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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

REVERSE SHOT: REBELLION OF THE FILMMAKERS

By: D.E. Levine

Directors: Laurens Straub and Dominik Wessely
Producer: Raimefr Koelmel
Cast: Contains interviews and archival footage with Rudol Augstein, Heinz Badewitz, Hark Bohm, Uwe Brandner, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Michael Fengler, Veith von Furstenberg, Hans W. Geissendoerfer, Peter Handke, Irm Hermann, Werner Herzog, Alexander Kluge, Peter Lilienthal, Tom Luddy, Margaret Menegoz, Lynda Myles, Hans Noever, Thomas Schamon, Peter Sickert, Laurens Straub, Dan Talbot, Luggi Waldleitner, Wim Wenders
Country of Origin: Germany
Genre: Documentary
Running Time: 127 Minutes
Language: German, English and French with English subtitles

Shown at the Berlin, Melbourne and Montreal Film Festivals in 2008 this film is a selection being shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Kino! at Thirty: New Cinema From Germany. Check listings at www.moma.org for screenings.

This is a fascinating film that looks at the co-operative artists collective Filmverlag der Autoren, a 1970s film production and distribution group whose members included some of the most famous modern German directors and producers in history.

The Collective began as an idea in mid-1960s Munich, went hand in hand with the development of the New German Cinema movement of the 1970s, and finally closed in 1977. By combining archive footage of Wim Wenders with film specific interviews with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog, the viewer gets a realistic idea of how the idea grew into an actual organization. According to the interviewees there was a hard and fast rule that for every film produced and distributed by the Filmvertag, the director automatically got 50% and the remaining 50% was split among the other members. It was a simple formula, but in the end, it failed to make them financially successful.

Numerous interviews focus on the co-op's development, it's peak in 1971-1977 and kits denouement. New Yorker Films purveyor Dan Talbot is interviewed regarding the impact the Filmverlag releases had on him when he first viewed them and remembers he was so astonished by them that he bought them "like they were rugs", buying 11 instead of the 1 he had planned.

Amazingly, all the members of the Filmverlag became produced important films although some became more famous than others. Hans W. Geissendoerfer is interviewed recently wondering why he never achieved the career success that some of the others enjoyed. Werner Herzog, who has become a household word, claims "The entirety of what I am is my films."

It's interesting and amusing to see these well-known and respected "old men" in 1970s interviews where they were young, thin, and dressed in flashy outfits. They also received numerous awards, for their technical cinematic look that was unique to New German Cinema. In one clip Fassbinder, Wenders and Herzog were on stage together receiving awards and making history.

Twenty films are sampled in film clips including Fleischmann's "Herbst der Gammler", Geissendoerfer's "The Magic Mountain", "Stroszek", "Ali: Fear Eats the Soul", and "The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick".

Also interspersed is rare and priceless amateur footage of the Filmverlag members, relaxing, fooling around, giving early interviews, and reminiscing about their youthful experiences.

The film is a serious feast for fans and followers of the New German Cinema.