Sunday, 31 January 2010

Sundance Winners Announced

PARK CITY, Utah -- "Winter's Bone," director Debra Granik's spare, suspenseful tale of a teenage girl's coming-of-age in the rural Ozarks, and "Restrepo," Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's intense, close-up documentary look at a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan, won the top jury prizes for American films at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival's Saturday evening awards ceremony.
Audience awards for American competition entries went to "Happythankyoumoreplease," writer-director Josh Radnor's sitcom-style comedy about young New Yorkers trying to deal with grown-up issues, and the docu "Waiting for Superman," Davis Guggenheim's agitating assessment of the failing of the American public schools system.

In the World Cinema section, the dramatic grand jury prizewinner was "Animal Kingdom," Australian writer-director David Michod's brooding drama about the disintegration of a Melbourne crime family, while "The Red Chapel," Danish helmer Mads Bruegger's prankish peek inside North Korea, copped the top documentary prize.

Audience winners for international features were Peruvian writer-director Javier Fuentes-Leon's "Contracorriente" (Undertow), a ghost story with unusual sexual complications, and "Waste Land," British documaker Lucy Walker's look at Brazilian artist Vik Muniz's photographic project involving the pickers of recycled garbage near Rio.

Directing award for the U.S. dramatic competition went to Eric Mendelsohn for "3 Backyards," a muted, acutely observational study of the dramatic in everyday life. Among U.S. documentaries, Leon Gast took directing honors for "Smash His Camera," about pioneering paparazzo Ron Galella.

World Cinema directing honors were given to Bolivian helmer Juan Carlos Valdivia for "Southern District," a view of the changes taking place in Bolivia as seen through a well-to-do family, and to Switzerland's Christian Frei for his docu "Space Tourists," about wealthy adventurers who buy trips to the international space station.

Honored with the Waldo Salt screenwriting awards were Granik and Anne Rosellini for "Winter's Bone" and Valdivia for "Southern District."

Special jury prizes were bestowed in several categories: to U.S. dramatic entry "Sympathy for Delicious," directed by Mark Ruffalo and written by Christopher Thornton, who also starred as a paralyzed DJ who gets involved in faith healing; to a U.S. documentary for "GasLand," Josh Fox's examination of natural gas' effects on air and water; to the World Cinema docu "Enemies of the People," directed by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath, about recent Cambodian history and the struggle for closure; and for breakout performance to Tatiana Maslany as a precocious teenager in the World Cinema entry "Grown Up Movie Star," from Canada.

Excellence in cinematography awards were given in four categories: to Zak Mulligan for director Diane Bell's "Obselidia" (U.S. dramatic); Kirsten Johnson and Laura Poitras for Poitras' "The Oath" (U.S. docu); cinematographer-directors Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat for "The Man Next Door" from Argentina (world dramatic) and Kate McCullough and Michael Lavelle for Ken Wardrop's "His and Hers" from Ireland (world docu).

Editing awards were accorded to two documentaries, to Penelope Falk for Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" (U.S.) and Joelle Alexis for Yael Hersonski's "A Film Unfinished" from Germany and Israel (world).

Sixteen films vied for awards in the two competitive U.S. sections, while there were 14 world cinema dramatic features and 12 world documentaries in the running.

The fest launched a category this year, Next, devoted to films made for less than $50,000. The Best of Next award went to the screwball comedy "Homewrecker," directed by brothers Todd and Brad Barnes; they wrote the script with Sophie Goodhart. Unusually, this award was determined by ballots cast by the eight filmmakers participating in the category.

Bell's "Obselidia" was the winner of the annual Alfred P. Sloan prize for a feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme. Award includes $20,000 in cash.

David Hyde Pierce, who starred in the Midnight feature "The Perfect Host," presided over the award ceremonies, where presenters included Louis C.K. and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Serving on the juries were: Russell Banks, Jason Kliot, Karyn Kusama, Parker Posey and Robert Yeoman (U.S. dramatic); Greg Barker, Dayna Goldfine, Nancy Miller, Morgan Spurlock and Ondi Timoner (U.S. documentary); Alison Maclean, Lisa Schwarzbaum and Sigurjon "Joni" Sighvatsson (World Cinema dramatic); Jennifer Baichwal, Jeffrey Brown and Asako Fujioka (World Cinema documentary); Sterlin Harjo, Brent Hoff and Christine Vachon (shorts); and Peter Galison, Darcy Kelley, Joe Palca, Paul Sereno and Marianna Palka (Alfred P. Sloan).

Previously announced jury prizewinners for short filmmaking were Jeremy Konner's "Drunk History: Douglass and Lincoln" (U.S.) and Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland's "The Six Dollar Fifty Man" from New Zealand (world). Honorable mentions went to: Cynthia Wade's "Born Sweet" (U.S./Cambodia), Jim Owen's "Can We Talk?" (U.K.), James Blagden's "Dock Ellis and the LSD No-No" (U.S.), Alex Montoya's "How I Met Your Father" (Spain), Amy Grappell's "Quadrangle" (U.S.), Eric Lynne's "Rob and Valentyna in Scotland" (U.S./UK) and Ariel Kleiman's "Young Love" (Australia).

The Sundance/NHK Intl. Filmmakers Awards are given annually to emerging filmmakers and projects in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Latin America. Winners this year were: Amat Escalante, "Heli," from Mexico; Andrei Zvyagintsev, "Elena," from Russia; Daisuke Yamaoka, "The Wonderful Lives of Asahigaoka" (written with Yugo Eto) from Japan, and Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (written with Lucy Alibar) from the U.S.

Source: Todd McCarthy for Variety

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The Underneath, Steven Soderbergh, USA 1995

Steven Soderbergh's The Underneath is just another instance where I seem to be the only one defending a film the majority of viewers found 'muddled', 'boring', or downright 'bad'.

However, I beg to differ!

Another adaptation of Don Tracy's novel Criss Cross rather than a remake of Robert Siodmak's film of the same name, Soderbergh dusted off Tracy's story and relocated it from downtown Los Angeles to rural Texas. Why The Underneath is a cut above most crime films is mainly due to Soderbergh's direction. Through clever, stylish - some may call it pretentious - use of the camera and by using three different, constantly intersecting time-levels, Soderbergh conjures up an atmosphere of doom and trepidation. More importantly, though, he manages to keep that atmosphere at the same pitch throughout the film. While The Underneath is more of a back-against-the-seat than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, it nevertheless grips the viewer from the very first, when we see Peter Gallagher staring cheerlessly and inertly out of the van that is about to carry him to his downfall.

Some have called the several time-levels Soderbergh uses in The Underneath 'confusing'. However, apart from the fact that they add considerably to the suspense, these intersecting - or indeed crisscrossing - time-levels are also a metaphor, a reflection, of the film's title and, of course, its narrative. One of the things that didn't work for me in Siodmak's film from 1949 is the casting. While none of the principal actors - Burt Lancaster, Yvonne de Carlo, and Dan Duryea - can be faulted, the fact that we've become so accustomed to them over the years simply fails to provoke any feelings of fear or apprehension, let alone doubt as to how the story will eventually end. By contrast, Peter Gallagher, in my opinion one of America's most underestimated actors, and especially William Fichtner, are actors where anything is possible and whose faces are like blank pages that can turn into a claustrophobic nightmare in a snap.

Lastly, The Underneath functioned as a sort of training, or preparation, for Soderbergh in what was arguably to become one of his greatest films, if not his greatest: Out of Sight (USA 1998). Soderbergh is one of those few directors always willing to go new ways, try themselves out, and explore new territory. The Underneath was Soderbergh's early foray into the crime film, a genre which he has since perfected and redefined.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Berlinale, 11. - 21. February 2010: International Jury

The International Jury, presided over by Werner Herzog, will decide who is to take home the Golden Bear and the Silver Bears as well as the Alfred Bauer Prize in the Competition of the Berlinale 2010. The Berlinale Bears represent the symbol of the City of Berlin - the bear. The gold and silver statuettes were designed by the German artist and sculptress Renee Sintenis (1888 - 1965). The Alfred Bauer Prize, named after German film-historian and co-founder of the Berlinale, Alfred Bauer, is awarded for the Best First Feature Film.

Other members of the Jury include, in alphabetical order, Francesca Comencini, Nuruddin Farah, Cornelia Froboess, José Maria Morales, Yu Nan and Renée Zellweger.

As one of the most significant personalities of New German Cinema, Werner Herzog has influenced an entire generation of filmmakers. In his almost 50-year career, Herzog has made over 50 feature and documentary films, amongst them Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982, Silver Palm in Cannes for Best Director), Grizzly Man (2005) and Encounters at the End of the World (2007), for which he received an Oscar nomination. Werner Herzog has been honoured with numerous awards from major international film festivals; for his debut feature film Signs of Life he was awarded a Silver Bear for the best first film at the Berlinale 1968.

The talented Italian director and writer Francesca Comencini was 23 when she made her first film Pianoforte which won her the Best First Feature award at the Venice Film Festival in 1985. She has been invited to the Cannes Film Festival with The Words of my Father and the documentary Carlo Giuliani, ragazzo (Carlo Giuliani, Boy). In 2004, she was awarded the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin for I like to Work (Mobbing). Her latest work Lo spazio bianco (White Space) celebrated its world premiere in competition at the Venice Film Festival in 2009.

Nuruddin Farah is one of modern Africa’s most important writers. His first novel “From a Crooked Rib” (1970) already made him internationally famous. Farah’s works, which often depict the search for social and family identity, have been translated into more than 20 languages. In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature. His latest novel “Knots”, published in 2007, is the second part of a trilogy about Farah’s home country, Somalia.

After her rise to fame as a child singer, Cornelia Froboess became one of Germany’s most popular and versatile stage and screen actresses. She has received numerous prizes and awards in her career, including the Ernst Lubitsch Award for her role as Claire in the screen adaptation of Tucholsky’s Rheinsberg (1967). In 1982, she also starred in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Die Sehnsucht der Veronika Voss (Veronika Voss).

Renowned Spanish producer José Maria Morales has made over 50 films with directors such as Arturo Ripstein, Costa Gavras and Goran Paskaljevic. In 2001, he presented Lucrecia Martel’s La ciénaga (The Swamp) in the Berlinale Competition. In 2004, this was followed by the powerful story of a family, El Abrazo Partido (Lost Embrace), by Argentinian director Daniel Burman, which won the Jury Grand Prix. Claudia Llosa’s moving drama La Teta Asustada (The Milk of Sorrow) won the Golden Bear in 2009.

Actress Yu Nan, who is hailed in her homeland of China as an “arthouse queen”, has played many compelling female characters (Lunar Eclipse, The Story of Er Mei) and received many awards for her portrayal of them. For her role in Tuya de hun shi (Tuya’s Marriage), which won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2008, she was awarded the prize for best actress at the Chicago International Film Festival. In 2008, she also starred in Speed Racer, a Hollywood action film made in Babelsberg.

The internationally renowned Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger, who was born in Texas, began her film career with such acclaimed projects as Jerry Maguire, A Price Above Rubies and Nurse Betty. She celebrated international success with audiences and critics alike playing the leading role in the romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Lead Actress and the follow-up Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004). Zellweger shone with her brilliant performance in the 2003 Berlinale opening film Chicago for which she also received an Academy Award nomination for Lead Actress and in the 2004 Competition entry Cold Mountain, which won her an Academy Award.

Source: Berlin Film Festival

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A Word On Awards

Celebrating the dubious: Karl Lagerfeld presenting Britney Spears with her Bambi Award in 2008.

OK, considering that this is supposed to be a daily blog about film, I admit having recently skipped quite a few matters of alleged importance to the film world: Most importantly, the deaths of Eric Rohmer and Jean Simmons, but also the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild and the SAG awards.

Truth be told, even though I have on occasion reported about some or other award ceremony, prizes bestowed by film festivals excepted, I'm not much of a believer in awards, least of all the Golden Globes and the Oscars, both of which have an annoying tendency to always ignore those film which, at least in my humble opinion, would really have been deserving of receiving any award. See, for instance, two years ago, when Steve Mcqueen's brilliant 'Hunger' was snubbed by both the Academy and the Foreign Press Association. With that, both institutions lost what little credibility and reliability they had left in my eyes, and it confirmed my suspicion that the world of awards is only a reflection of the world that surrounds us all: it's all about money, in other words: The films with the biggest campaign-budget, not to mention those which have received the most press coverage due to their enormous marketing and promotion budgets (see, for instance, 'Avatar') are the ones likely to walk away with awards while smaller films which few people have heard of, let alone seen, because the producers lack the necessary funds to get the word - and their film - out there, are usually ignored.

Besides, the world of awards is almost as inflationary as the Reichsmark was in 1922: The (film-)world is awash in them, with new ones cropping up every year and the majority of them are not just plain unnecessary, but also downright dubious (Example: can someone tell me, please, what the criteria for Germany's coveted Bambi award are?). But of course, an award ceremony means press coverage and exposure which then translates into cold-hard cash. In addition, all sorts of businesses from fashion labels to car companies have long cottoned on to the fact that an award ceremony is the best advertising they can get as it combines high exposure and visibility with glamour and, lo and behold, art. In actual fact, an award ceremony is little more than an extension of a film company's press campaign for the film(s) they've got in the running, with quality being just one among many factors why a film may end up in the list of nominees.

The second reason why I tend to ignore most things to do with awards on this blog is invariably related to the above one: Because they're reported and talked about everywhere else from all sorts of blogs to the front page of the BBC, I feel that I don't have to put my two pence in as well. Besides, writing about it means I care, and frankly, that I do only to a certain extent.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Berlinale 2010: Selection of Films in Competition Almost Completed

Yesterday, the Berlinale confirmed an additional 18 titles for its Competition section. If anything, so far the selection highlights the fact that the Berlinale has increasingly shifted its focus towards the East, notably eastern Europe, China, India and Iran, and for many film-makers based in those countries, like for instance Zhang Yimou, the Berlinale has been of significant importance for their careers. Part of the reason for this shift of focus surely is due the fact that the Sundance Film-festival has considerably gained in importance since its inception in 1981; and Dieter Kosslick and his team are well aware that with Sundance closing just barely two weeks before the Berlinale opens, the cream of US films will always premier in Park City before there's any chance of them being shown in Berlin. And it's the same this year. Almost all Competition titles are world premières - safe for the US entries, most of which will first be shown at Sundance.

Among the two German additions is the new film by Oskar Roehler, Jew Suess. It is not, as the title suggests, another adaptation of Lion Feuchtwanger's novel from 1925 (The adaptations of Jew Suess include a 1934 English film, starring the then newly emigrated Conrad Veidt in the leading role), but rather a film about the shooting of Veit Harlan's infamous Nazi-propaganda flick, Jew Suess, which was a highly distorted adaptation of Feuchtwangers novel. Starring German top-notch thesps Tobias Moretti, Martina Gedeck and Moritz Bleibtreu, Roehler sets out to examine the birth and making of Harlan's film, which has since become synonymous with Nazi-propaganda and Nazi Germany's persecution of the Jews.

What follows is a list of the added Competition titles:

Caterpillar Japan
By Koji Wakamatsu (Secrets Behind The Wall, Sex Jack, Go Go Second Time Virgin, Ecstasy of the Angels, United Red Army)
With Shinobu Terajima, Shima Ohnishi
World Premiere

En Familie (A Family) Denmark
By Pernille Fischer Christensen (En soap, Silver Bear 2006, Dansen)
With Jesper Christensen, Lene Maria Christensen, Pilou Asbæk , Anne
Louise Hassing
World Premiere

En ganske snill mann (A Somewhat Gentle Man) Norway
By Hans Petter Moland (The Beautiful Country, Aberdeen, Gymnaslærer Pedersen)
With Stellan Skarsgård, Jannike Kruse Jåtog, Jan Gunnar Røise
World Premiere

Eu când vreau sa fluier, fluier (If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle) Romania/Sweden
By Florin Serban – debut film
With George Pistereanu, Ada Condeescu, Clara Voda, Mihai Constantin
World Premiere

Greenberg USA
By Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding, The Squid and the Whale, Mr. Jealousy)
With Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Jason Leigh
World Premiere

Howl USA
By Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet, Paragraph 175)
With James Franco, Jon Hamm, David Strathairn, Mary-Louise Parker
International Premiere

Jud Süß - Film ohne Gewissen Austria/Germany
By Oskar Roehler (The Elementary Particles, Angst, No Place to Go)
With Tobias Moretti, Martina Gedeck, Moritz Bleibtreu, Justus von Dohnanyi, Armin Rohde
World Premiere

Kak ya provel etim letom (How I Ended This Summer) Russian Federation
By Alexei Popogrebsky (Prostye veshchi – Simple Things, Koktebel - Roads to Koktebel)
With Grigory Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis
World Premiere

Mammuth France
By Benoît Delépine, Gustave de Kervern (Aaltra, Louise-Michel)
With Gérard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau, Isabelle Adjani, Miss Ming
World Premiere

Otouto (About Her Brother) Japan – Closing Film
By Yoji Yamada (Kabei, Love and Honor)
With Sayuri Yoshinaga, Tsurube Shofukutei, Yu Aoi, Ryo Kase
International Premiere / Out of Competition

Please Give USA
By Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money)
With Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele, Ann Guilbert
International Premiere / Out of Competition

Rompecabezas (Puzzle) Argentina/France
By Natalia Smirnoff – debut film
With Maria Onetto, Gabriel Goity, Arturo Goetz, Henny Trailes
World Premiere

San qiang pai an jing qi (A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop) People´s Republic of China
By Zhang Yimou (Hong gao liang – Red Sorghum, Wo de fu qin mu qin – The Road Home, Ying xiong – Hero)
With Sun Honglei, Xiao Shenyang, Yan Ni
International Premiere

Shahada Germany
By Burhan Qurbani – debut film
With Maryam Zaree, Carlo Ljubek, Jeremias Acheampong, Sergej Moya
World Premiere

Submarino Denmark
By Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, Dear Wendy, It’s All About Love)
With Jakob Cedergren, Peter Plaugborg, Patricia Schumann, Gustav Fischer Kjærulff, Morten Rose
World Premiere

The Kids Are All Right USA/France
By Lisa Cholodenko (Dinner Party, High Art, Laurel Canyon, Cavedweller)
With Julianne Moore, Annette Benning, Mark Ruffalo
International Premiere / Out of Competition

The Killer Inside Me USA/Great Britain
By Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo, In This World, A Mighty Heart)
With Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson
International Premiere

Tuan Yuan (Apart Together) Volksrepublik China – Opening Film
By Wang Quan’an (Tuya's Marriage, Golden Bear 2007)
With Lisa Lu, Ling Feng, Xu Caigen, Monica Mo, Ma Xiaoqing
World Premiere

Examining German Identity After The Holocaust by Looking at Margarethe von Trotta’s Die bleierne Zeit (The German Sisters), West-Germany 1981

Over the course of the 20th century Germany started two world wars. Moreover, an estimated eleven million people -among whom six million Jews- perished in the Holocaust, which was committed by Germany and the Germans. For the post-war generation of Germans, their country’s past instilled in them not just feelings of aversion at the crimes committed in their name, but it also resulted in a sense of inherited guilt. And it was precisely this baggage of Germany’s onerous past which, ‘in the words of one German conservative philosopher, refuses to become history’ (Fulbrook 1999: 5), that abetted the rise of a counter-culture in 1960s-West-Germany. Furthermore, the fact that West-Germany employed vast numbers of former Nazis -thus exonerating them- was seen as a failure to eradicate the Nazi past and to come to terms with Germany’s history. To quote Heilbut, 'the 1951 General Act of Clemency (which saw the release of all war criminals interred at Landsberg Prison), implemented by the US High Commissioner for Germany, John J. McCloy, was a sickening assault'(Heilbut 1997: 328).

Adding insult to injury in the eyes of APO (Ausserparlamentarische Opposition/ Extra parliamentary Opposition), were West-Germany’s close ties with the US, particularly after it had invaded Vietnam. To many young West-Germans, predominantly students, it seemed almost as if their country was slipping into yet another dictatorship without having ever atoned for the previous one. This conviction led to the rise of left-wing terrorism and eventually contributed to the formation of the Red Army Faction (RAF). To put it in Alexander Kluge’s words, ‘what was not redeemed in 1945 had to erupt in 1968, and will return until it is redeemed’ (Kluge in Malcolm 1982: 20). Margarethe von Trotta’s film Die bleierne Zeit (The German Sisters) seems to me a good example of a film that illustrates the problem of what it means to reject and abhor Germany’s past, yet involuntarily being part of Germany’s society, by contrasting the lives of two sisters who each chose a different path to come to terms with their country’s history: one, who opted for a peaceful way by working for a Women’s Lib magazine, and the other, who decided that ‘violence is the only way to answer violence; This is the Auschwitz generation and there is no arguing with them’ (Ensslin in Wright 1991: 110), and thus became a terrorist.

The title of von Trotta’s film, Die bleierne Zeit (which literally translates into The Leaden Times), refers to a poem by the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), Der Gang aufs Land (The March into the Countryside): Trüb ists heut, es schlummern die Gäng' und die Gassen und fast will mir es scheinen, es sei, als in der bleiernen Zeit(Gloomy it is today, sleepy are the pathways and lanes and it seems as almost, we are, in the leaden times. The original, German, title of von Trotta’s film seems so relevant, so significant, to the story, that henceforth I will refrain from using the English one (The German Sisters) and stick to the German one instead (and to its exact English translation), for it symbolizes two things: first, ‘the leaden times’ of the 1950s, where ‘parents wouldn’t talk about the war, the guilt, the burden of awareness’ (Trotta in Insdorf 1982: 19) and second, to a glorious German past that has been (and continues to be) overshadowed by the Holocaust – the Germany of Novalis, Droste-Hülshoff, Schiller, Kleist, Hoffmann, Lessing, Heine, Goethe, Eichendorff, or Hölderlin, whose lines aptly illustrate this point: in a gloomy, leaden and motion-less environment art cannot flourish, nor does it foster self-reflection; thus, what remains are the recollections of a glorious, bygone past. This is mirrored by a scene where we see Marianne and Julianne meeting up in what appears to be a museum, ‘the long row of grand statuary busts that lines Juliane’s route to Marianne (is) like a florid wreckage of the grand German past…’ (Koenig Quart in Linville 1998: 96). Further, more direct, references to the ‘other’ Germany are made in a flashback where Juliane, as a teenager at school, refuses to recite Rilke’s Herbsttag (Autumn Day), preferring to read Bertolt Brecht’s Die Ballade von der Judenhure Marie Sanders (The Ballad of the Jew Whore Marie Sanders) -in which a woman is punished by having her head shorn for loving a Jew- or Die Todesfuge (The Death Fugue), a poem that was Paul Celan’s answer to Theodor W. Adorno’s claim ‘that poetry after Auschwitz was a barbaric act’ (Heilbut: 1997: 487), prompting the former to write a hauntingly beautiful poem about Auschwitz itself. But these are not just references to Germany’s past and its reputation of being the ‘land of poets and thinkers’, these are also references to Juliane’s and Marianne’s growing awareness of Germany’s past as being the country of murderers - particularly the murderers of Jews. In one of the film’s key scenes we see Juliane and Marianne attending a screening of Alain Resnais’ Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog, France 1955), to which, it should be noted, Paul Celan wrote the German dialogue. It is certainly no coincidence that the clip of Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog) von Trotta picked for her film is the one where the gates of the concentration camps are being thrust open, ‘all gates’, we hear the narrator say, and we see the camp guards marching out, heads down. ‘I’m not guilty, says the Kapo, I’m not guilty, says the guard, Who then, is guilty ?’, asks the narrator. The answer -the German people- is clear to both, Marianne and Juliane, who, overwhelmed by the images, storm out to run to the bathroom to throw up. It is interesting to note that although it is Marianne’s and Juliane’s father -a Protestant pastor, echoing Gudrun Ensslin’s real-life- who is showing the film to what looks like a group of schoolchildren, he seems to be distancing himself from it. As if what is shown on-screen would not have anything to do with him, when, clearly, judging by his age, he must have been a man in his thirties during the time of the Third Reich. Although it is never shown, we must assume that Marianne and Juliane took their parents to task about what they did during those twelve years. And even though she ‘sat on her father’s lap when she was fifteen’, something Marianne is reminded by Juliane during a prison-visit, if her subsequent rejection of her father -not to mention her decision to turn to terrorism- is anything to go by, his involvement in the Third Reich can not have been entirely insignificant. Writes Fulbrook: '…after the aftermath of the Eichmann and Auschwitz trials, with the massive public spotlight on Germany’s past, youth revolt was refracted through a particular prism in Germany. Again and again in the later
1960s, young West Germans confronted and challenged their parents’generation about what they had done, or failed to do, during the Third Reich'(Fulbrook 1999: 171).

In a similar flashback-scene later in the film, Marianne and Juliane are watching a documentary about the Vietnam war. Marianne says, ‘I’ll never agree that nothing can be done about it’, underlining my earlier point that ‘what distinguished the RAF from the thousands of ‘anti-Vietnam marchers was its linkage, through its ideology, with the West German state’ (Wright 1991: 111). Von Trotta dedicated her film ‘to Christiane’, meaning Christiane Ensslin, the sister of Gudrun Ensslin, the real-life terrorist and RAF member whose life was the chief inspiration for von Trotta’s film. Von Trotta and Christiane Ensslin met on the set of Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in Autumn, West-Germany 1978), a film made by a group of German film-makers as a direct response to the alleged suicides at Stammheim -dubbed the most secure prison in eth world- of Andreas Baader, Jan-Carl Raspe and Gudrun Ensslin, and ‘the government’s handling or mishandling of the Stammheim suicides, which left an aura of doubt and myth’ (Wright 1991: 178). It is easy to see how Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in Autumn) -and the events leading to the making of the film- would have inspired von Trotta to make Die bleierne Zeit (The Leaden Times), a film ‘about Germany, and about our past’ (Trotta in Insdorf 1982: 19). In the mid/ late 1970s, the German Left was at odds if violence was the right way to respond to the path the FRG was taking. As a result, the RAF had a lot of opponents but also a large number of sympathizers, among whom were Heinrich Böll and Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre famously even visited Andreas Baader in prison. The RAF and its members were fought tooth and nail by the government, which consequently was accused of ‘over-reacting to a group whose theories sound more violent than they actually are’ (Böll in Wright 1991: 84). Or to put it in Susan Linville’s words: 'The West German government’s overreaction to terrorism laid the groundwork for the kind of sadistic voyeurism von Trotta represents, and as her film portrays it, this voyeurism is repugnantly reminiscent of Nazi surveillance, which had aimed to create a sense of its ubiquitous inescapable presence in everyone’s lives (Linville 1998: 103).

In that respect the West-Germany of 1977 foreshadowed the US of 2002, when after 9/11 President Bush decided to introduce the controversial Patriot Act and the whole country was in a general state of hysteria, suspecting terrorists to be everywhere and to strike at any moment. Furthermore, the FRG, not unlike the US of today, was a divided nation – those who sympathized with the RAF, and those who did not. In another parallel, West-Germany, like three decades later the US, chose to combat terrorism with all its democratic might, which, many claimed, was not democratic at all, and although there was no Guantanamo, ‘the RAF began to complain about the conditions they were held. These conditions were undoubtedly severe, although the state claimed they were necessary’ (Wright 1991: 115). Needless to say, this soon gave rise to liken the still relatively young Republic to the Third Reich and Ulrike Meinhof, a fellow-traveller of Ensslin, did not shrink from comparing her prison cell to Auschwitz. Whether this may or may not have been true is beside the point. But what is ironic, yet sad, is that all this should have occurred in a time when the FRG was, for the first time since its existence, run by a left-wing government. And by one, that had a relatively clean war-record. Although Helmut Schmidt -who was chancellor between 1974 and 1982- was not entirely untainted by the war (he was a lieutenant and subsequently a prisoner of war), Willy Brandt -who was chancellor between 1969 and 1974- certainly was (he fled Germany and became part of the Norwegian resistance movement). His predecessor, however, Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, -who was chancellor between 1966 and 1969, and who, it must be said, was part of the CDU (the Conservative Party)- not only was a member of the NSDAP, but he also worked for the propaganda ministry. Knowing this, puts the actions of the RAF in a new context, considering that Kiesinger was in power while the student protests were in full swing, resulting, for instance, in the ‘accidental’ killing of Benno Ohnesorg, a student, who was killed by the police while protesting the visit of the Shah of Iran in Berlin. In the eyes of the German Left, Iran was seen as yet another dictatorship put in place by the US to defend its vested interest. In a not dissimilar fashion, no sooner had WWII ended, that the US declared Germany to no longer be an enemy but an ally instead, simply to turn it into a bastion of Capitalism and use it in its fanatical battle against Communism. Says Hauser: 'the German intelligentsia, including those with first-hand experience in America, do not believe in many of the foremost American tenets, such as that the US is a free country or a genuine democracy(Hauser in Ermarth 1993: 114).

Barbara Sukowa and Jutta Lampe in von Trotta's Die bleierne Zeit

How intellectuals in Germany wrestled with their beliefs becomes apparent, for instance, in Deutschland in Herbst (Germany in Autumn) where we see an ardent R.W. Fassbinder defending the terrorists to his boyfriend and his mother. However, three films and one year later (this being Fassbinder), he already denounces terrorism by portraying terrorists in his film Die dritte Generation (The Third Generation, West-Germany 1979) as a bunch of bored, self-absorbed idlers who perform their terrorist acts for the sake of it without any ulterior motive or purpose. But this struggle -whether to approve or disapprove of violence- is also palpable in Die bleierne Zeit (The Leaden Times) where we can not quite shake off the feeling that although Juliane openly disagrees with Marianne, inwardly there are feelings of guilt and remorse for having opted to work for a Women’s Lib magazine (‘No fashion, no recipes’) instead of joining her sister in an active, hands-on fight against their country. It seems, Juliane is quietly second-guessing herself if her -non-violent- way will bring about the changes she so desires. Juliane’s inner struggle is highlighted by the sisters’ frequent arguments, in which both fervently defend their viewpoints. Interestingly, when Juliane comes home to her boyfriend, Wolfgang, the roles are reversed – suddenly it is Juliane who becomes Marianne, defending her along with her actions to him, which simply accentuates Juliane’s inner turmoil. This is an impression shared by Thomas Elsaesser, who claims that it ‘is a film that leaves von Trotta open to charges of sympathizing with terrorists’ (Elsaesser in Linville 1998: 89), whereas for Charlotte Delorme, ‘the result is a politically reactionary film that equates the right and the left’ (Delorme in Linville 1998: 89). To me, it simply signifies von Trotta’s wrestling with herself over how best to address what she and many others thought to be wrong with their country, indicating that von Trotta/ Juliane and Gudrun Ensslin/ Marianne are just at opposite ends of the same political platform. Clearly, while there are traces of a certain admiration for their strong resolve, von Trotta is not flatly endorsing the actions of the terrorists, for otherwise she would have given more room to Marianne’s story. In that, it can be said that Die bleierne Zeit (The Leaden Times) marks a departure from her earlier, perhaps angrier, more polemical, films, such as Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, West-Germany 1975), in which a country, that is increasingly perceived as fascist, drives a woman into the arms of a terrorist – literally.
The terrorists’ strong resolve, which Juliane appears to be impressed by, is a double-edged sword, as we come to realize in an argument between the two sisters over an article Juliane wrote for her magazine, disclosing details about Marianne’s childhood. Marianne claims that her personal facts do not have any bearings on her political cause and that her ‘story only begins with the others’, accusing Juliane of taking advantage of her. A verbal fight erupts, resulting in Juliane’s claim that ‘had she, Marianne, been born one generation before she would have joined the BDM’ (Bund Deutscher Mädchen, the female equivalent to the HJ, or Hitler Youth), obviously referring to the fervour with which she pursues her political aims, which is not without resemblance to the fanaticism of the Nazis. And although Marianne is outraged and slaps Juliane, we can not help thinking if there might not just be a hint of truth to it. This, of course, brings to mind Horst Mahler, the former RAF terrorist, who even participated in Deutschland im Herbst (Germany in Autumn) -for which he was interviewed while serving a prison-term for bank-robbery- but has since gone over to the – NPD! (National Democratic Party of Germany, which in reality, has little to do with democracy; in fact, the party has been under surveillance by the German government for years for suspicion of being unconstitutional). In another example of people moving from the political left to the political right, although, in this case, it is not the far right, in Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators, Germany/ Austria 2004) a conservative businessman unexpectedly reveals details about his decadent, rebellious youth in a left-leaning commune to his kidnappers, a group of latter-day, albeit strictly non-violent, terrorists. But just when we are beginning to trust and actually like him, do we realize that he was either telling a lie or else, has been so corrupted by Capitalism that all traces of his -alleged- former self have been eradicated, with money and what it can buy being his only concern. How uncomfortably close right-wing and left-wing extremism are linked sometimes is also brilliantly illustrated in Andreas Veiel’s Blackbox BRD (Black Box FRG, Germany 2001), when, over the course of the film, the viewer realizes that Alfred Herrhausen -the powerful chairman of Deutsche Bank and former HJ member- and Wolfgang Grams -the RAF terrorist, who was gunned down in a mysterious shootout- have more in common than one is led to believe. Indeed, von Trotta contrasts Marianne’s fierce, fanatical methods of coming to terms with Germany’s past and her attempts at changing German society with Juliane’s quiet, intellectual approach. This is shown in a scene where Juliane is conducting research for an article on Hitler’s high regard for children and how the NSDAP sponsored and fostered large families, forever encouraging people to ‘produce’ more children, obviously not without an ulterior motive. Prior to that, we see her participating in a march to support § 218 (in Germany, the law for the right to choose), which evidently is the direct opposite of Hitler’s demands on the previous generation. Conversely, it is her sister, Marianne, who not only has a child, but who is also married, both options Juliane steadfastly rejects, as they seem to be her way of quietly, peacefully, freeing herself from the shackles of the past. The fact that Germany has the lowest birth-rate in Europe today, I believe, deserves to be mentioned here. Both, von Trotta and (Gudrun) Ensslin, were born in the early 1940s, which made them part of the first generation after the war, growing up in the ‘the leaden time’ -meaning the 1950s- in which raising questions about Germany’s past was taboo and, as far as the FRG was concerned, all that counted was working hard in order to make lots of money, so as if by amassing and accumulating economic wealth and subsequently things, the past could somehow be tucked away under the new, sparkling, kidney-table. Von Trotta captures the prevailing atmosphere of those days very accurately when we see the family gathered around the dinner table in what looks like a prim, uninviting and certainly unglamorous household that is dominated by an authoritarian father. On the other hand, von Trotta does not fall prey to glamorising the life of the terrorists. I agree with Palfreyman who says that
'The German Sisters (sic), while adopting some of the conventions of family melodrama, goes out of its way to drain the film of glamour, colour and a fast narrative pacing' (Palfreyman in Clarke 2006: 39). The same, however, cannot be said, for instance, of Stammheim (West-Germany 1986), a film based on the Stammheim trial of four RAF members and their subsequent suicides, for what we see are a bunch of good-looking terrorists (Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader and Jan-Carl Raspe), fashionably clad, sporting Ray Ban sunglasses, who give the judges and attorneys a hard time and always come out on top. However, I suppose that in the West-Germany of the 1960s/ 70s -a world bereft of any glamour, beauty or usable past- terrorism was indeed as glamorous as it got, and Reinhard Hauff can be understood, if not forgiven, that '…a sober look back is sometimes undercut by a clear fascination
for the glamour and excitement of terrorism in a grey and bland society' (Palfreyman in Clarke: 2006: 14).

In conclusion, I would argue that the question of a German (national) identity is a tricky one indeed. However, Mary Fulbrook says that there is ‘no such thing as an essential national identity’ (Fulbrook 1999: 15), but although that may be true on a strictly rational level, I believe that everybody, whether they like it or not, does indeed have a national identity, starting with the passport. Even if people claim to have no national identity whatsoever, the minute they travel abroad it will be forced upon them as the questions invariably will arise, ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Where is that accent from?’. I have known Germans who now overcome this ‘problem’ by simply claiming they are Europeans, thus assuming a European, in lieu for their -tarnished- German, identity. Reunification has, if anything, added fuel to the dilemma, for not only has the face of Germany changed entirely, but the country’s problems have also dramatically increased, among which are a sharp rise in neo-Nazism and an unemployment rate that hovers around the ten-percent mark, to name only the most drastic ones. This makes it even less desirable for young Germans to identify themselves with their country, resulting in a huge number of emigrants and consequently, according to OECD, in a population that is shrinking. If von Trotta suggested, when making Die bleierne Zeit (The Leaden Times) 25 years ago, that the subsequent generations -or in the film’s case, Marianne’s son, Jan- is 'the bearer of the future: since he is aware of his history, he will be able to protect the future against the mistakes of the past’ (Hehr 2000: 30), she is of course correct: Juliane rectifies Jan’s image of his mother by promising to tell him ‘everything – everything I know’. She begins by telling him that his mother ‘was an exceptional woman’. With that, the frame freezes in a close-up of Juliane’s face -a reference to Truffaut’s Les 400 coups (The 400 Blows, France 1959)- and the film’s title appears again -Die bleierne Zeit (The Leaden Times)- subtly reminding us that identity begins with history, but that in order to have a history it is crucial to remember the past.


Clarke, David (ed. 2006): German Cinema since Unification, London: Continuum
Ermarth, Michael (1993): America and the Shaping of German Society, Providence, RI: Berg
Fulbrook, Mary (1999): German National Identity after the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity
Heilbut, Anthony (1997): Exiled in Paradise, London: University of California Press
Hehr, Renate (2000): Margarethe von Trotta, London: Axel Menges
Insdorf, Annette (1982): By Sisters Obsessed, New York, NY: New York Times
Linville, Susan E. (1998): Feminism-Film-Fascism, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
Malcolm, Derek (1982): German Chiller Hits the Mark, Manchester: Manchester Guardian
Wright, Joanne (1991): Terrorist Propaganda, London: Macmillan


Fassbinder, R.W., Die dritte Generation (The Third Generation), West-Germany 1979
Fassbinder, R.W., Kluge, Alexander, Reitz, Edgar, Schlöndorff, Volker, etc., Deutschland in Herbst
(Germany in Autumn), West-Germany 1978
Hauff, Reinhard, Stammheim, West-Germany 1986
Resnais, Alain, Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog), France 1955
Truffaut, François, Les 400 coups (The 400 Blows), France 1959
Veiel, Andreas, Black Box BRD (Black Box FRG), Germany 2001
Von Trotta, Margarethe, Schlöndorff, Volker, Die verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum (The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum), West-Germany 1975
Von Trotta, Margarethe, Die Bleierne Zeit (The German Sisters), West-Germany 1981
Weingartner, Hans, Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators), Germany/ Austria 2004

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

King of the Hill, Steven Soderbergh, USA 1993

King of the Hill is a little known, early film of Steven Soderbergh, telling the story of Aaron, played by Jesse Bradford, living by his wits during the Great Depression. Soderbergh himself wrote the screenplay, based on on the memoirs of A. E. Hotchner, American novelist and playwright.

Jesse's life is filled with almost every misery and mishap imaginable, and it is above all due to the screenplay as well as Bradford's portrayal of Jesse, that make King of the Hill feel realistic and prevent it from drifting off into the maudlin or implausible. If I have one criticism, it is that the cinematography is not quite in keeping with the narrative, as the realism and the dreariness of King of the Hill are offset by images that are too reminiscent of Norman Rockwell to do justice to the topic, which in my opinion, would have required images that are grittier, rougher and , in fact, more realistic.

Nevertheless, while it bears few traces of Soderbergh's habitual inventiveness and penchant for exploration, King of the Hill is a well-crafted, engaging, film, and one of the few where I prayed for a happy ending.

King of the Hill is available on DVD.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Holocaust: Three Films

How European film-makers dealt with the Holocaust by looking at three films from three different decades:

Rosen für den den Staatsanwalt, Wolfgang Staudte, West-Germany 1959
La Passante de Sans-Souci, Jacques Rouffio, France/ West-Germany 1981
Amen, Costa-Gavras, France/ Germany/ UK/ Romania 2002

The Holocaust was one of the defining events of the 20th century as the magnitude of the crimes committed was unprecedented in world history. The question of how it was possible has preoccupied a multitude of historians and scholars, particularly considering that the country of the perpetrators, Germany, was a highly civilized and enlightened nation. Hence, a myriad of books were -and still are- written about the Holocaust and it continues to be the topic of talk-shows, debates, TV films and discussions among friends. The Holocaust has also been the subject of numerous films, but its treatment varies heavily. Vantage point, the country the film was produced by, as well as the year it was made in, are all factors that are central to its treatment. For instance, although Germany dealt with the horrors of WWII in its first post-war film (Die Mörder sind unter uns, Germany 1946), the approach was such that the issue of the persecution of the Jews was avoided rather than addressed, an indication that the country that committed the Holocaust was not yet ready to come to terms with its past. In fact, it would take Germany almost twenty years to openly address the Holocaust, whereby East-Germany preceded West-Germany by four years (Jakob, der Lügner, East-Germany 1975; David, West-Germany 1979). It seems to me that Jakob, der Lügner seems to have inspired both, Roberto Benigni as well as Radu Mihaileanu, for their films La vita è bella (Italy 1997) and Le train de vie (France, Netherlands, Romania, Israel, Belgium 1998), respectively. Shot more than twenty years later, they push the tragic comedy approach of Beyer’s film even further, thus breaking a taboo by injecting a film about the Holocaust with comic relief.

France was the first country to openly deal with the Holocaust when in 1955 Alain Resnais shot his epoch-making documentary Nuit et brouillard (France 1955), however, Marcel Ophuls faced staunch criticism upon the completion of his documentary about the French collaboration (Le chagrin et la pitié, France 1969), with ‘the French Television (ORTV), whom it was produced for, refusing to show it’ (Insdorf 1989: 242). The French public seemed to feel more at ease with a melodramatic treatment of the Holocaust where their own, albeit considerably smaller, participation was glossed over and the depiction of villains was limited to the Germans (Le train, France 1973; Le vieux fusil, France 1975). In Europe, the majority of films dealing with the Holocaust are made by France, Italy and Germany, which is of course explained by the fact that those countries were -and are- most affected by it, or in the case of Germany, originated it. Nevertheless, the problem all film-makers face, are 'what are the formal as well as moral responsibilities if we are to understand and communicate the complexities of the Holocaust through its filmic representation?'(Insdorf 1989: 15). That may be the reason why some of the most powerful examples of films tackling the Holocaust are documentaries (Nuit et brouillard, France 1955; Le chagrin et la pitié, France 1969; Shoah, France 1985; Jetzt – nach so vielen Jahren, West-Germany 1981), thus avoiding of falling into the trap of distorting or reducing its unspeakable horrors. However, the films I am concerned with in this essay are three melodramas from three different decades, and I intend to look at how their respective directors dealt with the Holocaust by taking into account the time they were made in and their country of origin.

Wolfgang Staudte’s film Rosen für den Staatsanwalt (West-Germany 1959) deals not so much with the Holocaust itself as with the remnants of fascism in West-Germany’s post-war society, and as such forges a link with his film of 1946, Die Mörder sind unter uns . In Rosen für den Staatsanwalt we are confronted with a former Nazi-judge -Dr. Wilhelm Schramm- who, by way of lying to the denazification officials, effortlessly made his way into post-war West-German society, regaining a position that is equally powerful as the one he held during the war where he sentenced a soldier -Kleinschmidt- to death over the theft of two bars of chocolate. Unbeknownst to Schramm, the soldier survives due to an enemy-air-raid. With his film Staudte addressed an issue that was as central to post-war West-Germany as its much hailed economic miracle. Says Fulbrook, ‘Whatever else denazification in the American zone was achieving, it was clearly not achieving any kind of adequate reckoning with the past’ (Fulbrook 1999: 53), and Engelmann also claims that ‘the bulk of SS leaders got off lightly’ (Engelmann 1980: 107). In that respect Staudte’s film was like a precursor to many political scandals that would shake the post-war societies in West-Germany and Austria, evoking, for instance, the scandal surrounding Hans Filbinger, who also was a notorious Nazi judge, but subsequently became the Premier of Baden-Württemberg until his WWII activities were brought to light, forcing him to step down in 1978. The film leaves no doubt about Schramm’s failure of coming to terms with his past and his lack of remorse when we see him accepting a bouquet of roses, sent to him as a signal that a man he was supposed to prosecute for anti-Semitic remarks has successfully fled the country. Denazification and, subsequently, West-Germany’s new constitution, have made anti-Semitism illegal; something Schramm evidently has a hard time getting used to. It is also telling that while Schramm is leading an extremely comfortable and privileged life, Kleinschmidt is eking out a living as a street-vendor, peddling first card-games, and later, after his licence is revoked by Schramm, ties. Nothing, the film seems to say, has changed: the big shots of WWII are still calling the shots today. Not only does Kleinschmidt have trouble adjusting to this petty bourgeoisie, gripped by a collective urge to shop and accumulate, but it also revolts him. He feels out of place. His face seems to betray a certain disappointment at the turn this supposedly New Germany has taken; a Germany, that really is not that dissimilar to the old one that was left behind in the concentration camps and on the battle-fields. In that respect, he resembles some of the émigrés, like for instance Döblin, who anxiously returned to their homeland after the war – only to desert it once more upon realizing that their hopes in the New Germany had not been fulfilled, for instead of openly addressing the past, the Germans’ chief preoccupation was money and how to get it.

This depiction and razor-sharp observation of post-war West-Germany, which then was at the height of its economic miracle, is what makes Staudte’s film stand out among the (German) films of the time. Kleinschmidt, while taking his girlfriend, Lissy, out to dinner, notices that Lissy is more intrigued by the completely noise-less ceiling fan, which might be an asset to the bar she runs, than she is in his company. In another scene we hear Kleinschmidt recounting the events that led to his death sentence during the last days of the war, to some of Lissy’s customers, prompting them to express their disgust at the likes of Schramm. However, in a subsequent scene we realize that they are only paying lip-service and that when push comes to shove, they will not stand up for their alleged beliefs for fear of losing a valuable customer. In post-war West-Germany, money talks! Not until Fassbinder’s Die Ehe der Maria Braun (Germany 1977) was post-war West-German society again so aptly captured in its effort to drown the guilt over the horrors of the past under a new-found wealth, instilling in West-Germans a feeling of ‘Wir sind wieder Wer!’, which loosely translates into ‘Again, we are Somebody!’.

As mentioned above, Rosen für den Staatsanwalt is not a Holocaust film as such. However, I consider it an important film as it marks (West-) Germany’s early, albeit half-harted, efforts to come to terms with its past. A more serious, more direct reckoning with its history only started about twenty years later, ‘sparked, perhaps, by the televising of Holocaust ‘(USA 1978; Insdorf 1989: 188). However, it should be noted that apart from a few exceptions -among them the aforementioned Nuit et brouillard (France 1955)- even outside of Germany the Holocaust did not figure as a major topic in films until well into the 1970s. The reason for that may be that the crimes committed by the Germans were so immeasurable that it took the international community a considerable amount of time to fathom it, and, furthermore, with Germany having perhaps too quickly risen from foe to friend, its erstwhile enemies -notably France, the UK and the US- did not dare to deal with the Holocaust in film so as not to offend Germany in its new role of an important ally in the Cold War. That may explain why there are more films directly dealing with the Holocaust after the fall of Communism than there were before, which is why I decided to include in this essay films from three different eras, with approximately twenty years between them.

Thus, Jaques Rouffio offers an entirely different take on the Holocaust in his film La passante de Sans-Souci (France 1981). Although I agree with Maslin that the events in the film ‘are melodramatic but compelling’ (Maslin 1983: 47), La passante de Sans-Souci is not entirely without problems. Based on Josph Kessel’s novel, the film has two time-levels, thus making it a show-case for Romy Schneider, who gets to play two roles – that of Elsa, a woman who has preceded her husband to Paris on their flight from the Nazis by taking along their neighbour, a Jewish boy, Max, whose father was killed by the SS; and in a sub-plot, that of Lina, the wife of the adult Max, who now is the president of a human rights organisation. At the centre of the film stands Elsa’s anguish over the fate of her husband, Michel, whom she has left behind in Berlin and who later is thrown in a concentration camp. Her yearning for Michel and her understandable distress at what might happen to him, is part of the film’s problem as it shifts our concern from the plight of the Jews (neither Elsa nor Michel are Jewish) to two lovers who cannot come together. We are witness to the predicament of a woman, who not only is unwillingly separated from her husband, but who is also slowly falling from grace, forced to move out of the plush Hotel George V into the gritty Hotel d’Orient, eventually even stooping to sleeping with the villainous Rupert von Leggart, in the hope that he, in his position of Ambassador of Nazi-Germany to France, will agree to order her husband’s release from a concentration camp. That later both, Elsa and Michel, get shot on the behest of Rupert von Leggart, is thus an act of jealousy rather than anti-Semitism.

La passante de Sans-Souci is indeed a melodrama of the highest order. This is exemplified in one scene in particular when Elsa is attending a Christmas-dinner in the luxurious dining-room of the George V, accompanied by the young Max. Approached by a band of violinists, there to entertain the guests, she asks Max to play for her instead. Listening to Max playing the Exile Song brings tears to Elsa’s eyes. In that very moment all boundaries between the actress Romy Schneider and the character Elsa seem to disappear, considering that Schneider had not just lost her own son, David, in a tragic accident just prior to filming, but also her son’s father, her former husband Harry Meyen, who killed himself the year before. It was at Schneider’s request that La passante de Sans-Souci was turned into a film and consequently she dedicated the film to ‘David and his father’.

Rouffio’s film calls to mind another Holocaust-Melodrama, Gloomy Sunday (Germany, Hungary 1999). Shot almost twenty years later, this film also has two different time-levels, a (melodramatic) song at its centre, and a settling of scores, which in Gloomy Sunday takes place at the end whereas in Rouffio’s film is set at the beginning. If we accept the murders as a conventional melodramatic device, the killings are in both films understandable, particularly since in the case of Gloomy Sunday it involves a man who took advantage of Jews during the Third Reich by pretending to be a Good Samaritan, and in the other, someone who is an envoy of Nazi-Germany. However, although in the light of the victims’ records the viewer is tempted to empathize with the respective assassins, endorsing the murders is at best questionable, especially considering that the adult Max is the founder of a human rights organisation. What makes La passante de Sans Souci stand out among the conventional, period Holocaust-Melodrama is its link to contemporary Europe -in this case France- highlighting the dormant anti-Semitism which every now and then rears its ugly head. Like its neighbour, Germany, France, too, had had a long history of anti-Semitism prior to WWII. Talking about the Dreyfus Affair and its aftermaths Hannah Arendt writes that 'certainly it was not in France that the true sequel to the affair was to be found, but the reason why France fell an easy prey to Nazi aggression is not far to seek. Hitler’s propaganda machine spoke a language long familiar and never quite forgotten' (Arendt 1976: 93). And needless to say, this anti-Semitism was sadly not wiped out with the end of WWII. Although the events at the end of the film -when Lina and Max are killed in an anti-Semitic assault- may seem somewhat exaggerated, as recent history has shown, they are closer to reality than one might think: when the twenty-three year old French Jew Ilan Halimi was brutally slaughtered last February, the International Herald Tribune reported that ‘French officials now say that anti-Semitism played an important role’ (Crampton 2006: 4). Thus, La passante de Sans-Souci, besides being ‘a fine tear-jerker’ (Insdorf 1989: 43), serves as an important reminder that anti-Semitism is still rampant in Europe and has never quite been eradicated, which may well have been the reason why Arthur Brauner -a Holocaust survivor- was so easily swayed by Schneider when she urged him to produce the film.

Costa-Gavras’ film Amen (France/ Germany/ UK/ Romania 2002), loosely based on Rolf Hochhuth’s play Der Stellvertreter (The Representative), deals with one issue that so far has received little attention from film-makers: the indifference of the Catholic Church to the massacre of the Jews by the Germans. Because of its highly controversial subject-matter, Hochhuth’s play caused a major stir when it first came out in 1963, and I suggest this is also the reason why it took forty years -during which Europe was largely secularised- to turn the play into a film. Besides the fact that Europe went through a major secularisation process -which facilitated criticism from outside- what may have reignited interest in Hochhuth’s play is the fact that the Catholic Church had come under fire as a series of child abuses by its priests had been brought to light which gave rise to further question its infallibility. Kurt Gerstein, a high-ranking member of the SS in charge of decontamination, is at the centre of the film. It is he who signs the orders for the infamous Zyklon B gas. However, unbeknownst to him, the gas is not used for actual decontamination – but to brutally murder the Jews. Upon finding out, he tries to enlist the help of the Swedish Ambassador to Germany, alas, to no avail for he does not believe him. Too far fetched, too implausible, is Gerstein’s story, which brings to mind Charles S. Maier, who said that ‘indeed the Nazi experience does test the limits of what history can “explain” ‘(Maier 1997: 100). Pleading with various distinguished members of the Vatican to intervene on behalf of the Jews proves equally fruitless as wartime pontiff Pius XII’s response is a deplorable ‘My heart is with the victims’. The pope’s reaction confirms Victoria Barnett’s claim that 'there seems to have been little concern throughout the world about the people being murdered in Europe. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that, in their war against the European Jews, the Nazis drew on prejudices against the Jews that had existed for centuries Barnett 1999: 112). In a further attempt, this time by an American diplomat, who had previously been approached by Gerstein, to convince the Vatican of the importance to act and to inform the world of the genocide that is going on in Germany, the Pope’s aide-de-camp replies ‘You can’t condemn Hitler without condemning Stalin – who is your ally!’, alluding to the brief moment during WWII when the US and Russia were allies in their war against Nazi-Germany. Regardless of the fact that the Jews had been discriminated against for centuries, the reaction of the Vatican proves that their main concern was religion – their own religion. As far as they were concerned, why should they act on behalf of the Jews, after all they were Jews and not Catholics. And aligning themselves with the US was also anathema since the US had joined forces with Stalin, who, like all communists, was a staunch opponent of religion, reason enough for the Vatican to turn a blind eye. While the fact 'that Pope Benedict XVI visited a synagogue on a visit to Cologne last year, is seen as a sign of increasing rapprochement between two religions, the Vatican’s refusal to open its archives, which would shed new light onto its position during WWII’ (Hall 2005: 7), is doing little to dispel ongoing allegations about its precise role during the Holocaust. Like his previous films, most notably Z (Algeria/ France 1969) and Missing (USA 1982), Amen relies on Costa-Gavras’ by now familiar blend of melodrama and action-thriller, which a journalist once commented by saying ‘after having seen one of his films you feel like killing colonels all around the world, because he trivializes fascism and inflates evil’ (Witte 1989: 35). Costa-Gavras, however, justifies his means by claiming that his films reach a wider audience as they would otherwise, which he deems important considering the relevance of his topics. It goes without saying that the topic of Amen is a very relevant one indeed, all the more so as it appears that the story is based on actual, albeit contentious, facts; even though I am unsure to what extent the film veers from the play. His tendency for ‘inflating evil’ notwithstanding, one scene in particular is of an extraordinary subtlety: in it, the Doctor (Mengele?) is showing Gerstein around a concentration camp, to make it clear what the gas he always signs for is used for. The Doctor walks up to a huge grey wall with a peep-hole in it. Upon opening it and peeking through it his face remains completely motion-less. He then orders the unsuspecting Gerstein to do the same. The subsequent close-up of Gerstein’s face betrays the unspeakable horrors that go on inside. Costa-Gavras is clever enough to treat the scene with the respect it deserves, knowing that the expression on Gerstein’s face speaks volumes -and by using neither sound nor music- saying everything the viewer needs to know. Costa-Gavras merely hints at the horror, but leaves it up to the viewer to imagine it. As such, this one moment is perhaps the most chilling scene ever to be seen in a feature-film to symbolize the killing of six million Jews. Another striking element in Amen is its metaphorical use of trains. The film is riddled with the images of trains, symbolizing, needless to say, death. One of the protagonists exclaims ‘the whole world is travelling by train’ – what comes to mind are of course the millions of Jews who arrived in the concentration camps by precisely that means of transportation. Towards the end of the war, and with his attempts at making the crimes of the Nazis public proving futile, Gerstein turns himself in to the French, hoping they would be responsive to his information. But -as cynically predicted by The Doctor in an earlier scene- having signed all the receipts for the purchase of Zyklon B, he gets thrown into prison. There, he writes what is now known as the Gerstein Report, which, according to the film, helped to authenticate the Holocaust. He then is found dead one morning in his prison cell in what looks like suicide by hanging, but has since been disputed with some people claiming he might have been murdered by a fellow SS-member in an act of revenge for writing his report, which was seen as betrayal. That he was later rehabilitated by Kurt-Georg Kiesinger, in his position of Premier of Baden-Württemberg before succeeding Ludwig Erhard as Chancellor of West-Germany, is an irony in itself. After all, it was Kiesinger who later was famously punched by Beate Klarsfeld for his involvement in the Nazi machinery, which ties in with the point I made at the beginning of this essay. The Doctor, on the other hand, is sheltered by the Vatican before escaping -with the Vatican’s help- to South America, which gives rise to the suspicion that The Doctor in question is indeed Mengele, although in the latter’s case it was allegedly the Red Cross and not the Vatican which enabled him to leave Germany and hide in Brazil, where he died in 1979.

I believe that even though all three films can be labelled as melodramas, I have made it sufficiently clear how diverse the treatment of the Holocaust can be in terms of topic and how its approach has a lot to do with the country of the film’s origin and the time the film was made in. However, by dealing with the Holocaust in a melodramatic form, the film-makers allow for easy identification with the respective hero or heroine as the horrors of the Holocaust are reduced to a personal tragedy, thus making it more palatable, more digestible for the viewer. That said, all three films have relevant topics at their centre, yet undoubtedly are a product of the times they were made in. If Rosen für den Staatsanwalt seems dated today it probably was a daring film at the time and probably as daring a film about the Holocaust as West-Germany was able to come up with in those days. In fact, one marvels, in hindsight, at the sheer lucidness with which Staudte observed German society, holding up a mirror to his fellow-citizens which, in post-war West-Germany, surely must have earned him more disdain than praise. It can also be astounding how a film all of sudden regains relevance -as in the case of La passante de Sans Souci, doubtless the most unashamed melodrama of the three- when looking at contemporary developments in Europe where anti-Semitism is still rampant, particularly in countries like Germany, Poland and France. On the other hand, Amen, with its highly controversial subject-matter at its centre, raises important questions about the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust, leaving no doubt that in the long run, a continuous refusal to open its archives will be detrimental to its integrity. Made twenty years earlier, Amen would no doubt have sparked a lot of outrage. The importance of dealing with the Holocaust cannot be questioned, for its ramifications, particularly in Germany, are still palpable today as a reckoning with its past has only just started, a process which reunification complicated rather than simplified, a fact that is epitomized in a dramatic surge of Neo-Nazism, particularly in the German East. On the other hand, if melodrama is the best approach to deal with the Holocaust is at best debatable. Unlike documentaries, such as Nuit et brouillard (France 1955) and Shoah (France 1985), which 'tower above other films because of an intimacy with and commitment to the cinematic medium as well as historical facts'(Insdorf 1989: 254), melodramas often suffer from a tendency to belittle and distort the Holocaust because of their preoccupation with the personal. On the other hand, because of the continuing relevance of the Holocaust as a topic, I can not help but agree with Insdorf who claims that‘any film that tackles the Holocaust with visibly good intentions is brave, if not commendable’ (Insdorf 1989: 255).


Arendt, Hannah (1976): The Origins of Totalitarianism, New York: Harcourt
Barnett, Victoria J.( 1999): Bystanders, Westport (CT): Greenwood Press
Crampton, Thomas (2006): Gang chief to be sent to France, Paris: International Herald Tribune
Engelmann, Bernt (1980): Wie wir wurden was wir sind (How we became who we are), Munich: Bertelsmann
Fulbrook, Mary (1999): German National Identity after the Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity Press
Hall, Allen (2005): Jewish leader asks visiting Pope…, Edinburgh: Scotsman
Hochhuth, Rolf (1998): The Representative, London: Oberon
Insdorf, Annette (1989): Indelible Shadows, New York (NY): Cambridge University Press
Maier, Charles S.(1997): The Unmasterable Past, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press
Maslin, Janet (1983): Schneider performs in two roles, New York (NY): The New York Times
Witte, Karsten (1989): Betrayed, Frankfurt: EPD Film


Benigni, Roberto, La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful), Italy 1997
Beyer, Frank, Jakob der Lügner (Jacob, the Liar), GDR 1975
Costa-Gavras, Constantin, Amen, France/ Germany/ UK/ Romania 2002
Costa-Gavras, Constantin, Missing, USA 1982
Costa-Gavras, Constantin, Z, France/ Algeria 1969
Enrico, Robert, Le vieux fusil (The Old Gun), France/ FRG 1975
Fassbinder, Rainer-Werner, Die Ehe der Maria Braun (The Marriage of Maria Braun), FRG 1978
Granier-Deferre, Pierre, Le train (The Train), France/ Italy 1973
Lanzmann, Claude, Shoah, France 1985
Lüders, Harald + Schnabel, Pavel, Jetzt, nach so vielen Jahren (Now, after all these years), FRG 1981
Milaineanu, Radu, Train de vie (Train of Life), France, Netherlands, Romania, Israel, Belgium 1998
Ophuls, Marcel, La chagrin et la pitié (The Sorrow and the Pity), France/ FRG/ Switzerland 1969
Resnais, Alain, Nuit et brouillard (Night and Fog), France 1955
Rouffio, Jaques, La passante de Sans-Souci (La Passante), France/ FRG 1982
Schübel, Rolf, Gloomy Sunday, Germany/ Hungary 1999
Staudte, Wolfgang, Rosen für den Staatsanwalt (Roses for the Prosecutor), FRG 1959
Staudte, Wolfgang, Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers are Among Us), Germany 1946

Friday, 15 January 2010

Un prophete, Jacques Audiard, France 2009

I'm afraid I can't quite join the hype that has surrounded Audiard's film as frankly, I am unable to comprehend why exactly Un prophete is generating this kind of universally enthusiastic response.

Yes, the performance by the male lead Tahar Rahim is indeed outstanding, I agree; and Audiard certainly deserves credit for giving Rahim the platform he deserves to express his talent.

And yes, Audiard's rough and gritty way - the mise-en-scene, the cinematography, the editing - of depicting life inside a prison is ... well, yes, interesting, at times even captivating.

And, so ... ???

Well, perhaps having read how Un prophete was showered with awards everywhere didn't help, as it raised my expectations sky-high. I wonder how I'd have felt about Audiard's film had I watched it 'cold', without having read or heard anything about it. Who's to know?

Don't get me wrong: I don't mean to knock Un prophete! Not completely, anyway. To me, Un prophete is quite simply an interesting film about life in prison - neither more, nor less! Therefore, I'm stunned by the response Audiard's film is generating - in Europe as well as across the Atlantic. I can't help thinking that there are numerous examples of prison films - some better than others, of course - and for some reason they always seem to fare well the critics, though few were lucky enough to have opened to similar universal acclaim.

On the bottom line, what makes Un prophete worthwhile is the fact that it raises some important and provocative questions, not just with respects to the prison system in general, but also regarding immigration and education. Perhaps some would argue that by simply raising these questions Audiard has more than earned the acclaim he received for his film. That's, of course, debatable. But I beg to differ on this one as in order for a film to get a profoundly enthusiastic response out of me I need to be gripped, moved, and the film needs to stay with me for some time. Then I now that I've seen a truly great film! And, I'm afraid, in my book Un prophete isn't one of them.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Sunday, 10 January 2010

L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot, Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea, France 2009

L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot is a documentary on the making of Clouzot's 1964 film, L'enfer, which was abondoned, primarily, due the director's heart attack. Clouzot's widow granted Bromberg and Medrea access to the surviving footage of the film which they made ample use of. Additionally, they drew on interviews with the cinematographer and other staff working with Clouzot on L'enfer.

Bromberg's and Medrea's film is highly revealing inasmuch as they make clear what a revolutionary work L'enfer would have become, had it been completed. Telling the story of a jealous husband, Clouzot's intention was to visualise the husband's paranoia, his obsession and increasingly wild imaginations, through experimental use of colour, lighting and editing, evoking German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s. Although Claude Chabrol remade L'enfer a good 30 years later, he refrained from employing any of Clouzot's techniques and instead shot it as a straight psychological drama starring Francois Cluzet and Emanuelle Beart.

But this documentary is also about Clouzot's dark side, showing that behind the genius there was an obsessive personality which certainly contributed to the film falling behind schedule and going way over budget, which in addition to Clouzot's eventual heart attack, contributed to the shoot being abandoned. Unfortunately, L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot does not include comments by Clouzot's widow, Inez, nor by any major cast member, many of whom have passed, like Clouzot himself or Serge Reggiani, as well as of course, the wonderful Romy Schneider, who would have played the female lead, the object of Reggiani's obsession and jealousy. Although Schneider had already made a few films in France prior to L'enfer, working with Clouzot - who, unlike the Nouvelle Vague directors, was considered mainstream, yet his films were generally very well received - would have meant a major career leap. As it happened, following the abondoned L'enfer, Schneider's career went into slump, to be revived fours years and one marriage later, and once again, the place was France.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Berlinale, 11. - 21. February 2010: Panorama Sidebar Selects First Films

Wieland Speck and his team have selected a first 28 films, including a number of documenaries, for the festival's Panorama sidebar. One of the films that will unspool in this section is Sebastien Lifshitz's Plein Sud, which I reviewed on January 1 here on this blog (see Archives).

Here's the complete list of films in the Panorama Section as of today:


Amphetamine by Scud, Hongkong, China (WP)
with Thomas Price, Byron Pang, Winnie Leung

Besouro by João Daniel Tikhomiroff, Brazil
with Aílton Carmo, Jessica Barbosa, Anderson Santos de Jesus, Flávio Rocha, Irandhir Santos

Blutsfreundschaft (Initiation) by Peter Kern, Austria
with Helmut Berger, Harry Lampl, Melanie Kretschmann, Michael Steinocher, Manuel Rubey, Matthias Franz Stein, Oliver Rosskopf, Heribert Sasse, Gregor Seberg

El mal ajeno by Oskar Santos, Spain (WP)
with Eduardo Noriega, Belén Rueda, Angie Cepeda, Cristina Plazas, Clara Lago

Golden Slumber by Yoshihiro Nakamura, Japan
with Masato Sakai, Yuko Takeuchi, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Gekidan Hitori, Nao Omori, Sango Kitamura

Just Another Love Story by Kaushik Ganguly, Rituparno Ghosh, India (WP)
with Rituparno Ghosh, Indraneel Sengupta, Chapal Bhaduri, Raima Sen, Jisshu Sengupta

Kawasakiho ruze (Kawasaki's Rose) by Jan Hrebejk, Czech Republic (WP)
with Daniela Kolárová, Martin Huba, Lenka Vlasákova, Milan Mikulcík

Kosmos by Reha Erdem, Turkey/Bulgaria
with Sermet Yesil, Türkü Turan, Hakan Altuntas, Sabahat Doganyilmaz, Korel Kubilay

L'arbre et la forêt (Family Tree) by Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau, France (WP)
with Guy Marchand, Françoise Fabian, Sabrina Seyvecou, Yannick Renier

Nacidas para sufrir (Born To Suffer) by Miguel Albaladejo, Spain
with Adriana Ozores, Petra Martinez, Malena Alterio, Ricard Borrás, Jorge Calvo, Marta Fernández Muro, Maria Elena Flores

Parade by Isao Yukisada, Japan
with Tatsuya Fujiwara, Karina, Shihori Kanjiya, Kento Hayashi, Keisuke Koide

Phobidilia by Doron Paz, Yoav Paz, Israel
with Ofer Shechter, Efrat Baumwald, Shlomo Bar Shavit, Efrat Dor

Plein sud (Going South) by Sébastien Lifshitz , France
with Yannick Renier, Léa Seydoux, Nicole Garcia, Théo Frilet, Pierre Périer

Por tu culpa (It's Your Fault) by Anahí Berneri, Argentina/France (WP)
with Erica Rivas, Ruben Viani, Nicasio Galán, Zenón Galán, Osmar Núñez

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll by Mat Whitecross, UK
with Andy Serkis, Naomie Harris, Olivia Williams, Bill Milner, Tom Hughes

Son Of Babylon by Mohamed Al-Daradji, Iraq/UK/France/United Arab Emirates/The Netherlands/Egypt/Palestinian territories
with Yassir Talib, Shazada Hussein, Bashir Al-Majid

The Man Who Sold The World by Swel Noury, Imad Noury, Morocco
with Said Bey, Fehd Benchemsi, Audrey Marnay, Latifa Ahrrare, Hakim Noury

Yeobaewoodle (The Actresses) by E J-Yong, Republic of Korea
with Yoon Yeo-jeong, Lee Mi-sook, Ko Hyun-joung, Choi Ji-woo, Kim Ok-vin, Kim Min-hee


Alle meine Stehaufmädchen - Von Frauen, die sich was trauen
(All My Tumbler Girls Or All About Women Who Dare To...)
by Lothar Lambert, Germany (WP)

Beautiful Darling: The Life And Times Of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar by James Rasin, USA (WP)

Hazman havarod (Gay Days) by Yair Qedar, Israel

Making The Boys by Crayton Robey, USA (WP)
with Mart Crowley, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Terrence McNally, Dominic Dunne, William Friedkin, Robert Wagner

Postcard To Daddy by Michael Stock, Germany (WP)

Waste Land by Lucy Walker, co-directors: João Jardim, Karen Harley, UK/Brazil

Wiegenlieder (Lullaby) by Tamara Trampe, Johann Feindt, Germany (WP)
with Detlef Jablonski, Helmut Oehring, Santos, Apti Bisultanov, Jocelyn B. Smith

Friday, 8 January 2010

Cria Cuervos, Carlos Saura, Spain 1975

Cria Cuervos was made in 1975 when Spain’s infamous head of state,Franco, was still alive and censorship had not yet been officially abolished. This is precisely the reason why Saura’s films of that period lend themselves particularly well to be looked at from a semiotic point of view for Spain’s filmmakers of those days had to go to great lengths in order to avoid any run-ins with the censors; which is to say that with censorship looming large, in order to transmit his criticism of Franco and the Francoist society, he had to use coded messages as otherwise his films would have been likely to be cut. Saura’s collaborator and star of seven of his films, Geraldine Chaplin, put it this way: 'Politics were omnipresent in our daily life, we discussed them all the time. Whenever we made a new film we decided we didn’t want to be martyrs. No, we wanted to make intelligent films which weren’t slaves to the censors. The first questions we were always asked was ‘What was cut by the censor?’. But nothing was ever cut in a Saura film. The politics were hidden. It was like a game of cat-and-mouse'(Nicodemus 2000: 13).

Besides Saura’s collaborator and star, Geraldine Chaplin, the great Clown’s daughter, was also his partner at the time. The seven films they made together range among Saura’s most political and arguably most important works. I am intrigued by the fact that their relationship yielded such an impressive body of work, which is why in my opinion Geraldine Chaplin’s contribution as the films’ star deserves closer examination. Cria Cuervos is on the surface a film about childhood memories as recalled by Ana(Geraldine Chaplin) twenty years later in, what we must reason is the year 1995, thus assuming that the story is set in 1975, the year the film was made, a time which marked the transition of Spain from a Francoist to a Post-Francoist society.

Geraldine Chaplin said that “she sees Cria Cuervos as a feminist movie….about a pianist who abandoned her career for her family and then died. Carlos didn’t mean for it to be that, but I think that’s the way it turned out” (Klemesrud 1977). However, taking into consideration her statement cited above (“…The politics were hidden. It was like a game of cat and mouse”) and F.X. Feeney’s claim that ‘Saura’s place in Spanish film history is literally central. His work draws strength from the anarchic surrealism of Bunuel and paves the way for the erotic and romantic anarchies of Almodovar and Bigas Luna’ (Feeney 1999: 51), it quickly becomes clear that beneath the film’s surface lurks a subtext not only of profound criticism of Franco and the society his regime produced, but also of Saura’s scepticism of post-Franco Spain. And although Cria Cuervos is indeed readable on two levels, it is specifically the anarchic subtext, the “hidden politics”, that I seek to examine in the second part of this essay since I firmly believe that the film must be read in the context of the time it was made.

To begin with, I suggest that each one of the main characters in the film represents a part of Spanish history. Cria Cuervos has three central characters: Ana as a child (played by Ana Torrent), who represents post-Franco Spain; Ana as an adult (played by Geraldine Chaplin), who embodies the Spain of the future, and the father (played by Hector Alterio), who stands for the declining Spain of Franco. Of all three characters his is the most obvious to decipher. Misogynistic, tyrannical and despotic, his character is a none too thinly veiled symbol of Franco and the men who staunchly supported him. Never shown without his uniform (even wearing it when he is buried!), we learn that during the Second World War he fought for the Germans on the Eastern front as part of Spain Division Azul. Although he dies at the film’s beginning, he appears to dominate the film until the end for such was his (read: Franco’s) influence, Saura seems to suggest, that even though he dies, his children will remain. Children, like Ana, who are the legacy, the product, of a authoritarian, repressive society. Cria Cuervos (literally: raise ravens) derives from a Spanish proverb: “Raise ravens and they will peck your eyes out”. (Hence the fact that the first time we see aunt Paulina is when she is applying mascara needs to be mentioned here.) Thus, it is no surprise that little Ana, who is devilish and angelic at the same time, is obsessed by thoughts of death and murder, for these are the children Franco and his helpers created. To be sure, Ana’s various attempts at murder all fail, for what she thinks is a lethal poison turns out to be only bicarbonate powder. And yet, it is no doubt murder that it is on her mind: she truly is the result of her upbringing: its victim and its creation both at the same time. However, in spite of her homicidal intentions, she remains an ambiguous and ultimately likeable figure, which is mainly due to her age. Ana, like the Spain of the time which was in transition from a Francoist to a post-Francoist society, is still too young to be judged. Saura’s scepticism about the new Spain is embodied in the little Ana. But, it seems, he is willing to give it, or her, the benefit of a doubt.

Nevertheless when Ana is not preoccupied with murder, she escapes into her own little
world, a place outside reality (i.e. squinting her eyes and making her mother appear and disappear; imagining to fly like a bird). Given the world she grows up in, those hallucinations and fantasies are Ana’s only means for survival. But Ana, representing post-Franco Spain, also has to carry the burden of Spain’s past and leading it into the future, and her dreams and fantasies seem to be an allusion to the many possible shapes and forms Spain’s future may take. That Saura had low hopes for his country’s future is accentuated at the very end when we see Ana, accompanied by her two siblings attending a Catholic college, the Catholic Church having played a vital and instrumental role in Franco’s Spain.

Carlos Saura himself told John Hopewell that “nothing in my films is casual. The most minimal detail has a sense” (Hopewell 1986: 135). Again, seen in that light, it can in my opinion not be a coincidence that Saura used a wide-angle shot of the college with a cross on top clearly visible at the end of the film, suggesting that even though Franco might have gone, his children would remain. Or to put it in Marsha Kinder’s words, these are the “children of Franco, who bear the crippling legacy of Francoist cultural repression” (Kinder 1993 : 194). However, as the film constantly veers between Saura’s scepticism and his hope regarding post-Franco Spain, the camera pans away from the Catholic college and zooms in on a group of skyscrapers, which suggest Saura’s yearning for his country to be able to rid itself of the Franco legacy, the skyscrapers implying progress,modernity and most of all – secularisation.

Saura’s critical stance towards the Catholic Church is demonstrated in another scene,
about three quarters into the film, when we see Ana interring her recently died hamster, Roni. Digging a hole in the ground with her own hands, she puts the hamster into a shoebox that has an oversized cross painted on it and buries it in the backyard, making it clear that what we have just witnessed was a Catholic burial. Once finished, she looks at her dirty hands, in an almost contemplative manner, and slowly besmirches her face, thus becoming something of a “tarnished angel” or one of the many “angels with dirty faces” that Franco’s Spain produced: A society with dirt on their hands for they were blind followers of a church that actively supported an oppressive regime. In that respect a parallel can be drawn between Francoist Spain and the Third Reich, for although the Catholic Church didn’t actively participate in the Holocaust, it certainly turned a blind eye to it.

It goes without saying that Saura’s scepticism of the new Spain would prove to be unfounded, for with democracy firmly restored just after Franco’s death, Spain has since joined the European Union (on January 1, 1986) and has joined the ranks of the continent’s most prosperous countries and certainly turned into one of its most liberal. For instance, Spain is one of only three countries in the world where marriage among gays has the same status as marriage among heterosexual couples. That also is ample proof to what extent the importance and the power of the Catholic Church has diminished.

The third central figure in Cria Cuervos is the adult Ana, who appears on only three
occasions throughout the film. Yet, she is a fundamental figure, for it is through her that we realize to what extent her childhood experiences have shaped and traumatized her. Visibly distraught, she is remembering various events from her childhood, and as memories often are, they are incomplete, a distortion of reality; like a patchwork, inconsistent and more often than not, indistinguishable from fantasy and hallucination, while adding and eliminating certain events in the process. In that respect Cria Cuervos is reminiscent of Terence Davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives (UK 1988), in which the narrative also jumps back and forth in what we realize is a string of loosely connected memories from childhood. Unlike Davies’ film, however, Cria Cuervos has a narrator, the adult Ana, who, while going down memory lane, looks directly into the camera and thus, at us, bringing to mind the role of a patient undergoing psychoanalysis, with the audience in the role of the analyst. It appears as if she is interrogated by us, answering questions that we didn’t ask but that we are tempted to ask, particularly since her recollections do not always seem to match reality. It his here that Cria Cuervos is paying homage to the films of Ingmar Bergman, for it is a technique which he frequently used (i.e. The Hour Of The Wolf, Sweden 1968) and which was later adopted by Woody Allen (i.e. Husbands And Wives, USA 1992). In point of fact, the intense gaze of the adult Ana is reflected in the stares of Ana, the child, a stare that is 'opaque, completely neutral, fixed in wax-like pallor, a blank look designed more as passive defence against inquisition than a means of making contact'(Hopewell 1986: 139).

Given Ana’s traumatic childhood, which was marked by a despotic father, loss and
bereavement, it is of course no surprise that she would seek psychoanalytical help as an adult. Blaming her father for the death (of cancer?) of her loving and beloved mother and(unsuccessfully) trying to kill him as well as - later - her aunt, we are perplexed not only at how forgiving she appears to be towards her father (for her recollection of him does not match the villain we see on screen), but also at the confusion of the images before us, which make it almost impossible to distinguish fantasy from reality. In other words, the viewer is at a complete loss as to what are the imaginations of Ana the child and what are the distorted recollections of the childhood as Ana, the adult, remembers it. In that respect (the adult) Ana’s stares could indeed be read as those of a schizophrenic patient, examined by her psychiatrist, in this case, us, the audience. It is then that Saura’s film most resembles those of his predecessor Luis Bunuel. Ana’s imaginings, distorted memories and hallucinations call to mind films like Les fantomes de la liberté (Luis Bunuel, Italy/ France 1974) or Le charm discrèt de la bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel, France/ Italy/ Spain 1972), where all boundaries between reality and fantasy seem to disappear.

To further illustrate my belief that Saura intended to tell much more than a story about childhood memory I have handpicked one particular sequence, about halfway through the film, in which we see Ana listening to an extremely popular song at the time (Jeannette’s “Por Que Te Vas?”) while cutting out female models from a catalogue and pasting them into a scrapbook. The song’s title, “Por Que Te Vas?”, which means “Why Are You Going”, clearly is a hint at the Spain of the time - which was in the process of change - and Ana’s discomfort about the consequences that will invariably follow. Furthermore, the song is a pop-song, decidedly contemporary and modern which again implies that the old Spain is on its way out and has run its course. This is supported by the flamenco tune heard in the following scene when Ana is called away to look after her ailing grandmother, a “voice-less” - literally - relict of the Spain of yesterday, the Spain of flamencos, toreros and Sevillanas. But before she goes off to see her grandma, she thumbs through her scrapbook which is filled with images of women until reaching a blank page on which the camera subtly lingers. As stated previously, Cria Cuervos can be read on two levels. And although it is obvious that Ana is missing her mother and is sampling paper clippings of female models in search of a replacement, it is equally evident that when she arrives at the blank page - one that has yet to be filled - she is not only at a loss in terms of her female parent, but also in respects to the new Spain, whose pages also had yet to be filled and whose history had yet to be written. The blank page in Ana’s scrapbook is masterfully juxtaposed just a few moments later by the wall full of photos in her grandmother’s room, stared at by the latter with an almost bleary-eyed nostalgia and by Ana with childlike indifference. We recognize the wall of photos from
the beginning of the film, when we see the camera slowly moving across from photo to photo as the opening credits roll, each picture representing history, memory and consequently the distortion of those memories, which over time turn into a dreamscape consisting of fantasy, reality and hallucination. The leisurely panning movements of the camera are accompanied by hauntingly beautiful piano-music, anticipating the profession Ana’s mother gave up for her husband and family. Since there is no non-diegetic music in Cria Cuervos at all - which again is reminiscent of literally all of Ingmar Bergman’s films – each time music is used its use cannot be ignored.

The solemn piano music (occurring on two occasions during the film), Jeannette’s
pop-lamento “Por Que Te Vas” (also occurring on two occasions), the sombre undertone of the narrative, Ana’s hallucinatory dream world and her preoccupations with death and murder - all are evoking the later paintings of Goya, making Cria Cuervos resemble one of his grave pinturas negras, the series of pictures Goya painted during his exile in Bordeaux, while Spain was occupied by Napoleon, and Goya - near death, deaf, and on the brink of madness - was in a world of his own, which is reflected in those dark, cryptic and gloomy paintings. Saura himself declared that, 'in his inauguration speech at the Academy, [Goya] said that he sees neither lines nor colours, just shadows that move. That to me is one of the most concise characterizations of modern art'(Dockhorn 2000: 36).

That Saura was, and probably still is influenced by Goya, becomes apparent when watching his films, most notably those made between 1966 and 1979, among which Cria Cuervos stands out as prime example.To quote John Hopewell: 'Though such techniques (confluence of fantasy and reality, and a critical realism which uses allegory and distortion) were developed in part to evade the Francoist censor, Saura traces them back through esperpento and Goya to such “Golden Age” seventeenth century writers as Gracian, Quevada, Calderon, and Cervantes (who took to ‘transfiguring reality in the imagination … because of the weight of the Inquisition on the intellectual life of the age’'(Hopewell 1986: 135).

Cria Cuervos is a complex film which can easily be misread or misunderstood as being merely a film about a traumatic childhood. Although it goes without saying that seen as such makes for very beneficial viewing, but deprives the viewer of the deeper pleasures, hidden meanings and lessons to be learned that are lurking beneath the film’s thick-layered, murky surface.

As mentioned above, the film’s leading actress, Geraldine Chaplin, plays a double role in Cria Cuervos, that of Ana as an adult as well as Ana’s mother. To be sure, Ana Torrent, who plays Ana as a child, probably has the bigger part. But I consider Chaplin’s part more important inasmuch as it is through her eyes that we see the story unfold, and it is by looking at and listening to her - the adult Ana - that we come to fully comprehend the consequences an upbringing in Francoist Spain has had on its people.As previously stated, Geraldine Chaplin was instrumental in the films Saura made during that period for she starred in altogether seven of his films, in a few of which she played double roles (i.e.Cria Cuervos; Elisa Vida Mia, Spain 1977) and in one she contributed to the screenplay (La Madriguera, Spain 1969). Looking at her filmography - which includes nearly a hundred films - and her life, it seems to me that Geraldine Chaplin has always been a reluctant star, one that contradicts the usual definition of the term. She rose to international stardom in 1965 when she appeared in David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (USA 1965), but in spite of the worldwide success of Lean’s film, it was the other female lead, Julie Christie, and her male partner, Omar Sharif, whom the public at large identified with Lean’s film rather than Chaplin, who appears to have somewhat remained in the shadow of her colleagues.

But rather than cashing in on the accolades surrounding Doctor Zhivago, which, no doubt, would have been an option, Chaplin went on to work with Saura, whom she met on the set of his film Peppermint Frappé (Spain 1967) and subsequently became his muse and lover. During the 1970s her most noteworthy films - apart from her collaborations with Saura - are those she did with Robert Altman (Nashville, USA 1975; A Wedding, USA 1978) and her two films with Alan Rudolph (Welcome To LA, USA 1976; Remember My Name, USA 1978). Although I am unable to comment on the offers she might or might not have received during those years, I believe that to her the quality of the film had precedence over the film’s box-office potential or big names. Therefore, I would even go so far as to say that if it was not for her father’s fame, the name Geraldine Chaplin would mean little to most cinema-goers. A quote by Chaplin herself confirms this. Asked by Katja Nicodemus of the German daily TAZ about her “shameless exploitation of the name Chaplin”, she bluntly quipped, “I still do” (Nicodemus 2000: 13). In the same interview Chaplin argues that „she has never been a star“ (Nicodemus 2000: 13), and in his book, Die Unsterblichen Des Kinos, A. Heinzlmeier claims that „Geraldine obtained her first film part because she was her father’s daughter. That she became a star, is alone her achievement” (A. Heinzlmeier/ B. Schulz/ K. Witte, 1982: 210).

But the question, “what makes a star a star”, has preoccupied film historians for quite some time and clear definitions are few and far between. For instance, Meryl Streep rejects the idea of being a star and regards herself purely as an actress, almost as if the term star was an insult, something that she must not, cannot be if she wants to be taken seriously. Stars, as the name implies, are unreachable, unapproachable and endowed with an air of myth and mystery. Moreover, although stars go as far back as the French comedian Max Linder (1883 – 1925), who worked in various countries including the US, the term “star” really came into being with Florence Lawrence, who is generally quoted as having been the first film star, when the German-born Carl Laemmle, who later became the head of Universal Pictures, exploited her box-office clout and turned her into a star. In fact, in 1991 actor Roddy Macdowall donated the funds for a proper gravestone to be placed in her memory that reads: “The First Movie Star”.

Hence, when cinema was in its infancy, stars were the products and creations of the
studios they were working for and studio heads went to great lengths to turn their discoveries into a bankable “product”, ranging from changing their names and biography to altering their looks by requesting that they dye their hair or undergo plastic surgery. With the disappearance of the studio system the star as such had ceased to exist, yet the term remains to the very day while its connotations surely have changed although the question arises if the term “star” still applies today or if maybe what/ who we deem to be a star is not simply a celebrity? Have not the words “fame” and “celebrity” made the term “star” redundant?

Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jean Harlow, Barbara Stanwyck – they
all were indisputably stars in the “true sense of the word”, which is to say that without being able to adequately define the term “star” the star status of these actresses has never been questioned. In fact, Dietrich probably is what one could call the epitome of a star, for she had all the makings, all the ingredients, that - arguably - make a star a star: beauty, notoriety, wealth, charisma and a certain ‘je-ne-sais-pas-quoi’ - probably that touch of mystery - all of which turned her into perhaps the 20th century most well-known “star”. That her talent as an actress was limited and that her voice was far from perfect didn’t seem to matter and had no impact on her career. Neither did the fact that she was the creation and invention of her mentor, Josef von Sternberg, who oversaw the transformation of the plump songstress from Berlin-Schöneberg into a sequined siren, universally admired and revered.

I.C. Jarvie proposes that “…striking photogenic looks, acting ability, presence on camera, charm and personality, sex-appeal, attractive voice and bearing” are what makes a star a star (Jarvie in Dyer, 1986: 18). But although that definition might have been valid in the past, I do not believe it still applies today. In my view that explanation clearly is far too general as the above-mentioned qualities apply to a multitude of actors who are not necessarily stars. Richard Griffith’s description appears to be somewhat nearer to the mark, “…no machinery ever of itself and by itself made a star. That takes place in the depth of the collective unconscious” (Griffith in Dyer, 1986: 20).In this day and age stars are indeed subject to one’s own personal perception and definition and are certainly created in our minds. Although I would go somewhat further and say that a star need not necessarily be a creation of the collective unconscious, but can in fact be the conception of one’s own individual unconscious. In other words, today, where the term “star” itself has lost its traditional connotation, somebody who might be seen as a star in the eyes of one person might only be an actress/ actor in the eyes of somebody else and vice versa. Stars are made in our minds. Whom we deem worthy of the term “star” is up to one’s own individual perception.

Nevertheless, having established that the term “star” may be a term that has lost its significance, and, furthermore, that stars - or rather: our perception of them - can only ever be very personal, I will now go back to Geraldine Chaplin and try to analyze what it is that makes her different from other stars and what she contributed to the films of Carlos Saura and to Cria Cuervos in particular.

Geraldine Chaplin, the first of eight children of Charlie Chaplin’s marriage to Oona
O’Neill, the famous playwright’s daughter, was born in Santa Monica in 1944 and spent part of her childhood in Beverly Hills. In 1952, after her father had run into difficulties with the American officials for his alleged involvement with the Communist party, prompting him to relocate to Europe, the Chaplin family settled in Vevey on Lake Geneva in Switzerland, which is where Geraldine Chaplin lives today. Geraldine Chaplin was subsequently sent to England where she attended the Royal Ballett School, but had little intention to continue her career as a professional dancer and instead followed her father’s footsteps. No sooner had she made waves in the previously mentioned Doctor Zhivago did she meet Carlos Saura, eventually leading to her move to Madrid, which is where she continued living even after their separation in 1979. Their collaboration began in 1967 with Peppermint Frappé (Carlos Saura, Spain 1967) and ended in 1979 with Mama Cumple Cien Anos (Carlos Saura, Spain 1979). And it seems to me that it is precisely this very fact, Geraldine Chaplin’s nationality, which is and has always been difficult to place, what makes her an exception among the majority of film stars. Having grown up on two continents, in two different countries and having lived in two more, she is absolutely fluent - and accent free - in English, French and Spanish, which, as a result, turns her into something of a person without roots, without a home, impossible to be identified with a certain country. In her won words:'I have always been difficult to characterize. To the English I’m sounding American, and to Americans I’m sounding British. I suppose to American directors I come across as European'(Vahabzadeh & Göttler 2003: 13)

That statement sums up my perception of her, as in her - relatively few - American films she seems almost displaced, an alien body, who stands out amid the rest of the cast. In fact, not only ranks Geraldine Chaplin’s work with Saura among the best of her films, but those films are also where she seems most at home. I suppose the fact that for political reasons the Spain of the time (the 1960s and 70s) was somewhat isolated, did not help to foster international co-productions or facilitate a star’s foray into the global stage. Nevertheless, bearing in mind her own statement of “having never been a star” and the fact that she was Saura’s partner with “politics being part of their daily lives”, I do indeed believe that it was Chaplin who deliberately chose an - arguably less luminous but ultimately more rewarding – career in Spain over the short-lived glitz and glamour that a career on the world stage would have entailed. And to me personally Chaplin has always been identified with Spanish cinema than with films from any other country.

Her face, which is not conventionally beautiful, but which has a certain melancholy,
inscrutability and mystery about it, effortlessly blends in with Saura’s enigmatic and cryptic films of the time; films, like Cria Cuervos, that were subtle explorations of the reality and the consequences of Francoist Spain and whose thinly veiled criticism of the Franco regime was discernible in Chaplin’s face, which emanates fragility, mysteriousness and a certain lunacy, but never glamour or artificiality, which is why her participation is central to those films. However, her choice to have opted for a career in Spanish films cost her not only a potentially successful career in American films, but it may also explain the academic neglect of her star persona. As Andy Willis writes:'Popular actors from Spain, France or Italy, for example, have usually only received any real academic interest when they have crossed over into the more global sphere of Hollywood'(Willis 2004: 4).

Geraldine Chaplin once said that “I have a face of the past and a face of the future”
(Vahabzadeh & Göttler, 2003: 13), a comment which I find quite fitting, considering
that her two parts in Cria Cuervos are set in the past and in the future, but not in the present. At this point I should like to mention her three scenes in the film when she, in her role as Ana, in close-up, speaks directly to us, reflecting on her experiences as a child. Wearing the same grey sweater in all three scenes, and always facing the viewer, she has little help from the mise-en-scène and only has herself and her capability as an actress to rely on. Nevertheless, not only does she credibly embody the Spanish woman - with her silky black hair, her luminous face and facial features that never betray her American-English origin - but her looks also match those of Ana, the child (played by Ana Torrent). Furthermore, her facial expressions, her eyes, exude a vulnerability and a defencelessness, that make us instantly understand the effects that Ana’s traumatic experiences as a child has had on her later life.

In summary, Cria Cuervos is a film which, apart from being one of Saura’s most
memorable works, deserves to be rediscovered and reassessed, which ideally should include all of his films between 1966 and 1979. He was - and still is to a lesser degree- one of Spain’s and Europe’s most uncompromising auteurs, his “career under Franco suggesting a consistently personal voice surviving from one film to the next, which could be matched in Spain only by Edgar Neville and Luis Berlanga” (Hopewell 1986: 134). Saura dared to show chutzpah and verve in a political climate that was potentially dangerous and could have cost him his career. He - albeit subtly - raised his voice when in other countries that had been through similar situations, like Germany or Italy, all the voices remained unforgivingly silent. Saura’s - sometimes more, sometimes less - obvious criticism of Francoist Spain makes Cria Cuervos a highly complex film that is not always easy to decipher and dissect as the viewer is often tempted to merely look at it as a film about childhood memory, whereby neglecting the hidden meanings that are lurking beneath its surface. Cria Cuervos, which received the Grand Prix de la Jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976, also marks the pinnacle of Carlos Saura’s collaboration with Geraldine Chaplin, who evidently played a vital part in his body of work, primarily because of her ability to convincingly portray the at times mad, at times delicate, at times vulnerable women that were at the centre of his films. Although Geraldine Chaplin might not be considered a “star” in the eyes of most cinema-goers of today, in my opinion her
contribution, not just to the cinema of Spain and Carlos Saura in particular but also to world cinema, is fundamental.


Dyer, Richard (1986): Stars.London: BFI
EPD Film 11/ 2000, page 36, Carlos Saura interviewed by Katharina Dockhorn
Heinzlmeier, A., Schulz, B., Witte, K. (1982): Die Unsterblichen Des Kinos. Frankfurt: Fischer
Hopewell, John (1986): Out Of The Past. London: BFI
Jordan, Barry & Allinson, Mark (2005): Spanish Cinema – A Student’s Guide. London: Hodder & Arnold
Kinder, Marsha (1993): Blood Cinema. Ewing/ New Jersey: University Of California Press
LA Times, February 26, 1999, page 51, F.X. Feeney
NY Times Encyclopaedia Of Film 1977, Geraldine Chaplin interviewed by Judy Klemesrud, no page numbers
Süddeutsche Zeitung, July 1, 2003, page 13, Geraldine Chaplin interviewed by S. Vahabzadeh & F. Göttler
TAZ, August 3, 2000, page 13, Geraldine Chaplin interviewed by Katja Nicodemus
Willis, Andy (2004): Film Stars – Hollywood And Beyond. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York
Wollen, Peter (1972): Signs And Meaning In The Cinema. London: Martin Secker & Warburg


A Wedding, Robert Altman, USA 1978
Cria Cuervos, Carlos Saura, Spain 1975
Doctor Zhivago, David Lean, USA 1966
Elisa, Vida Mia, Carlos Saura, Spain 1977
Husbands And Wives, Woody Allen, USA 1992
La Madriguera, Carlos Saura, Spain 1969
Mama Cumple Cien Anos, Carlos Saura, Spain 1979
Nashville, Robert Altman, USA 1975
Peppermint Frappé, Carlos Saura, Spain 1968
Remember My Name, Alan Rudolph, USA 1976
Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, USA 1950
The Hour Of The Wolf, Ingmar Bergman, Sweden 1968
Welcome To LA, Alan Rudolph, USA 1978

Cria Cuervos is available on DVD.