Retrospective of the 70th Berlin International Film Festival
The Retrospective of the 70th Berlin International Film Festival will be dedicated to the American film director, producer, and screenwriter King Vidor (1894–1982) who holds a central place in the history of US cinema. Considered a key director towards the end of the silent era and in the Golden Age of Hollywood, Vidor left a lasting mark, combining his interest in social engagement with the desire to explore in depth the potential of cinematic language.
The Retrospective film program will also be accompanied by numerous events at the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen.
The Retrospective program includes 35 films from five decades. They are to be presented in the best possible quality – for the most part on 35mm prints. Five of King Vidor’s films received Oscar nominations for Best Director: The Crowd (1928), Hallelujah (1929), The Champ (1931), The Citadel (1938) and War and Peace (1956). In 1978, in tribute of his versatility and innovative powers, King Vidor received an Oscar, the Honorary Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement.
His masterful choreography of mass scenes in The Crowd, The Big Parade (1925), and War and Peace are still impressive today, as is his joy in experimenting with sound and rhythm: in Hallelujah, his first sound film – which is also regarded as one of the first big studio productions with an all African-American cast – he incorporated influences from contemporary jazz music.
Cinema Art Across Genre Boundaries
Vidor's cinematic oeuvre consists of more than fifty films. They range from silent film classics and works on socio-political topics, such as The Crowd (1928), to films depicting social upheaval, as in Our Daily Bread (1934), as well as the Western Duel in the Sun (1946) and the epic literary adaption for the screen War and Peace (1956). His breakthrough came in 1925 with The Big Parade. It is considered the first critical film about World War I, and has turned into a tremendous success for the newly founded MGM Studios.
Vidor shot Billy the Kid (1930), his second Western, in black-and-white on 35 mm as well as 70 mm film – long before this wide-screen format had reached its zenith. His six dazzlingly opulent color films, such as Northwest Passage (1940), Man Without a Star (1955), and Solomon and Sheba (1959), were all shot in Technicolor. Vidor developed his art across many genres and was at all times interested in technical innovations – not to mention, his devotion in working with the most important actors of his time.
Highlights and Dark Sides
King Vidor was acquainted with both the bright and dark sides of the film industry and worked his impressions into Show People (1928). In it, Marion Davies gives a brilliant performance as an unknown slapstick performer who rises to become a movie diva. Issues related to class, as well as upward and downward social mobility play a crucial role in Vidor’s films, as do immigration and social integration. The latter is dealt with in a nuanced and often humorous manner in films such as Street Scene (1931), The Wedding Night (1935), An American Romance (1944), and Japanese War Bride (1952).
On the other hand, in The Champ (1931), Stella Dallas (1937), as well as Ruby Gentry (1953), he illuminates from many sides the inner life of characters who set out in search of their identity between the different echelons of society. He often engaged his favorite actors for several films. Under his care, the following stars gave stunning screen performances: Gary Cooper, Joseph Cotten, Marion Davies, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, John Gilbert, Lillian Gish, Audrey Hepburn, Jennifer Jones, and Gregory Peck.