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A naïve cashier who is far above his social class and cultivated falls in love with a tramp who milks the old fool for what is worth. Her only concern is to keep her pimp and the arrangement leads to a course that has disastrous consequences for all concerned.
Renoir took the story and created a poignant film that established his reputation as a film maker. It was his first sound film and what with prevailing Hayes code,1930 (‘No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it’) La Chienne was never shown in the United States until 1975, 44 years after its original French release.
Duration:91 minutes,
Black and white,
Director: Jean Renoir
Plot:
A meek and unassuming office clerk, Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon), teased at his workplace and terrorized by a virago of a wife at home, declines an invitation from his co-workers to turn the evening’s dinner banquet festivities into a night of carousing. His excuse is that he was to be home before his wife’s midnight curfew. On the way home, he encounters a young man abusing a young woman and quickly interferes to stop it. Gallantly he hires a taxi to take them home. After leaving Dédé (Georges Flamant) he walks through the seedy section to her dump. Before he takes leave he lets her know his intention.
The scene quickly lays down the premise of the film. Social morality and individual morality are two sides of the same coin. Legrand who will refuse to let down his public image however ridiculous, to be called a whore monger is not averse himself to set up a tramp in a quiet apartment.
Lucienne Pelletier, nicknamed Lulu (Janie Marese) lets the aging cashier keep her in such circumstances so she has Dédé on hand. Maurice keeps giving money and artwork to Lulu, forgiving her even after he finds out that she’s been selling paintings by “Clara Wood” that are earning high prices. There is a subtext in the private life of Legrand who discovers Adèle’s “dead” husband Godard (Roger Gaillard) is not dead. Renoir with tongue in cheek humor delineates the character who is an out and out scoundrel. His game is blackmail. He has come back demanding Legrand buy him off. While he was sacrificing his life for the country Legrand had stolen his wife, something that will never go down well for his public image. To his shock the unhappily married Legrand is all too eager to simply step aside. Renoir seems to comment: in the eye of the society the sergeant is a hero, a martyr. It would rather keep a lie in circulation than condone the man who replaced him in his bed.
Coming back to the story this episode shuts up Adèle (Magdeleine Bérubet) who had carped eternally about hero of her husband. Legrand is at last free.Maurice Legrand quickly moves to the apartment he had set up for his mistress. It comes as a shock for him to discover the sad truth: she loved him only for what she could get out of him.
In one unforgettable cinematic moment Legrand turns up unnoticed at the apartment while a crowd in front of the building is raptly watching street singer perform. He kills the tramp and walks away unnoticed. Soon the lover-boy arrives driving up in such ostentatious manner breaking up the crowd.
‘The film’s conclusion suggests that Legrand, a respectable member of bourgeois society and a white collar worker, doesn’t have to pay for his actions,… when there’s a far less respectable scapegoat at hand’. The film ends with a weirdly tragicomic epilogue, in which Legrand and Godard meet up as hobos, years later, both of them gruff old men cackling about their shared fate. When Legrand confesses that he has become a murderer since they last met, Godard simply stares at him for a moment and then shrugs, “it takes all kinds.” ‘La Chienne ends with Legrand telling Godard, “life is beautiful.” They walk away together. (ack: only the cinema/April, 2,2012/seul-le-cinema.blogspot.)
Michael Simon again would take the role of a tramp. He appears in Boudu Saved From Drowning.
To quote Peter Bogdanovich ‘Of all the great filmmakers, Renoir is most the humanist poet, the one director who only made pictures about people—not stereotypes, not archetypes, not myths, but real people’. People are not suspended in vacuum but in a milieu that is contrived. In cinematic medium social consciousness of the director dictates visual clues to give it specific gravity:using deep focus photography Renoir gives life of the people going on around the main personages and using repeated imagery of mirrors and reflections we also see them as though under a microscope. Adèle’s keeping her monthly dividends inside a mirrored wardrobe; the shot of a shaving Legrand that pans to the image of the opened wardrobe as he pilfers money, surprising Lulu and her pimp in bed we see him in reflection as the intrusive third party, each object acquires a power of its own.
The film opens and ends as though we are taken through the proscenium of make believe. I shall end with Bogdanovich: ‘The seeming simplicity of Renoir—he never calls attention to himself, yet it is so clearly his eye through which we are seeing the world—belies an amazing complexity in his understanding of people, of the human comedy.’
Trivia:;”In the film Michel Simon falls in love with Janie Marèse, and he did off-screen as well, while Marèze fell for Georges Flamant, who plays the pimp. Renoir and producer Pierre Braunberger had encouraged the relationship between Flamant and Marèze in order to get the fullest conviction into their performances – (Flamant was a professional criminal but an amateur actor). After the film had been completed Flamant, who could barely drive, took Marèse for a drive, crashed the car and she was killed. At the funeral Michel Simon fainted and had to be supported as he walked past the grave. He threatened Renoir with a gun, saying that the death of Marèze was all his fault. “Kill me if you like”, responded Renoir, “but I have made the film”wikipedia)

benny

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Metropolis is a science fiction film based on a screenplay written in 1924 by Fritz Lang and his then wife, Thea von Harbou. She made it into a novel in 1926. This work by Fritz Lang was produced in Germany in the Babelsberg Studios at a time before the economic and political chaos could engulf the Weimar Republic. It was the most expensive silent film of the time, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark (equivalent to around $28 million USD in 2007).

The film is set in a future and a corporate city-state, the metropolis is the stage for examing an idea that was hot in the 20’s: the social crisis between workers and owners in capitalism. The film had a checkered history, the original and longest version was briefly screened in Germany in 1927 of which a quarter of the footage was believed to be permanently lost. But later this portion resurfaced in a film museum in Argentina! There is an American version, which is a fraction of the original and it is what often referred to and discussed.

Plot

The film is set in the year 2026, and the city state, the metropolis of the title is run by Johann ‘Joh’ Fredersen (Alfred Abel).
Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged.
The beautiful but a firebrand for the workers, Maria (Brigitte Helm) advises the desperate workers not to start a revolution, and instead wait for the arrival of “The Mediator”, who, she says, will unite the two halves of society. Meanwhile the son of Fredersen, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), becomes infatuated with Maria, and follows her down into the working underworld and realizes firsthand the situation. ( After an explosion at the “M-Machine”, the employers are more concerned with keeping the machine than attending to the safety of the wounded. They bring in replacements.) Disgusted Freder joins her cause.

While the love is nascent in such lower depths above it is business as usual. Johann has  a rival in Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Rotwang has built a robotic gynoid. Rotwang wants to give the robot the appearance of Hel but Johann requests him to give the robot the appearance of Maria instead. His aim is to hold his control over the workers using Maria as a robot while Rotwang who lost his sweetheart to Johann knowsshe died giving birth to Freder. He has his own plans to separate Maria from Johann. So he consents to the request of Johann.
After unleashing the real and the robot things really hot up in Metropolis.
The robot is passed for an exotic dancer and she proves to be a  a hit with the well heeled Yoshiwara crowd. Meanwhile the real Maria is held a prisoner at the castle of Rotwang. The robot descents to the underworld and create confusion: workers mistake Maria as the cause for the havoc set off by robot Maria in the wake of destruction of “Heart Machine”, the power station of the city. Nor they can understand it was the real Maria and Federer who saved them in a heroic rescue.

When the workers realize the damage the uppercrust have done and that their children are lost, they under the leadership of Grot, the foreman go up to seek revenge. They chase the human Maria, whom they hold responsible for their loss. As they break into the city’s entertainment district, they run into and capture the robot Maria, while the human Maria manages to escape. The workers burn the captured Maria at the stake; Freder, believing this to be the human Maria, despairs but then he and the workers realize that the burned Maria is in fact a robot.

Meanwhile, the human Maria is chased by Rotwang along the battlements of the city’s cathedral. Freder chases after Rotwang, resulting in a climactic scene in which Joh Fredersen watches in terror as his son struggles with Rotwang on the cathedral’s roof. Rotwang falls to his death, and Maria and Freder return to the street, where Freder unites Fredersen (the “head”) and Grot (the “hands”), fulfilling his role as the “Mediator” (the “heart”).

Cast

* Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen
* Gustav Fröhlich as Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son
* Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Rotwang
* Fritz Rasp as the Thin Man
* Theodor Loos as Josaphat
* Erwin Biswanger as Worker 11811 / Georgi
* Heinrich George as Grot, Foreman of the Heart Machine
* Brigitte Helm as Maria/robot
Architecture and visual effects was a novelty then and the set design still impress modern audiences with their visual impact—the film contains cinematic and thematic links to German Expressionism, is based on contemporary Modernism and Art Deco.  It stands as an emblem associated with the ruling class in the film.

Rotwang’s Art Deco laboratory with its lights and industrial machinery similary add to the cult status of the film. In science fiction, this style is sometimes called Raygun Gothic.

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created innovative visual displays widely acclaimed in following years. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the so-called Schüfftan process, later used by Alfred Hitchcock in his film Blackmail (1929).

The Maschinenmensch, the robot character played by Brigitte Helm, was created by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. A chance discovery of a sample of “plastic wood” (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed him to sculpt the costume like a suit of armour over a plaster cast of the actress. Spraypainted a mix of silver and bronze, it helped create some of the most memorable moments on film.
Themes
Dualism is a running theme. Maria as the worker’s guiding spirit while she is replicated as a robot to undo her effect on workers who themselves show dichotomy of workers conscious of the disparity between the classes and who toil as automata (the viwer cannot see their faces, and they work and move as rhythmically as the machines they operate.) Rotwang, the ‘mad scientist’ is another whose mad genius and hatred is in context of Johann whose selfishness is however tempered by his fatherly concern.
The film has drawn heavily from the story of the Tower of Babel (from the book of Genesis). One may envision a grandiose monument to the greatness of humanity but would need labor of millions whose requirements are different from those who think up the skyscrapers high enough to reach the stars. The camera focuses on armies of workers led to the construction site of the monument. They work hard but cannot understand the dreams of the Tower’s designers, and the designers don’t concern themselves with the mind of their workers. As the film explains, “The dreams of a few had turned to the curses of many”.
Irony of the class war jells with the tragedy of the Biblical  Tower: the planners and the workers spoke the same language but didn’t understand each other. As the scene ends and the camera show us that only ruins remain of the Tower of Babel. This retelling is notable in keeping the theme of the lack of communication from the original story but placing it in the context of relations between social classes.

The entire film is dominated by technology: much of the technology portrayed in the film is unexplained and appears bizarre, for example the enormous “M-Machine” and the “Heart Machine.” Lang obviously could only work with technology of the 20’s and much of it to our sophisticated level seem mere curiosities of an outmoded era.’ The ultimate expression of technology in the entire film is the female robot built by Rotwang, referred to as the Maschinenmensch (“Machine Human” or “Machine Man”). In the original German version Rotwang’s creation is a reconstruction of his dead lover, a woman called Hel…’(wikipedia)
Lang, in his later years did claim his visit to New York in 1924 inspired Metropolis.

Release
On January 10, 1927, a 210 minute version of the film premiered in Berlin with moderate success…After sound films came in in late 1927, theatre managers saw to it that the film was shown using a sound film projector at the standard sound film speed of up to 26 frames per second (as at its Berlin premiere). This affected the rhythm and pace of the original film, which had been made to be shown at the standard silent film speed of 16 frames per second…
American and foreign theatre managers were generally unwilling to allow more than ninety minutes to a feature in their program Few people outside of Berlin saw Metropolis as Fritz Lang originally intended. In the United States, the movie was shown in a version edited by the American playwright Channing Pollock, who almost completely obscured the original plot.’-wikipedia

Despite the film’s later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mourdant Hall called it a “technical marvel with feet of clay”. H. G. Wells thought it was foolish to think that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley’s Frankenstein, Karel Čapek’s robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes.

Joseph Goebbels was impressed however and clearly took the film’s message to heart. In a speech of 1928 he noted: “The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labour, to begin their historical mission”.

Fritz Lang himself expressed dissatisfaction with the film. Lang’s distaste for his own film perhaps stemmed from personal reasons. While his wife embraced the cause of Nazism passionately (Von Harbou became a passionate member of the Nazi Party in 1933) he fled from Germany and he and his wife were divorced in 1934.

Restorations and re-releases

Enno Patalas made an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This restoration was the most accurate for its time, thanks to the script and the musical score that had been discovered. The basis of Patalas’ work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection.
The F.W. Murnau Foundation (which now owns the film’s copyright) and Kino International (now the film’s domestic distributor) released a 118-minute, digitally restored version in 2002, undertaken by Martin Koerber. It included the original music score and title cards describing the action in the missing sequences.

Music
The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz who had composed the original scores for Lang’s Die Nibelungen films in 1924. As for this film, Huppertz composed a leitmotific orchestral score which included many elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss plus some additional score for the city of the workers and the use of the popular Dies Irae for some apocalyptic imagery. His music played a quite prominent role while shooting the picture, since during principal photography, many scenes were accompanied by him playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

Cultural influences
Shots from the film are extensively featured in the video for Queen (band)’s 1984 song Radio Ga Ga.

The visual design for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was influenced by Metropolis. These include a built up urban environment, in which the wealthy literally live above the workers, dominated by a huge building. Compare the New Tower of Babel in Metropolis with the Tyrell Building in Blade Runner.

check out for more German films cinebuff.wordpress.com
compiler:benny

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: Fritz Lang’s Dark Masterpiece, Still Shocking After All These Years (also known as M – Mörder unter uns (Germany) Murderers Among Us(working title)
M is for murder. It is as the mark of Cain, a commentary etched into the dehumanised soul of our society, M in the context of the movie holds a visual clue: it is tagged by an informer who is in the guise of a blind. He also serves as the front for the underworld.
The letter M is the same in its mirror image: society as we get to see in everyday world and shown to be something decent and morally uplifting holds a mirror image, the darker face of the underworld.  In Fritz Lang’s bleak vision of humanity dog eats dog. period. Elsewhere we see superimposed shots of police and the underworld  planning a  concerted manhunt with the city map opened out in front. Each has his own self interest and imperative that doesnot necessarily mean murder most foul must be eradicated from their midst. Oh no in the hall of mirrors no one is completely untouched by evil. The police have their own interests to protect as the underworld have theirs.
Now I shall outline the plot that is simple enough.
In an unnamed city (the story was based on a case in Duesseldorf, but many critics place the setting in Berlin, where “M” was filmed), a child murderer is stalking the streets. The Police search is so intense, it is disturbing the ‘normal’ criminals, and the local hoods decide to help find the murderer as quickly as possible.

A psychotic child murderer stalks a city, and despite an exhaustive investigation fueled by public hysteria and outcry, the police have been unable to find him. But the police crackdown does have one side-affect, it makes it very inconvenient for the organized criminal underground to operate. So they decide that the only way to get the police off their backs is to catch the murderer themselves. The film is constructed as a double manhunt.
‘Peter Lorre’s sweaty, puffy, froggy-eyed portrayal of a child murderer remains one of the most frightening images in screen history. All moist flesh and grubby, fat little fingers, infantile and pathetic yet truly monstrous at once, Lorre’s character is one of the great monuments to the true squalor of evil. He is not banal in the least, but neither is he dramatic: He’s a little worm with an unspeakable obsession, insane and yet a horrible reflection of the society that created him.

In a brilliant early montage Lang shows us the young Elsie being suavely picked up by her shadowy killer, led along streets and into the woods. There’s no on-screen violence, of course, but the sense of menace is unbearably intense, particularly as Lang signifies the murderer’s dementia in musical terms, having him whistle a selection from “Peer Gynt” as the demon’s grip on his soul grows more fierce. Lang polishes off the sequence with two horrifying images: Elsie’s ball bouncing across the grass, losing energy, and reaching stasis; and Elsie’s balloon caught (as if in torment) in the suspended telephone wires.’
… The cops, under great pressure, mount a massive manhunt; they attack the only target they have, which is the underworld — these guys are so well organized, they even have a stolen-sandwich ring! — and so the crooks respond by attempting on their own to find the killer.

In allegorical terms, Lang seemed to be getting at the escalating conflict between the increasingly inept Weimar Republic and the increasingly efficient underground Nazi Party, and the underworld, being more merciless and better organized, is able to uncover the villain before police.
But even when Lang documents the final apprehension (in a brilliantly edited and timed sequence where the cops are racing to a building that the gangsters have all but commandeered as they search it), he has a surprise. That is the ironic trial of which the clammy little human mushroom, where at last he speaks for himself, declares his own insanity and the pain it’s caused him and asks them who they are to judge — interesting questions to be asked in the Germany of 1931.

But the movie is, perhaps, just as interesting as a piece of film design as it is as a piece of narrative. It was the domestic high-water mark of German expressionist filmmakers, who were about to be dispersed around the world by the rise of those same Nazis, who would gain power in 1933.

German expressionism, which may have gotten to its strangest moment in 1919’s “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” was essentially a visual version of a treacherous universe. It was spread by this diaspora of fleeing German genius (including Lang, who went on to have a distinguished American career) and came to light in the works of Hitchcock and Welles but perhaps most notably in that movie genre known as film noir, which dominated the American screen in the late ’40s.

(ack: Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post published: April 22, 1998)

Germany( The Nazis banned this movie in July1934-1945), Black and White, 117 min / 110 min (2004 Criterion DVD edition)
Memorable Quotes:
Hans Beckert: I can’t help what I do! I can’t help it, I can’t…
Criminal: The old story! We never can help it in court!
Hans Beckert: What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn’t need to do all that if you’d learn a proper trade or if you’d work. If you weren’t a bunch of lazy bastards. But I… I can’t help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!
Schraenker: Do you mean to say that you have to murder?
Hans Beckert: It’s there all the time, driving me out to wander the streets, following me, silently, but I can feel it there. It’s me, pursuing myself! I want to escape, to escape from myself! But it’s impossible. I can’t escape, I have to obey it. I have to run, run… endless streets. I want to escape, to get away! And I’m pursued by ghosts. Ghosts of mothers and of those children… they never leave me. They are always there… always, always, always!, except when I do it, when I… Then I can’t remember anything. And afterwards I see those posters and read what I’ve done, and read, and read… did I do that? But I can’t remember anything about it! But who will believe me? Who knows what it’s like to be me? How I’m forced to act… how I must, must… don’t want to, must! Don’t want to, but must! And then a voice screams! I can’t bear to hear it! I can’t go on! I can’t… I can’t…

2.
Pickpocket with 6 Watches: There are more police on the street tonight than whores.
3.
Children: [singing] Just you wait, it won’t be long. The man in black will soon be here. With his cleaver’s blade so true. He’ll make mincemeat out of YOU!
4.
[to union member asleep next to him]
Beggar’s Union Member: Stop snoring! You’ll wake up the lice.
5.
Frau Beckmann: Elsie?… Elsie?… ELSIE!
Hans Beckert: That is a nice ball you have.
6,
Franz, the burglar: [Franz is being tricked into thinking he killed the night watchman, and is going to jail for it] Please, Herr Kommissar! I’ll tell you everything; even who we were looking for in that damned building.
Inspector Groeber: Really. Who?
Franz, the burglar: The child murderer, Herr Kommissar!
Woman in Crowd: Shoot him like a mad dog!
7.
Man in Pub: Hey, it’s fatty Lohmann!
Everyone in Pub: [Chanting] Lohmann, Lohmann, Lohmann!
Elisabeth Winkler, Beckert’s landlady: Could you speak louder please, I’m a bit hard of hearing.
Policeman: As if I couldn’t tell.
Inspector Karl Lohmann: Good God! The window sill!
Peter Lorre…     Hans Beckert
Ellen Widmann    …     Frau Beckmann
Inge Landgut    …     Elsie Beckmann
Otto Wernicke    …     Inspector Karl Lohmann
Theodor Loos    …     Inspector Groeber
Gustaf Gründgens    …     Schränker
Friedrich Gnaß    …     Franz, the burglar
Fritz Odemar    …     The cheater
Paul Kemp    …     Pickpocket with six watches
Theo Lingen    …     Bauernfänger
Rudolf Blümner    …     Beckert’s defender
Georg John    …     Blind panhandler
Franz Stein    …     Minister
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur    …     Police chief
Gerhard Bienert    …     Criminal secretary

compiler-benny

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