Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bank Robbers, Dietrich & von Sternberg

I surfed the Berlin and Beyond website a little more and found the 2009 Festival site. The full schedule is listed.

I didn't find much that interested me. Fortunately, the two (possibly three) programs I'm interested in are on the same day and back to back (to back). On Monday, January 19 (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), they are screening The Blue Angel at the Castro. The 1930 film was directed by Josef von Sternberg and starred Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings. This screening is the English version of the film. The footnote paragraph states "the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley will screen the original German version of Der Blaue Engel on February 1 at 2pm as part of the Joseph [sic] von Sternberg retrospective."

That's exciting as von Sternberg has become one of my favorite directors. Having seen some of his more well known films (Shanghai Express, The Scarlet Empress and The Shanghai Gesture) I'm anxious to see some of his other films. I've come to put great faith in PFA's programming.

The second film in the festival that interests me is called 12 Winters. It screens immediately after The Blue Angel. I don't recognize the director or any of the stars of this 2008 German film. The synopsis is what caught my attention. It sounds like modern film noir.

Based on one of the most spectacular series of bank robberies in Germany, 12 Winters tells the story of Klaus (Axel Prahl) and Mike (Jürgen Vogel), two criminals that become friends in prison. When they happen to meet each other again after they have been released they begin to plan the perfect bank robbery, and it seem to work. For twelve years the two keep on robbing banks, always in winter. They work fast, very professional, and concentrate on rural areas. Well arranged hold ups soon becomes their trademark. The police are in the dark for years. But they won’t stick to their guns...

The third film which is mildly interesting is Hollywood Speaks German which precedes The Blue Angel.

Since I'm lazy today, I'll just copy the synopsis from the film program.

By 1929, new technologies made “talkies” possible, but dubbing films into another language proved to be a still insurmountable technological challenge. To make films available to a wider audience, the only feasible option was to reshoot different language versions. From 1930 through 1932, all major Hollywood studios shot films in German. Famous German actors such as Heinrich George, Paul Morgan, and Camilla Horn came to shoot on location in Hollywood, and many German-speaking actors already in Hollywood were often chosen, such as Greta Garbo, Edward G. Robinson, and Marion Lessing. A number of famous American actors, such as Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Buster Keaton were required to learn German phonetics. Parallel to this development, many German actors were filmed speaking English, as evidenced by this year’s Berlin & Beyond’s classic feature The Blue Angel.

The schedule for January 19 is:

3:30 Hollywood Speaks German
6:30 The Blue Angel
9:00 12 Winters

I'm off work that day so I could catch the 3:30 screening. I'll play it by ear.


Before I forget, David Thomson introduced Attack! on Saturday at PFA. The opening credits listed the film as Attack so I'm not sure how the exclamation point got in the title or program.

Thomson wrote the 1000 page ("magnun opus") Biographical Dictionary of Film in 1975. Now, he has a new book out; it's called 'Have You Seen ...?' (1007 pages). It's received good reviews in the San Francisco Chronicle. The book consists of 500 word essays on 1000 films. That means you can fit 1000 words on one page? He was selling autographed copies at PFA on Saturday.


I've already scoped out Berlin and Beyond (January 15 to 21) and Noir City (January 23 to February 1). The festival after that is the San Francisco Independent Film Festival (aka SF Indiefest) from February 5 to 19. I haven't seen anything about their program. I did notice that Bird's Nest which was the first film I saw at this year's DocFest is on the Belin and Beyond program. I can't whole-heartedly recommend it though. The documentary is about the architects that designed the Bird's Nest Stadium in Bejing. I characterized the film as "Not a Bad Way to Kill an Hour or Two."

No comments: