Thursday 13 June 2024

Sixty Years of International Art Cinema 1960-2020 - Bruce Hodsdon continues his series - 6 (26) West German Cinema Part Two - Alexander Kluge (1)

Alexander Kluge

Alexander Kluge was born in Halberstadt, Saxony-Anhalt in1932 and grew up prior to the war in a household full of music and culture. His father, a doctor, played the violin, counting actors and musicians among his patients and friends; social gatherings at the house included concerts and impromptu musical performances. The family home was levelled during an Allied bombing raid in the last month of the war. 

Alexander played the piano and later studied organ and church music as well as modern history at university. Although he went on to study law, his strong interest in music and opera is evident throughout his film and television work. In The Power of Emotion (1983) Kluge condenses the story of ‘Aida’ into three minutes while retaining some of the emotional impact of operatic performance and spectacle in the visuals from an early silent film version of the opera combined with voice-over narration and traces of the music (Lutze 87). This use of narration combined with several types of ‘found’ visual materials is central to Kluge’s strategies of succinctly evoking an event while revealing characters’ subjectivities in affectively achieving an ‘anti-Hollywood’ narrative on a low budget. 

Abschied von Gestern/Yesterday Girl (1966)

Soon after completing graduation Kluge realised that law was less attractive to him. What drew him to film was the interaction with literature and music. He worked briefly as an assistant to Fritz Lang on his Indian films where he witnessed the ongoing humiliation of the great man by the producer Artur Brauner overriding Lang’s instructions on the set with his wife’s advice. Kluge was later always careful to maintain his autonomy by also producing his own films. He made four short documentary films before producing, writing and directing his first feature. 

Kluge was the intellectual among the new directors, a lawyer and academic, a writer of documentary fiction, as well as theoretical works on politics, sociology, philosophy and aesthetics pioneered by the neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt school through Theodor Adorno's theory of modernist aesthetics in the arts and negative analysis of mass culture with an underlying hostility toward film. This was incompatible with Kluge’s commitments-wise approach to filmmaking “aptly characterized by the much abused epithet 'Brechtian'.” (Sandford 17). “He turned to Walter Benjamin who, like Brecht, was seriously interested in popular cultural forms and made a case for film as a potentially critical artistic medium specifically suited to the needs and experiences of a mass audience” (Fiedler 197-8 Phillips ed.). “The conjunction of radical politics and radical aesthetic form that characterizes much of twentieth art is transformed by Kluge into a unique form of political modernism” (Lutze 33).


Artisten in der Zirkuskuppel: Ratlos/Artists at the Top
of the Big Top:Disorientated (1968)

Filmautoren

The notion of the 'Autorenkino' (author’s film) most clearly defined by Kluge, referred to the instatement of a personalised mode of production formulated by the Oberhausen group of aspiring filmmakers. Kluge believed that filmmakers should familiarise themselves with all aspects of production which enables them, as a 'Filmautoren' (film author), to exercise a high degree of authorial control (Knight 69, ‘Cinema Book’ Cook& Bernink eds), or as Fiedler places Kluge’s conception of the Autorenfilm : “the director in the role of producer as well as scriptwriter” (Phillips ed.198). 

Lutze notes that there was a significant difference between the auteur directors in France and the autoren in Germany  (53). Kluge commented that it was the mode of production - low budgets enabled by lightweight equipment - that became the “badge of authenticity” of the producer/directors of the Young German Cinema, rather than the particular content of their films (ibid 54). This informed the film subsidy agencies as the institutionalised paths to film authorship enabled the shaping of a national film movement. The emphasis on the training set by Kluge and Edgar Reitz at the Ulm Film Institute was on a four year all-round film-making education rather than on specialisation.

Timothy Corrigan has noted that both Miriam Hansen and Eric Rentschler have argued that “one of the most important collective gestures of contemporary German cinema may have been to re-situate the very notion of auteur” (New German Critique Winter 1990). Rentschler has shown, it is suggested, that Kluge was part of an anticipatory effort to de-centre the conventions of auteurism in cultural and historical terms while for Hansen it was more a matter of shifting the emphasis, in comparative terms, to the ‘politique des auteurs’ (see below). Corrigan adds that another way that Kluge mobilised auteurism as a critical category was less a critical subversion of auteurism as a production strategy, and more exploiting auteurism as a category for reception. “Indeed, the market shift within auteurism as a way of viewing and receiving movies, rather than as a mode of production, has been a central change in the meaning of auteurism in the sixties to the eighties. It is along these lines that Kluge has begun to make specific use of the commerce of his own singularity and subjectivity” (ibid 44).

Gelegenheitsarbeit einer Sklavin/Occasional Work of
a Female Slave (1973)

As Corrigan puts it: “Despite similar political leanings, Kluge is no Godard […] he ultimately turns sharply from the isolation of Godard’s sometimes radical film language, and ultimately away from the entire concept of a “politique des auteurs” which supports those individualistic notions of film language” (96). In support of his contention, Corrigan quotes Miriam Hansen : “While the post-Oberhausen  film-makers naturally turned to the French New Wave for a mode, German Autorenkino was not only less homogeneous than its French counterpart but also developed different notions of authorship. Hansen identifies that for the New German Cinema the emphasis of ‘Autorenkino’ was “necessarily more on the ‘politique des auteurs,’ the political struggle for independent film-making in a country which did not have a film culture comparable to that of France” (quoted from an essay by Hansen in New German Critique 24/5 1981-2 p.41).


“Two Types of Realism”

In foreshadowing his later filmic essays, Kluge uses inserts of associative montage and a variety of references in the narratives to make ironic comment “on the relationship between past and present, the past being a precondition of the present, its weight by definition inescapable” (Kaes, ‘Heimat to Hitler’ 108).  Or, as Kluge put it: “a better way to change things is to accept the past and to complete it. The only way to change history is to regain it.” 

DVD Cover
In Gefahr und größter Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod,
co-directed with Edgar Reitz (1974)


Central to all of Kluge’s thinking about the cinema is what he sees, in Brechtian terms, as two types of realism. One involves the superficial reproduction of outward reality that merely confirms - and thereby affirms - the existence of what it shows and is most exemplified in the cinema by conventional documentaries. “The other form of realism is critical and subversive seeking out the truth beneath the deceptive face of the world rather than passive receptivity. The motive for realism is never confirmation of reality but protest” (Sandford 18). Realism must be produced, it is not a state of nature. The natural state is ideology and dream world which is the province of the commercial cinema (Jansen and Schutte ‘Herzog/Kluge/Straub’ 1976 quoted ibid). While he is critical of stereotypical ideology and dreams Kluge is also sceptical about the earnestness with which the ‘educated classes’ approach the cinema (ibid) as, one imagines, he would likely view feminist criticism of Occasional Work of a Domestic Slave as referred to above.


The senses, in Kluge's view, are wrongly dismissed as somewhat inferior to our consciousness. He sees the senses as “fundamental not only to our perception but to the organization of that perception into knowledge”. Sandford writes that in this “we are approaching the heart of Kluge's theory, “through the senses the cinema stimulates the audience's imagination, and it is this 'Phantasie'  - the German word Kluge uses that seems to be the key term in his writings […] fundamental to [his] view of the way the cinema works” (18). 

The film is potentially there already in the audience's imagination; it is the director's job to activate this potential.”  Kluge further suggests “that for some tens of thousands of years film has existed in people's minds – streams of association, daydreams, experience, sense impressions, consciousness. The technical invention of film has simply added reproducible counterparts to this” (ibid). He has “often said that the film in the spectator’s head is more important than the one on the screen” (Liebman 162).

In Danger and Deep Distress, the Middleway Spells
Certain Death (1974)


Kluge has stressed on many occasions that “the relationship of film-maker to audience must not be one of domination.” […] His ideal cinema is “not a monologue, but cinema as dialogue, as something the audience can respond to – and not just respond, but make the cinema.” For Kluge, “dialogue with the real experiences of the audience, demands a new filmic language and this new language [can initially cause audience withdrawal]  because they are not used to it […] all the rest of the language of film is stuck in habitual grooves.”  It is important for Kluge that the audience ‘behave naturally’. If you find my films baffling, “stop worrying,” he advises, “just sit back and watch” (ibid).  This direction of thought and its relation to the audience is directly reflected in Kluge’s adoption of an essay-like collage form in his feature films beginning with In Danger and Deep Distress, the Middleway Spells Certain Death made after Occasional Work. The success of Yesterday Girl seemed to encourage Kluge to further challenge viewers' imaginations with a similar, less accessible, treadmill-like circularity - as in Artists at The Top of the Big Top - Disorientated.


************************

Previous entries in this series can be found if you click the following links

 

Sixty Years of International Art Cinema: 1960-2020 - Tables and Directors Lists to Accompany Bruce Hodsdon's Series

 

Notes on canons, methods, national cinemas and more

 

Part One - Introduction

Part Two - Defining Art Cinema

Part Three - From Classicism to Modernism

Part Four - Authorship and Narrative

Part Five - International Film Guide Directors of the Year, The Sight and Sound World Poll, Art-Horror

Part Six (1) - The Sixties, the United States and Orson Welles

Part Six (2) - Hitchcock, Romero and Art Horror

Part Six (3) - New York Film-makers - Elia Kazan & Shirley Clarke  

Part Six (4) - New York Film-makers - Stanley Kubrick Creator of Forms

Part Six (5) ‘New Hollywood’ (1) - Arthur Penn, Warren Beatty, Pauline Kael and BONNIE AND CLYDE

Part Six (6) Francis Ford Coppola: Standing at the crossroads of art and industry

Part 6(7) Altman

6(8) Great Britain - Joseph Losey, Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, Peter Watkins, Barney Platts-Mills

6(9) France - Part One The New Wave and The Cahiers du Cinema Group

6(10) France - Part Two - The Left Bank/Rive Gauche Group and an Independent

6(11) France - Part Three - Young Godard

6(12) France - Part Four - Godard:Visionary and Rebel

6 (13) France Part 5 Godard with Gorin, Miéville : Searching for an activist voice

6(14) France Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Bresson 

6 (15) France Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Jacques Tati

 6 (16) - Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Carl Th Dreyer

6 (17) - Italy and Luchino Visconti

6(18 - Italy and Roberto Rossellini - Part One

6(19) - Rossellini, INDIA and the new Historical realism

6(20) - Rossellini in Australia

6 (21) - Italy - Michelangelo Antonioni

6 (22) - Italy - Federico Fellini, Ermanno Olmi

6 (23) - Italy - Pasolini, Rosi

6 (24) - Interregnum - Director/Auteur/Autoren

6 (25) West Germany

Monday 10 June 2024

Sydney Film Festival - Rod Bishop finds some absorbing, impressive film-making - ABOUT DRY GRASSES (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey France Germany 2023)

 Of late, Nuri Bilge Ceylan has stretched the running times of his Chekhovian-influenced Turkish tales. This one is 197 mins, The Wild Pear Tree (2018) is 188 minutes and Winter Sleep (2014) is 196 minutes.

Admirers of his work will instantly recognize the Turkish writer-director’s figures in Anatolian landscapes, this time opening with a shot of Samet (Deniz Celiloğlu) trudging through deep snow to the village of Incesu. He is a misanthropic art teacher grimly waiting to complete the last of his four years in this outpost so he can move to Istanbul. 

Samet is irritated by his students and not very encouraging, at one point telling them none will become artists and that most will end up growing potatoes and sugar beets to feed the wealthy.

But he does have a favourite, the 14-year-old Sevim (Ece Bağci) with whom he surreptitiously flirts and buys her presents. Sevim writes him a love letter that falls into the hands of one of his faculty colleagues. Scandal awaits.

Samet is also hiding his competitive drive from his teacher-colleague and housemate Kenan (Musab Ekici). Together they visit another teacher Nuray (Merve Dizdar) in a near-by town and Samet jealously watches as Kenan and Nuray’s mutual attraction grows. He decides, at a later date, to court and seduce Nuray. 

 

Sevin (Ece Bagci)

Subsequently, in a painstaking scene of emotional violence, he confesses all to the stricken Kenan. For his part, Kenan does not realize the secretive pleasure Semet is feeling from this conquest, but Ceylan makes damned sure his audience does.

Does this sound like enough plot for a film that is exactly the same length as Doctor Zhivago, the 1965 David Lean epic that managed to deal with the Russian Civil War, the Russian Revolution and the First World War in three hours and sixteen minutes (with an Interval)?

As he has done in the past, Ceylan stretches his plot to fit the running time, methodically teasing, exploring and dissecting his characters. 

In one lengthy exchange between Samet and Nuray, who has lost a leg in a terrorist bombing in Ankara, the political and the personal are chewed over at length – Nuray’s social commitment up against Samet’s misanthropic helplessness. In this exchange Nuray askes Samet what kind of person he is and Samet responds with: “Shall I tell you the truth or try to make you happy?”. Truth, Ceylan is trying to tell us, comes from and is defined by the narrator.

This exchange is followed by a breaking of the 4th wall, a startling cinematic flourish from Ceylan before he proceeds into his final act and the eventual appearance of the dry grasses. It’s absorbing, impressive filmmaking.  

 

Saturday 8 June 2024

Sixty Years of International Art Cinema 1960-2020 - Bruce Hodsdon continues his series - 6 (25) West Germany


Alexander Kluge (1932- ), Edgar Reitz (1932-), Jean-Marie Straub (1933-2022) & Danièle Huillet* (1936-2006), Volker Schlöndorff (An International Film Guide Director of the Year, 1982) (1939-), Werner Herzog (IFG, 1979) (1942-), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (IFG, 1975) (1946-1982), Wim Wenders (IFG, 1980) (1942-)

Part 1 - Young Cinema ‘Breakthrough’

The most striking aspect of the revival of West German cinema in the 60s was the way the international success of Herzog, Fassbinder, Wenders and to a lesser extent of Schlöndorff, especially in the US, obscured recognition of their presence in Europe’s domestic markets. Focussed on the issues of the status of ‘Kulture’ raised by the revival of independent filmmaking in Germany promoted as Autorenfilm’ (q.v.) partly on a competitive basis almost entirely dependent on public funding, and partly sustained by collaboration with broadcast television, a lead increasingly followed by other counties such as Italy and France. In Germany the TV/film alliance brought about a gradual change in independent filmmaking away from the idea of mass entertainment pursued by Hollywood but also distinct from television’s notion of family entertainment (Elsaesser 1).

Alexander Kluge

Thomas Elsaesser in the introduction to his book, ‘New German Cinema’, identifies two basic models available when writing about ‘national’ cinemas or ‘new’ film movements concentrating either on individual (art film) directors, or on specific themes and genres placed in the context of a general survey of landmarks and turning points.  The former is the approach taken for structuring purposes in this series within the conceptual framework of the notion of a global art cinema introduced in part 2, “Art Cinema: A Matter of Definition’ (q.v.).

                                                                          ****

In the Eastern Zone of divided post-war Germany the USSR allowed the film industry to flourish. The Western allies, especially the Americans, were more wary, seeing the need for the Germans to be carefully screened for dangerous influences from their past and then 're-educated' in the ways of democracy. A great backlog of English language movies flooded in, dubbed into German and screened at reduced prices. The centralised film industry monopoly left by the Nazis was broken up. The remaining producers and distributors were often too small to withstand the competition from Hollywood. However, the giant pre-war conglomerate UFA managed to survive in different guises despite attempts to dismantle it. The East German cinema went its own way in the service of the new communist state. 

In West Germany the 'economic miracle' in the 50s created boom conditions for locally produced escapism: the sentimental Heimatfilme, period 'Sissi' films set in Austria, romantic comedies, films celebrating the lives of great men, thrillers and Karl May westerns. However, post-war West German cinema had difficulty establishing its identity. “The prospect of change seemed remote; by several accounts, more than half of all production personnel active in 1960 had been Nazi party members during the war” (Liebman). 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Anton Kaes in “From Hitler to Heimat’ comments : “the cinema of the Adenauer and Erhard era functioned as a dream world fulfilling the desires for a healthy Germany, for beautiful German landscapes and naive but noble German people” (14). The general paralysis of inspiration and talent in the industry did not stand in the way of a boom in attendance and production financed by government credit,1950-56, but by the end of the decade the boom had ended, hastened by the arrival of television. The ‘Kulture’ issue ran deeper. In 1961 the organisers of the Venice Film festival rejected all West German entries and the Federal Film prize given annually at home went unawarded.

Commercial cinema attendances in Germany plunged by 75 per cent, 1956-62, as the number of TV sets in households increased more than tenfold.  The industry crisis provided the opportunity at the Oberhausen Festival for Short Films in 1962. Twenty-six young would-be film-makers, writers and artists delivered a manifesto in an innovative show of unity declaring their “right to create a new German feature film while proclaiming the death of the old.” Their primary aim at this stage was to change the mode of production not exhibition which was dominated by chain cinemas. They pointed to the number of awards German short films had received at international film festivals.  Among the signatories was Alexander Kluge who was later to make the first German film by the newly established 'Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film' (Young German Film) founded in1967, its formation being the most tangible outcome from the proposals put in the Oberhausen Manifesto. 

There are discontinuities between the films following Oberhausen and those of the New German Cinema in terms of the politics of filmmaking, as well as in terms of style and subject matter. “What does, superficially at least, unite the Young and New German Cinema is a militant platform around the concept of “Autorenfilm’ (cinema of authors)”, a complex, contradictory term “undergoing many a sea-change in the course of its twenty-year history” (Elsaesser 2).

Volker Schlondorff

“Far from being a sign of organised group activity, the Manifesto in fact constituted virtually the total of that activity; united only in their frustrations and ambitions, its signatories lacked any common plan of campaign” (Jan Dawson ‘Sight & Sound Winter 1980/1, 14). Dawson further points out that the Manifesto was an attempt at a consensus statement drafted by a committee for what was envisaged as a new German cinema free of industry conventions, commercial influences, and control by interest groups.

Edgar Reitz described how they were inspired by what had happened in the French cinema: the nouvelle vague and the slogan “le cinéma de papa est mort.”  Green stickers carrying the slogan “Papa’s Kino est tot” were stuck everywhere, “We didn’t actually know what we meant by them […] We only knew that there were no films being produced in Germany that interested us […] On our own, most of us would never have dared for the first time to admit that we dreamed of making feature films […] The film industry was such a closed business […] Following] the stir we caused at Oberhausen […] We were obliged to organise and to develop our ideas […] Politically we weren’t up to it […] We were such a motley group of individuals […] The one concept that did develop was that of an auteur cinema. The one person who played an absolutely central part during those years was Alexander Kluge.”

“Kluge was characterised in the press as the group’s chief ideologue, and from the start there was a certain friction. He tried unsuccessfully to enlighten the group, to give it a political consciousness but there was always hostility within the group. It was important that this shouldn’t become public knowledge, and that’s one reason why Kluge did the political lobbying on his own […] giving rise to the suspicion] that Kluge would have some influence on how it was spent. So people started working against one another.” 



Daniele Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub

Unlike the new French directors whom they so admired, the Oberhausen generation, isolated from one another in their modest professional activities as filmmakers, lacked not only the practical experience of working together on so much as a magazine, but also the forum for pooling and developing their ideas which 
Cahiers du Cinéma had represented for the French. Which is not to suggest that the nouvelle vague was, either in its inception or expression, a political movement (its political preoccupations were largely confined to the politique des auteurs), but simply that it was a movement, at least in its early stages. The trust and friendship born of a collectively developed aesthetic were strong enough to prompt its exponents, during those early stages, to assist each other in raising budgets, mostly within the private sector (Dawson 15). 

Dawson also suggests that the basic competitiveness of the young Germans was not surprising given that the only uniting factor was a common desire for self-expression “their interests - or self-interests - might be seen as parallel rather than identical: they were impatient to work as artists; but (with the ever-honourable and far-sighted exception of Alexander Kluge, who was also a qualified lawyer) were unaware that being an artist, especially in an expensive medium, already represents a political position; or that, in order to become artists, they might first need to become politicians. Individualism was, after all, a major element of the literary and philosophical inheritance they were anxious to reclaim.”

Edgar Reitz

The Manifesto was not a plea for admission into the current system, it was a denunciation of the system and a demand for an alternative to the poor quality of current German films and at their lack of relevance to contemporary life.  As such it made a substantial impact on policy-makers as an organised rather than individual protest by filmmakers instead of critics as well as an argument for cultural rather than fiscal intervention (Elsaesser 24). 

“The legacy of Oberhausen was set in motion by the development of a film culture” (Elsaesser 27). To provide an opportunity for new filmmakers to acquire a knowledge of film - its theory and history as well as its practice - in 1962 Kluge and Reitz launched Germany’s first film school at Ulm -  Berlin followed in 1966, and Munich in 1967. The Ulm school was guided by what Reitz described as “the same mixture of crusading and academic spirit which characterises so much of Kluge’s creative work […] A new generation needed a new formation and the student-teacher relationship had to be abolished as well” (ibid 16).  The school was set up initially without state subsidy or professional help of any kind but soon its work was indirectly subsidised in that student films received public funding. In the wake of Oberhausen, parallel with the schools, a number film and television archives were founded. 

The Kuratorium for Young German Film, “unquestionably the major achievement of the Oberhausen initiative” (ibid), was established in 1965 as a government funded organisation to subsidise the work of young filmmakers. “The scheme implied a notion of film as an artwork and an act of self-expression […] and only secondarily in its possibility of circulating as a commodity.” Elsaesser points out that “in this respect, the Young German Film was distinct from other comparable art cinemas, such as the nouvelle vague in France, whose films functioned as alternative products, but within a more or less traditional film industry […] By contrast, Young German films were made with a far less assured sense of an actual audience, and often bore little reference explicitly or implicitly to national or international film culture” (ibid 24). 

Werner Herzog

The early films of Syberberg or Herzog, for instance, were to a remarkable degree objects sui generis, outside any recognisable tradition of film-making either commercial  or avant garde. Kluge’s essays on celluloid, and even Jean-Marie Straub’s or Vlado Kristl’s films* seemed, in contrast to the French film directors’ love of cinema, inspired by what one might call ‘cinephobia’’, a revulsion against the commercial film industry and its standard product, the fictional narrative film 
(25).. 

In one year, 1965-66, ten first feature films were made although not without serious unavoidable rivalry, as Reitz noted, between the filmmakers. For a start the distributors did not want 10 films only 4 or 5. There was also no provision for progression from first feature to second and continuing resources for long term. Some films did well but not well enough to replenish the coffers of the Kuratorium: “after the first flush of ingenuous rapture, the rude awakening.” Despite the reduction in its budget the Kuratorium  in 1971 contributed to first films, among others, by Ula Stockl (Das goldene Ding/ The Golden Stuff ) and Wim Wenders (Die Angst des Bormann’s bien Elfmeter/ The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick).

The realist trend in the New German Cinema began in 1966 with Alexander Kluge, Volker Schlöndorff, and Peter Fleischmann (Hunting Scenes in Lower Bavaria}. The breakthrough came when Kluge received multiple awards, including the Silver Lion, for Abschied von Gestern/ Yesterday Girl at the 1966 Venice Biennale followed by the favourable reception at Cannes of Ulrich Schamoni's Es/ It, Volker Schlöndorff's Der Junge Torless/The Young Torless and Jean-Marie Straub's Nicht Verschont/Not Reconciled”  (Sandford 13). In contrast to the French New Wave which soon integrated into the mainstream while rejuvenating it in the process, hardly any attempt was made by the established German producers to finance the rebel filmmakers, nor was there any attempt by the old guard to reform the industry from the inside” (Anton Kaes ‘Oxford World Cinema’ ed Nowell-Smith 616). 

‘Opas Kino’ (Grandad’s Cinema) did not welcome the Kuratorium “whose sponsorship of no fewer than twenty films in the first three years looked to [the industry] like unfair competition” (Sandford 14). Over the next two years, legislation - the 1967 Film Subsidy Bill - was pushed through that reinforced the domination of the commercial cinema. Funding of the second film was based on the box office returns of the first. This encouraged the production of genre series and sex films rather than innovative art narratives. Television - diversely structured and all public, originally the enemy of cinema, provided the outlet for feature films by young directors. A Film/Television Agreement in 1974 had a provision for grants for the realisation of promising film scripts something that the Kuratorium had been looking at for some time. 

This lack of cooperation between the old and the new continued to be the situation in the following decades. It was through a system of various forms of federal government, state and city support over the years and from the mid-70s also by television. This enabled artistic ambitions of the filmmakers of the Young German and the New German Cinema to be realised although not without a corresponding sense of obligation on the part of these filmmakers “particularly since the film audience in Germany showed shockingly little interest in the New German Cinema.” The state-subsidised, 'artistically ambitious' German film had, more than in any other country, “accepted a secret cultural task: to present New Germany to the rest of the world through the mirror of its films” (ibid 16)

Wim Wenders

Elsaesser notes that the major problem with the films sponsored by the Kuratorium in the years between 1964 and 1971 was the absence of a distribution strategy into which the films might have fitted. “Given that they were made outside the commercial system, and given the exhibition system in Germany for non-Hollywood distributed products, the Young German Film existed in a vacuum in the home market” (23). Launching films by filmmakers like Schlondorff and Reitz that might have met conventional expectations would have required a sizeable publicity effort which distributors were not willing to undertake. By 1971 more than 30 feature films produced with public money had failed to find any form of exhibition other than at film festivals in the presence of the director. 

From 1969 onwards recognising distribution as the pressing problem for independent film-makers the Kuratorium set aside a fund for film promotion. A group of directors pooled their resources for distribution, founding the ‘Filmverlag der Autoren’ to enter the market directly in the hybrid role as producer/distributor which financially soon became “a learning process for everyone involved” (Dawson 20).

Neither the Young German Films of the 1960s nor its successor, the New German Cinema of the 1970s, “was ever a school or unified movement, but rather a loose alliance of autonomous auteurs who had little in common except their status as outsiders” (Kaes 616 ed. Nowell-Smith). Most of them were inexperienced, often self-taught, who aspired to more than conventional story-telling and “agreed in their criticism of German society, of its capitalism, conformity and complacency.” (ibid). In the case of the New German Cinema what was up to the 70s in Germany an unfashionable interest in an Autorenkino, shifted internationally - initially most prominently in Fassbinder, Herzog and Wenders, directors who had begun making films in the late 60s free of many of the constraints of commercial production. The mid 70s saw the consolidation of the reputation of New German Cinema internationally.

* Vladislav “Vlado” Kristl (1923-2004), Croatian filmmaker, poet, painter and performance artist best known for his animated films, pioneer of the Zagreb School of Animation.

*************************

Previous entries in this series can be found if you click the following links

 

Sixty Years of International Art Cinema: 1960-2020 - Tables and Directors Lists to Accompany Bruce Hodsdon's Series

 

Notes on canons, methods, national cinemas and more

 

Part One - Introduction

Part Two - Defining Art Cinema

Part Three - From Classicism to Modernism

Part Four - Authorship and Narrative

Part Five - International Film Guide Directors of the Year, The Sight and Sound World Poll, Art-Horror

Part Six (1) - The Sixties, the United States and Orson Welles

Part Six (2) - Hitchcock, Romero and Art Horror

Part Six (3) - New York Film-makers - Elia Kazan & Shirley Clarke  

Part Six (4) - New York Film-makers - Stanley Kubrick Creator of Forms

Part Six (5) ‘New Hollywood’ (1) - Arthur Penn, Warren Beatty, Pauline Kael and BONNIE AND CLYDE

Part Six (6) Francis Ford Coppola: Standing at the crossroads of art and industry

Part 6(7) Altman

6(8) Great Britain - Joseph Losey, Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, Peter Watkins, Barney Platts-Mills

6(9) France - Part One The New Wave and The Cahiers du Cinema Group

6(10) France - Part Two - The Left Bank/Rive Gauche Group and an Independent

6(11) France - Part Three - Young Godard

6(12) France - Part Four - Godard:Visionary and Rebel

6 (13) France Part 5 Godard with Gorin, Miéville : Searching for an activist voice

6(14) France Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Bresson 

6 (15) France Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Jacques Tati

 6 (16) - Part 6 - Creator of Forms - Carl Th Dreyer

6 (17) - Italy and Luchino Visconti

6(18 - Italy and Roberto Rossellini - Part One

6(19) - Rossellini, INDIA and the new Historical realism

6(20) - Rossellini in Australia

6 (21) - Italy - Michelangelo Antonioni

6 (22) - Italy - Federico Fellini, Ermanno Olmi

6 (23) - Italy - Pasolini, Rosi

6 (24) - Interregnum - Director/Auteur/Autoren