The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Angela Schanelec Day

“The everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back, the residual life with which our trash cans and cemeteries are filled: scrap and refuse); but this banality is also what is most important. It brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived—in the moment when, lived, it escapes every speculative formulation, perhaps all coherence, all regularity.” — Maurice Blanchot

‘In his 1959 essay “La parole quotidienne,” Maurice Blanchot effectively describes the common experience of existence—that fact of being and living through one’s own everyday agenda, one’s own distinct condition, however relatively ordinary it may seem with respect to any other’s—as essentially always active in light of its fundamental indeterminacy. To participate with and experience the world, as we automatically and necessarily do as long as we are living, is to operate in an often undramatic yet nonetheless mobile progression through the present, towards something unstable and energized; the present—that tugging war that wavers between our recollection of the past and our anticipation of possible futures—is never a static thing. It’s always becoming something new. And yet those quotidian details that define the majority of our experience of reality are also the ones traditionally deemed the least worthy of narration, especially in cinema, because, as we are conditioned to enjoy it, it’s a medium in which significant things happen, one after another, according to a discernible logic that ultimately means something.

‘It’s not surprising that Blanchot’s terms have frequently been evoked in discussions of films by Chantal Akerman (most notably in Ivone Margulies’ 1996 book Nothing Happens), and they are comparably germane with regards to the notoriously evasive films of German filmmaker Angela Schanelec. There’s a sizeable difference, though. Whereas Akerman’s films mimic our experience of the everyday by immersing us in complete presentations of those tasks, behaviours, and spaces that define a milieu—all concrete representations of moving and thinking through time, in real time—Schanelec evokes our desires for moving beyond reality’s uncertainties and banalities, arousing our curiosities about the totality of an experience or a character’s psychology by presenting us with narratives that elide the details, the camera angles, or the words that might deliver us to somewhere or something that is beyond the ordinary. Like Godard, Schanelec presents us with only enough narrative so that we feel our desire for narrative, and, as has already been thoroughly and convincingly argued by Berlin School super-scholar Marco Abel, she places us in this liminal state from the first frame to the last, by obfuscating her characters’ attempts to communicate with one another. (“I don’t understand,” usually uttered in response to someone’s earnest effort to articulate their inner turmoil, is almost certainly the most frequently spoken line of dialogue in her movies.)

‘The depiction of characters failing to communicate, though, is only part of the strategy. As was evident from the very first sequence of her first feature, the 47-minute dffb graduate thesis I Stayed in Berlin All Summer (1993), Schanelec’s films demonstrate her preference for abstracting cinematic communication to the viewer as well, stunting the flow of narrative information via highly selective framing, discordant matches between sound and image, and precisely measured elisions of and deviations from the ostensible plot. In the first minutes of I Stayed in Berlin, a woman’s voiceover, spoken atop an imageless, monochromatic grey screen, describes the dispirited thoughts and feelings of a woman who is stalking a man (who she may or may not know) around town. At some point shortly after the title card shows up on that grey screen, there is a cut to a woman (acted by Schanelec) typing at a typewriter, suggesting that what we’re hearing is her internal monologue as she presses these words to paper. That probable resolution to this initial mystery is thrown into doubt, though, when the next cut shows us another, different woman pensively lying in bed somewhere else, the voiceover—still going—now calling out all the mundane tasks and events on the person’s to-do list. Is this woman the source of these words we’re hearing? Or are these words describing her story? (And if so, will we now watch this story play out, or are we picking up where the voiceover account stops?)

‘After further complicating this conundrum with an additional set of cutaways—first taking us back to the writer (who is now no longer typing but instead changing her shirt), then returning to the woman in bed—the voiceover drops out and gives way to a new audio track. This one, which is seemingly diegetic (at least, we now hear room tone), features the voice of a man (offscreen) who is discussing a painting acquisition with another man (also offscreen). At the end of their conversation, one of them walks into the room where the woman lies in bed (though he remains offscreen) and begins a dialogue with her, wherein she asks him what’s on the painting—that is, asks him for an image that might animate or excite her interest into his business—only for him to deny her request, teasingly replying, “Oil paint.” The man leaves while the other stays, and the woman, who we learn is named Maria, announces a scheme, perhaps jokingly but perhaps not, to steal the painting that they were just discussing.

‘Thus, in the span of five minutes, Schanelec introduces us to no less than three possible narrative trajectories that her film might follow, all of them proposed by words and ideas spoken by people whose faces we either haven’t seen or can’t be sure of, and all working to release us and the characters from the anti-dramatic stasis depicted on the screen: a woman sitting and typing words; a woman lying in bed; and a woman changing her shirt. Two of these narratives will play out, but the details are so impressionistically presented that the import of their structures is entirely diminished. Cars drive, dreams are recounted, couples glance and dine, but the essence of our experience is located not in concerns over what might happen next and how that will be shaped by our memory of what’s already been shown, but rather in observations that are more elemental: noticing who is in the company of whom, the fluctuating degrees of pleasure and (dis)satisfaction these individuals exude as a product of that company, or, most significantly, the frustrations we might have felt when we heard something we could not see, or saw something we could not articulate.

‘Lest we suspect otherwise, this modus operandi is confirmed as intentional in the movie’s self-reflexive final scene, where its two narratives don’t so much as converge as unexpectedly and somewhat surreally combine agents. The writer, Nadine (Schanelec), and Maria’s boyfriend, Louis (Tobias Lenel), meet at a cafe to discuss Nadine’s short story (presumably the one we heard at the start of the film). His observations and criticisms are meant to imitate what many (especially the detractors) would probably make toward the film itself: it’s short, is over before one can engage with the characters, lacks clarity, and one can only get a sense of its purpose as opposed to fully experiencing it. (He also, amusingly, thinks it lacks editing, no doubt nodding to the film’s reliance on long takes.) Nadine’s response to his remarks is instructive: she would rather her work evoke memories, and compares her aims to how one might hear and love a piece of music, fondly remembering the context in which she heard it and the feelings it evoked, despite perhaps having forgotten the lyrics or its overall shape. It’s apparent, then, that I Stayed in Berlin was meant to function as an artist’s statement in addition to being an autonomous dramatic piece in its own right, and it’s a testament to Schanelec’s commitment to the explicit and implicit philosophies it presents us that we can still, more than 20 years later, read—or rather, feel—her films in these terms.

‘In the decade-plus since she graduated from the dffb—a period during which she would complete five significant, under-travelled features: My Sister’s Good Fortune (1995), Places in Cities (1998), Passing Summer (2001), Marseille (2004), and Afternoon (2007)—Schanelec continued to assert, refine, and experiment with the mechanisms by which she could show stories without actually telling them, and has thus been faithful to the idea that literal communication is irreparably deficient. These are films in which social transactions of virtually any kind are not only insufficient for forging or maintaining connections, but can be toxic to those means as well. Instead of words, precisely framed actions achieve a greater currency. Bressonisms have been evident in Schanelec’s work from the beginning, but, starting with Places in Cities, his hand begins to feel more conspicuous—as a formal influence, yes, but perhaps even more so as a tool in her toolbox, or a word in her vocabulary. This is most clearly acknowledged when Places’ protagonist, Mimmi (Sophie Aigner), expresses her love to a boy, Nicolas (Jérôme Robart), with whom she’s just met and had a one-night stand (depicted so glancingly you’d be forgiven for not realizing it even occurred), by substituting the morning after’s sweet nothings for a summary of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights, a novel that was adapted, of course, by Bresson for Quatre nuits d’un rêveur (1971)—a film that lends Places both its moon-kissed aesthetic and its painfully disillusioned romanticism.

‘But more than a feeling, Schanelec and Bresson share a belief in the opacity of their actors’ interior worlds as an essential component of their procedures. Figures in the frame, devoid of a discernible awareness of intention or conflict, are always complicated by their anti-hierarchical positioning with respect to any other sign or gesture. These films project almost nothing, making it our obligation, as spectators and as subjects, to see into and through them, to (not) psychologize the image, so that every thought and emotion contained therein can find its way back to us. Bresson enabled this with his singular brand of shot reverse shot editing, emphasizing oblique angles and the cut to signify the act of seeing that we participate in; Schanelec only further distances the viewer by doing away with shot reverse shot editing almost entirely. The long take reigns supreme, every cut revealing to us a new image, something or some angle that we have not yet seen, and time becomes essential to our efforts to grasp any given shot’s spatial dynamics. Favouring tight, closed-in compositions, Schanelec’s framing lets figures slip into and out of the composition, their glances often obscured either by silhouette or precise blocking, strengthening our faith in sonic information, including, once again, language and communication.

‘This account needs to also make room, though, for the other signature motif of her narratives: their thematic and structural bifurcations. These forks and parallelisms productively and often imperceptibly work to divide our attention between two places, two characters or sets of characters, or two temporal realities (one of which tends to be illusory, imagined, or dreamed), and they, along with her arrival on the scene in the mid-’90s, have consequently given critics an avenue to interpreting Schanelec’s work as a response or subtle polemic against Germany’s reunification. That is, that her films embody dualities and broken relations between loving individuals as a kind of allegorical expression of the country’s re-conjoined psychology—still fractured from the trauma of that initial severing, and now reeling to reassert some semblance of liberation amidst the looming spectre of neoliberalism. But this mode of reading Schanelec’s work tends to feel specious, likely because the narrative material is so sparse that any effort to ascribe this or that as symbolic of something or other will necessarily be taking great, usually far-fetched leaps. Instead, the coupling of elements in her films seems purposefully designed to provoke comparison, i.e., interpretation, as another device for dissatisfying our desires for a deeper understanding of our experiences—for placing ourselves in a closed, logical system of meaning.

‘Take Marseille, in which a German woman, Sophie (Schanelec regular Maren Eggert), swaps flats with a woman in the southern French port town for reasons we’ll never know, photographs the city, acquires a car, and befriends a charming mechanic (Alexis Loret). For the first two reels, it’s the most conventional plot Schanelec has drafted by a mile, complete with a central, clearly lensed protagonist, personality traits that seem designed to earn our sympathies (and, for the most part, they do), and even manifest desires and hopes. It’s a narrative that generates anticipation in us, for her, and thus has us looking beyond the present. Then, as if waking from a daze, Marseille snaps and breaks. We find ourselves dropped somewhere in Berlin, Sophie now backgrounded, and a new, married woman named Hanna (Marie-Lou Sellem), a theatre actress, emerges as an object for our contemplation. Hanna’s husband, Ivan (Devid Striesow), works as a photographer, bringing us back to Sophie, along with vague intimations of a possible extramarital affair. No matter, we’re now treated to distended rehearsals of a stage play with a spare, neo-Victorian mise en scène, fashion shoots at a washing-machine factory, and, finally, Sophie, back in Marseille, in a police station recounting a reported mugging for investigators. Ripped from the narrative’s initial account of a burgeoning relationship and tossed into a wilderness of activity we have no handle on (coincidentally, Marseille screened in Cannes the same year as Tropical Malady), the present reasserts itself, and the primacy of interpretative thought in the face of the unknown is, again, affirmed.

‘Consequently, details that earlier seemed innocuous become loaded and potentially significant. Marseille, a city of immigrants, traces of Mediterranean noir bubbling to the surface, strangers becoming Others and femmes now potentially fatal. Pursuing happiness is dangerous, and who, really, was in that car on the highway? Playing along, Schanelec’s conclusion to this now-mystery invents a crime, which we never see and may have never taken place at all, and hinges the fate of a woman who we’ve nearly forgotten—the film’s protagonist, Sophie—on an increasingly critical Q&A session with offscreen interrogators. First speaking to them in German through a translator, Sophie finally switches to French (not her native tongue) and becomes more lucid, yet her words more abstract. Finally, out of nowhere, she says “I want to listen to music”—the film’s final line before an endless silence, and a reprise of Schanelec’s philosophy of cinema logic that states that emotion itself can rescue Sophie from the burden of memory (of recollection) and liberate us from drowning the film in our arbitrary explications. Instead, we drown with Sophie in a sea of her own tears, flowing for minutes before she is released back into the world, after which she ends the movie by walking—ominously, defeated, and exuding some notion of dignity—toward the ocean.

‘Two films later, Schanelec’s Orly (2010)—a film that seems to have been taken up as the consensus pick for her weakest effort—feels more like a schematic exercise than a major work. Eavesdropping on an Altman-esque assortment of disparate players, the structure hops around its transitory non-place (an Orly terminal) to compose a breakfast sampler of undeveloped narrative excerpts that we know from the outset will be presented as fragments. A minor misstep—though at least it’s instructive, a kind of state-of-the-union address that reminds us how we’re meant to watch her movies—it was followed by a six-year hiatus (prompted by difficulties achieving funding for her next project), the longest gap in her career, setting the stage for her long overdue return with The Dreamed Path, perhaps the freshest and most profoundly emotional film that she’s ever made. In a crisp, 4:3-framed digital presentation, and featuring line deliveries and behaviours more affectless (or, if you’d rather, more “Bressonian”) than usual, Schanelec not only stays true to the aesthetic and philosophical tactics that made up the foundation of her work, but ups the ante on them in nearly every sense. True to its title, The Dreamed Path conflates reality with dream states, past with present (or is it present with future?), and desire with existential dread, all producing an amorphous, exceedingly enigmatic trance film masquerading as a puzzle film. Puzzles fit together; this does not.’ — Blake Williams, cinema scope





Angela Schanelec @ IMDb
A Film in Fragments: An Interview with Angela Schanelec
TIFF Critic’s Notebook 7: The Dreamed Path + Wavelengths
An Intuitive Work: Angela Schanelec Interview
Angela Schanelec : “Marseille est une ville troublante dont on ne sait où elle s’arrête”
Angela Schanelec: Narrative, Understanding, Language
Critique : Orly, un film d’Angela Schanelec
Fireflies — Issue #5: Angela Schanelec / Agnès Varda
Unschuld und Unverstelltheit
“VIP-Lounges sind eine fatale Tendenz”
Still lives in transit: movement and inertia in Angela Schanelec’s Orly
Vom Finden der verlorenen Zeit
Heft #05 – Interview: Angela Schanelec
THE DREAMED PATH, A Minimalist Masterwork
The Dreamed Path | Film Review | Slant Magazine




Berliner Schule. Part 3: Angela Schanelec, Reinhold Vorschneider and Marco Abel

“Mis películas son preguntas que los personajes pueden responder”: Angela Schanelec

Das Kino von Angela Schanelec (extrakt)


by Jordan Cronk from Film Comment


Your films tend to feature very fragmented, elliptical narratives. I’m curious how they get to that point: When conceiving of the film do you start with an image, or a word—or do you indeed start with a character or concept?

It’s really different each time. There are films that I’ve made where I have had a dialogue in mind, or the beginning of a dialogue. With The Dreamed Path, there were images, a few images actually, which were a starting point in my imagination. The homeless character, Kenneth, was one of the first characters I thought about, but very soon there were those two couples.

The film jumps in time very discreetly a number of times. Can you talk about how you think about time cinematically and how you choose to depict time formally?

Well, for one, this is not a conceptual film. But nevertheless the formal aspects are very obvious, or strong—which is essential because I’m telling the story with the form. The writing process and the process of finding the images is a very intuitive process. Concerning the time, I first thought about the parts of the story set in recent times, through what is currently happening in Berlin. So while I first thought of Kenneth, this homeless man, I began to think that I’d like to see him as a young man. He’s in his fifties in the current part of the story, so that would put him in his early twenties in the first section of the film, set in the 1980s.

So you went backward to find the narrative?


But you also decided to use the same actors for each part of the film, and thus there’s no differentiation as to their age. How did that idea develop?

Well, hopefully the viewer understands that the film starts in the ’80s and in the end we see the same persons today. If he understands that, then he understands that they also have to get older, so why do I have to show that, through makeup or some other effect? Filmmaking can be about that but it doesn’t have to be.

It seems important that each of your images carries an emotional core. Even if the viewer can’t rationally place in the image within the greater narrative, there’s something striking and self-contained about each individual shot.

I’m happy to hear you say that. That’s how I think about the images. The film is composed of images. And though you could say, well, every film is composed of images. But what does that really mean? If you take the idea very seriously, and begin to ask yourself how the image has to be, how it has to be framed and everything—this sounds very general but if you see the film, then you will understand what I mean.

As far as composing individual shots, is there any room for improvising from the actors?

No, there’s no room at all. [Laughs] The images in the film are generally prepared before. So when I’m looking for a location, or I know a location, I’m thinking about those images in relation to the location. So it’s completely prepared. In this film I was more interested in the actors’ bodies in the space or location, whereas in my prior films it is a bit different. This is the first time I’ve been interested in how the body moves and in what the body is doing. So when I depict a body I don’t want the viewer to think about the psychology of their being.

One way to do that is to only show the parts of the body that move and carry the action. That’s why there are so many shots of hands and feet, for example. If I want to show that someone is waiting, and I show only his feet, which don’t move, that is completely different from seeing the whole body. The viewers start to think about what mood the character is in as he’s waiting, because they try to read emotion in his face. So if I don’t want the viewer to do that, my only option is to not show the face.

How does that affect the actors and their process?

It’s very different and it depends on what actor is in front of me. For example, Miriam Jakob is a dancer in real life. When I was looking for actors, I asked the casting director to look for dancers because I thought it could be interesting to have someone who is very conscious of the body and their movements. And she had no problem at all when I mentioned that we may not be shooting or seeing her face. I told her that the face is part of the body, and I like to think that she never felted forced to express something that isn’t happening in that moment with her face. As for Maren Eggert, she’s been an actress for a long time. We know each other a bit better because we’ve shot together before this same way. And Thorbjörn Björnsson, he’s a singer, and this was his first film, so he was completely open to these ideas.

This manner of framing obviously brings to mind Bresson. I’ve also heard people compare the film and its narrative to the work of Claire Denis. Are you conscious of influences, cinematic or otherwise, when you’re actually shooting and composing the film?

In this film the influence of Bresson is very obvious. I’ve had a long relationship with the films of Bresson—I’ve known them since I first started to make films. The language he created is impossible to use without thinking of him. But I’ve had to make many films to get to the point where I can do parallel things without being afraid that someone will say this is a copy of Bresson, because it is something else. But it took time to feel free enough to do that.

Why did you decide to shoot in Academy ratio?

That had to do with the idea of the way I wanted to shoot, and the Academy format is very centered. From the very first rushes I was convinced that this was a good decision because it’s so clear what you want to show in each frame. How I frame a face, for example, is very different in this format. And I had the feeling that this was good for the kind of images we were going to explore.

Is there any personal significance to either of these stories?

No. I mean, it’s normal that everything you express in a film has something to do with yourself. For example, depicting this character that is homeless has to do with the fact that in my everyday life there are more and more homeless people, and I’m being confronted with this just like other people. So I’m sure this influences me when I start writing. I also have a dog, and in every one of my films there are dogs because I’m fascinated by that animal. And since I have children I wish to see children in front of the camera because I also have a lot of questions about them. So the starting point is often asking myself these kinds of questions.

Books seem to play an integral role in the film. There are many shots of both bookshelves and books.

Well, we all live with books, from the time that we’re young. One question I have is related to the experience of reading a book and being impressed or curious—what does it mean? Most people, if they read, are looking for something they can recognize or something they can learn or something that can help them. So books are important but I find myself wondering what they can influence and effect, since they’re always around us. One question I had concerning the couple in the film who live in Berlin and who go through a separation is, “What happens to the books?” A book is also something that you have in your hands when you’re alone. It’s possible to share a book, but the experience of a book is generally very personal. You’re alone with a book.

I’m wondering how much, if at all, the film is influenced by poetry? There’s a visual reference to Lawrence Raab’s “The Poem That Can’t Be Written” that stuck out to me.

Oh you saw that! That’s a very short shot. But yes, that poem is one of the most beautiful poems that I know. And it’s in English. Maybe as an American you wouldn’t recognize that Phil Hayes, who is sitting with the poem at the end of the film, isn’t German. He has a very strange accent because he’s English but living in Switzerland. So he speaks German with a Swiss and English accent, and if you’re German, you’d recognize this. So I thought it would be nice if he was reading an English poem, or at least have it in front of him. And I just really like having that poem in the film.

Another idea related to this was to think of the narrative as if it were lines of a poem. This is something I kept in mind when I was thinking about the images. At one point about, half a year before shooting, I realized that I had actually written the script in lines, and each line of the script corresponded to one shot. So that was the point when it became clear how I wanted to shoot the film. I began to notice parts that were no longer necessary.


6 of Angela Schanelec’s 12 films

The Dreamed Path (2016)
‘Often associated with the first wave of the Berlin School, the films of Angela Schanelec deserve to be better known in North America. Rigorous, intelligent, and formally beautiful, her work deals with notions of chance and transience, the complexity (and frequent opacity) of human relations defying the dictates of fate. Its precise construction matched by the suggestive mystery of its bisected narrative, The Dreamed Path is Schanelec’s most moving — even devastating — film to date. The opening movement of the film introduces us to Theres and Kenneth, two young lovers on vacation in Greece in the mid-1980s (a time when there was a certain optimism about Europe’s future). Despite their passion, the couple cannot maintain their bond: pulled by the gravitational force of circumstances, and exhausted by life’s emotional and physical burdens, both retreat. With a sudden and brilliant ellipsis, Schanelec leaps 30 years into the future and into the fraught relationship of a second couple, Berlin-based actress Ariane and her anthropologist husband David, whose disintegrating marriage results in a split — and whose subsequent trajectories lead them into the orbit of the separated lovers from the film’s first half. Exquisitely shot by master cinematographer Reinhold Vorschneider in a palette that manages to be both vibrant and muted, The Dreamed Path gives a Bressonian weight to bodies as Schanelec constructs an intricate choreography among these four characters, their paths intersecting within a nominally realistic space that may be dreamed or entirely imaginary. While the narrative conundrum at the film’s centre creates much mystery, Schanelec introduces small, touching gestures of empathy and understanding (as well as traces of sly humour) that subtly destabilize the film’s tone and enhance its seductive strangeness. Its quiet beauty lined with a delicately woeful expression of loneliness and desire for a happiness just out of reach, The Dreamed Path is the work of a gifted and utterly singular filmmaking talent.’ — Andrea Picard

Teaser trailer #1

Teaser trailer #2

Teaser trailer #3



The Bridges of Sarajevo (2015)
‘Under the stewardship of French film critic Jean-Michel Frodon, the 13 films which comprise The Bridges of Sarajevo are connected by their focus on the city at various stages in the intervening period, with much slippage between 1914 and the 1990s. There is a loose theme, too, of linkage via bridges – both in actuality as well as metaphorically – that is reinforced by recurring animations bookending each short. Most were literal, conventional treatments. Others were perhaps more stylistically and thematically ambitious: Vladimir Perišić gave us an odd study of kids listening to a tape of interviews by Gavrilo Princip and his fellow conspirators, while Angela Schanelec did something similar with students reading aloud a Princip interview.’ — The Guardian



Orly (2010)
‘Schanelec allowed the Orly airport’s varied spaces to reshape what are essentially four storylines focussing on two people each, their interaction in a zone between home and somewhere else, between lives lived in one place and another but ostensibly put on hold here, if only for an hour or two. While it’s hardly a surprise that Variety’s Derek Elley has dumped on Orly or that Screen’s Dan Fainaru maintains neutrality (“Her fans will appreciate the work’s precision and visual approach, while her numerous detractors are bound to point to Orly’s dramatic shortcomings. They both may have a point but what’s certain is that, like Shanelec’s previous work (Marseille, Afternoon), Orly is looking at a future niche art house distribution and festival sidebars”), Robert Koehler’s disappointment is bewildering: “Orly isn’t much more in the end than a chain of slight scenes between people who never grow more interesting as time goes on, just more banal (maybe like a lot of fellow airplane travelers).” The full original title is Orly, Poem 1-4. Whether or not the characters are banal (and I don’t believe they are) or occasionally say banal things (don’t we all), they and the things they say are, to play on the analogy suggested by that original title, words and phrases within an overall structure. So, too, is the intelligent camerawork by Reinhold Vorschneider. And the two texts that are read, one onscreen, the other off. And the photographs in the apartment where Theo’s made that call, mementos alongside a cover for a single, “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Many have noted the leave-taking in Orly. The funeral, Sabine’s leaving Theo, the life-changing decisions. In his interview with Schanelec for die taz, Ekkehard Knörer asks her about the ending in which the entire airport is evacuated. “Yes, it’s true,” she says, “everything moves toward emptiness.” In Der Tagesspiegel, Christina Tilmann wonders out loud if Orly may have been shaped by the loss in 2008 of Schanelec’s partner, theater director Jürgen Gosch. An open question. In the end, as Sabine evacuates the airport along with everyone else, she finds herself paired again — with a stranger. Sabine asks a question. The stranger doesn’t respond. The Germans have a saying: Keine Antwort ist auch eine Antwort. No answer is also an answer.’ — David Hudson, mubi




Afternoon (2007)
‘After a long absence, the actor Irene visits her lakeside house where her brother Alex and her son Konstantin live. It is a hot summer. Konstantin’s girlfriend Agnes is also there, spending the summer break at her family’s house next door. Konstantin and Agnes grew up together. Agnes is now at university; Konstantin writes and hasn’t left his home by the lake. But when they see each other again, things are no longer the same, and every doubt is mercilessly exposed. Into this confusion enters Irene. Mother and son’s common past repeats itself as a futile struggle for recognition, fought with irony and aggression. The relationship is over, but the loss is unbearable. Irene summons her lover for consolation. Konstantin goes to pieces. But his girlfriend takes a liking this lover; he eases her heart. He liberates her a little, and she begins to forget Konstantin. Based on Chekhov’s The Seagull.’ — Cineuropa

Watch the trailer here.


Passing Summer (2001)
‘The original German title of “Passing Summer” translates as “My Slow Life,” and they don’t come much slower than this latest study of emotional ennui by writer-director Angela Schanelec. Film is a series of encounters between a group of Berlin friends, relations and acquaintances during one summer. Two young women sitting in a café on a summer day. Situations found everyday a thousand times over. But what happens when you try to depict this normality?’ — collaged



Places in Cities (1998)
‘Like the other two films I’ve seen from Schanelec, Places in Cities remains largely formal in its technique but takes away most obstructions of narrative structure. By doing this it reveals an underlying ambiguity, another kind of obstruction entirely, and from that comes a familiar strangeness. It is the strangeness of recognizing the moment. Places In Cities is weighed and balanced by its ellipses and contrasts. Its burdens are heavy; it is light as a feather; it is a picture cast in hard winter shadows, gently lit by the warmth of a desk lamp. If Schanelec is trying to tell us anything of importance here it is to just keep watching, keep looking, keep breathing.’ — Ben Umstead

Excerpt (scroll down)

Excerpt (scroll down)




p.s. Hey. ** Wolf, Hi, Wolfy! They kind of are, right? Planetariums. I only kind of realised that when I got a random idea of putting a bunch of them together for the blog. The transitioning from one to the next/others is beautiful, or I thought so. Ha ha, awesome take away from Kier’s video. I know, right? You were in Texas?! That’s pretty exciting, come on. Well, the ‘you being there’ is exciting in my head. I love you as a thorn in it. Oh, dang, you got me wheee I live with that Tex-Mex and, jeez, those vegan nachos. I think I’ll do the eight billionth next best thing and go to the Paris Chipotle today. Me, I’m pretty good. Trying to work on stuff, gradually getting better at it. Eternally biting my nails waiting to find out what Zac’s and my film’s early life is going to consist of. Training/driving north to Holland this weekend to visit my favourite amusement park Efteling as a belated birthday present. I think that’s my current life’s top drawer. What’s happening this week for and re: you? Lovey-dove, me. ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. Yes, the Celine/Gallimard debate going on over here is most interesting. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! I agree. About that particular planetarium. I think the energy transfer is going to work. I’m still into the film script, but I feel like I’ll be able to jet over to the less exciting gig when I do. I hope. I’m horrible with emailing. Ask anyone. It turns out our producer is in Guadalajara doing something, so I’m just going to forget about the whole press agent thing and let it be a surprise, good or bad. Happy deadline day! Great, I’m so chomping at the bit for the new SCAB and to help play the blog’s part in its glorious unfurling. Yesterday it snowed for literally five minutes, tiny flakes that I had to put on my glasses to see. So not really. Otherwise, I just worked on the film script and wandered about a little. A non-exciting period right now, I guess. What did you do during yesterday’s particular segment of the week’s daylight? ** Jamie, It worked. Let’s see if this works: صباح الجمال المكثف, Jamie! So glad you liked the post. Me too. It’s one of those post idea gambles that paid off. I’m in the zone, but still only vis-a-vis the new film script. But it feels a lot better than mindlessly and guiltily surfing the internet. I think I added a few cool things to the film script that I think were missing. I found a trailer for ‘Neo Yokio’, and I was intrigued. So assuming I get to watch it, you may not be the only fan. Today I need to stay in the zone and try to rezone the zone to include the assignment. Gerrymander the zone or something. And I’m going to go eat a burrito at Paris’s only Chipotle because Wolf up above triggered me. And other stuff to be determined. So did your finish-the-cartoon-script followed by screenplay-advancement ideal day rock shit? I think I only know a teeny of Ben Wallers’ stuff unless I’m spacing. I’ll read the interview in any case. Thank you! May your day be like a tall, ice cold glass of pear juice. Paper rock scissors love, Dennis. ** Alex rose, Alex! Yeah, it took me a while to accept the later Burden work too, or to agree with where it was coming from? Something like that. Hoo-fucking-ray! About the blog. Thank you, Alex, it’s such a boon! I’m going to use it to do the exact opposite of wasting a good portion of my day. Everyone, Most of you aren’t in NYC or Brooklyn or thereabouts and can’t go see Alex Rose’s current show there, but … but … he has just now reconstituted his blog after years of non-existence, so you, just like me, can now view and keep up with his genius artistry lickety-split. Drop what you’re doing right now, click this, have a look at what you see, bookmark the page, and live forever in harmony with greatness thereby. No hyperbole there.. Big love, me. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Oh, I’m so sorry about the bugginess. Like I said, nothing appears to be amiss with the blog itself, or not that it’s telling me. Maybe your browser and the blog are squabbling? Mm, memory tells me that laser shows at planetariums began their run in the very early 70s? Not sure. I can’t imagine they still exist other than as rare, nostalgia-baiting reappearances? I went to a Floyd one and I think also to a Cure one ages ago, and they were lame lame lame even back when lasers seemed wow. ** Count Reeshard, Hi, Count. As far as I could tell, the only planetarium in that bunch that is now gone/destroyed is the one in Toronto, but don’t hold me to that. I know squat about astrology, so I don’t know why Taurus drew the raspberries either. Huh. Maybe if Wonder left he was pissed about the sound mix or something? Hm. ** Kier, Kier! Mighty Kier! Dude, I saw a thing on Facebook about your show! That’s so fucking exciting! If I were Voldemort or someone like that, I would cause the area of land and sea between Paris and your show to fold up like an accordion, and figure out a way to make sure the people who live in between didn’t die, of course, then stroll casually betwixt here and there waving a bottle of the finest French champagne. I would. Yeah, the cast and crew screening went really, really well. The film is getting a great response so far. Zac and me, we’re excited. Yeah, we’re in the festival phase. Higher ups are submitting it here and there and trying to get it good gigs. The way films are so slowly rolled out drives me crazy, but whatever. Oh, this guy Tommy Lørdahl — do you know him? — who’s the head of the Oslo International Film Festival saw ‘PGL’ and really loves it a lot and wants to find a way to show it in Oslo, at the festival or as a solo gig. So hopefully that’ll happen, and Zac and I will come when/if it does. Cool about your new pad! Congrats! Oh, jeez, yeah, as someone who’s fallen twice on snow/ice and broke both of my wrists the first and time and six ribs the second time, I urge you to walk very carefully, okay? I’m good. Working on the script of Zac’s and my next film and other stuff too. So sweet and amazing to see you, my pal! Mega-love, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yeah, serene, right? Me too. Strange. All those circles, I guess, among undoubted other things? Sure, of course, about the blurb. Just keep me up and hit me up when the time is right. But of course! Cool about that artist you like opening at the PdT. Any minute now. Best physical art space in the world, that PdT, by my reckoning. ** Kyler, Hi. I did not know that. Huh. Pique-y coincidence. The best subtexts happen in the mists behind and within conscious decisions. Happy solar system to you! ** Sypha, Hey. I’m like that too, trust me, but I just shift to another medium if the muse isn’t into wordage. So, yeah, new music from you sounds like a great plan. ** Keatain, Hi. Oh, well, my sincere pleasure and even honour, sir. Seems like you nailed that form for sure. Wow, nice or something other than nice about that party there. Very organised weird. Organising the weird is a gift. Not bad. ** JM, Hi. Sucks that your planetarium didn’t pop up in my search. I would say editing is where the film happens even though, technically, it’s just righting the ship. Or it’s the part I start looking forward to as soon as the film starts getting written. And it’s the longest part, at least in our case. We edited ‘PGL’ for seven weeks straight minus Sundays. Did I define the documentary form as something purely educational? Wow, I don’t know why I would have done that since I’m with you. I must have been in a rush. Benning is a god. Cool you mention Sharon Lockhart, she’s a few old friend and, yes, a very good artist. I don’t know ‘Nathan For You: Finding Frances’, but I’ll definitely find it. Thanks. Yeah, I do that too with writers vis-a-vis the thing itself and the back-storytelling. I know something, a bit about physical theatre. Not enough. Dv8 was the first example that sprang to mind when you used that term. So that’s a key to your process? Very interesting. Now I will go learn more about what that term means and entails. Favorite McElroy, mm … maybe ‘Plus’? Or ‘Lookout Cartridge’? Oh, I’m strange, I guess, because I’ve never been interested in my being queer or in collective identity in general. I’ve never felt any kind of separation between me and people or art that aren’t queer, and I don’t really experience that intra-queer kinship you mention. And with my books/writing, from everything I’ve been able to gather, the readership of my stuff is quite broad, and gay guys aren’t the majority, I assume because my work isn’t about being queer. Its queerness is circumstantial. So, for me, my work has never really had any problem connecting with non-LGBT readers. And I certainly don’t compromise. My work just gets tagged as queer or gay by those for whom identity politics matters, but I’ve noticed that increasingly the term ‘cult writer’ has become the more predominate way to characterise my stuff. It’s interesting. Your comment was great, not long at all, and thank you for it. ** Misanthrope, Hi. I guess it’s a gulf for me, or an invisible barrier at least. Okay, if I bump into Chalamet, and if he looks bored or lonely, I’ll say hi for you, although, honestly, I’m not sure I would recognise him. But yeah. Awesome about the progressing on your novel, man! Keep going, blinders on, head in the stars, busy-bee fingers, etc., etc. ** James Nulick, Thanks, James. I don’t why I think all good teachers are imposters. It just made sense enough to me in the moment to type that. First thought, best thought. Unless you’re Allen Ginsberg, ha ha. As I just told JM, I think ‘Plus’ is my favorite McElroy in fact, so yes. Chair tilted back love, Dennis. ** Right. I’ve only just recently discovered the films of Angela Schanelec thanks to a tip from Michael ‘Kiddiepunk’ Salerno and via the fact that her work is a concentration of the new issue of the great film magazine Fireflies. So while I checked out her work, I made a post so we could all make the discovery together. Although, of course, some of you out there might already be familiar. In any case, her work constitutes your day here. Happy Valentines Day. See you tomorrow.


  1. JM

    Hey again,
    Depending on where you sit morally on piracy & digital sharing of content, Nathan For You:Finding Frances shouldn’t be too hard to find. I don’t see an issue with it as long as it doesn’t prevent the artist from
    a) future work
    b) tangible profit from current work
    …seven weeks straight editing sounds either heavenly or nightmarish, and maybe both at once! It can be madness inducing or incredibly energizing to be so consistently inside one space, one zone, totally onboard with something you’ve put all your time into…

    I guess the reason physical theatre tends to be the gateway to clicking all my theatre stuff into place for me is largely tied to the fact that words don’t come naturally to me. I do write – quietly – slowly – badly – and read – faster than I write, more obsessively – and feel that I am learning continually, but it definitely isn’t a form or ‘type’ of language/communication that comes naturally to me. In some ways, that makes it more important, probably, for me to focus on getting better at it. I remember seeing a video sometime where you spoke about poetry being an easier form for you than prose? I guess it’s a similar thing. I’m better at speaking to people’s bodies than to their mouths, at least, before I know them very well.

    I haven’t made it to McElroy’s Plus yet, but Lookout Cartridge is a real stunner of a novel, a total knockout. I read it in one sitting the same day I got around to Ancient History: A Paraphase (where, naturally, I made the mistake of thinking it used the word “paraphrase” in the title…. classic).

    I don’t think any of that stuff you mentioned about the queer genre barriers or anything is strange – I was mostly just curious, hopefully the question wasn’t offensive in any way? I didn’t mean to suggest that you work within one box, there are just so many fascinating cultural artifacts – I’m thinking of niche films like “Score,” or even a super hetero film like Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy” that have been pretty consistently ONLY embraced and/or rejected by queer minorities and otherwise mostly ignored by the public. If you’ve never felt a barrier in that regard, I’d imagine you’re probably pretty lucky – and in some ways I’d assume it proves your talent: the ability to connect on the basis of the work rather than the content the work is representing, if that makes sense?

    Schanalec has a very very friendly face, the type of person I’d love to just stop and talk to on the street, if that doesn’t sound too creepy? I was speaking to one of my cast-mates tonight (not for Moonfleece, for a very small “amateur” version of Hamlet) about this very thing when he asked why I wanted him to be involved
    in the process. I had trouble elucidating the answer without sounding possessive and selfish but I said directly to him that it had something to do with the fact that his abilities at the moment are unfostered and I wanted him closer to me so that I could be aware of and part of that growth. Which is definitely and totally a selfish and harmful way to think, but this is a cast member with ‘one of those faces’ that I’m referring to in relation to Schanelec, the type of person you look at and assume has an interesting life, the kind of face that can equally display and disregard everything interior.

    Unrelated, but I just bought some paintings from my friend//musician//painter Eric Cloutier. You can check his work out here – – very much a successor to Pollock & working almost in opposition to many of the Dadaist folk, cubist folk, working today. No need to look at this stuff if it doesn’t interest you but there’s something about his work that I find so compulsive….. which reminds me, very exciting that you know Sharon Lockhart! I only hope that I someday get to see Goshogaoka as intended, in a high school gym…… it’s entrancing enough as it is…..

    signing off,
    J 🙂

    • James Nulick


      I purchased my copy of Joseph McElroy’s ‘Plus’ from a bookseller on abebooks. He used to own a fine edition bookstore in NYC in the 1970s – 1980s, and he told me (we exchanged emails) that Mr. McElroy came into the store on more than one occasion, and was quite friendly, and more or less intimated to the bookseller that he was bitter about his books not selling very well, that the general public didn’t like his books, and thus his need to teach. But, the seller said, McElroy told him he was grateful for the readers he did have. And my signed copy of Plus is from one of those such days, when he was in the shop. I paid $120 for it, which kind of hurt, but I collect rare books (and read them, too)… it’s my only vice ?

      The bookseller has since retired to Florida …


      • JM

        You must have some good’uns in your collection, then! McElroy is the kind of author I can only imagine living forever and growing with the reflection of time and time and time. Filmmaker Jon Jost seems bitter in a similar manner, though time, I’m sure, will equally vindicate him.

  2. David Ehrenstein

    Great introduction to Schanelec who I’ve heard of but not seen.

    I don’t find Kevin Smith “Super Hetero” at all. He’s straight but not “entitled” by being so.

    Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

    • JM

      Well, I’d be inclined to agree, but Chasing Amy is a pretty presumptuous film…

  3. David Ehrenstein

    And here it is with the verse!

  4. James Nulick


    I’ve never heard of Angela Schanelec… I’m going to investigate her on Netflix and see if any of her films are available for streaming.. I like how she plays with time in her narrative.. I’m bored by plots or narratives that are slaves to time… I want to throw my head back and slice my own throat open when I encounter the nuts and bolts behind such things, so amateur. Things, and events, don’t really make sense until we make them make sense. I prefer sleek aeroplanes without rivets, if you know what I mean.

    I also recently discovered, within the last year, that women prefer reading text in smaller chunks, so my new novel in progress has shorter paragraphs… when I sense a paragraph becoming too long, I dip it in acid. My days of long Thomas Bernhard-like paragraphs are over.

    Is the Blanchot quote from a book? I own The Spaces of Literature, or the Uses of Literature, or whatever it’s called, but have yet to crack it open..

    I’m with you 100% on editing, Dennis! I believe editing is where the real story begins. I like moving things around, playing with dialogue, removing a piece of a scene so that perhaps it’s essence is still there, but the machinery is gone, an erasure, a palimpsest. The reader is as much a creator as the author. After all, it’s their head the images are swimming in. Once I finish writing a book I don’t go back and read it… I’m too familiar with its machinery. Are you the same way, Dennis?

    Ice cream shop on a Saturday love,

    James ❤️❤️

  5. Dóra Grőber


    I’m pretty sure your plan will work! I actually tried it with some e-mails yesterday, haha. I replied to some SCAB-related ones and then, while I was at it, I forced myself over to my other e-mails and managed to write all of them!
    Huh. Well… then I think I’ll just keep my fingers crossed for a little while longer for the press agent!
    Thank you!! I’m planning to send some post-ideas soon!!

    I think I second that. “A non-exciting period”. I met a friend today and… that was basically the highlight of my day. Fascinating, haha.
    How were things on your end?

  6. Wolf

    Haha, I triggered your tex-mex-craving… dude admit it, it doesn’t take much. I know it’s there, lurking within you at all times, like a sleepy jaguar dozing on a jungle branch, its half-closed eyes and velvet nose tracking the greenery for tasty capybaras even in the deep of the night. Look! Here it pounces! Mother nature’s cruel ways. The burrito put up a good fight but… there are some predators one just cannot hope to escape. Was it any good?

    Very cool day today, thanks! Love the framing and composition. Very curious about her movie Marseille.

    My week, already halfway-over, is a new masterpiece by none other than Wolfie Productions, featuring some breath-bating against-the-clock data crunching (‘Will the model be ready on time?! Find out next week…’), thrilling meetings with auditors, wondrous cupboard-was-bare recipes (‘Who thought reheated curried lentils and faux-cheese would make a decent dinner? Not me no sir!’) and some classic cinema viewing to maintain our heroine’s sense of priorities (‘Cool Hand Luke! The Crimson Kimono! They don’t make ’em like that any more!’). Yeah. Man, what a life.

  7. Cal Graves

    Hey Dennis,

    schanelec’s flicks are really drawing, will try to find a way to watch them today.
    RIP Tom Rapp, the world has a very large hole in it now.
    glad to hear that PGL is getting some positiv coming its way. if it comes down to TX somehow will most definitely see it.
    how are you?
    hope you have a nice day


  8. Jamie

    Hey Dennis! Morning condensed beauty to you too!
    Nice post. I pretty much want to see all these films and I liked all the clips. I’m wondering if they might ever stream on Mubi, as I’m thinking of signing up to there.
    How was your day? My writing didn’t go quite to plan, but it was productive nonetheless, as a friend who’s really great at drawing wants to do something with me, so I prepared a document for her and I’m pretty excited to see what she comes up with. I wanted her to draw a comic, but she said no to that.
    Where were you in relation to the zone today? I can feel it beckoning and I’ll see you in it tomorrow, I hope. Did you get anything done on the other script?
    Hope that burrito was amazing. I made falafel, but they were crappy.
    I thought we’d discussed Ben Waller before, but there’s a very good chance I’m misremembering. I think he’s super interesting. The Male Nurse have some great songs. Have you heard this….
    It changed my ideas about music.
    Hope your Thursday’s as good as the bit in that track where he seems to manipulate feedback to sound like Chewbacca and the Death Star simultaneously.
    الكثير من الحب,

  9. Misanthrope

    Dennis, Nothing Happens. A little synchronicity. An older guy work says to me today, “I want you to learn from my experience this weekend.” “What happened?” “I didn’t do a fucking thing all weekend and I loved it!”

    Oh, you’ll recognize Timothee right away: he’s the most adorable guy in France right now. 😉

    So I was searching a book I saw mentioned on a thread somewhere on FB a month or so ago. I found mention of it on a Date Lounge thread. Someone had asked what contemporary gay authors he should check out. I had to read the fucking thing, right? Someone, of course, mentioned you, and a couple others seconded his opinion. Then this one guy goes, “If they find dismembered boys in Cooper’s neighborhood, they better go straight to his house first.” Crazy, no? I’m pretty sure, too, that he wasn’t joking. He didn’t seem to be joking with anything else he said on the thread either.

    Oh, yeah, a while ago you said on here that you didn’t think it was a fine line at all but a rather large expanse between the imagination and what one does in real life. I agreed.

    Though I guess for some, it’s not so much.

  10. Nik

    Hey Dennis!

    How’s it going? I’m bummed I haven’t been able to visit the blog as frequently, I just finished directing a show and whenever I get into a rehearsal process I kind of go MIA on friends, interests, etc. It’s something I’m trying to get better at. How’s PGL been? Last I read you and Zach we’re submitting it to a bunch of festivals? And how’s your home haunts script coming along?
    Really interesting post, especially considering the Blanchot connection. I’m just getting into his novels now and their profoundly mind warping. Also, the fact that she adapted the Seagull is bonkers exciting. I always wanted to see someone with a super antinarrative and precise style would do with Chekhov. Well, not always, but I really do now that I know it exists. Something about that makes perfect sense, yeah?

  11. Steve Erickson

    I just wrote a very long post this blog ate. Fucking hell!

    To cut things short, I got downloads of the expanded reissues of the 1st 3 Pet Shop Boys albums today, spent about 3 & 1/2 hours listening to them and wrote a 1,000-word draft of my review. Have you ever heard the 9-minute “Suburbia (the full horror)” remix, which introduces sound effects hinting at violence in the final 2 minutes? Given today’s school shooting in Florida, it seems very a propos.

    In relation to what JM is talking about, the script I’m trying to write deals with some of these issues re: both gay and Arab-American identity. It deliberately presents being Arab-American in 1971 as more difficult than it actually was, because it’s so hard right now. It parallels the closeted nature of these 2 characters. But personally, I feel like being gay is 90% incidental to my film and music criticism – despite the paradox that all the musicians I review for Gay City News had to be LGBTQ – but crucial to my filmmaking and screenwriting. I wish our culture and society made it easier to pick and choose where I emphasize certain aspects of my gayness, instead of having both straight and gay people put their expectations on me and tell me things I can’t live up to.

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