Sohrab Shahid Saless – Grabbes letzter Sommer AKA Grabbe’s Last Summer (1980)

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Talented Iranian director Sohrab Shahid Saless has succeeded in taking on an unusual project — the life and times of a German literary figure — and making it interesting. Christian Dietrich Grabbes lived a very short life in the first half of the 19th century and is primarily known for his satire, skepticism, basurd theater and the fact that he presaged the Postmodern movement in literature. Hannibal and Don Juan and Faust are two of his better-known works. In this docudrama, his Comedy, Satire, Irony and Deeper Meaning is featured partly because it gives a drubbing to the icons of German thought that had a stranglehold on the creative process. One memorable moment in this three-and-a-half-hour story is when the alcoholic writer is caught in the throes of delirium and comes around to see his own mother as a figure of death. The irony is that an Iranian director could capture the spirit and age of a German writer so well. —allmovie guide Continue reading

Werner Schroeter – Nuit de chien AKA This Night (2008)

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Werner Schroeter is one of the German new wave’s prophets without honour. He was too confrontationally weird to take his place alongside Fassbinder, Wenders and Herzog in the international distribution sweepstakes and the disturbingly freaked-out Nuit de Chien goes a long way to suggesting why.

The film posits Pascal Greggory as a man fleeing a nameless fascist dictatorship currently in the throes of a power struggle. Fleeing the nation, he can’t seem to find his wife and in searching for her winds up in brothels, alleys and avenues of power. As in the best magic realism, the country is a place of surreal dislocation, with people doing appalling things apparently against their personal dispositions and making peace with insane circumstances. Continue reading

Helmut Käutner – Der Apfel ist ab AKA The Original Sin AKA The Apple Fell (1948)

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Lubitsch wrote:
Time again to raise more interest in post war German cinema before the Heimatfilm wave and Käutner’s witty and inventive comedy is just a fine example to do that. Again it’s in the end no masterpiece, but not unlike Geheimnisvolle Tiefe you can feel the experimental impulse and vibrancy of these early post war films.
An apple juice producer can’t decide between his wife and his secretary and tries to commit suicide. Being committed to psychiatry (the doctor being played by director Käutner himself) he falls asleep and dreams of adventures as Adam and Eve in heaven and hell. The realistic frame story is shot like a parody of a rubble film with tilted camera angles throughout, while the main story line, the dream, takes place in a surrealistic heaven and hell decoration which takes input from Dali, Miro and other artists. Continue reading

Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub – Paul Cézanne im Gespräch mit Joachim Gasquet AKA Cézanne: Conversation with Joachim Gasquet (1989)

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Description: In 1989 Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet realized a film project that was commissioned by Virginie Herbin, director of the audiovisual department of the Musée d’Orsay. The film is based on Joachim Gasquet’s recollected and imagined dialogs with Cézanne, Ce qui m’a dit…(1921).

A montage comprising paintings by the artist, footage shot at the foot of Mont Sainte-Victoire and film scenes from both Jean Renoir’s Madame Bovary and the Straub’s The Death of Empedocles. The film is an homage to light, color, painting, nature, cinema and the terrible and glorious world of reality. Continue reading

Horst E. Brandt & Heinz Thiel – Heroin (1968)

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This East German movie was co-produced with studios in Hungary and Yugoslavia, with many interesting location shots (border checkpoint to West Berlin, the Gellert bath in Budapest, and more). The plot is about French drug dealers, who obtain heroin somewhere in the Middle East, and smuggle it in several steps to East Berlin, and from there to France (or so it appears), killing when necessary. The hero is an officer of East German customs, who with detective work, some masquerade, and occasional violent action ultimately unravels the whole network, of course with the support of the local customs departments. Continue reading

Georg Wilhelm Pabst – Das Bekenntnis der Ina Kahr AKA The Confession of Ina Kahr (1954)

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Synopsis:
‘Told in flashback, the film recounts the events leading up to the killing of good-for-nothing Curt Jurgens. Warned by her friends and relatives that Jurgens is a bad job, impulsive Ina Kahr marries him anyway. His ceaseless philandering and abuse wears away at Ina to the point that she contemplates poisoning her husband…’
– MRQE Continue reading

Wim Wenders – Die Gebrüder Skladanowsky AKA A Trick of the Light (1995)

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“A Trick of Light” is a silly yet sporadically entertaining pseudo-documentary in which filmmaker Wim Wenders, along with the help of several film school students, tells the story of the Skladanowsky brothers – Max, Eugen, and Emil. In the late 1800s, the trio invented a method for projecting moving images which they called a Bioscope; unfortunately for the siblings, Auguste and Louis Lumière also emerged at around the same time with a similar – yet vastly superior – device called the Cinematographe. Wenders alternates between re-enacted footage of the brothers’ misadventures and an interview with Max’s 91-year-old daughter, with the former shot entirely on a vintage, hand-cranked camera (lending such sequences the feel of an authentic silent movie). It’s all very cute and watchable, though one can’t help but lament Wenders’ ill-advised decision to weave fictional elements into the interview footage (ie Max’s elderly daughter is interesting enough to ensure that such shenanigans ultimately come off as distracting and superfluous). Add to that the utterly interminable end credits (which go on for 20 minutes!), and you’ve got a film that’s admittedly not as bad as some of Wenders other efforts but disappointing nevertheless. Continue reading