JUNUN (USA/2015) Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson
54 min|DCP|OmU – German Premiere
Das Werk von Paul Thomas Anderson ist eng mit Musik verknüpft. In Junun, seinem ersten Dokumentarfilm, begleitet er Jonny Greenwood auf einer Reise in die indische Stadt Jodhpur wo dieser zusammen mit indischen und israelischen Musikern ein Album einspielt. Ist er in seinen Spielfilmen ein vehementer Verfechter analogen Filmmaterials, so experimentiert er hier verspielt und mit sichtlicher Freude mit Digitalkameras. Während die Musiker etwa im prächtigen Schloss des Maharadscha die Musik einspielen, füttert auf dem Dach ein Mann die Vögel, eine Aufgabe, die seine Familie seit Generationen erfüllt. Andersons Kamera, montiert an einer Drohne, schießt senkrecht in die Höhe durch den Vogelschwarm. Ein euphorisch befreiender Moment in diesem nicht minder euphorischer Film über Musik.
Spring 2015, the Maharaja of Jodhpur, India hosts Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood, Nigel Godrich, Paul Thomas Anderson and a dozen Indian musicians. The team assembles a makeshift studio at the Maharaja’s Fort, and over the following three weeks creates the joyous collaboration that becomes the music and film of Junun (madness of love). Junun is a cross-cultural, cross religious meeting point between the mystical Islam of Sufi, Qawwali, and Rajasthani Gypsy musicians interwoven with devotional poetries in Urdu, Hebrew, and Hindi.
IN JACKSON HEIGHTS (USA/2015) Dir: Frederick Wiseman
190 min|DCP|OV – Berlin Premiere
Man sagt, dass in Jackson Heights, einem Quartier im New Yorker Stadtteil Queens, 167 verschiedene Sprachen gesprochen werden. In diesen brummenden Meltingpot begibt sich Frederick Wiseman mit seinem 40. Film. Es ist einer seiner schönsten, eine große Stadtsymphonie, überbordend vor Farben, Klängen und Gerüchen. Im Verlauf von drei Stunden erfahren wir von Problemen von LGBT-Gruppen, von Generationskonflikten, dem schwierigen Leben von Immigranten und einer stetig voranschreitenden Gentrifizierung. Man spürt die Präsenz von Wiseman in jedem Bild, seine immer wieder durchbrechende Meinung sowie die Leidenschaft der Menschen vor seiner Kamera machen In Jackson Heights zu einem der wichtigsten amerikanischen Filme des vergangenen Jahres. Ein Film über die USA – dessen erste Bilder Menschen in einer Moschee zeigen.
Jackson Heights, Queens, New York City is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the United States and the world. There are immigrants from every country in South America, Mexico, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and China. Some of the issues the film raises— assimilation, integration, immigration and cultural and religious differences—are common to all the major cities of the Western world. The subject of the film is the daily life of the people in this community and the conflict between maintaining ties to traditions of the countries of origin and the need to learn and adapt to American ways and values.
HENRY GAMBLE’S BIRTHDAY PARTY (USA/2015) Dir: Stephen Cone, With: Cole Doman, Joe Keery, Elizabeth Laidlaw, Pat Healy
87 min|DCP|OV – German Premiere
Henry Gamble wohnt in einem schicken Vorort Chicagos, ein großer Swimmingpool füllt den Garten. Nun feiert er seinen 17. Geburtstag und lädt zahlreiche Freunde zu einer Poolparty ein. Man hört Musik, trinkt Limonade und spricht über Gott. Denn Henry wächst in einem christlichen Umfeld auf. Sein Vater ist ein hipper Pastor, zusammen mit seinen Freunden besucht er religiöse Ferienlager und seine ältere Schwester studiert Biologie (minus Evolutionslehre) an einer ebenfalls christlichen Uni. Es überrascht nicht, dass es unter dieser Oberfläche brodelt und das auch hier Scheinheiligkeit herrscht. Wie Stephen Cone jedoch die jungen Menschen porträtiert und sie in knappen Bikinis (plus angeheftetem Kreuz) und Badehosen in ihrer ganzen Körperlichkeit filmt, ist in seiner Sinnlichkeit besonders eindrücklich. Ein Film über das Erwachen – religiös, sexuell – getragen von einem Elektro-Soundtrack.
Set over 24 climactic hours at a suburban pool party, this minutely observed character study follows the 17-year-old son of an evangelical preacher as he comes to terms with the gap between spiritual faith and carnal desire. As day turns to night, long-held secrets come to light and tightly controlled lives begin to unravel. Featuring a delicately interwoven ensemble, lyrical cinematography, and a lush synth score, Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party turns a sympathetic eye toward the facades we all create.
THE GRIEF OF OTHERS (USA/2015) Dir: Patrick Wang, With: Trevor St. John, Wendy Moniz, Oona Laurence
102 min|DCP|OV – German Premiere
In Anwesenheit von Patrick Wang/Director Patrick Wang in attendance!
In seinem zweiten Film The Grief of Others erzählt Patrick Wang von einer Familie, die den Tod eines neugeborenen Kindes nur schwer verkraftet. Während Ricky und John versuchen, ihr Leben so gut wie möglich fortzuführen, entwickeln ihre beiden Kinder ein immer eigenwilligeres Verhalten. Worte für ihre Trauer zu finden, das gelingt derweil keinem. Und dann taucht auch noch die ältere Tochter aus Johns erster Ehe auf. Sie ist schwanger. Das drohende Auseinanderbrechen einer weißen Familie der Mittelschicht gehört zu den beliebtesten Sujets des Independent-Films. Doch “niemand im modernen amerikanischen Kino macht Filme wie Patrick Wang”. (Michael Tully) Und so ist The Grief of Others von seiner ersten Einstellung, pink und geisterhaft, bis zur traumhaften letzten Einstellung ein Film, der trotz der schweren Thematik keinem modischen Pessimismus verfällt und immer wieder Konventionen unterläuft.
The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of their newborn son just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Unable to express their grief, parents John and Ricky attempt to return to their previous lives. Their other children, Biscuit (10) and Paul (13) begin to act out in exquisitely idiosyncratic ways as a response to the unspoken tensions around them. But as the family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they find themselves growing more alert to the hurt, humor, warmth and burdens of others, as well as the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.
EXPERIMENTER (USA/2015) Dir: Michael Almereyda, With: Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder
98 min|DCP|OV – Berlin Premiere
In Anwesenheit von Michael Almereyda /Director Michael Almereyda in attendance!
Während der Eichmann-Prozess in Jerusalem weltweit für Schlagzeilen sorgt, führt der amerikanische Wissenschaftler Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) 1961 eine Reihe von Experimenten zum Gehorsam durch. Was veranlasst Menschen, blind Befehlen zu gehorchen? Die Ergebnisse waren erschütternd: Die große Mehrheit folgte den Anweisungen, selbst dann, wenn sie der zweiten Testperson (vermeintlich) Schmerzen zufügten. Nach dem Vampirfilm Nadja (USA 1994) und der Literaturverfilmung Hamlet (USA 2000) interpretiert Michael Almereyda nun mit Experimenter das Biopic neu. Er lässt Milgram als Erzähler seines eigenen Lebens auftreten und verwirft den im biografischen Film so beliebten Naturalismus. Immer wieder spricht der Forscher direkt in die Kamera, ein anderes Mal folgt ihm ein Elefant durch die Gänge der Universität. “Indem er karge Sets mit unverhohlenen künstlichen Tableaus mixt, scheint Michael Almereyda zu suggerieren, dass Milgram in seiner Suche nach Wahrheit schlussendlich in einer Welt schwebte, die irgendwo zwischen der realen und der seiner Imagination angesiedelt war.” (Manohla Dargis)
Yale University, 1961. Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) designs a psychology experiment that remains relevant to this day – chosen volunteers believe they are delivering painful electric shocks to a total stranger strapped into a chair in an adjoining room. Disregarding the pleas for mercy, the majority of subjects do not stop the experiment, administering what they think are near-fatal electric shocks simply because they’ve been told to. Milgram’s exploration of authority and conformity strikes a nerve in popular culture and the scientific community alike. Celebrated in some circles, he is also accused of being a deceptive, manipulative monster. His wife Sasha (Winona Ryder) anchors him through it all.
FRI 3.6, 20:00 Arsenal 1 (Q&A with director Michael Almereyda)
A few weeks ago, legendary film critic Glenn Kenny interviewed director Gena Telaroli about her film „Here’s to the Future!“ on his site, and he was kind enough to let us republish it here.
The young filmmaker Gina Telaroli has a new picture premiering this upcoming Saturday, December 13, at the Migrating Forms festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Here’s To The Future! is both an immediately engaging and consistently (playfully) challenging piece of work; I characterize it below as an essay film disguised as a process film. The premise of the movie is simple: Telaroli assembles a small crew and variable cast to enact a scene from an obscure Michael Curtiz-directed melodrama from the early ’30s, The Cabin In The Cotton (which costarred soon-to-be-casualty-of-the-talkies Richard Barthelmess and not-yet-ascended star Bette Davis), and gives herself a single afternoon to get it done. (It occurs to me now that there’s also something slightly OULIPean about the enterprise.) All of the folks assembled have their own devices which are shooting the shooting and the finished feature intercuts footage off devices ranging from a Blackberry Curve to a Canon 60D. Where Telaroli’s prior feature, 2012’s Traveling Light (which I wrote about here) made a kind of abstract narrative out of an abandoned attempt at a different narrative film, Here’s To The Future! adopts an interrogative mode from the get-go. But because it gets so close to the people who are part of it, the movie never feels hermetic or theoretical. It’s both as unconventional and accessible as filmmaking gets, in a funny way. Go see it.
I engaged Gina, who’s a friend, in an e-mail interview, and here’s how it went.
GK: Your first feature, A Little Death is, from all appearances, a pretty conventionally conceived and produced narrative film in that it seems to be the work of actors and a crew working from a script, etcetera. Traveling Light is a movie that aspired to be one thing, and ended up as something else due to circumstances of shooting and then again with respect to editing. Here’s To The Future! is something else yet again: a kind of essay film in the disguise of a process film. Was that what your conception was from beginning to end or, as with Traveling Light, was that something that changed along the timeline of the production?
GT: Like Traveling Light, HTTF! isn’t conventional in terms of its conception and is very much a product of circumstances, some in my control and some not. The scene we are shooting was actually supposed to be part of a short film I was making for an omnibus project that was centered on the theme of ‘proof.’ I was going to make a film comprised of documentary footage I shot in Ohio and have that transition to the narrative scene we shot on that Sunday in September. The omnibus project fell through, so that film never got made, but even before that project turned to dust, I knew I was more interested in the document of the shoot itself and the repetition in the performances of the scene, that that was the real “movie.”
GK: It looks as if, in the films where you work from footage you generate yourself and/or with the collaboration of your colleagues, your role as director is less that of a traditional auteur and more as a conductor or prompter. You’re creating a set of circumstances for creative people to enact and recording and digesting—via editing—the results. Is that an accurate characterization?
GT: I don’t disagree with what you wrote, though something about your question feels like it discredits my voice as the author a bit? My films are 100% the result of circumstance and they are definitely dependent on collaboration and the people I work with, which I love, but I still put all the elements in the room, if that makes sense. For HTTF! I chose the scene, the people, the day, and I did direct a lot of the footage, even if it’s used in a different context. Also, while it isn’t directing exactly, I have to imagine the mood, the general feeling of the day and thus the progression of events was due in part to the environment I created and sustained.
Also, in Classic Hollywood (and even in the current iteration of the studio system) directors didn’t necessarily have a lot of choice about content or collaborators but of course the entire idea of the auteur was developed around them. The main difference here is that instead of directing a traditional story with the creative elements given to me (script, actors, crew), I’m basically directing the story in the edit with the creative elements given to me (footage).
I do like the idea of comparing myself to a conductor although I think a more accurate metaphoric description might be that what I do is like being a contestant on MasterChef during one of the Mystery Box Challenges. Ultimately I have to use the ingredients given to me (footage) but at the end of the day I’m still the author, the recipe prepared is mine.
GK: Why did you want to reenact this particular scene from The Cabin In The Cotton?
GT: The simple and practical answer, which always factors into my no-budget filmmaking, is that I needed something that looked and felt like a movie scene and I needed that scene to be a simple one with minimal characters that could be shot in an apartment in one afternoon. After those practical considerations came the fact that in the months leading up to that shoot, Film Forum was having one of their pre-code series and I was going nightly and rabidly emailing with friends about the films we were seeing, which were proving very inspirational and also timely, with August 8th’s Black Monday. Of all the movies at Film Forum, The Cabin In The Cotton really hit home in terms of its strange and complex ideas about economics and solidarity politics. I was also drawn to the baffling combination of a fresh-faced Bette Davis and a soundly confused and tired Richard Barthelmess. So, as per usual, the choice was a product of circumstance and practical concerns, as well as thematic appropriateness and my own bizarre interests and fixations.
I will say that I am getting a lot of joy from the fact that everyone who talks to me about the movie is asking about why I chose this scene. That is, I really really like the idea of people being curious and placing all this importance on a pretty random, mostly forgotten, and by all accounts insignificant movie from 1932. That doesn’t happen very often anymore. It’s actually going to be on TCM on January 21st at 8:45, so interested parties should set their DVRs.
GK:“I just think it needs to look really real,” an offscreen voice is heard saying at the beginning of the film. The multiple frames contained within the movie—the credits list seven discrete recording devices—in themselves suggest different standards of realism, but even so, other considerations come into play. The personalities of the players kind of mutate as the movie moves along; a viewer might find cinematographer Eric Phillips-Horst a little uptight and wonky at the outset, and his sheer joy at the end is kind of unexpected and infectious. Was illuminating the conundrum about cinema—that it both shows and withholds, and can be very cagey about giving what one might call „the whole picture“—part of your scheme?
GT: I’ll start with the specifics here and then get a little more general. With Eric, who actually is the person who speaks the line you reference, I think this is partially due to process. For the first two acts of the movie, more than anyone else, he’s working and has a very specific task that requires a very specific focus and energy, especially when there’s a time crunch because your talent has to finish at specific times to get to their day jobs. The third act is the first point in the movie where he is actually able to relax and just be himself, and in the case of Eric, himself is very much something I would associate with joy. In any case, I really like that his “character” worked that way for you—in terms of character development but mostly in terms of a document of labor.
Something I often thought about while editing was how the movie would change or work for people that knew the people in movie personally and those that didn’t. Ultimately, I think it’s (appropriately) a lot like pre-code cinema, which featured a round-robin of rotating character actors. That is, if you are familiar with (know in a sense) Ruth Donnelly, Guy Kibbee, Allen Jenkins, Emma Dunn, Ned Sparks etc.,you’re given a key to go deeper with those films. The rhythms of those movies change and the jokes resonate in a different way and in some cases the jokes only exist because of knowledge of the actor and their previous roles. That being said, obviously Blessed Event isn’t any less of a movie if you don’t recognize the actors, it’s just a slightly different one. Fassbinder’s films function similarly.
In terms of withholding and showing, what’s been very interesting and surprising to me thus far has been people’s different interpretations, not of what things mean so much as what is actually happening—who is saying what, who has the camera, where the sound is coming from, what’s on purpose and what isn’t, who is acting and who isn’t.
GK:There’s also a subtextual interrogation of the mechanics of desire going on in this movie. At some point each of the female actors who’s portraying the Bette Davis role comments upon, or makes a physical adjustment to, her frontal presentation, so to speak. Giving direction to one of your male actors, you are heard saying, “But…you’re a man…” There’s a brief montage, three shots I think, of unlaced female garments. Whence does/did this arrive from?
GT: I’d almost rather hear you talk more about this than answer the question myself because I’m always thinking about gender and its relationship to cinema on and off screen but I’ve never thought of the movie that way or seen those images in that context when I’ve watched it.
That being said, I think there are a few practical answers to this question. In terms of the frontal adjustment, I think those shots came to be because 1), people were not thinking about being filmed 2), it was a no-budget set and everyone is wearing many hats, with the actors pretty much taking care of their own wardrobe 3), the microphones were being difficult. My decision to use those shots likely also stems from many places—the rhythms of movie at those moments, the lighting, the person in the frame, what was being said etc..
I do think the women totally stole the show though, which is due to both the scene itself and the specific people I gathered to perform the scene.
GK:I seem to recall reading somewhere that you were continuing to move away from conventional narrative in your work. Which, I’m sure you’re aware, is kind of interesting given that so much of your critical work is devoted, in several respects, to great narrative filmmaking of classical Hollywood. I’m not suggesting there’s some kind of discrepancy in that, but there are folks who’d say it’s a shame that someone of your obvious talent and vision is working at a remove from the mainstream when the mainstream could use more vital young female filmmakers. Does this sort of concern ever cross your mind?
GT: Well, before my predictably practical answer, thank you! The main thing here is that I’m a working class woman, that is, I have to support myself. Short of people coming forward to offer their producing services and someone handing me enough cash to make a more traditional movie and also support myself in this obscenely expensive city with shelter, food, and health insurance while I made that traditional movie in its many stages (research, writing, casting, pre-production, shooting, editing, promoting) that isn’t looking like something that is going to happen anytime soon. My last two films are very much the product of my having a day job, a day job I take very seriously and care about.
Do I think it’s a shame that making movies isn’t my job? I don’t know. It seems an unproductive question for me. I do think having a job keeps me grounded in and connected to what it means to be a person living in this horrific capitalist system, which provides a tension in my work that I think is missing in a lot of current filmmaking, especially art house and “independent” fare. It also forces me to constantly adapt, to think outside the box and challenge myself and I like that. In theory I guess I’d love to not have a traditional job and to make movies and travel around the world with them but also who knows, I’m a Taurus and I like stability. Plus, I mean, I’m always bloated and tired when I travel and it would suck to be bloated all the time. And I’d really miss my friends.
In terms of Hollywood and women directors, I of course agree that I’d like to see more women in the mainstream. I am currently obsessed with Beyond The Lights and [writer/director] Gina Prince-Bythewood kind of said it all when she told NPR that she’s offered tons of work but that she isn’t able to make movies that she writes, the stories she actually wants to tell.
So, in a way I guess my answer to your question is that you’re asking the wrong person because ultimately it isn’t up to me.
Ape (USA 2012)
R: Joel Potrykus; D: Joshua Burge, Gary Bosek, Teri Nelson; 86 Min; DCP; OV
APE von dem US-Amerikaner Joel Potrykus ist eine räudige Punk-Komödie um einen erfolglosen Stand-up-Comedian, der seine Zuhörer nur selten zum Lachen bringt. Die losen Begegnungen des Helden formen sich hier zu einer Abfolge kleiner Beschämungen und Verlegenheiten. Den daraus resultierenden Druck lässt der junge Mann in pyromanischen Einlagen aus. Potrykus gelingt mit seinem sehr persönlichen Debüt auch eine wunderbare Selbstermächtigungsfantasie, bei der sogar der Teufel im Spiel ist. (Dominik Kamalzadeh)
A nightmarish, nihilistic tale, the ultra-low budget APE has all the qualities to become a standard for a generation that has no future, and is also a political manifesto for the best of new American cinema. Burge’s character is an authentic rebel and Potrykus is an innovator, and should be an example for all proletarian artists who really want to make a “guerrilla film.” (Olivier Père)