Sunday, September 28, 2014

East German Cinema

I'm glad that last week a friend suggested we go to Oddball Films for a presentation on films from East Germany. Author Jim Morton announced at the start that all our preconceptions about East German cinema were wrong, & he proved it with a clip reel from over a dozen films, culled from his East German Cinema Blog. The excerpts began with a children's fairy tale film boasting psychedelic colors & imagery, & the show was jammed with similarly flagrant displays of imagination.

An extravagantly surreal scene from Die Legende von Paul und Paula references eavesdropping Stasi & shows the title couple making love in a style befitting Burning Man. My film companion & I immediately wanted to see the whole thing. The even more bizarre Ursula, a co-production with Switzerland, has Jesus carrying his cross through a 16th century battlefield in which the combatants use machine guns as well as bows & arrows.

A black & white opera film of Der fliegende Holländer is done in the style of a classic horror movie & looks excellent. A storyline from Automärchen (Motoring Tales) seems to be The Little Shop of Horrors, but instead of a man-eating plant, there's a man-eating car. Other unlikely clips included German hula dancers in blackface, a skinhead biker gang & a fabulously fun 1980s gay bar. Some Germans in the audience helped translate a racy song by Kurt Demmler that accompanies a marionette puppet performing a strip tease.

The compilation ended with several scenes from Im Staub der Sterne (In the Dust of the Stars), a beautifully photographed science fiction film, apparently set in the universe's weirdest 70s disco, where the landscape includes trampolines, giant snakes & people dancing like ancient Egyptians.

The event was at capacity, meaning that about 40 people were packed into a funky corner space of Oddball's archives. When we arrived, an old NBC news report was running, showing Daniel Schorr reporting the construction of the Berlin Wall. My movie companion came well-equipped with a bottle of red wine and 2 stemmed glasses, then pulled out a jar of cocktails peanuts halfway through the show.

§ Cinema Soiree with Jim Morton on East German Cinema
Oddball Films
Thurs. Sep. 18 - 8PM

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