Stephan Geene – Umsonst AKA For Nothing (2014)

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Unannounced, Aziza is once again standing in her room – internship, Portugal, everything canceled. But her room is occupied. Her mother, Trixi, has rented it out. Zach lives there now, a twenty-something from New Zealand, who came to Germany on a one-way ticket. Starting from this situation, the film develops an almost documentary-style portrait of a Kreuzberg ‘situation’: everything is readily available, time, people, summer, streets. And in the end a crash, the film itself: ‘for nothing’? Continue reading

Oliver Haffner – Ein Geschenk der Götter AKA A Godsend (2014)

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Out of the blue Anna, an actress at a provincial community theater, gets fired. Fresh off the stage, she suddenly finds herself at the local job center. On the urging of her theater-mad case worker, she takes on an acting course for seven “hard-to-place clients“ — as a compulsory training measure. Overcoming huge resistance, Anna forms the bunch of frustrated lone wolves into a group and starts to rehearse Antigone with them. This gives new impetus to the participants’ own private dramas, while Anna too experiences a sort of “comeback” for which she wasn’t quite prepared. Continue reading

Werner Herzog – Herz aus Glas AKA Heart of Glass (1976)

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Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Heart of Glass (Herz aus Glas) is essentially a treatise by Werner Herzog on the power and importance of art. Director Herzog was known to put his actors through the wringer to get the results he wanted. In this film, Herzog decided that the best way to get his people to dance to the crack of his whip was to actually put them under hypnosis! The dazed, zombie-like performances certainly fit the subject matter. This is the story of an 18th-century Bavarian glassblower who by virtue of his delicate work virtually casts a spell over his neighbors. When the glassblower dies, the townsfolk discover that he failed to leave behind the secret for his special ruby glassware — and will do literally anything to find the answer. The word usually used to describe Heart of Glass is “haunting”; some viewers have gone beyond haunted and into “possessed.” Watch carefully and spot director Herzog in a bit as a glass carrier. Continue reading

F.W. Murnau – Der Letzte Mann AKA The Last Laugh (1924)

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Jannings’ character, the doorman for a famous hotel, is demoted to washroom (bathroom) attendant, as he is considered too old and infirm to be the image of the hotel. He tries to conceal his demotion from his friends and family, but to his shame, he is discovered. His friends, thinking he has lied to them all along about his prestigious job, taunt him mercilessly while his family rejects him out of shame. The man, shocked and in incredible grief, returns to the hotel to sleep in the bathroom where he works. The only person to be kind towards him is the night watchman, who covers him with his coat as he falls asleep. Continue reading

Hito Steyerl – Liquidity Inc. (2014)

Hito Steyerl is a Berlin-based artist and writer who’s new work, Liquidity Inc., is presented here. Liquidity Inc., which exhibited at the London Institute of Contemporary Art in April 2014, takes up liquidity as a concept in all of its physical, metaphorical, bodily, spiritual, meteorological and financial forms. In the main the film follows Jacob Wood a financial worker fired during the recent major economic crisis who now has a career in mixed martial arts. Continue reading

Oskar Fischinger – Twelve Short Films by Oskar Fischinger (1924 – 1942)

Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) embodied the modernist ideal of the maladaptive artist so well that a balanced evaluation of his work as filmmaker and painter depends on one’s ability to withhold automatic beatification based solely on his biography. Born and educated in Germany, exiled to Los Angeles when Hitler came to power and abstraction was decreed a “degenerate art,” Fischinger was an uncompromising abstractionist who throughout his life retained a dogged faith in the transcendental potential of pure geometry and color. Persecuted in Germany and condemned to grinding poverty after he settled in L.A., Fischinger’s devotion to the integrity of his art was exemplary. Continue reading