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German Retro-Visions

This survey integrates classic works from German cinema with contemporary films that focus on dynamic interactions between film history and social history.


November 1 (Monday) 7 pm

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf)

Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
West Germany 1973, color, 35mm, 94 min.
German with English subtitles
With Bridgette Mira, El Hedi ben Salem, and Barbara Valentin

To say this film is a family melodrama would be an understatement. This is Melodrama with a capital M, and a beautiful homage to Douglas Sirk, particularly his film All that Heaven Allows. Fassbinder brilliantly articulates class and sexual politics by showing how once the prejudices surrounding a controversial couple begin to lessen, their relationship starts to unravel. His famous indoor long-shot is perfectly integrated and the colors masterfully contrasted with the reality they adorn.

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November 1 (Monday) 9 pm

Lina Braake

Directed by Bernhard Sinkel
West Germany 1974, 16mm, 85 min.
German with English subtitles
With Lina Carstens, Fritz Rasp, Herbert Botticher

After the owner of the house in which Lina Braake has lifelong right of residence dies, the house is bought by a bank, and Lina is evicted. Sent to a home for the elderly, she meets 84-year-old Gustaf, with whom she plots to take revenge on the bank.

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November 8 (Monday) 7 pm

Zero Hour (Stunde Null)

Directed by Edgar Reitz
West Germany 1976, 16mm, 108 min.
German with English subtitles
With Kai Taschner, Herbert Weissbach, Gunter Schimann

An early work by the director of Heimat, Reitz’s Zero Hour is set as the Third Reich has just ended. Joschie, a former member of the Hitler Youth, dreams of America and hopes to follow the Americans as they leave the area to the Russians. But first he must recover a treasure that the Nazis have buried in a cemetery in a village near Leipzig. Driving to the village, where everyone is waiting for the Red Army to arrive, Joschie meets a refugee girl and tells her his secret.

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January 8 (Monday) 7 pm

The Murderers are Among Us (Die Morder sind unter uns)

Directed by Wolfgang Staudte
Germany 1946, b/w, 16mm, 87 min.
German with English subtitles

The first feature film to issue from a shell-shocked nation, The Murderers Are Among Us gained recognition for its expressionistic shadows, which evoked Weimar Germany’s "haunted screen," and for its documentary verisimilitude, which echoed Neorealism’s exploration of postwar spaces. Set in Berlin, former capital of the German Reich now reduced to mounds of rubble, the film focuses on the struggles of the city’s desperate and cynical survivors. In portraying a country shattered by bombs and shackled with guilt, Staudte delivers a powerful indictment of an unreconciled past.

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November 15 (Monday) 9:30

The Glass Sky (Der gläerne Himmel)

Directed by Nina Grosse
West Germany 1987, 87 min.
German with English subtitles
With Helmut Berger, Sylvie Orcier, Agnes Fink, Maria Hartmann

Based on a story by Julio Cortazar, Nina Grosse’s atmospheric film focuses on Julian, who lives in Paris with his lover and his bed-ridden mother. One morning he wakes up from a nightmare in which a woman was murdered by a man who looked just like himself. Gradually the dream begins to take over his life. This surreal and poetic film had a mixed reception in Germany, as did two more famous predecessors based on texts by Cortazar — Godard’s Weekend and Antonioni’s Blow-Up.

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November 22 (Monday) 7 pm

Dragon Chow (Drachenfutter)

Directed by Jan Schütte
West Germany 1987, b/w, 35mm, 75 min.
English subtitles
With Bhaskar, Ric Young, Buddy Uzzaman, Wolf-Dieter Sprenger

Two young immigrants in Germany decide to start their own restaurant, where they employ a mixture of struggling immigrants like themselves. Jan Schütte manages a delightful new slant on the oft-treated problem of immigrants in Germany through affectionate observation of his melting pot of characters. The fact that very few of them can understand each other— they communicate in Swahili, Mandarin, Gujarati, and pidgin German— puts the spectator in their position, yet doesn’t obscure the issues. This is a film that enriches and entertains, and possibly creates more tolerance than more strident projects.

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November 22 (Monday) 9 pm

Bye Bye America (Auf Widersehen, Amerika)

Directed by Jan Schütte
Germany 1993 color, 16mm, 86 min.
German with English subtitles
With Otto Tausig, Jakov Bodo, Zofia Merle, Christa Berndl

"Warmed by wry humor and gentle observations, Bye bye America centers on three beautifully wrought characters, all past the prime of life but full of winsome naïveté and expectant dreams. Their journey begins in New York’s Brighton Beach, where a Polish cleaning lady buys a special purse for her return to her birthplace. Along with her diminutive husband of three decades and their best friend, a sadsack German, she takes a boat for Europe. Their homecoming is not the stuff of teary welcomes and momentous parties, however, and it becomes clear that ‘home’ will always elude them. Reminscent of sixties comedies from Czech and Hungarian filmmakers Menzel, Foreman, and Szabo."

--Piers Handling, Toronto

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Screens with "Bye Bye America"
November 22 (Monday) 9 pm

Actually I Wanted to Go to America (Eigentlich wollte ich nach Amerika)

Directed by Jan Schütte
West Germany 1984, color, 35mm, 30 min.
German with English subtitles

 

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November 29 (Monday) 7 pm

Things Are Always Better Elsewhere (Überall ist es besser wo wir nicht sind)

Directed by Michael Klier
West Germany 1989, 16mm, 74 min.
German with English subtitles,
With Miroslaw Baka, Marta Klubowicz, Michael Krause

Set in contemporary Warsaw, Things... is the story of two small-time hustlers whose paths continually cross. Jerzy wanders aimlessly, changing money from the black market while illegally dealing and playing cards in a pub.

He meets Ewa, first in Poland, then in Berlin. With a few shady deals, Jerzy manages to scrape up the money for false documents and enters the United States through Mexico. Out on the streets, he hears someone playing the accordion. following the musician into the pub frequented by Polish emigrés, he finds Ewa again.

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November 29 (Monday) 9 pm

Sierra Leone

Directed by Uwe Schrader
West Germany 1987, 16mm, 92 min.
With Christian Redl, Ann Gisel Glass, Rita Russek

A subtle portrait of disillusionment, Sierra Leone tells the story of a man who, after years working abroad, returns to Germany with pockets full of money. Although he thinks he can pick up where he left off, a different reality soon emerges. His wife, to whom he had sent money, has moved in with somebody else and rejects him coldly. He has an affair with a former girlfriend and gets roaring drunk with his former workmates. In the end, the film’s protagonist is once more alone.

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December 6 (Monday) 7 pm

The Nasty Girl (Das Schreckliche Madchen)

Directed by Michael Verhoeven
West Germany 1989, color, 35mm, 92 min.
German with English subtitles
With Lena Stoltze, Monika Baumgautner, Michael Gahr, Fred Stillkrauth, Elisabeth Bertram, Robert Giggenbach, Hans-Richard Muller

The title character is a schoolgirl who, having won an essay competition on "Freedom in Europe," finds the inhabitants of her town unwilling to participate in her next essay, "My Home Town During the Third Reich." Years later, as a mother and wife of a schoolmaster, she continues her search to uncover the truth, despite personal danger to herself and her family. Based on the true story of Anja Rosmus, The Nasty Girl depicts German fascism, not only in the past, but also in the presentday. Bolstered by Lena Stoltze’s vibrant performance (playing both the teenage and adult parts) and Michael Verhoeven’s distinctly modernist direction, The Nasty Girl emerges as one of the finest political satires in contemporary cinema.

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December 6 (Monday) 9 pm

Europa, Europa

Directed by Agnieszka Holland
France/Germany 1991, color, 35mm, 110 min.
German with English subtitles
With Marco Hofschneider, Julie Delpy, Andre Wilms, Aschley Wanninger, Hanns Zischler, Klaus Kowatsch, Hanna Labornaska

Based on the autobiographical account of Salomon Perel, Europa, Europa tells the story of a young Polish Jew who is captured by the Germans. He is taken into Hitler’s army, where he must pretend to be a loyal Nazi in order to stay alive. Directed with sensitivity and humor, the film is by turns emotional, dramatic, and very funny. Though widely praised, Europa, Europa became the subject of controversy when the German committee failed to nominate it for the Oscar for best foreign film.

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December 13 (Monday) 7 pm

Nobody Loves Me (Keiner liebt mich)

Directed by Doris Dörrie
Germany 1995, color, 35mm, 104 min.
With Maria Schrader, Pierre Sanoussi-Bliss, Michael von Au
German with English subtitles

This quirky film tells the story of Fanny Fink, a death-obsessed airport security officer who is turning thirty. She says she doesn’t need a man but is nonetheless desperate to find one. Encouraged by a gay African ‘psychic’ living in the same tenement block, she tries to get it on with her landlord, but things go awry.

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Screens with "Nobody Loves Me"
December 13 (Monday) 7 pm

Black Rider (Schwarzfahrer)

Directed by Pepe Danquart
Germany 1993, b/w,16mm, 12 min.
German with English subtitles

Set on an old streetcar amid senior citizens, housewives, Turkish boys, and giggling teenage girls, Black Rider presents a lesson in racial tolerance with a humorous twist. A not-so-nice elderly woman torments her neighbor, a young black man, with provocative comments, and she finally comes to the usual conclusion: "That would never have happened back then."

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December 13 (Monday) 9 pm

Outside Time

Directed by Andreas Kleinhert
Germany 1995, b/w, 16mm, 107 min.
German with English subtitles
With Rosel Zech, Julia Jager, Sylvester Groth, Michael Poretschenkow

Set in a small town in Brandenburg after the reunification of the two German states, Outside Time tells the story of Sophie and her mother and brother, who live here, strangely isolated even in this remote world. One day Sophie meets Sergei, a Russian soldier hiding in a deserted barracks. Sophie’s initial shyness turns into love, but when she introduces him to her family, their relationship brings up long-forgotten memories in her mother.

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December 20 (Monday) 7 pm

Silent Country (Stilles Land)

Directed by Andreas Dresen
Germany 1992 color, 16mm, 98 min.
With Thorsten Merten, Jeanette Arndt, Kurt Bowe, Petra Kelling
German with English subtitles

Theater rehearsals in a provincial GDR city are thrown into confusion by the fall of the Berlin Wall. Silent Country presents a group of people amidst the upheavals caused by the political revolution in the former GDR. They act in a variety of ways: simply doing as they have always done, or rapidly adjusting to the new circumstances.

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December 20 (Monday) 9 pm

Lost Landscape (Verlorene Landschaft)

Directed by Andreas Kleinert
Germany 1992, color, 16mm, 96 min.
With Roland Schäfer, Friederike Kammer, Leo Wittrien
German with English subtitles

A successful man in his mid-forties returns to his boyhood home to find himself confronted with the isolation that dominated his childhood. The barrier surrounding his family’s home echoes political barriers the former GDR erected around itself. His look back on an East German past leads him to a critical reflection of his career as a politician in the West.

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