Glimpses at COMEDY

„Lubitsch shows you first the king on the throne, then as he is in the bedroom. I show you the king in the bedroom so you’ll know just what he is when you see him on his throne.

Erich von Stroheim

The writers of Jugend ohne Film begin a new series called Glimpses at, in which we share our ideas about certain topics. Whether we identify humour with repetition, persistence or diversity, if it means liberation or rejection, comedies profoundly shape our understanding of cinema. Thus, let’s start with a discussion on what we find funny in a film. Laughing far away from one another and at different situations and lines, we use this opportunity to learn about each other and, consequently, about comedies.

Ninotchka

IVANA MILOŠ: What is laughter but the unwinding and undoing of constrictions and restrictions, an introduction of familiarity and equality where none have reigned before? Proper laughter, that is, and this phrase already constitutes an oxymoron. But this is what lies at the heart of comedy — opposites and extremes brought together, unadvised revelations and disclosures in the bright light of day, actions repeated to the point of absurdity, leaps into the surreal, and in all of these a common factor. For me, this shared trait is what makes comedy shine: surprise. In that sense, it is like tickling — if it’s going to work, it has to spring on you unexpectedly, from an angle beyond your field of vision. My favourite joke for a very long time was a kind of pocket-size absurdist poem, where a fare inspector asks a tram passenger for a ticket. The passenger’s calm reply to this accosting is: „Giraffe.“ Inspector: „What giraffe?!“ Passenger: „What ticket?“ It’s like having the rug pulled out from under your feet. My love for humour is the love for how such a small snippet of words can lay bare the actually absurd system we rely on in order to be capable of leading our daily lives within it. In Stanley Donen’s Indiscreet, despite all of Cary Grant’s antics on the dance floor, my favourite moment is the line spoken by an elderly British gentleman whose function as a side character has up to that point been an upholding of form and courtesy — the embodiment of society, as it were, with all its laws intact. After much tomfoolery leading up to an inevitable eruption, which we might as well call a carnival with Bakhtin in mind, the gentleman in question settles down to his table and says: „You know I’m too old for this sort of evening, I always was.“ A brilliant revelation of character as well as a rebuke of the tiresome constancy of rules made to be broken, this moment captures a simple, but relevant collapse. In stripping away the contours of society, humour makes us see through veils. It’s a magical encounter in a place where things and people are closer to their inherent selves. Maybe that’s why it only comes in bursts and fragments — its revelatory power is a force to be reckoned with.

Indiscreet

PATRICK HOLZAPFEL: Here is what makes me always laugh in a film: a character, mostly it’s a man, continues doing whatever he does although the world around him is changing in a way that would urgently ask for him to stop what he is doing. One of my earliest memories of such an incident is a scene in Mr. Magoo in which Leslie Nielsen tries to prepare a frozen chicken for dinner. Since cooking is not his strength, he needs help from a cooking programme on television. Yet, his eyesight is not at its best (to put it mildly) and when he gets distracted for a moment, his dog accidentally changes the television programme to a kind of aerobic workout broadcast. As soon as Nielsen returns to his chicken, he begins to stretch, jump and rhythmically dance with the frozen animal.

This can go pretty far. I saw Will Ferrell put a knife into his thigh, Charlie Chaplin jump out of a window (more than once) and Peter Sellers, well Peter Sellers doing almost everything with this joke (as well as Rowan Atkinson). Another favourite of this kind is even closer to life. In Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl a schoolboy is enthusiastically reading from Shakespeare in class when suddenly a window cleaner appears at the window and takes away the attention of everyone including the teacher. However, the boy is so into his reading that he doesn’t stop. It goes on and on and even if I laugh about it, I know that I have been this boy many times in my life.

One of the sentences sometimes uttered under these circumstances is already a sign of advancing chaos: I have everything under control. Strangely, men pretending to go on with what they are doing whatever is happening around them has become a norm when it comes to political behaviour or even behaviour in general. So maybe I’m not laughing because somebody is doing whatever they are doing but because a change is visible. It’s called tragic irony.

ANNA BABOS: Luc Moullet’s short, Barres is a film that I watch almost every week and it makes me laugh from time to time. I attribute my tenacious enthusiasm to the fact that the film essentializes the elements I appreciate most in comedies. First and foremost, repetition and variations. I love catalogue-like structures, examples of solutions that are offered to resolve the same situation in manifold ways. Going to the metro, the people in Barres try to dodge the system, which seems rather irrational. These people often fail. I find their falls, crashes and other kinds of physical injuries fascinating. Charlie Chaplin’s Kid Auto Races At Venice perfectly exemplifies the combination of these sources of fun, a film that had a similarly overwhelming impact on me. Apart from being a great comedy, it’s also one of Chaplin’s most reflexive early works, about a man who does everything to be the centre of attention, which makes for a liberating experience to those who find it hard to allow themselves to be eccentric.

Another facet of Barres is that it shows scenes that we might have imagined while travelling by public transport – at least I imagined some of them several times. Travelling is dead time, you do not have something else to do, so you can let your mind wander. I like Technoboss for the same reason – the main character has a lot of free time and imagines things. He also fills his job with creativity and this way of life, which might be called boring or uneventful, becomes a rather adventurous and lovely story. The film stands against the concept of boredom.

Égigérő fű was my favourite film during my childhood. I was totally amused by the unique characters. The tenement house, which is the centre of the story, works, again, like a catalogue, and the residents represent figures from an at once fable-like and realistic picture book. Only this year I realized that the whole story had been made with exceptional creativity and wit – and the simplicity of the story continued to amaze me. “That lovely green grass. I will only miss that. The grass.” says Misu’s grandfather, who is preparing to retire, but he worries about his life afterwards. We follow Misu’s adventures as he lays down green grass in the inner court of the tenement house, in order to ease the worries of his grandfather. While asking for permission and working on the great plan, he and his friend Piroska meet lots of funny characters, for instance an old lady, who has been removed from her big house to a small flat, hence all the furniture had to be cut in half to fit in. While it is hardly possible to live in a flat as crowded as this one is, the lady and her son have very creative ways to solve this situation, and their flexibility is confronted by Kamilla, an anxious adjuster, who is always preoccupied with horrible news and gets terrified by the irregularity of the old lady.

With a lot of funny scenes and surprising plot twists, Spanglish talks about a great variety of everyday issues – parenthood, marriage, cultural difference and so on. However, what makes this comedy a particularly funny and touching one, is the character of Deborah, the mother. Deborah is a neurotic woman, a terrible mother and an unfaithful lover who is in constant rage. Her unforeseen bursts and absurd reactions are hilarious – partly because of the exaggerated acting of Téa Leoni, and also because one can easily recognise and empathise with the state of unbearable hysteria. The situation is clarified step by step as we get closer to Deborah, who got herself into a vicious circle, but taking responsibility does not make solving the situation easier. In the end, her husband, John Clasky forgives her – Adam Sandler’s low-key, humorous acting is another gripping aspect of this movie.

Finishing the list of my favourite comedies, I realised that all of them are made in the mood of love and empathy. It does not mean that I do not like black humour, aggressiveness or grotesque stories, rather it speaks about my personal understanding of comedy, as something that calms me and cheers me up.

DAVID PERRIN: Ozu’s children thumbing their nose at parental authority; Jimmy Stewart as the Texan Marshal Guthrie McCabe in Two Rode Together and really not giving a damn about his civic duty, or the law for that matter (and note how different he leans back in his chair compared to Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine); the great pleasure of watching people getting totally, joyously sloshed on screen, for example in Hong Sang-soo’s hilariously awkward table gatherings exacerbated by endless supplies of Soju; Peter Falk, John Cassavetes and Ben Gazzara as three boorish drunks desperate to mask their own despair by gulping down drink after drink and singing and stripping bare in front of strangers, or Bela Tarr’s villagers jubilantly shitfaced on Pálinka while wildly dancing and careening across the floor of their local tavern while outside the rain pounds down; the everyman presence of Matti Pellonpää (the saddest pair of eyes in Finnish cinema according Peter von Bagh) in any Aki Kaurismäki film, where the humour is so achingly dry and bittersweet you never know whether to laugh or cry; Roberto Benigni’s twitchy hyper-caffeinated body language as it tries to contain itself within the claustrophobic confines of a New Orleans prison, and even when he is still his body appears to jitter and shake (not to mention his frequent linguistic mishaps as he tries to negotiate, as a foreigner, the ecstatic poetics of Walt Whitman and the hip flattened American parlance of John Lurie and Tom Waits); Ernst Lubitsch howling with laughter on his own set, because even he can’t resist the humour in his films and finally isn’t it a delight to watch an exasperated Cary Grant stuck in a puffy silk negligée as he tries to wriggle his own clothes back from Katherine Hepburn’s lovesick grasp in one of the great screwball comedies: Bringing up Baby.

Good Morning 

Two Rode Together

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon 

Husbands

Sátántangó

Varjoja paratiisissa

Down by Law

Ernst Lubitsch on set

Bringing up Baby

Also:
Luc Moullet – Barres
Underdog Luc Moullet’s screwball gem of a short is a mischievous paean to “Schwarzfahren”, revealing the subtle forms of civil disobedience as Paris Metro passengers perform various ingenious feats of acrobatics and DIY maneuvers to bypass paying an exorbitant subway fare.

Orson Welles – Paul Masson Wine Commercial Outtakes
This is already very well-known, but I’ll include it anyways: a bulging and visibly drunk Orson Welles refusing even an attempt to act professional or conceal his boredom and contempt for the job at hand – a wine commercial for Paul Masson for which he clearly couldn’t care less.

SIMON WIENER: Einen Film, der gängige Konventionen und Seh-Muster hinterfragt, der ausbricht aus ihn für gewöhnlich bestimmenden, ins Korsett zwängenden Formen, nennt man häufig experimentellen Film; und einen solchen stellen wir uns meist als eine sperrig-ernsthafte Sache vor. Immerhin steht viel auf dem Spiel; der Weg ins Zukünftige soll gewiesen werden, und ein solcher Film trägt die Verantwortung, Vorreiter zu sein, bisweilen vorwurfsvoll hinzuweisen auf dem Medium offenstehende, aber nicht ausgekostete Möglichkeiten.

Diese unsere Vorstellung trügt – der experimentelle Film ist seit Anbeginn auch eine äußerst humorvolle Sache. Steckt nicht gerade im Überschreiten gängiger Grenzen, im Zutagebringen eines uns zunächst Ungewöhnlichen eine zwangsläufige Absurdität? Die Einsicht in einen neuen Blickwinkel, ein neues Zeitverstehen: sie erscheint uns absurd, und ist von Übelgesinnten deswegen leicht mit Kopfschütteln als unnütze Spielerei abzutun, wie sie uns Wohlgesonnenen aus gleichem Grund bewegt und anregt; denn eine vorwärtsgewandte Kunst ist immer eng mit dem Spielerischen verknüpft, schließlich geht es darum, deren festgefahrene Regeln abzuändern, zu missachten, oder, im Gegenteil, absurd genau zu nehmen.
Hier als Beispiele Max Richter, Oskar Fischinger oder Len Lye anzuführen, liegt nahe; deren abstrakte Filme, Tänze von Formen und Farben, welche, sich abstoßend oder anziehend, untereinander Kämpfe auszufechten scheinen, oft unterlegt mit witziger Musik, mühen den meisten von uns ein Lächeln ab. Ich sehe aber auch im streng seriellen Film, etwa jenem Kurt Krens, eine grosse Portion Humor. Just diese Strenge, also die mathematisch-berechnend-seriöse Struktur dieser Filme, die dem slice-of-life, dem völlig Unbedeutenden, das ihr zugrunde liegt, und das sie formt, widerspricht, ist absurd witzig. In TV werden fünf sehr kurze Einstellungen eines Fensters, vor und hinter dem einige wenige Gestalten auszumachen sind, in immer wieder neuen Anordnungen und Permutationen aneinander gereiht; „nach Art eines Kinderreims“, wie Kren selber sagt. Humor ist ebenso zu finden in Heinz Emigholz´ Sullivans Banken, wo lange und unbewegte Kameraeinstellungen auf die Banken des bekannten Architekten gerichtet sind; rigoros beobachten wir stumme Gebäude, die den Blick der Kamera zugleich erwidern und nicht erwidern; zeugen zwar von Geschichten und Menschen, unserem so bohrenden Blick aber ausgeliefert, ohne sich vor ihm in Sicherheit bringen zu können.

Zu erwähnen auch Patrick Bokanowskis spätere Filme, etwa La Plage, wo verzerrende Linsen Urlauber am Strand in kubistisch-komische Gemälde transformiert; oder Vivian Ostrovskys Cobacabana Beach: im Zeitraffer durchwuselt eine Menschenmenge das Bild, wie zu kleinen Ameisen reduziert, und wahrlich grotesk und drollig nehmen sich die Turnübungen aus, die da praktiziert werden, durch den Zeitraffer transformiert zum irrwitzig-quirligen Ballett.

ANDREW CHRISTOPHER GREEN: In Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle the clash between the rural and urban-industrial maintains a linkage between the past and the then-present. The audience gets a last laugh at the rural-folk who haven’t yet fully adjusted to the mechanized rhythms of city-life in contrast with the absurd technocratic control of the emerging nouveau-riche’s consumerism. Tati’s tenderness demands a counter-identification with the Oncle’s dysfunction while simultaneously prohibiting a simplistic epithet for the automated bourgeoisie. The film doesn’t escape the world that gave birth to it; it bears the marks of its contradictory situation. But unlike with most comedies, which draw their life-source from a formulaic rejection of the absurd thought that things could be otherwise, I think the warmth that permeates Tati’s film is strong enough to give us a heartfelt and sober look at what we go on thoughtlessly rejecting. My lingering experience of the film isn’t with the forgetful laughs but with the dissonant way they grind against the melancholic task of reconciling that which no longer has a place in our increasingly ugly world. I think Tati’s film can fortify us with the strength necessary to go into dangerous places and objectify ourselves. But if what I have said is true, this would mean that Tati’s film is an anti-comedy.

Mon Oncle

RONNY GÜNL: EINSAME FRAU Ich heiße Barbara und das klingt besser als Dingsbums. Ich bin eine einsame Frau und verbringe jeden Urlaub auf dieser gottverlassenen Insel.
BLÖDE WOLKE Ich sage, daß Dingsbums besser klingt als Barbara. Barbara ist ja ein ganz einfaches Wort. Da ist Dingsbums schon richtig kompliziert dagegen. Zweimal bar und dann ein a. Soll das auch schon was sein?! Bar-bar-a
BARBARA Und der, der neben dem Plapperlaplapp, warum trägt der einen Stahlhelm?
LETZTE SUSN Weil er sich fürchtet.
BARBARA Wovor fürchtet er sich?
LETZTE SUSN Vor den Deutschen.
— aus Herbert Achternbusch: Das Haus am Nil, Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1981, S. 147f.

Das letzte Loch

SEBASTIAN BOBIK: What makes a comedy? How is it defined? What do we want from it? In general, the idea seems to be that if a film is happier than sad, more funny than tragic, we can speak of a comedy. So, if comedies are supposed to make me happy and tragedies sad, how come I have probably cried more in comedies than in tragedies? (Playtime, Inherent Vice, Hausu, The Last Detail,…) There is clearly a potential in comedies to move and touch us in ways that are specific to them. Something funny is something that rings true. Comedies often catch moments and behaviours in which we might feel embarrassed. Yet comedies are often also downplayed, their potential underestimated. “It’s just a comedy,” they say.

Comedies are treated as a silly little pastime.

Comedies have for a long time had the potential to threaten power. The hypocrisy of those in power can be laid bare. The Emperor has no clothes. Sometimes I think this potential seems lost these days. Comedies also have the potential to create utopias in some way, by showing us love, community and tenderness. I think of Chaplin in The Kid (or in any of his films), Kitano and the band of outsiders in Kikujiro, the townspeople in Tati’s Mon Oncle. There is an idea of not adhering to society, of resisting the norm that is celebrated in comedy more than in any other genre. Their outsiders and outcasts are allowed happy endings and prospects; their eccentricities are appreciated, not judged. Oftentimes comedies are celebrations of the art of living.

There is a saying attributed to Charlie Chaplin that goes: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” It is a quote one stumbles upon quite often to the point where it has become a bit of a cliché. Obviously, it means on the one hand, that instances in life seen in the very moment can be tragic (“in close-up”) but once you step back and see the bigger picture of your life you can see the humour and comedy in that same situation (“in long-shot”). Does this also mean, that comedies are somehow wiser than dramas because they see the bigger picture? Is this why so many great filmmakers of comedy like framing in wider shots (Keaton, Chaplin, Tati…)? Though these same artists are also known for wonderful close-ups (just think of the faces of Chaplin!). So, of course, it isn’t just a question of wide versus close, but the delicacy of the close-ups themselves must play a part in this balance.

SIMON PETRI: „He was Lord Aldergate’s valet for 20 years but it didn’t last. They differed in their political views. The situation finally became impossible when Lord Aldergate joined the Labor Party.“ Listen to the butlers and look for the subplots in Lubitsch’s films. And remember to be common and land on your ass every once in a while!

Maybe after having a drink or two with Michel Simon, tasting some of Jerry Lewis‘ poisons or the left jab of Michael Clarke Duncan from The Whole Nine Yards.

Then let a strong man, Alberto Sordi, Carlo Pedersoli or Eddie Murphy take you under each arm before Zero Mostel sits on your face. You’ll be standing in a moment!

And once you’re on your feet, take a walk around the city, engage with the streets as a Tramp and as a King. When you’re in the neighbourhood, say hello to cher Levy and join the dance of Rabbi Jacob. Stop at a cinema and smile at the ingenuity and magnitude of film – it doesn’t have to be humorous per se; the overwhelming sweep of a Samuel Fuller film, the opening images of Mean Streets or The Irishman, a montage in Mauvais sang, Erich von Stroheim’s gaze, the warmth of Menschen am Sonntag will get you energised and giggling, giving the feeling of “Here we go, this is my art form!”

Then escape to nature and learn about it from Elaine May.

Always be chivalrous and a proud petit bourgeois like Kabos Gyula. Cherish the cuisine of his time, dedicate a Schnitzel to him; for masterstrokes, see Fragments of Kubelka.

If not, don’t be surprised if you are cursed with a Xala. When cursed, you’ll be feeling down and nothing will cheer you up, like a cunt can’t Kant.

Make sure to release the pressure, learn from Governor Feuerstein in Dargay Attila’s Szaffi. Otherwise, you’ll explode like a mosquito by Winsor McCay.

Szaffi

MAËL MUBALEGH: I often feel the popular consciousness about comedies can indicate that they are more demanding and riskier in terms of writing than dramas or more “naturalistic” orientated forms of cinema. Why is it actually so? Because comedies are supposedly made for broader audiences and thus require an unequivocal universality of tone? And if so, then what should this universality consist of? I’m personally not totally convinced of that. A lot of mainstream comedies I have seen early in my life or in more recent years have only shyly stirred a smile from me, which makes me think this hypothetical universality of laughter is merely a myth crafted by the industry in order to maintain itself within its own system of belief. Rather than trying to define what “comedy” is within my own standards, I’ll casually and swiftly go through some aspects of cinema – ancient and modern, mainstream or more confidential – that could be connected to it.

Ambivalence: here it’s not really a single film in itself, a genre or a way of filming that I link to the term, but something more like a mood that can be conveyed by an actor or an actress. Even if typecasting can work wonders, I’ve always felt more attracted to comedians who evolve in a versatile universe, jumping from a tragic part to a much lighter one. I like, for instance, that Henry Fonda can be this almost allegorical figure of justice and order in John Ford’s My Darling Clementine whose imposing stature a few years before went through a whole lot of awkward twists in Preston Sturges’ delightful The Lady Eve. In recent cinema, I have the feeling this mixture or this fluid duality is more seldom to be found. Yet it still exists in some areas. In this respect, someone like Virginie Efira might be one of the most surprising actresses of the moment: though she started her acting career quite late after working for years as a popular TV moderator for various shows, she has already proven to be able to communicate a wide range of subtle emotions. In Victoria and, more recently Sybil, both by Justine Triet, she can appear irresistibly hilarious and vulnerable, making one unsure as to how one is supposed to react as an audience: to laugh? To cry? This is the question.

Vulgarity: for a scene to be really funny, the borders of good taste must sometimes be pushed out very far – laughter and subtlety don’t always get along well with one another. I think of Kirsten Dunst in the only mildly entertaining Bachelorette by Leslye Headland: the palpable enthusiasm with which she takes upon herself the trashiest aspects of her poorly outlined, almost one-sided character of the unlucky, bitter thirty-something, is a feast in itself. Elsa Zylberstein is another actress alternatively cast in dramatic and funny roles, who shows similar qualities: in Philippe de Chauveron’s very polemical A bras ouverts, she plays quite masterfully the slightly zany bourgeois, incorrectly politically correct spouse of a left-oriented star essayist pathetically struggling to act accordingly to his self-claimed ideals. The detached manner in which Zylberstein gives shape to the outbursts of stupidity and ridiculousness of her part is very often fascinating, and thanks to this precision in acting, the over-readable, Manichean comedy of manners then sporadically verges on a Buñuelian absurdness.

Politics: Maybe more directly than drama, comedy‘s register lends itself to politics, be it on an intimate level (screwball) or a broader one (“social” comedies among others). A strategy to make someone laugh is to be nasty – one that comedy screenwriters and directors have well understood – a nastiness that can in turn become political. Mark Waters’ Mean Girls is a very good example of this ability of mainstream comedies to tackle societal issues: on the surface, it is merely a high school movie dripping with over-the-top feelings, shrouded in an almost unbearable pink and “girly” cinematography. Yet on the inside, it is most certainly one of the best movies ever made on the issue of bullying, showing the cruelty of teenagers among themselves without the slightest bit of candidness. The film moves – sometimes deeply – because it doesn’t fear the radical meanness that often characterises this period of life.

JAMES WATERS:

Our Hospitality

For Maradona, star of the popular stage

It’s often that you hear about how moving images broke free of the dark screening room’s grasp and that this expansion made space for audiences more diverse than ever before. 

I am not sure if the fanciful, industrial halls of art galleries or the imposing, mighty pillars of museums are any more inviting or any less daunting than the situating seats of a cinema. I also doubt that the type of works on display in these places would attract a more manifold group of people than the iconic performers of popular cinema like Totò, the cranky prince from Rione Sanità.

Because to constantly broadcast football promises its greater accessibility, although the underlying profit-seeking motives could not be disguised by the conceited and presumptuous mottos of the art world. 

And those motives contaminate the public experience with promises destined to fail. Hence the empty, cavernous halls and the intensifying skepticism opposed to the soulless if not scripted events football has become.

Popular cinema stands for the contrary; for the pride of sincerity, for times when populism wasn’t a dirty word and mass entertainment wasn’t exploited by the ruling class. Apart from Totò and those special comedies from post-war Italy, it is Charlie Chaplin who immediately comes to my mind regarding these slogans.

And Chaplin’s footballing equivalent was Diego Maradona, another tiny man of paramount accomplishments who personified an entire medium for the whole world, whose unrestrained brain was constantly bursting out ingenious ideas and whose personal eccentricity and mid-career apotheosis overshadowed everything else.

Just like Chaplin, Maradona is much more than the few signature masterstrokes with which he stupefied millions and, just like Chaplin, is not often enough discussed today as one of the prime architects of the game, an equal of Michel Laudrup or Andrea Pirlo – an equal of Jean Renoir or Mizoguchi Kenji. 

But no matter, because like Chaplin, he’ll be remembered as the star who shined for the people. Unlike Chaplin, who dedicated most of his entire artistic life to investigating the crimes of capitalism and ridiculing the culprits, Maradona maintained this status because he had thrived on top before football got irreversibly associated with business. 

Like his less identifiable contemporary peers, Maradona also earned inconceivable amounts of money, but used this wealth to satisfy his hedonism, to proudly and unapologetically enjoy life as many would do; instead of separating himself in the luxury suburbs and maintaining an impenetrable privacy, which deprives today’s footballing elite of such public admiration. On the other hand, if it was the suffocating influence of capitalism that escalated his downfall, his victimhood is early proof of what shouldn’t have been allowed into the apparatus of football culture.

Either way, from the popular perspective, he shall be glorified.  

And he will be. Because like Chaplin, Maradona will be eternal. 

We honor them with this double bill:

Ode to a gesture in Monsieur Verdoux

 

there is this gesture in Monsieur Verdoux

it sums the whole emotional world up

there is this gesture in Monsieur Verdoux

it breaks my brain into pieces

and makes my heartbeat stop

there is this gesture in Monsieur Verdoux

it’s laughter

and that screaming at the end of Teorema

is nothing in comparison to it

there is this gesture in Monsieur Verdoux

that makes the whole world spin

that makes all living stop

How do I feel?

very abstract

very abstract

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2. Tag: Modern Times

Vor jedem Screening empfehlen wir einen frisch ausgepressten Orangensaft zur besseren Erhaltung des Immunsystems während Festivaltagen. Zunächst bewegen wir uns mit der kompletten Gruppe in Kenji Mizoguchis Shin Heike Monogatari, einer von zwei Farbfilmen, die der große japanische Filmemacher kurz vor seinem Tod inszenierte. Beim Gedanken an die Mizoguchi-Retrospektive im Österreichischen Filmmuseum vor einigen Jahren falle ich noch immer in einen fieberhaften Zustand, der niemals ganze Filme in die Erinnerung rufen könnte, sondern nur Klänge, Bewegung und dieses Gefühl des sanften und brutalen Schwebens durch Sterblichkeit und Liebe. Der Film handelt von einem jungen Samurai und kommt aus einer Zeit (Mitte der 1950er), in der Samurai-Filme auf dem Höhepunkt ihrer Popularität waren. Mizoguchi, der sich immer sehr für die japanische Geschichte interessierte, siedelt seinen Film um 1000 n.Chr. an. Es geht um die Suche nach einer Identität, eine Vater-Sohn-Beziehung inmitten eines brutalen Bürgerkriegs. Sofort fällt einem das auf, was die Amerikaner gerne als “scale“ bezeichnen. Mizoguchi und die Massen. Hunderte Statisten wandern durch einen Welt, die Kamera gleitet sanft als wären es nur zwei Liebende, dann doch das Chaos, in dem er immer die Übersicht behält. Am meisten beeindrucken mich einige fast traumartige Implosionen, die von den unsicheren Übergängen zwischen dem Hier und dem Jetzt sowie der Nacht und dem Tag Handel. das sind manchmal mit einer gleitenden Kamera inszenierte Erinnerungen, etwa an eine verbotene Nacht aus der unser Held womöglich entstammt und manchmal statische Einstellungen der Natur, die dieses Schauspiel beobachtet. Der Film wird im Rahmen einer Technicolor-Japan-Schau gezeigt und die Farben sind tatsächlich sehr schön, was man von der digitalen Kopie nicht immer sagen kann. Am Abend jedoch sollte beim großen Orchester-Screening von Chaplins Modern Times noch mal eine ganz andere Frage an die Vorführpraktiken des Festivals gestellt werden. Was gar nicht geht, so viel ist klar, sind die Kopfhörer, die man ähnlich eines Museums vor den Screenings nehmen kann, um  Simultanübersetzungen aufs Ohr zu bekommen. Zum einen nimmt diese Apparatur dem Kino so einiges von seiner sozialen Komponente, zum anderen hört man bei jedem Zwischentitel funkendes Grunzen und verzerrte Stimmen durch die Kopfhörer im ganzen Kinosaal. Das ist furchtbar und gehört neben einigen anderen Unsitten bei den Projektionen, die nur mit großen Problem ablaufen (eine Taschenlampe aus dem Projektionsraum erhellte den zurecht meckernden Zuseherraum für mehr als eine Minute z.B.), sicherlich zu den Schwachstellen dieses sonst wunderbaren Festivals. Auch die erste Begegnung mit Marie Epstein, Peau de Pêche war ein großartiges Kinoerlebnis. Der Film harmonierte prächtig mit der Beobachtung von Thierry Frémaux zu den Gebrüdern Lumière, also vom Interesse an der Kindheit im Kino und der Kindheit des Kinos. Mit welcher Unschuld Epstein und Jean Benoît-Levy diese Unschuld filmen, wie Nahaufnahmen ähnlich wie bei Jean Epstein einen ganz eigenen Zauber versprühen und wie sich den ganzen Film hindurch eine nie falsch wirkende Melancholie hält, erzählt sich ein Versprechen des Kinos, das heute eher ein Versprechen an das Kino ist: Wir zeigen dich weiter.

moderne-zeiten-x

In der Zwischenzeit vor dem Kino: Andrey begeistert uns mit Rückenübungen, die angeblich gut für den Rücken sind. Auf dem Boden liegt Regen, den wir kaum glauben können. Er verdampft schon in der Luft. Ein Lachen mit breitem Grinsen dampft durch unsere Erinnerung an den zweiten Tag. Es ist einer der durchgeschossensten Filme, die ich seit langer Zeit gesehen habe: Gado Gado von S. Roomai Noor. Ein comic-haftes Stück Over-Acting-Slapstick-Zirkus-Geschrei über einen amüsierten jungen Mann (zu Beginn sehen wir ihn laut lachen), der einen Job sucht, aber nichts kann. Letzteres erinnert natürlich an Modern Times von Charlie Chaplin, der am Abend auf dem Piazza Maggiore gezeigt wurde. Es war ein unvergessliches Ereignis, das ich noch immer verarbeite. Ich habe den Film zum vierten Mal gesehen und doch war es wie eine Taufe. Tausende Menschen versammelten sich nicht nur auf den Sitzen, sondern standen auch den ganzen Film über rings um die Anlage herum. Es gab ein großes Orchester, Szenenapplaus, ein Film, der vor 80 Jahren gedreht wurde, begeisterte die Menschen. Ein kleiner Gag und alles fällt. Man staunt. Die Kamera steht so richtig bei Chaplin, dass sie überhaupt keine Zeit kennt. Es fällt mir sehr schwer, die Gefühle zu beschreiben, die mich zu Tränen rührten, obwohl ich dauernd lachend musste. Vielleicht war es das Gefühl, dass es so was wie Chaplin heute nicht mehr gibt, nie mehr geben wird. Vielleicht war es die Anerkennung, die für einen kleinen Einfall unsterblich geworden ist. So übertrieben das klingen mag: In diesem Moment habe ich mich gefragt, wieso es Kriege gibt, wenn es solche Filme und Vorführungen gibt. Man sagt ja gerne, dass Film die Zeit überdauern oder überlisten kann, aber hier was es tatsächliche Vergegenwärtigung und zu meinem Erstaunen schien mir dafür das Medium nicht relevant. Natürlich ist das Medium Film etwas entscheidendes und das müsste so auch konsequenter kommuniziert werden. Modern Times war hier nicht Modern Times, sondern nur eine digitale Kopie. Aber in dieser Kopie und in der Versammlung der Menschen an diesem Ort schlägt eine Seele, die über das Medium hinwegfegt mit der Emotion der Filmgeschichte, die lebendig ist. Darum geht es natürlich hier, aber so stark habe ich diese Gefühle nicht erwartet. Wobei ich wirklich befürchte, dass ich im Moment dieses Wunders bereits dessen Verlust spürte. Denn was sehen wir in 80 Jahren?

Wir saßen noch einige Zeit auf dem Platz. Es gab Standing Ovations, es gab zwischendurch Szenenapplaus, es gab Liebe zum Kino.

Rotterdamnation: “Being a buffalo is an art”

  • Highlight des Festivals bislang (wenn ich das nach Entdeckungen betrachte und Philippe Garrel um einige Zeilen verschieben darf)  ist Pietro Marcellos Bella e perduta. Die (innere) Stimme und die Augen (keines Esels, sondern) eines Büffels fungieren als emotionale und philosophische Führer  durch einen Film, der vermutlich unvereinbare Register, die ich vielleicht ein anderes Mal genauer beschreiben muss, auf eine wunderbare, Seltsamkeitsgefühle induzierende Art vermischt. Es geht dabei nicht nur um die Vermischung vom Dokumetarischen und Fiktionalen, von der “Hybridität” des Films, die an sich, egal wie meisterlich verwoben, schwer noch das Gefühl einer frischen Entdeckung verursachen kann. Mit verlassenen Schlössern, einer commedia all’improvviso Figur, die die Kommunikation zwischen den Toten und  den Lebenden ermöglicht und einer merkwürdigen Art, dann und jetzt zu thematisieren und zu zeigen im Kopf, stelle ich den Film beiseite und bereite mich darauf vor, nach dem Festival mehr daran zu denken.
  • Sie saßen auf den Sofas und dann merkte ich, dass sie Chaplin anschauen:

 

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  • Für mich fängt das Festival erst richtig an, für die meisten scheint es schon aus zu sein. Einige Sofas und Tische, wo manchmal Interviews geführt werden, sind seit gestern verschwunden und Pressescreenings wird es auch nicht mehr geben.
  • In der nicht-wackelnden Fragilität von L’Ombre des Femmes, die zusammen mit einer weichen Klarheit kommt, habe ich etwas gefunden, von dem ich nicht wusste, dass ich an Film vermisst habe. Ich denke da nur zur Hälfte an Stanislas Merhar. Vielleicht ist es Notwendigkeit. Vielleicht ist es die Schönheit des jahrelangen Engagements, sich mit Beziehungen auseinanderzusetzen. Hast du gesehen, wie die Figuren zittern?

 

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  • Entweder springt Regen eigentlich aus dem Boden raus, oder ich habe ein Loch in einem Schuh.
  • Nach dem Festival ist es endlich Zeit, weitere Filme von Artavazd Pelešjan zu sehen und dann Marcellos Il silenzio di Pelesjan. Ich hoffe, dass Pietro Marcello und Julian Radlmaier, dessen Ein proletarisches Wintermärchen mir immer spannender scheint, sich kennen. Ich hoffe auch, dass mein Kopf sie nicht wegen Schlössern, sondern wegen einer ähnlichen Auffassung von  Film(emachen) zusammenbringt.
  • In einem Kino gibt es Tati-Poster! Habe ich das letztes Jahr auch gesehen und vergessen?

 

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  • Ich habe in The Whispering Star eine Androidin gesehen, die in einem Raumschiff lebt, dass eigentlich ein Haus aus den 50er(ishen) Jahren ist. Dort sind Insekten (Schmetterlinge) in den Neonlampen gefangen. Fukushima. Es wird nur geflüstert und der Film ist schwarz-weiss mit einer Eskapade in Farbe und ich finde, dass er ein geniesbarer, hüllen-stylisher Film ist und ich hätte ihn vielleicht doch lieber am Anfang meiner Teenagehood gesehen.
  • Ich glaube, dass alle meine Waffel von gestern gesehen haben und auch eine wollten, weil heute, als ich wieder eine kaufen wollte, gab es keine große mehr, nur viele kleinere.