Denmark to dig through the archives and also do an internship. Some of the things I found were things that I didn’t find readily on the internet, so I thought I’d share.

In this entry, I’m posting the Illustrierter Film-Kurier for the presumed lost Nielsen film, Die Frau im Feuer. I found this on microfilm at the Deutsche Kinemathek. I am so glad that these Film-Kuriers exist because they are probably the only ties that we have in regards to Nielsen’s lost films.

What was most surprising about my finds was that Nielsen is rarely seen in fan magazines and the only time she is mentioned in fan magazines is when a new film of hers is released; I saw more of Jenny Jugo than anyone else. However, Nielsen was mentioned quite often in trade journals, especially in the late 1910s and early 1920s, except my German sucks so I have no clue what they are saying for the most part. One day I will master the language, ONE DAY!!!

Click here for the rest!

La Habanera ; 1937

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Director: Detlef Sierck (Douglas Sirk)
Actors: Zarah Leander, Ferdinand Marian, Karl Martell, Julia Serda, Boris Alekin, Paul Bildt
Country: Germany

My “first” Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk was La Habanera (first is in quotes because I only watched 10 minutes of it in total in class because I ditched the screening. Bad Stephany, bad), but when I saw Zarah Leander with her Princess Leia hairdo, it was love at first sight. Everyone needs a little bit of Zarah Leander’s singing (and awesomeness in general) in life.

Outside of my huge crush on Zarah Leander, I found this film to be more interesting to watch as a film that was produced in the Third Reich and also as an early melodrama in Sierck’s oeuvre. Maybe because I saw this film with the mindset of “it’s a Nazi film!” that I couldn’t help but interpret it as propaganda. With its veneer as an entertainment film, one could pick out things that reflect Nazi ideology. The idea of “heimat” struck me in the beginning of the film when I saw how uncomfortable Astrée’s aunt was. Already it was a sign that she does not belong in the world of Puerto Rico, thus Astrée (Leander) doesn’t as well. Eventually Puerto Rico’s charm fades and Astrée longs for Sweden. On top of this, her child with Don Pedro (Marian) has light blonde hair and has an affinity for things related to Sweden. Spanish guy + Swedish woman = perfect Aryan child: a bit weird, isn’t it? Also note that Juan Jr. seems to get along with Dr. Nagel (Martell) more than his own father. Interesting… Everything in this film has implications that people belong where they are from and also casts a bad light on anyone who isn’t Swedish. Don Pedro’s death is his own fault, the Americans are mentioned consistently and seen as incompetent while the Swedish doctor comes and finds a cure for the “Puerto Rico fever” in just a few days. If this film was produced outside of Germany, would I have thought these things? Is it because I know that this film was made in Nazi Germany that I have these thoughts? I could probably find the idea of “heimat” in American films as well and give any film a Nazi slant if I wanted to thus is it right to assume that every film from Nazi Germany is propaganda? It’s hard for me to come to terms with the idea that every Nazi film is propaganda, but it’s also hard for me to believe that some or not all weren’t. In the end, I can probably argue for either point. Perhaps watching this film as pure entertainment can bring us a little closer to what the contemporary German audiences thought of this film. I am so conflicted because on one hand, I believe that it is important to put context and history together with films but at the same time when I get attached to films like La Habanera, I want to believe that it’s not Nazi propaganda as if somehow the Nazi Germany part leaves a stain on the film.

Anyway, going on…

I really adore Sierck’s works for some reason and La Habanera is really a gem. Not only can viewers see Sierck’s beginnings in Germany, but the lush imagery that I loved about Sierck’s Technicolor works is all in La Habanera just without the colour. Anyone who is interested in Sierck’s works should definitely put this film on their list. I really wonder what Sierck’s connection with Ufa and the Nazis were. Just how much was he in charge of the story? Nothing about the imagery shouts out “NAZI PROPAGANDA!”, but each scene seduces the viewer with its beautiful scenery and the viewer becomes a part of this film thus being seduced like Astrée was with its charm. FASCIST AESTHETICS?! I don’t know…

Acting on Leander and Marian’s part is A++. I ADORE Marian and it’s such a shame that his career, in current times, is tainted by Jüd Suß. Funny that they’re making a film about his role in Jüd Suß and the title of the upcoming film is also called the same name as the film. I really don’t think Marian would appreciate that since he didn’t want to take part in the wretched film at all. Anyway, Marian is just perfect as Don Pedro, especially in the final scenes when you can tell that he is suffering from the disease, yet he looks so delighted in the fact that Astrée is singing “La Habanera”. He tells her that he loves her and while she shuns him, I think that deep down, he does love her in his own way. Leander is great from start to finish, especially when you see the difference in her demeanor in the beginning and in the middle of the film. The change is drastic and so real that I really believed that time did take its toll on Leander herself rather than this character of Astrée. And if you’re really not a fan of dramas and love stories, at least watch the film up to the wedding scene; Astrée’s wedding dress is to die for, in a bad way.

Overall I give this film a 7.5/10. Not too bad, not all that great, but definitely worth a watch for Leander and Marian’s performance and for Sierck’s work in Germany.

IMDb Link: La Habanera
Where to buy: Amazon.com, Kino Video

Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) ; 1931

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Rudolf Forster, Carola Neher, Reinhold Schünzel, Fritz Rasp, Valeska Gert, Lotte Lenya, Hermann Thimig, Ernst Busch
Country: Germany

Aw, this entry is the final one for the Pabst marathon, boo~ I hope that I’ll be able to get my hands on his other films and post about them because he is amazing beyond words. If anyone has Pabst films they would like to write about, please read the “contribute” section on the sidebar! It would be great to have more entries on Pabst films.

This film is probably the oddest Pabst film I have watched. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it because I think that it’s a highly enjoyable and likable film, but it’s quite quirky. Even the beginning starts with a black screen with only Ernst Busch singing. When the film starts, it still confuses the viewer because it’s a shot of a man and a woman (who we later find out is Mackie Messer/Mack the Knife and Jenny) and then he wants to distance himself from her after he sees another woman walk by and then there is this whole scene for about 7 minutes or so when you have no idea who is who and what in the world is going on. Sorry for the run-on sentence! Maybe it was just me being dumb, but I was consistently thinking, “What is going on? Why is the screen black? Why do I only hear music? IS THIS DVD DEFUNCT?! Who is that man? WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HIM AND HER? IS HE GOING TO KILL HER?!” But in the end, I was content.

The film made me very confused because I liked Mackie Messer, but at the same time, I really wanted to hate him. I was amazed at Polly’s courageousness, wit, and calmness in every scene. If I knew that my husband was cheating on me only after a few days of marriage, I would be the raging psycho. But then again, Polly does have that song she sings on her wedding day so… (by the way, her wedding dress is beautiful. I was jealous.) Also, the song about Mackie Messer mentions all these horrible things that he did but it’s hard to imagine him doing such things. And what’s the whole thing with him and Jenny. I was very, very confused even after the second time watching it.

I absolutely ADORE all the songs in this film. I read that most songs from the actual play aren’t in the film and the context of the songs changed as well, but nonetheless, I think this film did a great job with the script and the placement of songs. I haven’t read or watched the play but I really enjoyed this film. I think it’s crucial for Brecht or Weill fans to embrace the film for what it is and not just as something that Brecht didn’t approve of or something that follows Brecht’s vision. Separate Brecht from this film and I think everyone would like it. While Brecht wanted a film that was more politically charged and a biting satire, I felt that Pabst’s film had a critique of everyone shown in the film. Whether you are poor, the petty bourgeois, or even in a high ranked position, everyone is corrupt. Even the whole idea of Peachum’s company is absolutely absurd and a satire within itself.

The actors of this film were great and the editing and direction of this film was perfect; I have no complaints about this film whatsoever. I love the way Mackie says, “Hello Jackie!” and Tiger Brown says, “Hello. Mackie.” Ah and the final shot! This film is so full of awesomeness that I can compile a huge list of things I like about it. I even liked Fritz Rasp as Peachum and I hated him in silent films! Two thumbs up and I would definitely put it on a list of films to watch before you die. Pabst, homeboy, you did me proud.

I just have to add as a side note that I’m incredibly sad that Carola Neher, who played Polly Peachum, wasn’t in more films and died prematurely BECAUSE OF MY PSEUDO-LOVER GUSTAV VON WANGENHEIM. She was amazing as Polly and I loved her to bits. For those who are like, “Huh?” about who Gustav von Wangenheim is, he’s mostly known to the general public as Hutter in F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. DAMN YOU GUSTAV!!! And while I’m at this, Lotte Lenya, who played Jenny, is amazing as well. And, and, HOW CAN I FORGET HERMANN THIMIG! I have a silly crush on him because he is so adorable.

IMDb Link: Die Dreigroschenoper
Where to buy: Amazon.com

Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (Diary of a Lost Girl) ; 1929

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Louise Brooks, André Roanne, Josef Rovenský, Fritz Rasp, Franziska Kinz, Andrews Engelmann, Valeska Gert, Edith Meinhard
Country: Germany

From all of the Pabst silents I have watched, I think that the following are the top three in no particular order:
-Die freudlose Gasse
-Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
-Tagebuch einer Verlorenen

I really loved this film despite the terrible score that came with the Kino DVD. I never had a problem with any Kino films and the music scores because they were all quite good, but the one for Tagebuch einer Verlorenen didn’t even fit the film. I thought that the music was too overwhelming and was depressing even during the “happy” scenes.
The film was beautifully filmed and Pabst did a wonderful job directing it. I loved the staircase scene when the camera follows Louise Brooks’ movements. I was reading an article in Lulu in Hollywood and Brooks actually mentions Pabst being excited about finding out a way to make the camera turn for the staircase scene. If I didn’t watch the film before reading that, I would have not known which film or scene Brooks was referencing.

My favourite scene, outside of the staircase scene due to the fabulous way it was filmed, has got to be when the girls are exercising and the director’s wife (Gert) orgasms as she hits the gong (ref. Picture 2). The way the scene is filmed by cutting to the girls exercising, the hitting of the gong getting faster and faster, to Gert’s face as she climaxes is incredibly well done. Gert’s face expression says it all: her sadistic nature comes out and so does her sexual self despite her plain non-made up face and her nun-like clothes. The scene also reminded me of Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Olympia and what Susan Sontag calls “fascist aesthetics”. The lines that I thought of when I saw this scene was “a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behavior, extravagant effort, and the endurance of pain; they endorse two seemingly opposite states, egomania and servitude” and “the masses are made to take form, be design” (Sontag, “Fascist Aesthetics”). Then I remembered another line from “Fascist Aesthetics”: “The relations of domination and enslavement take the form of a characteristic pageantry: the massing of groups of people; the turning of people into things; the multiplication or replication of things; and the grouping of people/things around an all-powerful, hypnotic leader-figure or force.” As you can see, I read this essay maybe one too many times. Anyway, the girls in the film were like the masses, all doing the same movements, and Gert’s character was like the dictatorial figure who had full control over the girls. They followed her orders almost mechanically, without thought. I wonder what Kracauer said about this film; I think this film would fit his teleological argument (and flawed in my opinion) perfectly.

Along with Die Buchse der Pandora, this film succeeds in weeding out the melodrama and really hits the nail on the effects of societal norms on people. The realism of the film really hit me when I saw that Meinert (Rasp) is not punished at all but the innocent Thymiane is. It’s true that there isn’t always a happy ending and sometimes, bad people don’t suffer. What made me a bit annoyed with Thymiane is that she gave away her inheritance rather than giving it to the people who have helped her survive, such as Erika (Meinhard) and the other hostesses/prostitutes and the madame. It made me upset that she completely forgot about the people who she was with. Thymiane writes that she wants to forget the past, but the people she was with were incredibly supportive and friendly. None of them forced her into prostitution and even protected her when a man almost raped her. In the end, she does help Erika, which I guess does redeem her previous actions, but it was frustrating nonetheless. And Meta (Kinz) was the biggest bitch EVER. Even when she receives all the money that Thymiane has, she doesn’t even say a word of thanks. She is reluctant to let her child even go to Thymiane and although her letting her child go to Thymiane can be a sign of compromise, it just wasn’t enough. I yelled out, “YOU BITCH!” when I watched the film and was frustrated beyond words.

I’m pretty sure Pabst has meant this film to be a social critique, but I wonder if the scenes I considered to be criticisms were meant to be criticisms. I saw this film as a critique towards high society and how they shun the women for being “deviant” yet the men never suffer the consequences. Also, high society families are portrayed in a negative light with the philandering father and a family willing to cut off connections with their daughter. It is the prostitutes and lower class people who are genuinely caring and friendly. The hypocrisy of the self-righteous people are emphasized in this film, but maybe this wasn’t what the film was about? I hope I’m not too off the base with Pabst’s vision and the story.

IMDb Link: Tagebuch einer Verlorenen
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box) ; 1929

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Alice Roberts, Gustav Diessl
Country: Germany

First of all, rest in peace Pabst. Your films are much loved by film enthusiasts, scholars, and most people who have watched your films. You will never be forgotten.
I watched Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, another Brooks film, without knowing it was the day of Pabst’s death until afterwards. Sad but somehow fitting. It’s a great film that I’ll post about next.

Since I’m a huge whiner, I want to start this post with a complaint: the Janus Die Büchse der Pandora DVD in the Essential Art House DVD set has a terrible score. I honestly wanted to stop watching the film because the music was so bad and half the time, I turned it off. It’s the score by Peer Raben, which is also available on the Criterion DVD, and the stupid score made me on the verge of tears (due to frustration) and I couldn’t help but think how much it ruined the film. I’ve watched it before without the music and it was quite enjoyable that way and I was excited to watch it with music, but alas, what a disappointment.

Other than that, I want to start with my honest opinion that I might get shot for: I think that this film isn’t exactly the best out of Pabst’s silents. Die Büchse der Pandora always gets the most attention along with Die freudlose Gasse and while I think it’s a film that deserves recognition, I don’t see all the hype about it. Yes, I like the film, but I would give it probably a 8.5/10 THE HIGHEST. Maybe I’m just bitter because this film gets so much attention, but I just don’t think it lives up to its hype. Hm, maybe I should take back everything I typed. I think I have more problem with the story that I’m just really angry. The film was beautifully directed and the ending was absolutely perfect, but my sense of justice made me aggravated with it. I hated that Lulu had to die, but then again, that is probably the only way to escape her dreadful life. She died in the hands of someone who she liked whereas her relationship with her previous lover was pretty much dead. Whenever I read about this film, people always say that it’s a film about a woman who brings the demise of anyone around her and that Lulu is a femme fatale, yet I do not see it that way at all. I can see the point in the argument because she is a gorgeous woman, and everyone enamored by her are like moths to a flame, and I purposefully use that idiom because while a flame can be beautiful and something that attracts you, it can also hurt you. I want to deemphasize the fact that she brings destruction to the people around her because the question is, does she really destroy the people around her? I think that she doesn’t because while people put her in this box of a “femme fatale”, I feel like a woman pursuing what she wants is always seen in a bad light when I don’t see anything wrong with it. Is it that wrong to be selfish? Was Lulu truly trying to hurt the people around her? I do not think so and I am incredibly sympathetic of Lulu. She didn’t deserve to be in prison because she didn’t mean to kill her husband and it was really Alwa’s fault that she had to live in a terrible state and eventually even prostitute herself. Rather than seeing Lulu as bringing ruin to everyone around her, I see her as a victim of circumstances. I believe that she was looking for love and some place where she would truly belong. In the end, she found it in Jack the Ripper (Diessl) and while it is twisted and tragic, it is as if she got her happy ending.

The ending for this film was perfect. Pabst did such a wonderful job directing everything and the mood of the last shot evokes so many things: loneliness, the meaning (or lack of) of life, death, continuation of time… it’s just so much that I can’t put it in words. In my opinion, from the scene of Lulu’s death to the end is probably one of the most powerful scenes in cinema. When I saw Schigolch (Goetz) eating the Christmas pudding, Alwa ignorant of Lulu’s death, and the Christmas parade, it made me think about how insignificant a life can seem or even be and how life goes on despite deaths. Lulu’s death seemed so insignificant especially when I saw Schigolch with the pudding because the only reason she went out to sell herself was because Schigolch guilt tripped her into it by saying how he would like a taste of pudding before he died and in the end, he got his pudding anyway. Instead, Lulu died and she could have escaped her fate if she didn’t go out. Some people say she deserved her death to stop the cycle of destruction, but I don’t see why. I don’t think she deserved death, although it could imply that it’s the only way to be happy for her. Rather than a cycle of destruction for the people around her, I felt as if Lulu was in a state of self-destruction due to the people around her. Speaking of the ending, the chemistry between Brooks and Diessl was perfect. Brooks did say that she was attracted to him and I could see why. I’ve seen Diessl in another Pabst film and didn’t find him to be attractive, but he was kind of handsome in this film. And seeing Kortner in this film made me laugh because I just find him to be really funny looking and a terrible actor. Funny that he didn’t respect Brooks as an actress when I think she was so much better. Although that can be based on what good acting was back in the 20s, Asta Nielsen was respected for her natural acting.

Louise Brooks has been immortalized by this film and I think that overall, she did a great job. The scene when she is in the courthouse (ref. Picture 3) and the ending is when I thought Brooks’ talent came out. She portrayed a beautiful, tragic, and sympathetic character to perfection and her presence on screen was great. Brooks said that she wasn’t a wonderful actress and that she was just being herself and I’m not going to complain because she was terrific. Many people credit her for natural and nuanced acting, but to me, I thought that she still had a very noticeable American style of acting of that time. Comparing her to Asta Nielsen (interesting fact: Asta is probably the first actress to portray Lulu on film), I would say that Asta is the one who truly acts in a nuanced fashion. While Brooks does so in certain scenes, when she is excited, she reminded me of Clara Bow in It rather than any European actresses in European silents. It’s not a criticism, but I just thought that Brooks didn’t live up to her reputation, but nonetheless I really admire her. She is such a charming person in the film and in her interviews and it’s such a shame that most of her films aren’t available. As much as I love Marlene Dietrich, I’m so glad that Louise Brooks was cast; I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. I watched a short American sound film with Brooks in it and I felt like her acting wasn’t that great (neither was the film), which led me to my conclusion that Pabst brought the best out in her. But don’t take my word since I haven’t watch any other Brooks films and I heard Beggars of Life is another film that Brooks is great in. Of course, being a fan of Pabst, I can be totally biased.

IMDb Link: Die Büchse der Pandora
Where to buy: Amazon.com, Criterion Collection

Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney (The Love of Jeanne Ney) ; 1927

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm
Country: Germany

I’ve watched Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney in bits and pieces in semi-conscious states but I finally sat down and watched the whole film at once. I do not regret rewatching this film at all and I think that this is the best Pabst film I’ve seen. I really love Die freudlose Gasse, but there is something about Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney that is so much better. I’m not quite sure why I love Die freudlose Gasse, but I remember the first time I watched it, I thought, “Hey! I really enjoyed watching this movie!” and my fascination with Asta Nielsen began. Now that I think about it, I think the reason I love Die freudlose Gasse so much is because Nielsen’s acting really caught my eye and there was something about her in the scene when she was at the jeweler’s that drew me in. So what is it about this film that I like so much. I don’t know. Just like me being interested in Nielsen and loving her in every scene of Die freudlose Gasse, I think Brigitte Helm’s performance as Gabrielle blew my mind. I really liked Helm’s somewhat hammy acting in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (and it totally doesn’t help that her sneer is one of the sexiest things ever and that peacock dance at the Yoshiwara is one of my favourite scenes from all the films I’ve watched so far), but her acting in Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney was PHENOMENAL. Édith Jéhanne as the titular character was great as well along with the oh-so-delicious Uno Henning as her lover. By the way, I totally thought Henning looked like Ewan McGregor, but maybe that’s just me.

In Pabst’s Die freudlose Gasse, I thought that Pabst did a great job experimenting with slow motion, different film stock, and lighting; with Geheimnisse einer Seele, Pabst did a terrific job with special effects/various techniques (perhaps maybe even overdoing it), but with Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney, I think he was able to really find a happy middle. He used various techniques he used in Geheimnisse einer Seele but didn’t overdo it and used them to their full advantage by using them as a plot device that fit in seamlessly with the story. Whereas Die freudlose Gasse has the potential to be perfect, Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney has almost reached perfection. Maybe Die freudlose Gasse appears to be a bit rough due to missing parts and scholars/film archivists not knowing the order of the scenes, thus restored versions of the film don’t guarantee that the presentation of the film is that close to the original, but Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney really was a step forward. I’m not making sense and it’s a bit hard for me to try to explain my thoughts, but what I’m trying to get to is that this film was a huge improvement from his previous films.

The film is a (melo)drama, but it had me intrigued almost from the beginning. I hated that Pabst started the film with Fritz Rasp because Rasp is truly a hideous man. I noticed that he always plays the sleazy guy in films and his face is really perfect for that. Seriously, his face just annoys the hell out of me and he isn’t even a good actor. He brings on the lulz (I can’t believe I actually used that term), but… dskfhksdg I REALLY, REALLY DON’T LIKE HIM! Jéhanne and Helm’s acting is so natural and beautiful, particularly Helm’s, but Rasp overacts in almost every scene. What’s the point of slowly getting closer to a girl and then all of a sudden grabbing her? And the whole kissing-Hertha von Walther’s-eye thing was really weird. Jéhanne plays the sweet, innocent, and somewhat naïve Jeanne and although I would usually be annoyed with characters like Jeanne, I couldn’t help but like her. The story is of lovers who are madly in love with each other yet something happens that separates them. Then another incident occurs that could separate the lovers but a nice man comes along and patches things up. Misunderstandings happen, murder, and all other great things that probably happen in soap operas occur, but the film implies a happy ending.
I really adore this film, but my biggest problem with it is the story. Although highly enjoyable, I wonder why the film leaves Gabrielle with an unhappy ending and doesn’t even return to her after her father’s death. Out of all the characters in the film, I think she has suffered the most and deserved a happy ending. Jeanne deserves it as well but Gabrielle was such a tragic figure that I couldn’t help but almost cry when she found her father’s dead body. I also didn’t understand why Gabrielle first flinched from Khalibiev’s (Rasp) touch but then somehow fell in love with him. I thought that she was able to see, despite being blind, behind is “friendly” exterior, but she somehow fell for him because he brought her flowers and acted as if he really loved her when all he wanted to do was get into Jeanne’s pants (um, skirt?). Jeanne was never comfortable around Khalibiev and I kept looking forward to a scene when she would tell Gabrielle that she is not comfortable with Gabrielle’s engagement with Khalibiev but that never happened. The final shot is truly a beautiful one, but it’s too simple to wrap up everything: how will Jeanne and Andreas (Henning) be together when there are political problems surrounding their relationship? One of Die freudlose Gasse‘s criticisms is that the melodrama overpowers the message behind the film and that applies to the film perfectly. I don’t agree much with the criticism for Die freudlose Gasse, but the happy ending truly seems tacked on like it just needs to happen. But things really aren’t that simple! But nonetheless, that final shot means multiple things, which is why I love it. The obvious one is that the murderer has been caught, but the diamond also can be foreshadowing Jeanne and Andreas’ marriage, and perhaps maybe it is a happy ending for Gabrielle; since the diamond was found by her father’s company, most likely she would be able to have the reward money.

After watching this film, I really didn’t understand why Die freudlose Gasse got all the attention out of the many films Pabst directed. The film isn’t even complete and the film is arranged by scholars guessing what the order of scenes are, and in comparison, this film is pretty solid. Maybe there are some missing scenes since I did read that this film was cut by the censors, but it’s not in the terrible state that Die freudlose Gasse is. Is it because Die freudlose Gasse addresses the political, social, and moral problems in Germany/Austria directly whereas Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney brings forth what was going on around the time the film was made but is overshadowed by the melodramatic story? I just think that this film is one of Pabst’s strongest silent œuvre because everything fits so well, but that’s just my opinion.

By the way, sexy Hertha von Walther is in this film! I almost did a little jig when I saw her. I love that Pabst usually has eye candy in his films and I completely trust his taste in men and women. Édith Jéhanne, Uno Henning, and Brigitte Helm were lovely to look at, especially Jéhanne! I also wouldn’t mind having Henning as arm candy as well. I really wonder how Helm became type-casted as a vamp because she was such a wholesome character in this film. Gosh, I really love Helm!

IMDb Link: Die Liebe der Jeanne Ney
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Geheimnisse einer Seele (Secrets of a Soul) ; 1926

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst (G.W. Pabst)
Actors: Werner Krauss, Ruth Weyher, Jack Trevor, Pavel Pavlov, Hertha von Walther
Country: Germany

I have watched this film last semester and while finding it comical at times, I did enjoy it. When I rewatched it, I really enjoyed the cinematography once again and was amazed how Pabst did some of the effects. The way scenes were filmed such as having the dream scene be filmed in an incredibly surreal manner, flashbacks being filmed usually with a plain, white background (ref. Picture 3), and everything else looking as if it was set in location. The flashbacks/memories have somewhat of a surreal touch and I guess the white background sort of adds to that as well. Although I am no fan of psychoanalysis and Freud, this film is worth a watch for the cinematographic techniques and the visuals. The story is a bit bland, but it does give the viewer a taste of what psychoanalysis is.

My favourite scene would definitely have to be the dream scene, hands down. Every section of the dream is so well done that I wonder how Pabst filmed such things. There are some crazy things going on like a gate that grows really high, the husband (Krauss) flying and then getting shot down (this scene and one of the scenes from Lang’s Metropolis still confuses me because I don’t understand how they filmed it), a montage of his wife (Weyher) and friend/wife’s cousin, and the baby coming out of the river are… surreal. I really can’t come up with another word to describe the dream scene. My personal favourite out of all these has to be when the bells turn into heads. I can’t really figure out who the head on left belongs to (I think it’s either a nurse or someone who works in his house), but the one in the center is his wife and the one on the right is his assistant (Walther). When I first saw the scene, I almost yelped because it creeped me out and it really must have been a terrifying thing to see because apparently the laughter was something that the protagonist (the husband) couldn’t get out of his head. I wish that I can supply more screencaps from this film, but then it would just crowd up the entry. Oh well. Going on, the dream really brings together events from past, present, and his unconscious because the presents he received from his wife’s cousin (Trevor) are in the scene, the creepy doll/baby reflects the protagonist’s want for a child but also reflects a scene from his childhood, the totally crazy wife-stabbing scene triggers the protagonist’s fear of knives, his jealousy over his wife’s cousin, and his odd impulse to kill his wife.

Throughout the film there are various motifs, repetitions and recreation of certain scenes, and symbolism. The very first motif in this film would be knives. The very first shot of the movie is of the husband’s razor and whenever there is a knife/sharp object in the scene, it is always emphasized with an insert shot. Most of the time, the ones that usually have an insert shot are shown twice: the first time is when the husband isn’t scared of them and the second time is when the husband is afraid to touch or see them. So what could this mean? It seems silly to be scared of knives, right? This is when the psychoanalytic part comes in. His fear of knives symbolize his insecurity about his masculinity. Out of all the knives, the one that the cousin gives him is the biggest and longest one and his jealousy of his wife’s cousin is exposed later in the film. This could be tied into him being insecure because he still does not have a child and of course, the knife can be a phallic symbol. In Picture 3, the shadow you see is of the cousin and notice where his head is? Yes, between the wife’s legs! And then it cuts to the husband’s face where he look uncomfortable to see the shadow. In addition to the whole knife = masculinity argument, his fear of knives makes him even less masculine because he becomes a little kid who can’t take care of himself. His mother has to cut his food for him when he isn’t there and on top of that, she cuts them into little pieces!
Now that I think about it, a lot of the motifs refer to the husband’s want for a child and not having one, which connects to his masculinity. I can list quite a few, but I’ll just discuss one more! The prison bars/gates in the dream scene prevent the husband from going to certain places, particularly places where his wife and her cousin are. Gates would prevent him from going near his wife and her cousin multiple times in the main dream scene and in his other one where his wife is part of an orgy-like scene. In a scene of the present, there is a scene when the husband returns home and the psychoanalyst says that he looks reluctant to go back to his own house. The gate is what separates him from his wife and her cousin inside the house. Maybe he doesn’t want to go because he’s scared that he’ll see them together like he saw in his dream. Another thought I had was that the gate was also a symbol of how he will reach his cure. By meeting the psychoanalyst and having the psychoanalyst returning the key so that he can go home, the psychoanalyst is “opening the gate” to his cure. Just a thought.
And talking about symbolism, see Picture 1 because the tree represents the couple’s marriage and their hopes for a child, but while the tree grows, they don’t have a real child.

And of course, can you have a Stephany post without a superficial remark? NEVER! My crush on Hertha von Walther started when I saw her in an earlier Pabst film (Die freudlose Gasse) but she looked even sexier in this film! Look at that smirk! It’s such a shame that her films aren’t available to the public because I would like to see more of her. I also have a huge crush on Ruth Weyher as well and when I first watched this film, I didn’t realize that she was the same actress from another film I really liked. Weyher is absolutely gorgeous and reminds me of Clara Bow, in looks. Both are defintely talented too! Oh, and Weyher has amazing eyebrows in this film… not like it matters… but hey, I’m also the girl who told her professor that she can tell Zarah Leander right away in pictures due to her “distinct eyelashes”. *facepalm*

Anyway, I can go on and on analyzing this film but this post is long enough! But I should address the ending. It looks tacked on although one can see the techniques Pabst used in his earlier films being used in this film as well such as slow motion and using a hand-held camera. Although Pabst did a fabulous job directing this film (I loved the way all the scenes were set up and the actors were superb), the ending was a complete “WTF?!” moment for me. Yes, it’s obvious that the husband was cured because he finally has a child, but really? I thought the film could do without the epilogue. And the whole symbolism about water is repeated and then he catches a lot of fish, symbolizing… well, fertility and having lots of babies. But what threw me off the second time was that he drops the bucket of fish in excitement when his wife comes out of with their kid. First of all, yeah parents get excited to see their kids at times, but to the extent to drop something? And he has seen his child before, so why get overly excited? Second, in the earlier part of the film, the husband drops a test tube when he hears the news that his wife’s cousin has arrived. He looks happy to hear the news, but we all know that he is unconsciously jealous of him. The psychoanalyst says that such a response to the news was a sign that something wasn’t right, thus does that mean that something is still wrong with the husband when he dropped the bucket of fish?

I’m going to shut up now, but I think that this is a great Pabst film to watch. I’m doing a Pabst marathon so I’ll be posting about him quite often. I’m also reading scholarly articles on each film I watch, so maybe I’ll come back and post about this film again (sort of like a part two to this post). Also, I highly recommend that you read Herr Ferdinand von Galitzien’s post on this film as well; it’s much shorter than my long winded entry and I think it’s a nice complement to this post.
Although the story is cheesy, watch it for the cinematography. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

PS: Did you notice something funny and odd in the first picture? No? Look at the upper area of the picture. See it? If not there is a picture of a reclining nude woman (her head is on the left, legs to the right). I didn’t notice it nor did any of my group members for a class presentation of Geheimnisse einer Seele presentation notice it, but my professor pointed it out; he said that he didn’t see it until the film was restored and it really is an interesting touch to the scene.

IMDb Link: Geheimnisse einer Seele
Where to buy: Kino Video, Amazon.com

Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us) ; 1946

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

Director: Wolfgang Staudte
Actors: Ernst Wilhelm Borchert, Hildegard Knef, Arno Paulsen, Robert Forsch
Country: Germany (Soviet occupied Germany)

This was the first post-WWII German film I’ve watched, well, that’s not phrased correctly. I guess what I mean is that it’s the first German film I’ve watched between the time WWII ended and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before learning a bit about East German films and German history post-WWII, I always thought that East German films were crazy Communist/Socialist propaganda, but on the contrary, most films weren’t like that at all. With Die Mörder sind unter uns, it was a film about Germans reconciling with their past and learning to go forward with their lives while acknowledging the atrocities they committed.

First of all, I know that Staudte purposefully tried to use cinematographic techniques that were different than what the Nazis used and I think for the most part, he did succeed. Many of the shots reminded me of film noir (ref. Picture 2), German expressionist, and Kammerspielfilms, but the ending scene with the shots of the mass graves and super-impositions of crosses made me think of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des Willens and Hans Steinhoff’s Hitlerjunge Quex; the shots were mesmerizing and somewhat overwhelming as well. Some scenes were shot with a tilt that caused a sense of anxiety and made me wonder why he chose to film scenes in such a manner. Was it because he wanted to show the unrest in Germany? This is just my speculation.

The story had me wonder just how much Staudte was coming to terms with his past and Germany’s past. What did he want the viewers to take in from this film? Was this film Staudte’s apologia as well as apologizing for Germany’s actions during WWII or was it something that the Allies, particularly Russians, wanted? Just how pure were Staudte’s intentions and message? In some ways it reminded me of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il conformista and how Bertolucci looked at Italy’s fascist period, but Staudte’s film is also very different than Bertolucci’s. I know that the Russians knew the power of films and wanted the Germans to create films that were anti-fascist so that they can internalize it themselves rather than having outsiders consistently pushing their ideas. I also read that Staudte was embarrassed of his past and his connections to Nazi propaganda films.
The ambiguities of some of the characters’ pasts made me wonder just how much Staudte was accepting of the atrocities Germany commited. For example, Susanne (Knef) has survived living in a concentration camp, but the reasons why she was sent there are ambiguous. It is mentioned that she was taken to one due to her father, but why? My first thought when they mentioned concentration camps was that she must have been Jewish, but why only mention her father? Was he the only relative she had? Or was her father a communist, thus she was taken away as well? Her looks look like the ideal “Aryan” woman and she reminded me of Kristina Söderbaum, who was considered to be the prototype of an Aryan woman. Not only that, Söderbaum was in many propaganda films directed by her then husband Veit Harlan and both Staudte and Söderbaum starred in the infamous Jud Süß. Ok, now I’m just going off on a tangent, but really, why so vague about Susanne’s past?! And also with Herr Mondschein (Forsch) too! What’s his background? Susanne says that she is surprised to see that he has survived the war. Was it because he was in hiding? Why was he separated from his son? So many questions but no answers. This leads me to another complaint about lack of character development. Dr. Mertens (Borchert) is the driving force of this film with his past, his reconciliation with it, and how he comes to terms with it, but I wanted so much more from the other characters. Dr. Mertens rudely asks where Susanne was while Berlin was falling apart with people dying everywhere, and he says something like, “The country? The hills?” and Susanne doesn’t really say much and doesn’t mention that she was also suffering just as much or even more than the Berliners. Throughout the film, I assumed Susanne was Jewish thus I wondered iif they would address the relationship between a Jewish woman and an ex-Nazi officer, but no, they didn’t. Maybe Susanne was communist thus there really was no point in it? I don’t know.
I could really go indepth about my analysis of Dr. Mertens and how each action he commits reflects the “healing” process of Germany and about moral and social responsibility, but I think that’ll spoil the film too much (for you).

This is a film I would like to rewatch once I know more about German history. For those who do not know anything about German history and film, I’m not sure just how much I would recommend this film. Well, most people accept what happened during WWII and know something about it, so I guess it wouldn’t be so bad for anyone to watch this film. Maybe it’ll give a fresh look at it rather than overly analyzing it by trying to understand all the historical contexts that fit in with this film. Personally, I don’t know how I feel about this film. It was highly enjoyable but I tried to nit-pick it while watching it and kept wondering what each scene meant, what each camera angle implied, etcetera. But then again, I’m interested in the connection between what was going on when the films were created and the films themselves.
Ok, rather than all this random musing, my final verdict is, WATCH THIS FILM! I think it’s a great way to get oneself into German film from any period to see how films reflect German history. Also, this was the first post-WWII German film that was released, so it’s pretty awesome in that sense as well and the reason why this film was the first film to be released in Germany (both in West and East Germany) is interesting. I HIGHLY recommend Daniela Berghahn’s Hollywood Behind the Wall: The Cinema of East Germany, which I am currently reading right now. I sort of wish that I didn’t read a little bit of it because I wanted to watch East German films with a clear mind/clean slate so that my judgment and interpretations wouldn’t be influenced by outside ideas/historical context.

IMDb Link: Die Mörder sind unter uns
Where to buy: DEFA Film Library, Amazon.com