Tag: Film

… That Becomes Even Stranger

The mentioned “Aktwerk” contains 24 photographs by 14 different photographers, all names unknown to me – here’s the list : Willy Zielke (3), Heinz von Perckhammer, Bruno Schultz (8), Carl Semon, Alfred Grabner, Viktor Hayd, Trude Fleischmann, Max Rothkegel, Franz Grainer, Heinz Hajek-Halke (2), Franz Kepler, Ewald Hoinkis, Ursula Lang-Kurz und Heinrich Iffland.
I looked through the names and read wikipedia-articles, as far as they exist, and the last one – yes, I do lists from behind, the “wrong” way ; I simply do this, I can’t explain – and the last one was Willy ZIELKE (Ger.) (1902-1989) “…. photographer … expressionistic … who did “Das STAHLTIER” …” – ?
What ?
I thought I knew the canon of expressionistic German fillums from the 1920s & 1930s, but this one had escaped me. Also ZIELKE’s biography. He learned in Munich at the Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen in 1923 and 1924 (what later became the Fachakademie für Fotodesign), and was teaching there from 1928 until 1936. He took part in the Werkbundausstellung “Film und Foto” and so became known to a wider audience. In the early 1930s he started to make films, his first independent solo work was “Arbeitslos – Ein Schicksal von Millionen” (Unemployed – One of Millions) from 1933.
ZIELKE was commissioned to produce a film for the hundredth “birthday” of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, this is the already mentioned “Stahltier” from 1935. The heads of the railway expected a nice advertisement or promotion picture, and were less than underwhelmed with the finished product – much to ZIELKE’s shock and dismay.
He constructed a story around a Werkstudent / student employee who has to complete field training with a group of workers ; the relationship between the group and the “intellectual”, ongoing engineer, develops, especially because the young man knows the history of the railroad and tells & explains it to the workers. As I read the picture does not follow ns aesthetics, does not use contemporary symbols, depicts neither student nor workers as aryan superhumans or lies about the history of the steaming engine. In fact ZIELKE did an aesthetically outstanding artful picture in the category corporate film / Industriefilm that the purchaser did not like : They blabbed something about “communist aesthetics” and threw the thing in the drawer.
Interestingly this film later was used within the training of cameramen for German propaganda units, as example for what is possible.
After the war a complete copy was found in Paris, but the successor of the Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Deutsche Bahn, still regarded the film as “not publishable”, and urged ZIELKE to shorten his work. So from circa 1955 onwards exists a crippled 50 (?) minutes version of the original 70 minutes film. Only much later, in the 1980s, the uncut original was shown publicly.
ZIELKE’s STAHLTIER (GOd, what a title !) brought him to the attention of Leni RIEFENSTAHL. She had him as collaborator for her Olympia films, and ZIELKE independently made the “Prolog” for the pictures. There was a contract, and he had it notariazed, nevertheless he is not in the credits of said picture(s), RIEFENSTAHL just dispersed him.
What follows is disputable. It is a fact that ZIELKE from February 1937 until August 1942 was held as patient in the mental asylum / Kreisirrenanstalt Haar. He describes it as kidnapping and accuses RIEFENSTAHL of pulling strings. I am not convinced, RIEFENSTAHL simply would have not needed to do something like that. She was in a nearly untouchable position in Nazi Germany. Earlier she even had shown the STAHLTIER to GOEBBELS and argued for the picture – in vain, GOEBBELS simply did not like it.
I think ZIELKE suffered from a nervous breakdown, the diagnosis “Verfolgungswahn” / paranoia / delusions of persecution may be valid or not, I have no clue. ZIELKE was castrated while in Haar, against his will, but according to the law, as a German judge told him after the end of the Third Reich when he asked for compensation. ZIELKE says he was subjected to experiments, but I think that was not verified. He was glad not to be executed (Ger., Eng.), Haar was part of the murder machinery.
In August 1942 RIEFENSTAHL – of all humans ! – took him out from Haar, and used him as cameraman for Tiefland (Ger., Eng.).
ZIELKE survived the war, started to produce small films in the 1950s and worked as cameraman again. I read that at the beginning of the 1970s, when he was completely out of the public’s eye and forgotten, a French collector “borrowed” his collection of negatives, and “forgot” to give it back. At least one of his negatives was sold for a pretty large sum via an auctioneer’s house while ZIELKE had to live from benefits. He died in June 1989, 86 years old.
What a life.

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The only account of ZIELKE’s biography and his film is found here (part I) & here (part II) (Go there for pictures !), written by Manfred POLAK. Of course my scribble heavily relies on Herr POLAKs work.
It would be very helpful if the article by Herr POLAK would be translated professionally into English. Also English versions of the German wikipedia articles about ZIELKE and Das STAHLTIER would be very helpful.

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An Ugly Story to Start With …

It was Joyce (an old lady who lives in a house somewhere near the Great Lakes, Green Bay ?, who sadly has not blogged since 2012 ; maybe she died), who once used the expression “down the rabbit hole” for my meandering through “stuff” : One starts “here”, gets distracted, follows leads and detours, only to come out over “there”, having created a thread, on one hand unique, but meant to be followed by others, so not so unique any more.
I like the image of the rabbit going down, sub terra, following subterranean routes, weaving a fabric, a tissue, ein Gespinst, that underlies what we see, or better, what is shown. The mycelium under the mushroom. If one is not so friendly, one may call it prattlebabblerigmarole …
While I recover from this nasty infection I spend too much time online. Lately I scrolled through a site with old photographs, and saw a pretty unimpressive nude study (Halbakt, semi nude, is the correct term I think) ; what caught my eye was not the lady’s bust, but the caption : “From Deutsche Aktwerk”. Frankly, I first thought this to be a joke : this title must be something satyrical from the sixties or seventies ; but no, it is a real publication – here is a more or less actual, American advertisement.
Looking in a trusted search engine (hint : not gargle) lead to the wikipedia-article about Herr Bruno SCHULTZ (Ger.), who was the editor of said “Aktwerk” (here is a correct description by an antiquarian, German only, sorry ; 24 b/w images on cardboard, pretty good print, Berlin 1938).
Sadly the article is in German only, and gives no dates, I would very much like to know what happened to SCHULTZ after the war. SCHULTZ was from 1927 to 1938 editor of Das Deutsche Lichtbild, a magazine open to avanteguarde and generally progressive artists, lauded by so different persons as Reichskunstwart (Ger., Eng., not an ns institution !) REDSLOB (Ger. only) and Bauhaus-professor MOHOLY-NAGY (Ger., Eng.).
After 1933 SCHULTZ marched onwards, the 1934 edition was dedicated to the FUEHRER “in endless love”. SCHULTZ became a Hauptmann, captain that is, in the propaganda department of the OKW (Ober-Kommando der Wehrmacht), no doubt a “Druckposten” he got via “Vitamin B” (Ger.), something administrative friends made possible for him, anything but the front, yeah.
He finally became a swine in 1944. His flat had been bombed and together with his wife he was relocated to a villa near Berlin. There also lived the writer KNAUF (Ger., Eng.) and the caricaturist OHSER (Ger., Eng.). OHSER did not keep his mouth shut in the air-raid cellar and in February 1944 SCHULTZ denounced both in writing directly to GOEBBELS. End of March both were arrested. GOEBBELS was pissed off and told FREISLER (he may rot in hell eternally, Ger., Eng.) to make it snappy, so the “lawsuit” started on 6th of April. OHSER hung himself the night before the “trial”, KNAUF’s head was chopped off on 2nd of May ’44. His widow, Erna, was charged with 585,74 RM for proceedings and execution.
Some place freed in that villa.
History is stories. History is human lives. Nothing else.
But I did not want to tell this ugly story from the German forties, in fact I found something else.
I am very sorry to stop right here & now, but I am tired, and have to read additional stuff. I’ll jump the rabbit hole tomorrow again, all for your pleasure. Of course.

Inter Stellas

Lets first get out of the way that my knowledge about wormholes, quantum mechanics and stuff relating to natural science in general, is very limited.
The world is saved. Again. No Clingons hurt.
This is the good news. Malicious tongues may greet the fact that Anne HATHAWAY (Ger., Eng.) in the end sits alone on a planet in another galaxy, behind the wormhole left (or right, or where ever, it’s behind the wormhole). Don’t get me wrong, I like Ms HATHAWAY. She looks cute in my eyes, and I am sure that she could act, if someone would give her a chance to do so. She has not much to do in this film but stare with large brown eyes & open-mouthed out of her helmet. She does a good job doing so. Nice teeth.
I have sympathy for the old warhorse Sir Michael CAINE (Ger., Eng), who impersonates the head of what is left of NASA and sends all these people out in space, through a wormhole – and is basically a big liar. Yes, this is  a spoiler, sorry.
Sir Michael has a nice little role and finally dies. Perhaps from laughing on his way to the bank, but again, only malicious tongues would say something like this.
Finally, there is the hero. He does hero-stuff, and in some sequences I think he’s really good, a certain Mr MCCONAUGHEY (Ger., Eng.).
So what’s it all about ?
If I understood it correctly it’s about saving crop farmers from extinction. Yes, they are saved in the end. But why not allow Mother Nature to run its course – and have another Mad Max-chapter ? Would be too easy perhaps, not philosophical enough, and GOd knows, have you seen one explosion on the big screen it’s enough, they look all the same, don’t they ?
Basically the world (or better: The US of A) turned into a kind of desert, being an engineer is a big no-no, history is re-written (moon-landing is a big hoax – I knew it!). Finally our hero meets (no details here) Sir Michael and is sent through the wormhole with some other people – their job is mostly do die in due course, HATHAWAY survives. Hero’s daughter stays behind, with her grandfather and her brother on a farm in the big dust bowl, and a ghost that communicates with her by throwing books out of the shelves. Yes, they have books, and they even read them, Mr Hero hates farming, damn intellectuals.
There was an earlier expedition to seek a new world, three still send data. Planet one is close to the wormhole, time is bent to the effect that hanging around on this surface costs a lot of earthen years. There is nothing, close escape, one man kia.
Second planet would have been the right destination, that’s where Ms HATHAWAY always wants to go to – bad luck. The surviving crew members doubt her decision, and insinuate that it’s based on her inclination towards the researcher who sits on this rock and not on rock-hard facts.
Third planet is seemingly nice somewhere (basically they sit on a piece of ice), according to what the surviving researcher says – it’s all fake, he just wanted to be saved, tries to kill Mr. Hero and wants to escape with the space-station.
Doesn’t work, much damage. Mr Hero finds himself in the middle of the wormhole and finally ends up behind his daughter’s bookshelf desperately trying to communicate with her by throwing books.
He seems to be successful, the strange place where he is, gets folded, Mr. Hero drifts into the big nothing.
The film could end here, but his daughter on earth puzzled all together, understood what Daddy had to say, and somehow saved the crop farmers. She even realised that Sir Michael once had a cunning idea and somehow managed to start all this, but please don’t ask me about it.
So in the end Mr Hero wakes up on a station on our side, from where they have started, of the wormhole, visits his daughter while she’s close to dying from old age, finds his farm musealised and decides that all this is damn boring & sterile. He steals a modern space machine and sets out to travel to Ms HATHAWAY, who is – as already mentioned – sitting on that third rock that looks a bit like Arizona, maybe, I never have seen Arizona.
Scotch me up, Beamy. Sadly they sold no Stella (Artois or other) in the pause.

I enjoyed the company of my friend, who had me invited to join him for this evening. I was impressed by the technical possibilities of modern cinema. I do not think that “Interstellar” is a must-see ; perhaps it wants to be too much, a dystopian vision, a space odyssey, a kind of meditation about love, I do not know. It was a nice dissipation after all.

Interesting Women : Arletty

From “La Defence” to Paradise, and back. *
Léonie BATHIAT (1898-1992) (Ger., Eng., Fr.) was a French actress … and much more is in her biography.

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She was born into a working class family in the Parisian suburb Courbevoie (Ger., Eng.), near the old fortress La Defence (Ger., Eng.) – later the ambiguous title of her autobiography. Her  father worked in the tramway repair shops and died early from a work accident. Through WWI young Léonie was working in the war industry, later she became a revue girl. She was twenty at the end of The Great War.

She had learned the typewriter and was eager for independence, and soon she entered the stage, singing nice and not so nice chansons, best together with her friend Sacha GUITRY (Ger., Eng.). She spend time in the Berlin of the late twenties, and finally made it from the boulevard theatre stages into the film industry, her first role 1930, later she was filming in Babelsberg (Ger., Eng.). Her friend in those days (and until his death in the 1960s) was a certain Jean-Pierre DUBOST, whom she refused to marry despite his offers. She said that she did not want “husband or sons slaughtered in the next war” – right she was : the next war came right to her front door in Paris.
When her fees increased she lived in a luxurious hotel, the Lancaster near Champs Elysée, and in 1941 a Luftwaffenoffizier named Hans Jürgen SOEHRING (1908-1960) (Ger.) crossed her path. Ten years her younger, it was passion, and they lived it.

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SOEHRING was by no means a super-aryan-yippyayeah-nazi burning for the Fuehrer, but a well-educated and cosmopolitan man.
He was born in Istanbul, the son of a German diplomat went to schools all over Europe, even in Germany. Finally he studied Rechts- und Staatswissenschaften in Leipzig, Berlin, Grenoble ; he had visited the London School of Economics, later was trained in Santiago de Chile & Valparaiso ; he spoke of course English, Spanish and French with a small accent, and came to Paris in the rank of an Oberstleutnant (Ger., Eng.). In fact he was a Feldrichter, a judge responsible for inner-Luftwaffe jurisdiction.
He was not an opportunist, he simply wanted to survive, at least that is my opinion about him. They met & and made the best out of it.
SOEHRING did not wear his uniform at social occasions, only when it was not to be avoided. ARLETTY sure realised how many poisoned glances & glimpses she got, (” J’étais la femme la plus invitée, je suis la plus évitée.” she said after 1945), and SOEHRING was not too dumb to ignore it.

The French society of forties’ Paris did not like this liaison, the German command either. So at the end of 1943 Hans Juergen was degraded (for what reasons ever) to NCO and shown the direct path to the front. He served in Italy (Montecassino, spring 1944, no fun) and was promoted there from Unteroffizier to officer again (Leutnant, later Oberleutnant). Finally he was transferred back to the Reichskriegsgericht (Ger.). His job at this institution was to put together files about the Bund Deutscher Offiziere (Ger.) and the Nationalkommitee Freies Deutschland (Ger., Eng.). I guess one could call this intelligence work.

ARLETTY and SOEHRING always held contact, even managed to see each other, but their ways parted. She made him write, and that is what he did. And interestingly enough Hans Juergen SOEHRING is a founding member of the famous Gruppe 47 (Ger., Eng.) – he was there at the very first meeting in Bannwaldsee.
While SOEHRING was fighting, ARLETTY had the most important role of her life : She was Garance la beautè / la reine in Les Enfantes du Paradis (Ger., Eng.) – one of the most important films of European cinema – no matter whether you like European, especially French, cinema, or not – this is one of the most important fillums ever made – how and why and what is a novel in its own right. And ARLETTY is an important part of it.

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Life moves on – and while Les Enfants was shown in France, ARLETTY was doin’ time : She sat in Drancy (shortly before used by the Nazis for the Jews, Ger., Eng.) for some months and later had to appear before a tribunal d’épuration, a court for cleansing. They had her hair not shaven, and seemingly were not quite clear about the points of accusation – she had not collaborated, never had appeared in a German (propaganda-)film, never visited Berlin to meet Goebbels – she had had an affaire with a German officer, was a star, and it did not feel right.
And ARLETTY was not shy. She told the judge “Si mon cœur est français, mon cul, lui, est international !” – as fine at this is, it does not help in the face of a humiliated nation. She was sentenced, banned from appearing on stage, and was not allowed to come near Paris at a distance of 80 kilometers ; for two years. She could not reconnect to her pre-war success when she had stared for example besides a young Jean GABIN (in Le jour se lève, 1939 ; Jean would then go to Hollywood, where Marlene was waiting, nervously, perhaps) – she returned into business, but it was not the same as before.

SOEHRING married (perhaps, was married ; two sons) and joined the German Foreign Office in 1951. He became Consul in Luanda (Ger., Eng.) (Angola) in 1956, then (seemingly in the same year) Generalkonsul in Leopoldville, today Kinshasa (Ger., Eng.), and finally in June 1960 full ambassador, after the founding of the Republic of Kongo (Ger., Eng.).
The family went to a swim in the Kongo River (Ger., Eng.), Sunday 9th of October 1960. Hans Juergen SOEHRING simply vanished in the river and never was found – heart attack, maelstrom ? Possibly a crocodile.
ARLETTY had a good relationship with the family, of course she visited. She had no more major success in film or on stage. In 1966 she received an injury from an accident and lost her eyesight totally. She lived in Paris, at last in some social housing, near to poverty and basically forgotten, until her death 1992. Here she is (via).
What an interesting woman.

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This post is largely based on the article Eine Liebe in Zeiten des Krieges by Klaus HARPPRECHT (Ger., about), in : Die ZEIT, 8. X. 2009 (32, 2009) (here).

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