Written by Leni Riefenstahl, Walter Ruttmann, Eberhard Taubert
Directed by Leni Riefenstahl
It is never easy to look at Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will as anything other than what Dr. Anthony Santoro quite rightly calls a “supreme propaganda film.” As that, it is nearly unparalleled in the dubious annals of film history. Contributing to its difficulty in terms of analysis, however, is the fact that it is, at the same time, more than simply a notorious document of evil in bloom. For all the troublesome features that recurrently arise through the course of this film—the domineering presence of Adolf Hitler being just one obvious example—this is one remarkably well-crafted motion picture. Its status as the ultimate work of cinematic propaganda is, indeed, a direct result of just how superbly powerful, sadly persuasive, and expertly realized the documentary is, for better or worse.
Caroline Champetier: I’ve always tried to take a step back from what I’m doing. The more I work, however, the less I’m able to deal with this exercise. I just finished production on Claude Lanzmann’s The Last of the Unjust and have barely said goodbye to David Teboul, a young director who I worked with on Cinq avenue Marceau (2002), a film I think very highly of and that’s about Yves Saint Laurent’s last collection.
Here come the circles, radiating from a single point to fill the screen. They keep on coming. Are they approaching or vanishing? Am I looking up at a dome of light or down into a black hole? Patterns collapse inward, and circles of light turn and turn. Everything spirals and surges with an abstract radiation.
"It's just like Bridget Riley!" someone in the dark gallery at the Eye film Museum in Amsterdam says – but even as she speaks the image has moved on. Spirals, a series of patched-together experiments in abstract animation by Oskar Fischinger, was made in his studio in Munich in the mid-1920s, and comes near the start of a major exhibition of the animator's work.
Jean Epstein disappeared over half a century ago, in 1953. Yet, few filmmakers are still as alive today. At the time, a radio broadcast announced the following obituary: “Jean Epstein has just died. This name may not mean much to many of those who turn to the screens to provide them with the weekly dose of emotion they need.
• As featured in our Berlin city guide
People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag), Curt and Robert Siodmak, 1930
Silent cinema flourished in Germany during the Weimar years, and Berlin was immortalised in two particularly brilliant impressionist tributes: Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, and People on Sunday, which aimed to create a patchwork of ordinary Berliners' lives. This film, with its cast of non-professional actors and hidden camera, gets the pick – partly because of its extraordinary writing and directing credit roll. Virtually everyone – including Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann and Robert Siodmak – went on to make a name for themselves in Hollywood, after being forced out of Germany during the Nazi era.
• Bahnhof Zoo; Nikolassee
The Bourne Supremacy,
Breer's father, an automobile designer, rigged a Bolex so that he could shoot home movies in 3D. In the early 50s, Breer lived in Paris, where he made large abstract paintings, and in the 60s, he made "float" sculptures that wander the gallery. An exhibition of several of these paintings and sculptures is currently on view at Baltic's Level 4 Gallery in Gateshead through September 25.
Yoel Meranda, who, a few years ago, worked at the Film-makers' Cooperative in New York, which Breer co-founded in the 70s, has a moving remembrance. Here's how it begins: "When I first saw on Fred Camper's Senses of Cinema top tens
"Though immensely popular, the films were dismissed by
5750 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Hosted by: Center for Visual Music
The Center for Visual Music — the Los Angeles-based archive dedicated to the preservation and promotion of both classic and modern avant-garde and experimental media — is holding a special benefit to raise money for their Fischinger Preservation and Conservation Project. Tickets can be purchased directly from Event Brite. (To be clear: This event is Not a screening, so don’t go expecting to see a screening of Fischinger’s films. This is simply a benefit.)
The event is being held on the occasion of the 100th birthday of Elfriede Fischinger (1910 — 1999), the widow of experimental animation pioneer Oskar Fischinger (1900 — 1967). There will be paintings and unshot animation drawings by Oskar, but half of the exhibition will be about the life and work of Elfriede. Also, there will be a wine reception and a silent auction.
In 1969, Jerome Hill, P. Adams Sitney, Peter Kubelka, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas decided to open the world’s first museum devoted to film. Of course, a typical museum hangs its collections of artwork on the wall for visitors to walk up to and study. However, a film museum needs special considerations on how — and what, of course — to present its collection to the public.
Thus, for this film museum, first a film selection committee was formed that included James Broughton, Ken Kelman, Peter Kubelka, Jonas Mekas and P. Adams Sitney, plus, for a time, Stan Brakhage. This committee met over the course of several months to decide exactly what films would be collected and how they would be shown. The final selection of films would come to be called the The Essential Cinema Repertory.
The Essential Cinema Collection that the committee came up with consisted of about 330 films.
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