The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Alexander Kluge Day

 

‘Though often acknowledged as one of the most important avant-gardists of his generation in Europe, Alexander Kluge does not think of himself as such. He considers himself a partisan of an “arriere-garde” whose project is not to push into new aesthetic territory or be the vanguard of a new kind of film art, but to “bring everything forward”—to bring forward all the lost utopian aspirations of past political and aesthetic projects, all the wishes and hopes that history has left unrealized. His is a project of redeeming past failures. This might seem an odd claim by Kluge, who was a pioneer of the German New Wave as it emerged in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, and a signatory and moving force behind the famous Oberhausen Manifesto of 1962 which declared “The old film is dead.” But like his intellectual precursor Walter Benjamin, Kluge has always thought any project for authentic renewal must consciously detour through the past in order to avoid creating what another of his great intellectual mentors, Bertolt Brecht, called the “bad new”—essentially the recreation of existing oppressive social relations and tired aesthetic forms in the guise of a glossy, marketable and illusory “New.” For Brecht, Fascism was the exemplary “bad new”; for Kluge, the “bad new” consisted of the dreary products of the “culture industry” and the tedious social conditions prevailing in Germany—about which he once said that they were bad enough that no one was really happy, but not bad enough to make anyone do anything about them.

‘Maybe our times are not so different, so it’s fitting that the Goethe Institute and the German Film Museum in Munich have decided to bring out a definitive edition of Kluge’s collected cinematic works in honour of his 75th birthday. It is long past due to bring Kluge’s work into public consciousness outside of Germany, where he is far from forgotten and where his style of creation and his role as a public intellectual are not so foreign. To make us aware that such figures still exist might be the greatest service this new edition of DVDs will perform in North America, where it is hard to imagine a personage like Kluge emerging organically from the political and cultural landscape. For Kluge is not only a filmmaker, but an intellectualof an older type whose realm of activity and expertise is astonishingly broad.

‘Kluge’s influence on German cinema extends far beyond the formal or stylistic influences he has exerted over filmmakers such as Harun Farocki. Without Kluge’s untiring activism on the part of the newly emerging Young German Film in the ‘60s, the system of public funding and training infrastructure that helped produce some of the most recognizable names in German cinema—Herzog, Wenders, Schlöndorff—never would have come into being. In addition to producing some 15 feature-length films and almost 20 shorts in his almost five decades of activity, Kluge has also written at least two novels and thousands of short stories that have garnered virtually every major literary and cultural prize that Germany has to offer. He is also an important critical theorist, the most interesting heir to the Marxist tradition of Benjamin and Adorno, who has published several major volumes of political philosophy with his collaborator Oskar Negt, most notably The Public Sphere and Experience (1972), a veritable bible for many leftist intellectuals in the ‘70s, and the massive Geschichte und Eigensinn (History and Obstinacy, 1981), a beautiful and complex rethinking of Marx’s theory of labour that explodes the generic and formal bounds of what has become known as “theory,” mixing together original work with hundreds of images and quotations from the past 800 years of German history. And since the mid-‘80s, Kluge has been producing a series of eclectic weekly television shows as a private entrepreneur—a contemporary cultural businessman cast in the mold of the auteurs who came to prominence in the European new waves of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

‘It is difficult to think of a comparable contemporary intellectual anywhere in the world, nor someone who offers such a radically different image of just what a filmmaker can be. The Film Museum’s first DVD collection (to be released in North America by Facets Multimedia in January 2008), comprised of all the features and short films Kluge produced for the cinema from 1960 through 1986—to be followed by a second collection consisting of primarily video, film and television material shot since 1985—is both a thrilling and daunting encounter for those who have yet to discover the extent of Kluge’s work. Fortunately, the beginning is not a bad place to start, since Kluge’s earliest films are perhaps his most accessible and provide a manageable immersion into his characteristic obsessions and quirks, his refreshingly strange mix of high and low culture, and his juxtapositions of lofty intellectual abstraction with the most basely material of bodily humour. Starting with the early work also provides a slow immersion into what is a truly unique method of film construction, to use a metaphor Kluge prefers, one which becomes over time increasingly complex and seemingly arbitrary. A new viewer needs to learn to watch Kluge, and in some ways to be initiated into a new and exceptional kind of filmic pleasure. Resolutely Brechtian in this, Kluge considers it to be part of what he calls the “utopia of film” that even the spectator nurtured on standard Hollywood fare—or its German counterpart in the horrid ‘50s Heimat films—can learn new ways of enjoying which are not merely distracting (or “culinary” as Brecht would put it), but which combine the more aesthetic and visual pleasures of cinema with the less frequent but no less intense pleasures of learning, knowing, and thinking.

‘Kluge’s start came after a rather inauspicious attempt to break into film. As the now almost mythical story goes, his friend and mentor Adorno helped him get on to Fritz Lang’s set as he was filming The Tiger of Eschnapur (1958). Kluge, apparently appalled at the indignities Lang suffered at the hands of his producers, retreated to the studio canteen and began writing the short stories that would later be collected in his first published work of fiction, Case Histories (1962). The experience only furthered Kluge’s conviction that a new, independent kind of cinema, one not exclusively oriented towards commercial success, was necessary if a vibrant film culture was to emerge in Germany. In 1960 he teamed with Peter Schamoni to direct his first film, the 12-minute Brutality in Stone (1961), which inaugurated Kluge’s decades-long obsession with Germany’s contemporary relationship to its fraught past. Brutality’s topic at first seems remote from the horrors of Nazi Germany, being a study of Nazi architecture and its apotheosis in the Nuremberg Party Grounds, site of the famous Nazi Party rallies and the shooting set for Triumph of the Will (1935).

‘The choice of National Socialist culture per se, as opposed to National Socialist politics or racial policy, as the starting point for his lifelong historical project is no accident, convinced as Kluge is that the cultural realm, and cinema in particular, is crucial to “organizing human experience” in the 20th century. It is characteristic of Kluge’s adamant modernism that his work bears this mark of cultural guilt that must be processed as much as any subjective and personal guilt felt on the part of individual Germans. The film’s brilliance lies in the way it locates the Nazi genocide within the heart of this falsely utopian culture, a culture that took great pains to prevent the horrors of the regime from breaking through its glossy and well-choreographed edifice. In a fantastic bit of montage, the camera slowly tracks through abandoned rooms and colonnades on the party grounds as excerpts from Rudolf Höss’ Auschwitz diaries are read, as if the very spirit of Nazi crimes haunted these now empty spaces. Though Kluge remains concerned with the legacies of National Socialism to this day, it should be noted that Brutality stands out as the only consistent and sustained treatment of the Nazi genocide within Kluge’s filmic oeuvre, whereas his later, more reticent meditations on the subject have occasioned some serious criticism.

‘Kluge’s breakthrough came with his first feature film, grievously translated in English as Yesterday Girl (1966), which won the Silver Lion in Venice in 1966. A truer rendering would be “Taking Leave of Yesterday,” an ironic title pointing to the plight of the main character and her inability to ever really escape the past. This is perhaps Kluge’s most accessible feature, and many critics have noted its obvious stylistics affinities to the early work of Godard, who had an enormous influence on Kluge at this time (Kluge has remarked that Breathless inspired him to go into filmmaking in the first place).

‘Yet those critics who paint the early Kluge as little more than a degraded imitator of Godard miss out on the fact that there’s something very different going on in Kluge, something that sets him apart from Godard and the other modernist filmmakers who would later be celebrated in the ‘70s in journals such as Screen. The French brand of “political modernism,” as D.N. Rodowick has labelled it, emerged from an intellectual tradition deeply informed by various strains of French Marxism, especially Louis Althusser and Guy Debord, as well as the structural semiotics of Roland Barthes and the theorists associated with the journal Tel quel. Kluge, however, came of intellectual age under the aegis of Brecht, Adorno, and the other thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School. Adorno, who discouraged Kluge’s filmmaking aspirations despite introducing him to Lang, was deeply antipathetic toward mass culture, and cinema and television most particularly, as was clear from the notorious “Culture Industry” chapter in The Dialectic of Enlightenment. For Adorno, cinema stood at odds with reason and enlightenment and constituted little more than a very effective and profitable method of manipulating the filmgoing public. He had little faith that cinema could escape its integration into an all-encompassing system of commodity culture and ever attain the status of Art.

‘Perhaps this cultural and intellectual inheritance accounts for the nagging pessimism of Yesterday Girl, which is offset by the beautiful black-and-white cinematography of Edgar Reitz, who would later helm the epic Heimat series. The main character, Anita G., stumbles her way through the landscape of the Federal Republic, from boyfriend to boyfriend, bad job to bad job, always on the run from the police who may or may not be chasing her, until she turns herself in, having no other options, in order to find a place to deliver the child she is carrying. The film is a great portrait of the malaise Kluge saw following in the wake of the great Wirtschaftswunder, and the nascent commodity culture (which gets a far more sanguine treatment from Godard) of the Federal Republic provides minimal pleasures to distract the main characters from their unpromising futures. The film does not suggest any course of action to change this situation, or for that matter to change Anita’s fictive life, and though Kluge has always maintained that his films are “partisan,” this refusal to create an agitational cinema did not sit well with more radical elements of the German left in the ‘60s, as became clear in 1968 at the Berlin Film Festival when students pelted him with eggs.

‘In 1968 Kluge premiered his second feature, Artists in the Big-Top: Perplexed, which for many is Kluge’s true masterpiece, though it prompted such confusion on the part of many viewers that Kluge offered free tickets for a second viewing. To the extent that it retains a coherent narrative, Artists follows the circus owner Leni Peickert, a classically stubborn, even obtuse, Kluge heroine, as she tries to fulfill her dream of creating a “reform circus”, a pursuit which of course proves to be hopeless—in the end she liquidates her assets, including selling off her beloved elephants, gives up and goes to work in television, opting for the “long march through the cultural institutions.” For some, this was an obvious abdication of revolutionary cultural aspirations and the more militant strains of Brechtianism current at the time. But the film is also a rather complex, if perhaps ultimately failed, attempt to negotiate between the poles of a Brechtian engagement and an Adornian belief in the radical negative potential of high “autonomous” art, both of which seemed insufficient on their own as self-contained programs. Yet Kluge, ever the dialectician, does not abandon either of these projects but seeks a rapprochement between them, Brecht’s didacticism matched with a healthy dose of Adornian negativity and skepticism. At no point do Kluge’s films resolve into either propagandistic sloganeering or an irresponsible withdrawal from their obligations to engage the world.’ — Christopher Pavsek

 

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Stills
































































 

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Further

Alexander Kluge @ IMDb
Alexander Kluge Site (in English)
Alexander Kluge Site (in German)
Alexander Kluge’s books @ New Directions
The Stubborn Utopian: The Films of Alexander Kluge
Ben Lerner Interviews Alexander Kluge
Alexander Kluge interviewed by Jonathan Thomas
ALEXANDER KLUGE: ARCHAEOLOGIST AND VISIONARY
Alexander Kluge by Gary Indiana
Alexander Kluge and Hans Ulrich Obrist: What Art Can Do
The attack of the 13th fairy
DECEMBER BY ALEXANDER KLUGE AND GERHARD RICHTER
Alexander Kluge: ‘something almost monstrous in so much talent’
A short story about Donald Trump by Alexander Kluge
A PLURIVERSE OF POSSIBILITY: THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE WITH ALEXANDER KLUGE
‘Body Count’, by Alexander Kluge
INDEFATIGABLE POLYPHONY, OR ALEXANDER KLUGE’S NARRATION IN COMPLETE THOUGHTS
Brecht Today: Interview with Alexander Kluge
A CINEMA OF CITATION: THE FILMS OF ALEXANDER KLUGE
“A CERTAIN LUXURY WE CALL FREEDOM” – MAX DAX INTERVIEWS ALEXANDER KLUGE
Alexander Kluge: «Weil wir Trump haben, brauchen wir einen Gegen-Trump»
Revisiting the Films of Alexander Kluge
‘I ONLY BLAST UNDER WRITTEN ORDERS’, by Alexander Kluge
Brecht and Labor in Post-1968 Cinema: Elio Petri and Alexander Kluge

 

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Extras


Alexander Kluge talks about his mentor, Fritz Lang


Heiner Müller und Alexander Kluge über Charakterpanzer und Bewegungskrieg


Alexander Kluge im Gespräch mit Anselm Kiefer


Alexander Kluge (dctp): „Freuen Sie sich über die neuen Mitbürger?“

 

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Interview
from MUBI

 

NOTEBOOK: To begin with, how did you become interested in filmmaking? Why did you want to be a filmmaker?

ALEXANDER KLUGE: I am an author of literature. I have been a lawyer, and on the other hand, I wrote books. But I was intensely interested in modern music—Alban Berg, Webern, Stockhausen, etc. Adorno took the same interest in modern music. This music is moving. A book is not moving, and therefore I was interested in film as something between literature and music.

We were very enthusiastic about the film of the 20s. We did not like the film of that present day, of the 50s at all, especially German film—the same UFA-principled film of the Nazi period. But the Nazi period minus politics. This is bad enough. Therefore our favorites were Hans Richter, Fritz Lang, Griffith, and the earliest films.

NOTEBOOK: Yes, I read a recent interview with Werner Herzog in which he said, “My connection to the cinema of the Twenties has anchored my work much more than anything else.”

KLUGE: This is exactly the same with my patriotism in film. I am a patriot of the 20s concerning film.

NOTEBOOK: A vibrant avant-garde culture flourished in the Weimar Republic for men such as Lang. Do you believe that the filmmakers who came to prominence in the 1970s relocated it in New German Cinema?

KLUGE: Well, I think that we learned from these filmmakers and from dramatists like Bertolt Brecht and Piscator. We have never been only filmmakers. Cinema d’auteur is always open to other kinds of art—to literature, to music, and not so much to photography because it doesn’t move. We liked James Joyce as much as the filmmakers of the 20s, and we introduced this style of montage into the 60s. The film I made, Yesterday Girl, has more to do with Eisenstein than with any German director of the 50s, 40s, 30s. And Fritz Lang belongs to the 20s.

NOTEBOOK: Why does Yesterday Girl have so much to do with Eisenstein?

KLUGE: It has to do with him because it is a similar kind of film montage. But my kind of montage is more like Godard than Eisenstein.

NOTEBOOK: You once stated that Breathless (1960) inspired you to become a filmmaker. And many critics have observed similarities between Yesterday Girl and Godard’s early work. What was the impact of Godard on you?

KLUGE: He’s my alterer bruder. He’s two years older than me. I was struck by his first films. We are followers of this French kind of filmmaking. The German way to make Autorenfilm/cinema d’auteur—if you compare Fassbinder, for instance, it’s a little bit more wild. We are more barbaric than the French.

NOTEBOOK: Do you believe that the Autorenfilm of the 1960s and 1970s fulfilled the Oberhausen Manifesto’s aims?

KLUGE: To some extent, yes, because all these short filmmakers started to make feature films. But there’s always been a fraction that stayed with the short film. For instance, I made a lot of one-minute films during the last five years. They are even shorter than the ten-minute films we made in the 60s. I believe in very short films, pieces, fragments on one hand, and on the other hand, in films of eight or ten or twelve hours. Did you ever see the film News from Ideological Antiquity: Marx – Eisenstein – Capital (2008)?

NOTEBOOK: Unfortunately, I haven’t, but I do know of it.

KLUGE: It is a nine-hour film consisting of fragments, and this is exactly the way Adorno wrote books, Walter Benjamin made The Arcades Project. Or in music—the modernists in the 20s tried to make new kinds, to find new forms of music. I still belong to this modernism of the 20s. A lot of others, like Edgar Reitz, did the same and made one hundred minute films on one hand, and on the other hand, one to ten-minute films and then twelve-hour films, eight-hour films, four-hour films.

NOTEBOOK: The one-minute films remind me of the films from the very earliest days of cinema, such as those of Georges Méliès and the Lumière brothers.

KLUGE: Yes, and Edison.

NOTEBOOK: Early cinema is very important to you. Was there a certain promise it held?

KLUGE: I believe film is like the phoenix. He dies, and then he rises again. This is the symbol of film history for me. If you go online, on YouTube, you will find one-minute films again. And we make them in 65mm. This is a very valuable kind of filmmaking. 35mm is the normal feature film format, and if you have double the negative, then you have 65mm film. It’s huge and very brilliant. We showed these minute films at the Venice Film Festival.

NOTEBOOK: To return to Autorenfilm, how do you view the contributions of your fellow filmmakers?

KLUGE: Well, they are very different. Each is an individual. It was a very strong group of about thirty young people—men and women. Some of them are still unknown, but they belong together. And our center of theory was at the Ulm School of Design. It is a college of design and the successor of the Bauhaus of the 20s. We had a film department in the school.

NOTEBOOK: Members of New German Cinema also made cooperative films, such as Germany in Autumn (1978), The Candidate (1980), and War and Peace (1982). How did you go about making these films? And how were your experiences on the cooperative films different from others?

KLUGE: I am a great ally of cooperative filmmaking, because film is not something you can make in your own room. Something exists that the economist-philosopher Adam Smith calls “animal spirits.” One worker, he says, works less in one hundred hours than one hundred workers in one hour. Because if people work together and there is cooperation, there is a certain spirit. Smith calls that “animal spirit.” If they are together, they feel stronger and are more inventive. I believe that imagination itself is collective. In my mind, there is a chorus of 20, 40, 50 ancestors and friends. For instance, my sister—I worked very often with my sister, an actress, and she is always present in my mind. Therefore I am not alone. And in a collective film like Germany in Autumn, all these people who work together behave more freely. The cameramen also behave differently. The directors are not tiger tamers anymore; they are more like gardeners. So they behave different on a collective film than on films they make only for themselves.

NOTEBOOK: You collect and assemble a great wealth of materials in your films. How do you go about doing this?

KLUGE: I am convinced that the material—it’s not what I make as a director, but what I meet as a director. This helps to bring a plurality into the film. The idea is a prism, not spectacle.

NOTEBOOK: So the material comes to you?

KLUGE: Yes, but I am able to seduce the material sometimes.

NOTEBOOK: You have said that films arise in the heads of spectators. What do you mean by this?

KLUGE: Since the Stone Age, people carry a kind of cinema in their heads. They painted memories of fights with rhinoceroses and other wild animals on the walls of their caves during this period. That was the beginning of cinema. This was already a kind of film, because it moved in their minds; outside it was static. Therefore cinema existed long before cinema was invented as a technical method. This kind of observation within every human being…they cannot but use their imagination. It is a film that is revitalized if you go to the cinema. Today people do not go to the cinema as often, and TV is not the same. But the pictures in people’s minds are still cinema.

NOTEBOOK: And these pictures, in a way, help them to live their lives?

KLUGE: Yes.

NOTEBOOK: Considering people do not go to the cinema as often anymore, what do you think is the future of cinema?

KLUGE: It’s a very complicated question. The cinema within our minds will continue and has an eternal life. Outside, in the cinemas, the distributors avoid real cinema. They show—well, you know what happens in the cinema. This does not have too much to do with film history. In Venice or Cannes or the Museum of Modern Art or film museums, you find a lot of film, and this is the second life of film—sometimes without much of an audience. But if you have two people who are interested in cinema, it’s still cinema.

NOTEBOOK: Lastly, you deal in wishes in your films. Would you share some of your own?

KLUGE: Well, you do not wish in every moment. You should ask me in what context.

NOTEBOOK: Well, what do you wish as a filmmaker?

KLUGE: I wish to cooperate with at least ten or twelve young filmmakers and to make film. This one is very simple. Film history is a matter of practice, and therefore I would like to have this practice. By the way, we have dctp.tv (Development Company for Television Programs) online, and there you will find a lot of films of mine and of others. Then you can understand it is not necessary to wish, because I have good cooperation with a lot of people there. You can find films of 140 minutes consisting of twenty or thirty pieces on different subjects. The pity is it’s in German. But you can watch the pictures regardless of the language, and there are lots of pictures.

I can tell you another wish. I would love to be accepted by an audience on the other side of the Atlantic.

 

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16 of Alexander Kluge’s 109 films

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Brutality in Stone (1961)
‘In his experimental short film _Brutalitaet in Stein_ (brutality in stone), Alexander Kluge demonstrates how Nazi architecture used dimensions of inhuman and super-human scale to bolster the regime’s politics of the same kind. Shots of huge neo-classical architectural structures from the Nazi period are confronted with equally anti-human national-socialist language as a voice-over.’ — IMDb


the entire film

 

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Yesterday Girl (1966)
‘As the flagship film of the “young German cinema” movement, Alexander Kluge’s first feature, Yesterday Girl, paved the way for the New German Cinema of the 1970s. Produced immediately after the Oberhausen Manifesto, Yesterday Girl is an experimental, youth-oriented satire with a fragmentary story about an unruly heroine named Anita G. (Alexandra Kluge, the director’s sister and frequent collaborator.) Like any postwar German youth worth her salt, Anita wants to break free of the collective baggage left by her parent’s generation, but her flee from East to West Germany only confirms that conservatism and scarred memories thrive on both sides of the wall. A nominee for the Golden Lion and winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 1966 Venice Film Festival, Yesterday Girl made it clear the waning German film industry was headed for a renaissance.’ — Facets


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed (1967)
‘The film is a film d’auteur. It is an homage to the great times of silent movies and to the beginnings of film history. At the same time, it depicts something very modern, something that is as up-to-date in 2016 as it was in 1968. High up in the dome of the circus, the artists cannot react to the inhumanity of the world, and below on the ground, the clowns and circus workers can’t even begin to get the idea to start a revolution, to put in lots of effort and to change the world. So what to do? A film like Artists can, much like an insect’s eye, be a mirror via music, plot, montage, and words for such a topic. Today we have the ‘Internet of things,’ Silicon Valley, an Africa practically without industry, bomber planes over Aleppo (like artists under the big top), and victims in the basements (like the circus workers on the ground). A new circus film would certainly be adequate.’ — Alexander Kluge


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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The Big Mess (1971)
‘An aptly-named, hyper-collage, hyper-conceptual satire on capitalistic expansion, Kluge’s film feels like a strange d.a. levy poem about space travel written on a wall in a gas station bathroom. One’s ability to enjoy this film is directly related to one’s ability/willingness to follow the conceptual tangents Kluge is weaving throughout. Particularly of note are the themes of industrial monopoly and industrial scrap. Considering that the special effects in the movie are basically appropriated pieces of trash, Kluge is painting the great cosmic expansion as a pursuit where the largest companies are making insanely massive, state-of-the-art spaceships that are simply floating scrap ready to be bought and refurbished into new floating pieces of scrap not long after being launched. None of it seems to matter to the companies so long as they maintain control.’ — Cinema Imagination


Excerpt

 

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Willi Tobler and the Decline of the 6th Fleet (1972)
‘After The Big Mess, Alexander Kluge returned to the conventions of science fiction for this assault on the German establishment. During the Galactic Citizen’s War, Willi Tobler, played by actor and intellectual Alfred Edel, decides to rid himself of material possessions after his sector is bombarded. He not only leaves behind his belongings, but also his wife and child as he volunteers to be the public relations man for the Chief Admiral of the 6th Fleet. However, his new life does not give him the security he seeks. Willi Tobler is an interesting genre experiment, combining Kluge’s dependence on improvisation with an intentionally low-budget look and offbeat intertitles, which evoke the hand-crafted effects of Georges Melies.’ — Facets


the entire film

 

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Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave (1973)
‘Alexander Kluge’s Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave is a film that probes just how difficult it is to understand the complex workings of politics and society, and to make a difference, when society and its structures are designed to eat up so much of a person’s time and energy. The film’s title itself implies as much: Roswitha (Kluge’s sister and frequent star Alexandra) is the “domestic slave,” a housewife who must divide her time between caring for her three children and her verbally abusive husband Franz (Bion Steinborn) and working to provide for them, leaving little time for thoughts or concerns outside of family life. The film is divided roughly in half, reflecting two different definitions of Roswitha’s “part-time work.” In the film’s first half, she works as an illegal underground abortionist since Franz has no job and she must support the family. In the second half, after Roswitha’s practice is shut down and Franz is forced to get a job, she becomes involved in social and political matters, trying to learn about the world outside her family. Her part-time work thus shifts, over the course of the film, from the need to provide for her family’s physical and material needs, to the freedom and time to develop her own thoughts and ideas independently of the family. It is seen as an essential trade-off: when Franz isn’t working, he’s free to read and think, to study with no clear purpose in sight, but once he has to get a job he all but disappears from the film. By the same token, when Roswitha stops working, her mind becomes active and engaged, and she has time to develop an interest in things happening outside of the home, outside of her immediate scope.’ — Only the Cinema


Excerpt

 

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In Danger and Deep Distress, the Middleway Spells Certain Death (1974)
‘ A female prostitute and thief makes her way through the city with a female GDR spy. Frankfurt, 1974. It’s Carnival time. At the same time police forcibly evict students from occupied buildings). Strong-Man Ferdinand: A fundamentalist of the security forces. The chief of plant security Rieche (played by Heinz Schubert) has more proficiency in his job than his superiors permit. He needs to somehow demonstrate that his position is valuable. «The most dangerous opponents of a system are its protectors.»’ — Trigon Films


Excerpt

 

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Strongman Ferdinand (1977)
‘Tense and satirical, Strongman Ferdinand (Der Starke Ferdinand) remains writer-director Alexander Kluge’s most accessible film. A master at political drama, Kluge employs a realistic mode and a straightforward narrative to create a timely story of terrorism. Heinz Schubert stars as Ferdinand Rieche, the head of security at a big chemical firm who becomes obsessed with finding potential risks. He fabricates threats to demonstrate his expertise and to suggest that he is indispensable, ultimately leading to harsher tactics and tighter enforcement. When the company director questions the need for such controls, Rieche considers the director a risk. Though produced during the 1970s, this tale of paranoia being exploited for personal gain is “a potent parable for our age (Thomas Elsaesser, Film Comment). Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes.’ — Facets


Excerpt


Excerpt

 

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The Patriot (1979)
‘The central figure in Alexander Kluge’s 1979 film The Patriot (Die Patriotin) is Gabi Teichert, a high school history teacher from the German state of Hesse, whose complaints about the shortcomings of her discipline guide us through the diverse collection of photographs, drawings, stories, poems, maps, and staged and documentary footage out of which the film is constructed. Gabi Teichert, we are informed by the director, is a ‘patriot’ because she takes an interest in the rubble of history—in the memories, stories and diverse materials which have been forgotten and/or discarded by the official narratives which appear in the textbooks assigned to her students.’ — Tara Forrest


Trailer

 

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Miscellaneous News (1986)
Vermischte Nachrichten (Miscellaneous News) are on the last page of the newspapers. This drama strings together vignettes of events taken from everyday newspaper headlines. These stories are the base line of the film and they complement one another by creating a context. In this way, Germans are shown in their reactions to World War II, minorities, and the elderly. A side plot follows a meeting between former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and East German leader Erich Honecker. Vermischte Nachrichten is, together with Der Angriff der Gegenwart auf die übrige Zeit (1985), the last film for cinema by Alexander Kluge.’ — ARGOS


the entire film

 

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To Vertov (1998)
‘Alexander Kluge’s tribute to Soviet master Dziga Vertov, displaying a collage of stills from Vertov’s work on the screen of a white round TV set to the sound of brass music and percussion.’ — letterboxd


the entire film

 

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Spaceflight as an Internal Experience (1999)
‘Short science fiction film, a companion piece to Kluge’s Der Große Verhau and Willi Tobler und der Untergang der 6. Flotte.’ — trakt


the entire film

 

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News from Ideological Antiquity (2009)
News from Ideological Antiquity, is perhaps Alexander Kluge’s most ambitious film. Surpassing nine hours of viewing, News is a strange total work of art, rare in our century. The idea that foments the screening of this film is, in many ways, to analyze our the status of the political in our present condition. The film will be shown in different sessions throughout the course of five weeks as to introduce a visual experience that is complex as well as demanding from its audience. Under the heading “Critical material on Eisenstein Project”, the viewers will find secondary material on the film in order to facilitate the viewing and engage in critical discussion. At first sight one could read Kluge’s film as a reworking of Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein’s project of filming, vis-à-vis James Joyce’s Ulysses, into reality of the twentieth-first century. At another level, Kluge’s film, like Godard’s Historie(s) du Cinema, is the total culmination, not only of his work, but of modern cinema as such. Monumental in scope, and avant-garde in its form, Kluge’s cinematic essay speaks to our contemporary world today more than ever.’ — klugedaskapital


Excerpt

 

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Pretty Woman and other stories (2011 -2012)
‘Maybe it´s such a small world, just a coincidence, or maybe not. The first Pretty Woman was released in 1990, between the fall of the Berlin Wall – November 1989- and German Reunification, on October 3rd 1990. So, the main character, the pretty woman, who is played by Julia Roberts, has here an allegorical function and can be read in several ways. She can refer to a country, according the words of Heiner Müller, or also to the working-class, (she is a worker, a prostitute, undertaking the kind of work that the Left has excluded from their remit). Her circumstances represent the decadence of the class struggle and the entrance of the entire working class to consumerist society with its consumer worries and consumer happiness. Therefore, as historical context, in the film, the 90’s play the role of a black, broken mirror, in which the reflections provide the link with the consumer dimension of human relations… In this allegorical sense, she could be also a building – a Hotel, a 100 unit housing project, apartment blocks in soviet style, maybe a skyscraper or a great condo- but, definitely, a building… slated for demolition.’ — Pablo Marte


the entire film

 

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Nachrichten vom Großen Krieg (1914-1918) (2014)
‘Three-channel video installation, color, sound’.


the entire film

 

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Videogruss Volksbühne (2017)
‘Ein Videogruss für die Pressekonferenz.’


the entire film

 

 

*

p.s. Hey. ** David Ehrenstein, Master Dad Tinguely. ** Bill, Oh, thanks, B. Thanks for the video link too. I looked for one mysteriously with no luck. Thanks about the opera travails. I would say the chances of it ultimately going forward are about 40 or so % at the moment, but … hey. Long weekend … oh, right, Memorial Day? Dig in, bliss out. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi, Dóra! I think my week was pretty uneventful, or it has fogged out in memory. Mostly worked on the TV script and some on the film script mixed with pleasant but non-exciting trips outside. I think. Things are about to get a bit more tense with the producer because we have basically rejected her edit and restored the script to what we had sent her, but her edit was dumb and mechanical. I think she’ll bite the bullet and just send it on to ARTE on Monday as planned, but we’ll see. Zac has been going over the film script and making meticulous notes and revision suggestions, and I think we’ll meet and go over the script soon, maybe this weekend. So all of that is exciting. It does seem like ages. I wish my week had been a bit more sparkly. I’ll try to have a big weekend that I can share with you. Thank you for the link to the book. I hadn’t checked it out yet due to my nose being affixed to the grindstone. I’ve very glad you’ve found a way to write. Yes, let the writing be what it wants to be always. There’s a reason. Don’t worry about that one little bit. Or at least I never do when my muse goes in a strange seeming direction. Well, a livelihood aka paying job is important, but I agree a billion percent that you have to prioritise your own work and personal life and peace/freedom of mind. Trust that pressure, yeah. Enjoy your weekend, which will hopefully consist of a ton more ‘you’ time than during the past week. How did you spend it? ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. I did think twice about including that after your and Jamie’s recent MRI talk, but then I think I forgot about my having thought twice. Sorry. Ouch, shit, about your toe. Do the opposite of tiptoe around. Good, I hope that Generator meeting will get everything right as rain. ** Jeff J, Thank you. The opera: we have a solid draft of the scenario/script. The set has been designed. The composer has been working, but we haven’t heard what she has come up with yet. But now we’re stuck on hold, so nothing is progressing until we learn if the opera is a go or will suffer a premature death. Well, I’m very frustrated to hear that the no comments thing persists for some people since my host told me they thought they’ve fixed it and that’s not much else they can do. The problem, as I explained, only seems to happen with certain browsers, but telling people to change browsers just for the blog is ridiculous. I will call the host again just to see if there’s anything at all they can do. I think once the script is submitted to ARTE, hopefully on Monday, things will get better. I mean ARTE might want a billion changes, who knows, which will not be a happy thing, but at least we’ll finally be dealing with the bosses and not a clueless, incompetent in-between. I do know ‘Wheel of Ashes’. It’s very worth seeing, very curious, not great but very interesting. I didn’t know Re:Voir put out the DVD. Re:Voir is so great, and, when you’re at the Recollets, you’ll be a short walk from its store/office/screening room. ** Misanthrope, Like I told Jeff, you can try changing browsers since it’s only happening with some browsers, but that’s asking a lot. I’ll call my host again, but I doubt there’s much else that can be done. Mm, I don’t know. I’m infinitely more frustrated that schools are dumbing down and not possibly overeducating students than I am about students being exposed to and taught about things that they think they’re not interested in but which could become very interesting to them in once they’re exposed to those subjects. Have an awesome long weekend. The Solo film, yeah, zero interest on my end, but tell me if I’m pre-dismissing it unfairly. ** Steve Erickson, As a fairly frequent rider of trains, yeah, sucks when that happens, but it’s not at all uncommon, at least over here. Don’t know ‘Little Pink House’. Sounds like it could be interestingly input-ty. Hope so. ** Okay. It’s very strange that Alexander Kluge, one of the truly great and seminal world filmmakers, is so under known outside of Germany and especially in the US where it seems like hardly anyone knows his work at all. One of his films, ‘Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed’, is among my all-time favorite films. Anyway, I thought I would use the blog to try, in its small way, to cut through the weird lack of exposure that hampers his great work.  I hope you will take the time to get to know him and his work, if you don’t already, or to enjoy the show, if you do. See you on Monday.

8 Comments

  1. Wolf

    Dennis, awrf awrf!
    Ugh, that opera palaver sounds like a prime example of art projects that suck all of the life an blood of its contributors and leave them to dry out in a sunny ditch. Now where have I seen those before? Best of luck on that one, but I suspect luck’s got nothing to do with it.
    ‘I hope they decide to do their part for earth depopulation’ hahaha what a poetic way of putting it! Well, they have decided to, by the early sounds of it. Thank fuck for that! Now if they could get their siblings from the North to see the light as well, the whole island might be on its way to the 21st century!! Imagine that!
    Oh, not to add any more headaches to this issue, but I reckon the blog comments thingie has got fuck all to do with browsers, because I’ve tried it on 4 different ones and with all possible settings I could think of in every possible position, and it hasn’t been working for me for about 6 months (cannot find today’s post when I go straight to the blog, cannot see any comments). When a website is not optimized properly the admins always say ‘it’s your browser’, and it very rarely is. Not to mention that a site that works on neither Firefox nor Safari has no business being released in the wild. But I don’t think there’s very much you can do – you’re probably not the only one with the issue so they’ll hopefully sort it out eventually. It’s life on the internet.
    Kluge days looks awesome: will dig into it as soon as I’ve got a moment – we’re off to a noise-metal festival, with Godflesh tonight! Yipee! Big hugs to you my friend.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    So great to see an Alexander Kluge Day. His mixture of documentary and fiction is unique. The Power of Emotion is my favorite. His work was always featured at the New York Film Festival in the 60’s but wasn’t widely distributed stateside. He is a very important figure in modern German culture.

  3. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Yeah, I’ve tried Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Chrome on my phone. Same thing with all of them. No biggie. It is what it is.

    Oh, yes, I’m with you on the dumbing down thing too, believe me. That’s part of it. I’d really like to see high schools go to a semester-type system, with tons of options for kids once they’ve mastered the basics. I’d like to see more dynamic courses too. And more rigorous courses.

    Hell, I had no intention to see SOLO in theaters until my friend texted me Thursday night and I said okay. So your pre-dismissal is really what I was all about too until my friend asked me to go.

    Hmm, maybe it’s the settings in our browsers. Who knows?

  4. Steve Erickson

    Well, I expresssed my feelings about LITTLE PINK HOUSE on FB, but only in a comment to a post about seeing it you might not have seen. Basically, ERIN BROCKOVICH is what it’s aiming for, but that film actually has a sense of humor, a well-written script, good direction and an interest in its characters’ lives as something other than props for a political debate. This isn’t really liberatarian in a way I find objectionable – one of the editors of Reason magazine is one of its producers, but it attacks a real-life abuse of power by both government and Pfizer, and my parents, who live in the area where it takes place and followed the case when it happened 15-20 years ago, said the film is accurate. A documentary about the case would probably be more interesting, given the director’s lack of interest in creating compelling fiction. And within the first 3 minutes, my parents spotted that it wasn’t actually shot in New London. (Bette Gordon’s THE DROWNING, which I like, is also largely set in that city, but I quickly spotted that it’s not shot there, and Wikipedia reveals that it was entirely shot in NYC and Long Island. Its “New London train station” looks nothing like the real one.)

  5. Alistair

    Hey Dennis, hope you’re having a good weekend! Thanks about the FG award note. Yeah, it was definitely great to get it, came at a very good time. My trip to nyc was super quick, but still managed to cram in a few great things, like the danh vo show at the Guggenheim. I guess to close the show xiu xiu was playing a gig, which would have been awesome to see.
    That’s exciting PGL is garnering great things–the Interview piece was great. Will keep my eye out for news and for when I can see it. Looking forward to the imminent GIF book. I think I may have settled on the opening of my next book this morning, which is pretty cool. Alistair xo

  6. Jamie

    Yohoho Dennis!
    I’m about three days behind with the blog, so very much looking forward to catching up. Machines looks awesome, as does today’s post. Alexander Kluge looks fully interesting and well worthy of some attention.
    How are you and how was your weekend? Did you meet with Ariana? Turns out we’re going to see her at the Poetry Club on Tuesday (must be a Colin Herd event!).
    Your producer really sounds like a poor match for you all and the project, to put it as politely as possible. Will you have to work along with her for the duration of the project? Sounds detrimental to me. Hope you managed to politely circumnavigate her edits.
    Writing Gang was a blast. Everyone liked my screenplay again & Hannah knocked out two stunning poems. She writes them pretty fast and they seem like fully formed, ready to publish things. It’s cool.
    Excellent choice in Sonic Youth albums, btw. Goo and Sister are indeed the finest of a fine bunch, although sometimes that first ep seems unbeatable (actually so does Confusion…some days).
    Liverpool didn’t win the Champion’s League and I was sad, but it was well funny being out watching football in a pub. Took me about an hour to relax into it. I like football a lot, but I think I prefer reading about it to watching it.
    How’s this week looking for you?
    May Monday take you in her arms & dance you dizzy to a bossa nova beat.
    Science fiction love,
    Jamie

  7. Wolf

    Dennis, another bark – wruff!
    It’s a wonder I can think straight at all after that sublime and punishing Godflesh gig, but I am reading the Kluge day now it’s absolutely brilliant, so thank you for that! That interview is great – very weird that this ‘animal spirits’ idea would be from Adam Smith, of all people, but I guess you can spot a serious critical theorist by their non-sectarian quotes, haha. Have you read any of Kluge’s writing at all? Also very interesting that he started a film department at the Ulm School: such a fascinating crucible that place was. So, uh, yeah: excellent stuff. I often comment before I’ve had time to really dig into the days, so I’m remedying this here! Sunday Hugs!

  8. _Black_Acrylic

    Tricky to source Kluge films via DVD here, but I’m able to save Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed to my rental list and hope it’s available soon. I enjoyed his interview and the excerpts that are showcased above.

    Tomorrow there’s a Yuck ‘n Yum meeting been called, to which I say “Hallelujah” as we really need to break this Generator impasse and get these Compendiums out there into the world. We’re determined folk and I know it can be done.

    Last night I watched the Champions League final and was gutted to see Liverpool’s Mo Salah get injured through a dodgy challenge that puts his World Cup in peril. Irvine Welsh tweeted that “Ramos is Franco reincarnated” which does makes sense if you know your Spanish history and follow the game. Still, Bale got an extraordinary winner and Zidane is supercool as ever.

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