Archive for Fritz Lang

George Cockstone

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2014 by dcairns

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Now that I have your attention…

The film is DR MABUSE VS SCOTLAND YARD — at one point it looks as if it’s going to be, thrillingly, DR MABUSE VS SCOTLAND, as the criminal super-genius is reported to be heading north of the border, but he’s only fooling, and most of the action takes place around a wonderfully touristic German version of London. “Princess Diana” is kidnapped. A bevvy of bobbies are brainwashed. And electronics criminal “George Cockstone” is recruited as Dr. Mabuse’s right-hand man.

Peter Van Eyck, who plays various roles in various of Artur Brauner’s MABUSE sequels — he’s a millionaire industrialist in Fritz Lang’s THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR MABUSE, which kickstarted the whole 60s cycle — plays a British policeman whose old mum does most of his case-solving.

Highly recommended twaddle.

Meanwhile — I’m off to the Rotterdam International Film Festival with NATAN (see you there?) for three days and then off to London for two days, also with NATAN — it screens at the Curzon Soho on Saturday afternoon (see you there?). Hope you enjoyed Lewis Milestone Week+. I may have the odd bit more to say about the old fellow, but not for a little while now.

(Flight isn’t until 6, so I’ll probably be online to respond to comments.)

Aaaand — I was forgetting — BIG article by me, part 1, at Mostly Film — THE MAKING OF NATAN.

The Monday Intertitle: The Greeks Have an Intertitle for It

Posted in FILM, literature, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2014 by dcairns

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HELENA is a silent German two-part epic based on Greek mythology, directed by Manfred Noa and released, unfortunately, the same year as Lang’s DIE NIBELUNGEN. The public stayed away in droves every bit as big as those the filmmaker mustered to represent the fall of Troy. It’s as if a critic wrote, “If you only see one two-part mythological epic this year, make it Lang’s DIE NIBELUNGEN,” and the public decided to take that as an instruction.

A shame, for though Lang’s film deserves its place in history (or another, better place in history — not as a Nazi favourite but as a prophecy of the destruction wrought by war and hatred), Noa’s film is visually splendid and dramatically quite pleasing, though I would slightly fault his taste in casting the authoritative but not particularly ravishing Edy Darclea as Helen of Troy. But what are you gonna do? One man’s face that launched a thousand ships is another man’s limpet-studded wharf. Not that Edy D is a limpet-studded wharf. She’s fine, she’s just not sensational. She’s no Edie Sedgwick.

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Through a glass Darclea.

Unlike in that Wolfgang Petersen foolishness, the Germans aren’t afraid to bring the gods of Olympus onscreen, which is just as well, for they have a crucial role to play in Homer’s scenario. But we’re not treated to Olivier and Andress and Maggie Smith or their Teuton equivalents wafting about amid dry ice and columns, which might get kitsch. The divine figures appear only in visions witnessed by the mortals, which allows for plenty of stylisation and guards against FANTASIA syndrome. It’s a brilliant solution, and one that should be revived the very next time somebody does something mythic with gods in.

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 Filmed in the splendour of dactylic hexameter!

The only star name I recognize is Albert Basserman, who turned up in THE RED SHOES decades later. Maybe it’s the lack of star power that scuppered Noa’s bold enterprise. The film was rediscovered after many years considered lost, and deserves to be properly available. Check out Kristin Thompson’s ten best of 1923 (it’s my annual favourite blog event) and note just how few truly major silent dramas are available to buy in decent condition.

What else do we need? Oh yes, the promised intertitle, bilingual and wreathed in laurel leaves. Enjoy!

vlcsnap-2014-01-04-02h23m22s25STOP PRESS: Fiona: “What does that mean? You don’t tell us.”

Me: “I don’t know.”

Fiona: “Then you shouldn’t have posted it.”

STOP STOP PRESS: according to Google Translate the French means “You have the power to ward off the dark future. Tell me if I must leave for Cythera.” But it says the German means “Yours is the power to summon the dark future. Customer to me whether I should follow the call to Cythera.”

 

M People

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2013 by dcairns

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My first and last trip to Berlin I recall trying to sleep in the day time in the Alcatraz youth hostel, where we guests of Britfest Short Film Festival had been placed after smarter accommodation fell through. I had been unable to sleep in this establishment for something like four nights and was almost starting to hallucinate. I lay on my bunk and could hear children playing in the street. German children. Which called to mind Fritz Lang’s M, and made me even less inclined to sleep.

M is one of those seminal films I haven’t actually watched very often. When first introduced to it, I had a fairly normal, banal reaction to early sound cinema, reacting to the perceived creakiness, and particularly the unsteady lurches of the camera and the fact that the movie’s studio version of Berlin has no incidental traffic noise. That last fact is now one of the pleasures of the movie for me — I like how the whole film seems to have beamed down from space, with alien modes of behaving and strange, grotesque characters. I ran it for students last week and they got to experience the weirdness for the first time, but I seem to be past it. I’m *in* 1930s cinema now.

The whole look of the movie’s world is incredibly beautiful to me — and yet many of the objects we see must have been quite commonplace. The water-pump that crouches amid the children like a preying mantis or an iron vulture is a perfectly naturalistic detail from a time when children played in tenement courtyards and every courtyard had a water pump. But it’s welcomed into the composition for its malign aspect. The drain set into the cement is somehow grim and suggestive of slaughter.

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An aerial track along a heap of confiscated weapons made me think of TAXI DRIVER, and recall that Scorsese spoke of Lang’s influence on AFTER HOURS — tracking shots that make you feel locked into the character’s horrible destiny — so Lang surely must have been hovering over the earlier film too. (Scorsese’s overheads, which carry over into LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST also, are not like Hitchcock’s God shots, they are geometric like Lang, and dissociative like an Out Of Body Experience (O.O.B.E.).

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Who is the central character of M? Who’s side are we on? Sometimes the answer to both questions comes in the uncomfortable form of pudgy young Peter Lorre, but really it’s a movie about a society rather than an individual — as with THE BOSTON STRANGLER which mimics the structure closely, you could replace the killer with a virus or a weather formation. But despite a rather cool, detached view of its often appalling characters, many of them Georg Grosz cartoons made flesh, the movie is certainly not lacking in human interest.

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Oh, did I miss something — why do we get this angle? It seems to betray a frankly inexplicable interest in Otto Wernicke’s genitalia. The fact that Lang was, according to information received, possibly bisexual, in no way accounts for this.

M (Masters of Cinema) Dual Format (Blu-ray + DVD) [1931]

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