Berlinale Classics 2022
10 Feb 22–20 Feb 22
The films of the Berlinale Classics
(‘Brothers’), Germany 1929, directed by Werner Hochbaum
In 1896 Hamburg, work on the docks is hard and labour unrest is brewing. Management is deaf to demands for higher pay. The situation reaches a boiling point and the dockworkers call a strike. One of the movement’s organisers is particularly hard hit. He lives in a neighbourhood that is a warren of alleyways, with his bedridden wife, elderly mother, and small daughter. On Christmas Eve, he is arrested and hauled to the police station, where he faces off against his brother – a police sergeant and representative of the class enemy … Made on the eve of the global economic crisis, Werner Hochbaum’s look back at the failed Hamburg dockworkers’ strike is a reminder of the achievements in social welfare that the trade unions and social democracy forces brought about in the Weimar Republic. Hochbaum’s feature debut was financially supported by both the unions and the Social Democratic Party. Its documentary passages provide authenticity and at the end – just as on the ‘Battleship Potemkin’ – a colourised red flag flutters in the wind. – World premiere of the digitally restored version with new music by Martin Grütter, played by the Berlin Philharmonic under the baton of Raphael Haeger.
(‘Pale Flower’), Japan 1964, directed by Masahiro Shinoda
Muraki has just been released from prison, where he served time for murder, and returns to his old yakuza haunts. In an illegal club, where gamblers bet large on cards in a game called tehonbiki, he meets and enigmatic young woman. Saeko takes big risks, but gambling is more about the thrill than the money for her. She persuades Muraki to take her to an even more exclusive club. During the day, Muraki is beset by people from his past gangster milieu, while at night, he falls increasingly under the spell of the attractive drag racer Saeko … Baudelaire’s ‘Flowers of Evil’ might well have stood godfather for Masahiro Shinoda’s classic film noir, which enduringly shaped the genre of yakuza thrillers. ‘Kawaita hana’ glorifies big-city life in a manner as morbid as it is lyrical, accentuated by composer Toru Takemitsu’s cool jazz score. Beholden to the Aesthetics of Shadow concept with its expressive light and dark camerawork, the film, shot in black-and-white and Cinemascope, intensifies into an existential drama that temporarily eclipses the plot’s gang rivalries. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.
Italy 1962, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Former prostitute Mamma Roma strives to build a middle-class existence and provide her son with a respectable life. She moves to a better neighbourhood, re-unites with her son Ettore, and opens a vegetable stand. But the 16-year-old boy falls in with a gang of young criminals from the housing estate, and starts a relationship with an older neighbour. All his mother’s attempts to turn the delinquent into an industrious young man fail. When Mamma Roma’s former pimp turns up and blackmails her, she is forced to return to peddling her body on the streets … In his second film, with its neo-realistic social analysis, Pier Paolo Pasolini evoked the misery and eros of the Italian sub-proletariat. With Christian iconography located somewhere between the Last Supper and the Crucifixion, ‘Mamma Roma’ traces the via dolorosa of two people on the margins of society; a path that leads them both, in the end, to Dante’s ‘Inferno”. Her performance in the title role amid a believable ensemble of lay actors, may be one of the greatest by Anna Magnani, that ‘most Roman of Romans’. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.
(‘Our Music’), Switzerland/France 2004, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Director Jean-Luc Godard was among the speakers at a 2004 European book fair in Sarajevo, alongside literary luminaries such as Spaniard Juan Goytisolo, and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Two women question the guests about the Balkan War, the traces of which are still visible in Sarajevo, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the genocide of Native Americans and European Jews. While Judith Lerner, a journalist from Tel-Aviv, wants to shed light on the shadow side of history, Olga Brodsky, a Russian Jew, is consumed with dark thoughts of suicide and plans for action … Jean-Luc Godard has constructed his film, analogous to Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, in three parts – inferno, purgatorio, and paradiso. According to the rules of his dialectic of shot/reverse shot, he squares off disturbing montages of fictional and documentary war images with film theory doctrine and philosophical aphorisms. ‘Notre Musique’ uses this visual stream of consciousness to question notions of responsibility and guilt. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.
Skřivánci na niti
(‘Larks on a String‹), Czechoslovakia, 1969/1990, directed by Jiří Menzel
During the early years of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, an industrial junkyard near Kladno serves as a re-education camp for “bourgeois elements”. In addition to recalcitrant intellectuals, a group of female prisoners spend their time dismantling and melting down undesirable relics like crucifixes and typewriters to make ‘peaceful steel” for the good of socialism. Although the men and women are strictly segregated, a tender relationship develops between a young cook and a female labourer … With a romantic tale that is as poetic as it is subversive, director Jiří Menzel debunks state regimentation and posturing as theatre of the absurd, with the government functionaries serving as the chief comic relief. Shot in 1968, this innuendo-rich satire was banned in the wake of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations’ quashing of the country’s Prague Spring. ‘Skřivánci na niti’ was not screened publicly until after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. This film had its international premiere at the 1990 Berlinale, where the squelched New Wave masterpiece was awarded the Golden Bear. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.
(‘Suzhou River‹), China/Germany 2000, directed by Lou Ye
A faceless, nameless videographer tells a love story set in Shanghai. Mardar is a motorcycle courier, Moudan is a young woman, whose father has hired him to drive her around. They fall in love. When Mardar takes part in a plot to kidnap Moudan, she throws herself into the Suzhou River. Years later, Mardar thinks he recognises his lost love – in the person of Meimei, the girlfriend of the video narrator, who performs as a mermaid in a nightclub … As in Hitchcock’s ‘Vertigo’, the love in ‘Suzhou River’ is resurrected from the dead. Shot on coarse-grain 16mm stock, the film is a captivating Chinese variation on the neo-noir trend of the era. At the same time, it draws a portrait of a generation that had been uprooted, shifting between neo-realistic urban images that capture Shanghai in a radical state of flux, and night-time passages that conjure up the alternative sub-culture. Director Lou Ye thus creates a cinematic puzzle of illusion and reality, all the while chronicling a wonderfully tragic love story. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.
Great Britain 1975, directed by Ken Russel
In 1951 England, young Tommy Walker watches as his mother and stepfather murder his biological father, long thought lost in the war. The trauma renders the youngster deaf, blind, and mute, and he becomes a problem child that nobody wants. But when Tommy develops mad skills at pinball, and even beats the grand master Pinball Wizard, he becomes a proselytiser to the masses in search of enlightenment … In his adaptation of The Who’s rock opera, eccentric British director Ken Russell interprets Pete Townshend’s family line-up as a glamorous satire of the pop music industry. Hits and hysteria, pomp and pop art coalesce into a symphonic synthesis of the arts. Recorded for playback on a Quintaphonic Sound system, this extravagant coming-of-age drama is told entirely in song. Among the greats of rock-and-roll and Hollywood who sang those parts were Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson, and Ann-Margret, who was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of the mother of all mothers. – World premiere of the digitally restored version.