Online German and Dutch films (Cinefest 2020 extension)

•May 21, 2021 • Leave a Comment
Hurrah! Ich lebe! (Wilhelm Thiele, 1928), starring & staring Nicolas Koline

As of yesterday 20 May, and partly as of 27 May, a series of films and film programs within the framework of Cinefest 2020 ‘Kino, Krieg und Tulpen: Deutsch-niederländische Filmbeziehungen’ can be watched online for just a few euros, while two programs are entirely for free: Nah am Wasser – Filme aus Rotterdam, and Feuer, Schiffbruch und Folklore – Deutsche Stummfilme aus der Desmet-Sammlung.

There is something for everybody: the Dutch 1930s Jordaan comedy De Jantjes, Dutch actor Frits van Dongen in Die Reise nach Tilsit, a rare WWII German biopic of Rembrandt (shot in Dutch studios), a Dutch exploitation movie involving voyeurism (the recently restored Obsessions) starring German actor Dieter Geissler, who also coproduced the film, the European coproduction Charlotte by Frans Weisz, a documentary on the Filmverlag der Autoren (Gegenschuss – Aufbruch der Filmemacher), and the hilarious silent comedy Hurra! Ich lebe!, set and partly shot in the Netherlands.

Nah am Wasser shows Dutch documentaries on Rotterdam, both late silent ones by Andor von Barsy and Friedrich von Maydell, as well as Herman van der Horst’s 1952 Houen zo!, marking the post-war Reconstruction era. Feuer, Schiffbruch und Folklore contains shorts on prevention of nitrate fires, a comedy on a mail order husband service, and a dramatic feature starting in Spain (actually shot in Italy) but then evolving in Urk (actually shot in Volendam).

A large share of the film prints come from the Eye Filmmuseum, while others stem from German archives such as the Bundesarchiv. Music to the silent films is provided by Daan van den Hurk and Marie-Louise Bolte. For several programs or films we provided introductions, in German. The Dutch films have German or English subtitles. Permission to show these films online has been given only for a few days, so don’t miss it.

The Second Life of Alma-Tadema

•April 30, 2021 • Leave a Comment
Exhibition Alma-Tadema: Klassieke Verleiding, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden 2016-17

In 2016 I was honored to be part of one of the major projects in my career: the exhibition Lawrence Alma-Tadema: klassieke verleiding [classical seduction] at the Fries Museum [Frisian Museum] in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. Together with American expert of 19th century art Peter Trippi, Tadema-expert Elizabeth Prettejohn (University of York), and a team of the museum led by Frank van der Velde and Marlies Stoter, we worked for years on this wonderful exhibition, and also helped by the subsequent stages of the exhibition at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna and the Leighton House in London. Along the road, I learned a lot on exhibition making, museum policies, communication, but I also often went back to my initial studies in art history. The exhibition in Leeuwarden was an enormous crowd puller and also widely attracted the Dutch and foreign press. The element of cinema within the Leeuwarden exhibition – my own contribution – was paramount and greatly contributed to the cross-medial approach of the curatorial team. I greatly invested in research on the topic of Tadema’s afterlife in cinema, going from Italian silent cinema of the 1910s to DeMille, and to finally Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000). When entering the exhibition, comparisons of art works and film clips were already shown to set people in the mood. And in the last hall, as a gran finale, the film clips were shown in slow motion, above the large paintings, enabling audiences to admire the paintings without the film flicker taking away their attention. But just one step back, they could make the connections, not only with the art work underneath, but also with other artworks nearby. I was thrilled with this design. Moreover, we were very lucky to have only film clips in color: either tinted or stencil colored silent films, or the color prints of Cecil B. deMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) and Scott’s Gladiator. In addition to pictorial citations, it was also about similarities in e.g. use of furniture and costume, and staging in depth.

Silver Favorites (Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1903). Russian pre-revolutionary postcard

Our team also greatly invested in connecting Tadema’s painted works with his own houses, as they were a kind of labs in his plays with space, his fascination for – mainly Roman – Antiquity, and his archaeological search for detail and authenticity, combined with a romanticized and domesticated vision of the past. It was so unlike a painter I had previously invested in because of his connections with Antiquity films: Jean-Léon Gérôme, more involved with the public, violent image of the Roman past. Through the project I also did telephone interviews with the production designer and costume designer of Gladiator: Arthur Max and Janty Yates. Max was one of the guests of honor at the opening in Leeuwarden and gave a witty dialogue together with Peter Trippi. Yates I met in person in 2017 while in London during a conference at the Leighton House show. Both were filmed while visiting the Leeuwarden or the London exhibit.

Quo vadis? (Enrico Guazzoni, Cines, 1913)

Today, I can finally present you the digital version of my article, ‘The Second Life of Alma Tadema’, as it appeared in the English-written catalog, re-baptized: Lawrence Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity. Even if not only dealing with Italian silent film, it will become an important stepping stone of my forthcoming monograph on Italian silent cinema, within a crossmedial and transnational perspective. I already reworked part of the catalog article in an Italian-written, more historiographical article on Tadema and Guazzoni’s Quo vadis?, while I continued my research into ‘intervisuality’ and ‘antique props’ in a paper given on Guazzoni’s Antiquity film Fabiola (1918). This Fall I will be working on all this, thanks to a Fellowship by the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS).

Morte a Venezia

•April 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

In 2013 (but really in 2014) the volume Morte a Venezia appeared, edited by Francesco Bono, Luigi Cimmino and Giorgio Pangaro. In this very rich and multifaceted volume on Luchino Visconti’s classic film Death in Venice/ Morte a Venezia (1971) I included an article on links with painting an photography. You can read it online now: ‘Morte a Venezia fra fotografia, pittura e cinema’, in: Francesco Bono, Luigi Cimmino and Giorgio Pangar in: Morte a Venezia (Cosenza: Rubbettino, 2013), pp. 129-148, courtesy of the editors. For me this publication was a stepping stone towards my monography Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art.

Mario Gallo (1924-2006), producer of Death in Venice/ Morte a Venezia. Photo by myself after I interviewed him in 2004.

The volume received raving reviews in and outside Italy between 2013 and 2015. Check out: Alessandro Tinterri, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann/Luchino Visconti: un confronto’,  Annali d’italianistica, 33, 2015, pp. 527-530. Valerio Furneri, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann/Luchino Visconti: un confronto’, Rivista di studi italiani, 33, 1, June 2015, pp. 849-854. Hermann Dorowin, ‘”Was hätte Thomas Mann dazu gesagt?” Ein interdisziplinärer Sammelband untersucht das Verhältnis von Der Tod in Venedig und Luchino Viscontis Morte a Venezia’, IASLonline, 10 December 2015. Matthias Bürgel, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann / Luchino Visconti: un confronto’, Arcadia. International Journal of Literary Culture / Internationale Zeitschrift für literarische Kultur, 50, 1, 2015, pp. 199–203. Andre Furlani, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann / Luchino Visconti: un confronto’, Modernism/modernity, 21, 4, November 2014, pp. 1033-1036. Thea Rimini, ‘Un corpo a corpo tra libro e film. Morte a Venezia, tra Thomas Mann e Luchino Visconti’Incontri. Rivista europea di studi italiani, 29, 2, 2014, pp. 105-107. Simone Brioni, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann / Luchino Visconti: un confronto’Forum Italicum: A Journal of Italian Studies, 49, 1, May 2015, pp. 259-261. Jelena Reinhardt, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann/Luchino Visconti: un confronto’, Il Confronto Letterario, 63, June 2015, pp. 182-186. Carmela Citro, ‘Morte a Venezia. Thomas Mann/Luchino Visconti: un confronto’, Sinestesie. Rivista di studi sulle letterature e le arti europee, XI, 2013, pp. 290-292.

Giuseppe Rotunno (1923-2021)

•February 8, 2021 • Leave a Comment
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor giuseppe rotunno free

Yesterday, the news reached me that Italian cinematographer Giuseppe “Peppino” Rotunno died. With his passing, the last of the main crew members of Luchino Visconti has disappeared. In previous years costume designers Piero Tosi and Vera Marzot, set designers Mario Garbuglia and Mario Chiari, screenwriters Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Enrico Medioli, and Nicola Badalucco, production manager Pietro Notarianni, producer Mario Gallo, assistent-director Rinaldo Ricci, and set photographers Osvaldo Civirani, Paul Ronald, G.B. Poletto, and Mario Tursi said goodbye, all people I interviewed or helped interview in the past, in the 1980s for my MA thesis, and from 2004 for my book Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art.

I first met Giuseppe Rotunno in the late 1980s when helping Dutch journalist Marion Derksen with a series of interviews for the VPRO TV guide. Rotunno met us at the moat of the Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. Here he had shot the final images of Visconti’s Senso (1954), when Visconti decided for a different ending, all shooting in Verona had finished, the Director of Photography Robert Krasker had already returned to the UK, and leading actor Farley Granger had returned to the US – so that the final shots were done with a stand-in whose face was kept out of sight. With these images, as well as the final images with Alida Valli shot somewhere in Trastevere, Rotunno, who had been camera operator for years including second unit operator for Senso, became DOP himself. With Visconti he first shot as DOP Le notti bianche (1957), even if he had already first worked as operator on the episode with Anna Magnani in Siamo donne (1952). Unforgettable is his black-and-white, at times Caravaggesque cinematography of Visconti’s Rocco and his Brothers (1960), and his tour de forces for the whirling epic fresco of the Risorgimento in Sicily, Visconti’s Il Gattopardo (1963). Of course he is also well remembered for his films with Fellini (all films between Toby Dammit and E la nave va), as well as his work for a whole range of excellent postwar Italian and foreign filmmakers. He experimented with HDTV and Showcam and won many prestigious awards. For years he was involved in the restoration of classic films by Visconti and others, and he also taught younger generations at the Roman Centro Sperimentale between 1988 and 2013. Yet, he always remained a modest man, who kept his small working room at the film school, where he would be many hours before colleague and students would enter.

In 2004 I was invited to his home in Prati for a lengthy interview, for the research for my book on Visconti. But Rotunno’s pre-Visconti life was just as, if not more interesting, as he told more and more about his experiences during the war years. Incredible adventures and tragedy. Time flew by, so we decided to do a second meeting – which didn’t occur. I still cherish this interview, which should be published in English or Italian by a journal. Anyway, I never forget the anecdote Caterina D’Amico told me. A lavish book had been made by her on photos made as study material in Basilicata, when Visconti and his crew considered to include a prologue to the story of the Southern migrants settling in modern Milan in Rocco and his Brothers. Nobody could identify the name of the photographer. It was only after the book had come out, and Caterina told him she was sorry she didn’t manage, that he calmly told her he had been the author of the photographs. He didn’t want to make any fuss about it. That was Peppinno Rotunno, the modest maestro.

Research grant NIAS

•December 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment
La madre (Giuseppe Sterni, 1917). Collection EYE Filmmuseum.

Yesterday, I got the wonderful that my application to become Fellow of the prestigious Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) was honored, and this despite fierce competition (even more so than in previous years). This means I will get a teaching replacement subsidy for the time span between early September 2021 and late January 2022, enabling me to write the manuscript of my upcoming monograph on Italian silent cinema, within a cross-medial and transnational perspective. As my university doesn’t know official sabbaticals, this was the chance of lifetime (o.k., career time) to get leave for research and do something more substantial than an article or a book chapter. Italian silent cinema has been my specialism for decades, as expressed in numerous conference papers, workshops, network organizations, and publications. So after my two monographs Jean Desmet and the Early Dutch Film Trade (2003) and Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art (2018), the publication of many single articles, and the editing of several special issues for the Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis (Journal for Media History), it is now time for my third monograph.

Lúcia Nagib & Ossessione

•December 7, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Massimo Girotti as Gino in Ossessione (Luchino Visconti, 1943)

Lúcia Nagib generously has put on Researchgate her entire new book Realist Cinema as World Cinema: Non-cinema, Intermedial Passages, Total Cinema (2020). This wonderful book includes a very intriguing and innovative chapter on Luchino Visconti’s film Ossessione (1943) in which she also makes extensive references to my book Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art (2018), as well as my article on the film Tosca (Jean Renoir/ Carl Koch, 1939-1941), ‘Unaffectedness and Rare Eurythmics: Carl Koch, Jean Renoir, Luchino Visconti and the Production of Tosca (1939/41)’, in The Italianist, Vol. 37, 2, 2017, 149-175. Much obliged, and seriously recommended reading.

Review of Cinefest 2020

•November 24, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Cover of the catalog

Last Sunday we finished our cinefest Kino, Krieg und Tulpen. Deutsch-niederländische Filmbeziehungen(13-22 November), as well as our three-day (20-22 November) – intense but very gratifying – Zoom conference.

It’s almost a miracle we’ve managed to realize it all, despite corona. A few weeks ago, when Germany closed down all cinemas including the Hamburg Metropolis Kino, and international travel basically became impossible, we had to change overnight to an alternative version. As digitization at the EYE Filmmuseum is ahead of the German archives, and a group of 1930s Dutch films mostly made with collaboration of German migrant directors and crew members was available to be put online without rights problems, we were saved by the bell – apart from all the extra labor on speedy translations in English or German added to the films. See e.g. films with English subtitles such as Pygmalion (1937) by Ludwig Berger, Boefje (1939) by Douglas Sirk, or Dood Water (1934) by Gerard Rutten, or with German subtitles, De Kribbebijter (1935) by Henry Koster. We also filmed ourselves for short introductions, now available on the Cinefest website. And the good news is that most of these films will remain online, on EYE’s playlist on YouTube. In addition, EYE has also put online a nice selection of rare early German fiction and nonfiction films from EYE’s Desmet Collection, including exiting pursuits by Joseph Delmont for the company Eiko: either at the wastelands of Berlin [my guess], or through the streets, alleys, and canals of Rotterdam [which before the war was a canal town like Amsterdam]. Also memorable is Delmont’s trip to the archaic, picturesque village of Marken for his film Auf einsamer Insel (1913), for which even a local boat was bought and burned.

The Dutch 17th century according to the DEFA: Zar und Zimmermann (Hans Müller, 1956)

At the conference I gave a keynote on a panoramic overview of our conference program on the one hand, and a historiographic overview of research and publications on German-Dutch film relationships since the 1980s, with the 1982 manifestation and volume Berlin-Amsterdam 1920-1940 as key reference point. I was therefore most obliged the thriving force behind manifestation and book, Kathinka Dittrich, was present herself. All in all, we were in good company with avant-garde experts such as Thomas Tode and Anke Steinborn, film music expert Timur Sijaric, resistance films expert Tobias Temming, scholars bridging (aesthetic and gender) theory and history when researching Dutch documentary, we had socio-economic approaches of Dutch UFA-cinemas and German newsreels depicting the Netherlands, biographical portraits of actors, directors and producers, and so on. Among our attendees were respected scholars such as Tim Bergfelder, Jan-Christopher Horak, and Christian Rogowski, while panel leaders were e.g. Hans-Michael Bock, Andreas Thein, and last but not least Jan Distelmeyer, whose students had made the wonderful teaser and trailer for the festival and who were present too.

The wonderful, lavishly illustrated and well informed catalog can still be obtained for little money (see Cinefest website). It gives a hint about the original program we hope to show next Spring onsite at the Metropolis Kino in Hamburg.

Cover of the – voluminous – volume accompanying the manifestation
Berlin-Amsterdam 1920-1940 (1982).

Magnum opus on the history of German documentary now online

•September 10, 2020 • Leave a Comment
Poster for Die Nibelungen, Part I. Siegfried (Fritz Lang, 1924). Collection EYE Filmmuseum.

The three-part volume Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland 1895-1945 (Reclam Verlag, 2005), edited by Kay Hoffmann a.o., can now be consulted online on the site of the University of Marburg. It will also be available on the digital platforms and Part 1 of the volume, edited by Martin Loiperdinger and Uli Jung, includes my article on espionage and propaganda in the Netherlands during the First World War: Exkurs: Spionage und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Das Beispiel Niederlande. For the research for this article I owe a big thank you to Martin Loiperdinger. If you want to know what dragon slayer Siegfried has to do with a volume on documentary, please read my text. During WWI, German Intelligence predicted that Dutch audiences were rather susceptible to this kind of German imagery than to blunt nonfiction. Lang’s film would indeed be a huge Dutch success.

L’Innocente on Blu-ray

•July 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Innocente 01

L’innocente. The confrontation of the rivals, scene shot at Palazzo Colonna, Rome.                          Photo by Mario Tursi. Print from my own collection.

Film Movement Classics has recently released the first American Blu-ray of Luchino Visconti’s film L’innocente/ The Innocent (1976), starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill. One of the bonuses is a video essay with my voice over, based on my book Reframing Luchino Visconti: Film and Art (2018). If you want to know more about my book, see the book trailer, the publisher’s site, my earlier post on the Open Access version of the book, a blogpost I wrote for my department, and the general page on my Visconti research on this site.

Call for Papers: Conference on German-Dutch Film Relations (Nov. 2020)

•April 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Call for papers for our conference in November on Dutch-German film relationships: Cinema, War, and Tulips: German-Dutch Film Relations. 33rd International Film Historical Conference, 18 – 21 November 2020, Hamburg…/2020/CFP_cf20-Kongress_engl.pdf

See also

Truus van Aalten als Volendamer Frau