Berlinale Classics 2016
(Early Summer), Japan 1951, directed by Yasujirō Ozu
Noriko is a “late bloomer”. The 28-year-old is happily ensconced in her parents’ house, along with her brother, his wife and their two children. She has no thoughts of getting married, but her relatives think she should. And so does her boss. He introduces her to an old friend of his – as a “good match”. Noriko shows no interest, but the mere rumour of a possible marriage triggers discord behind her back among her relatives about her putative “choice” … Unlike canaries in their cages on the veranda, humans tend to leave home at some point. The film is a melancholy portrayal of that necessary process of family separation, with the elisions typical of Ozu and an atmosphere marked by the stripped down interiors. In 1993, Wim Wenders said “for me, Yasujiro Ozu is the filmmaker who led the 20th century art form to its most beautiful and inimitable and unrepeatable form”. Noriko is played by Ozu’s favourite actress, Setsuko Hara, who passed away in September 2015 at the age of 95. – World premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP.
Der müde Tod
(Destiny), Germany 1921, directed by Fritz Lang
Death robs a newly-married woman of her bridegroom. Having decided to kill herself, she, too, comes under his spell. But Death cannot fulfil her wish to save her beloved’s life unless she succeeds in saving the lives of three other people. The attempt leads her to the Orient, Venice and China … A duplicate 35mm black-and-white print from the Museum of Modern Art was the basis for the digital restoration. Also involved in the restoration process were the Cinémathèque de Toulouse, the Munich Film Museum, Gosfilmofond of Russia, Moscow, the Národní filmový archiv in Prague and the Cinémathèque Royale in Brussels, as well as LʼImmagine Ritrovata, Bologna. Commissioned by ZDF/ARTE, composer Cornelius Schwehr of Freiburg created new music appropriate to the stylistic diversity of this film classic. – World premiere of the digitally restored 2016 version in 2K DCP. A cooperative venture of the Berlin International Film Festival and the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen, the foundation Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, ZDF/ARTE and the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin (RSB), under the baton of Frank Strobel.
Die Russen kommen
(The Russians are Coming), East Germany 1968/1987, directed by Heiner Carow
It’s the spring of 1945 in a small resort town on the Baltic. Günter is 16 and firmly believes that the Germans will win the war. During the hunt for a forced labourer who is on the run, Günter catches him and watches as he is shot to death. He proudly accepts the award of an Iron Cross before being shipped to the nearby front as part of the last contingent of troops. He is quickly captured by Soviet soldiers, but manages to escape and return home. When the town is occupied by the Red Army, Günter is arrested for the murder of the forced labourer … For Günter, “the least guilty among the guilty” (Carow), the day that became “liberation day” in East Germany is a catastrophe that leaves him thoroughly confused. But a film about fascism without an anti-fascist hero was unacceptable. Die Russen kommen was banned in 1968 before it was completed, and a large portion of the negative was later destroyed. It wasn’t until 1987 that the film was reconstructed and finished using material from various work prints and trims. Even after restoration, the ban left visible signs on the material. – A world premiere of the digitally restored version in 2K DCP.
USA 1972, directed by John Huston
Billy Tully once had a promising boxing career. Now, at 29, he’s a hopeless drunkard. After sparring at the gym with Ernie, ten years his junior, Tully sends the talented hobby boxer to his former trainer Ruben, who arranges a few training bouts, all of which Ernie loses. By then, Tully has gotten a new taste for the ring. Increasingly unhappy in his relationship with fellow drinker Oma, he dares to attempt a comeback … Kris Kristofferson’s melancholy “Help Me Make it Through the Night” sets the tone for this unusual boxing drama. Far from the glamour of the professional ring, it’s a tour through the grimy gyms, bars and homeless shelters of Stockton, California. John Huston’s direction turns this character study into an intense and realistic depiction of the dark side of a seemingly affluent city, showing us the milieu peopled by the losers in the status race – the poor blacks, Latinos and whites. With masterly location cinematography by DP Conrad Hall (In Cold Blood, USA 1967, IFB 2015). – International premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP.
Ni luo he nu er
(Daughter of the Nile), Taiwan 1987, directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien
Three siblings live without their parents in the Taipei of the 1980s. Hsiao-yang works at Kentucky Fried Chicken, her brother has been a thief since he was a child, and her little sister has also already begun stealing. Their mother is dead and the father works as a police officer in the country’s south. Hsiao-yang goes to night school; her brother runs a restaurant with his cronies. Misconduct by one of the partners, who is a friend of Hsiao-yang, leads to her brother getting drawn into a gang war. Before the friend can flee to Japan, he’s shot … Hou Hsiao-hsien draws a melancholy portrait of a group of hedonistic, yet lost young people. Contemporary Taiwan pop music is the soundtrack for this tale of those young people cruising the Taipei of neon ads, when they’re not in a jeep on the way to the beach for night-time parties – perhaps sensing that the clique will soon disband. Hsiao-yang counters the fleeting nature of things that is everywhere palpable with her dedicated reading of ancient Egyptian-themed manga, which has also given Hou’s film its title. – World premiere of the digitally restored version in 4K DCP.
The Road Back
USA 1937, Regie: James Whale
The film picks up where the film of Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (USA, 1930) left off, in November 1918. Despite the armistice, four German infantrymen are sent into a last, pointless battle. The road back to civilian life is difficult for the former soldiers. At home, they are confronted with disgruntled revolutionaries, traumatised comrades and war profiteers. They are barely able to talk about the horrors they experienced. Then hunger foments unrest and, in a twist of fate, it’s their former commander who uses bloody means to put down the revolt … Like all of Remarque’s books, The Road Back (1931) was banned in Nazi Germany. After the first previews and protests from the German side, in 1937 the studio made some cuts and re-edited James Whale’s film - including expanding some romantic and comic scenes. The director was not involved in that process. The Retrospective is screening a reconstruction of the 1937 theatrical release. – World premiere of the 35 mm restored version.