Friday, February 03, 2012

Out now: the Berlinale 2012 retrospective programme: The Red Dream Factory - the Mezhrabpomfilm / Prometheus story

"The Red Dream Factory", the inspired tribute to the Mezhrabpom and the Prometheus companies, must be one of the top retrospectives of the year. The following official introduction is from the homepage of the 62nd Berlinale (9-19 February, 2012):

The Retrospective “The Red Dream Factory” is the outcome of years of systematic research. It will present 44 films in 32 screenings - including rarities of whose condition little was known until recently. New prints of some of the films are being made available for the Retrospective by several archives: the German Federal Archives / Film Archives Department, the Deutsche Kinemathek, the Austrian Film Museum and the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive in Krasnogorsk. In cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek, the Austrian Film Museum will be presenting a new restoration of Fyodor Otsep’s adaptation of the Tolstoy drama Zhivoy trup (The Living Corpse, 1929) that is based on six different versions.

Internationally renowned musicians will be providing accompaniment for the many silent films in the Retrospective programme. Dutch silent film pianist and composer Maud Nelissen and British accompanist Stephen Horne have performed at previous Retrospectives. Canadian Gabriel Thibaudeau, who is in great demand as a composer, conductor and pianist, will be accompanying silent films at the Berlinale for the first time. Eunice Martins is well known to Berliners as the resident pianist of the Arsenal cinema, and to international audiences from many festivals.

The Retrospective film programme will be supplemented by a series of events at the Deutsche Kinemathek. This year’s theme will open with a talk moderated by Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective, with curators Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz. Alexander Schwarz will also be presenting his new documentary Die rote Traumfabrik, before it premieres on television, with Nina Goslar, who is responsible for the film at ARTE. Adelheid Heftberger, curator of the Vertov Collection of the Austrian Film Museum, will speak about the eventful history of Dziga Vertov’s only work for the “Red Dream Factory”, the often re-cut film Tri pesni o Lenine (Three Songs of Lenin). Two special events have been organized to give insight into the work of the Deutsche Kinemathek and are related to Studio Babelsberg’s 100th anniversary. For the complete programme of events go to: www.berlinale.de.

The extensive publication “Die rote Traumfabrik. Meschrabpom-Film und Prometheus 1921-1936”, which Bertz + Fischer are publishing for the Berlinale, provides further material about the Retrospective. As the first monograph in German about this legendary German-Russian cinematic experiment, the book, edited by Günter Agde and Alexander Schwarz, compiles essays by Russian and German authors on the history and aesthetics of the films. These essays are supplemented by historical documents, previously unpublished photos, contemporary avant-garde film posters, and a complete filmography.

Retrospective 2012: The Red Dream Factory

The Retrospective of the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival has rediscovered a legendary German-Russian film studio: Mezhrabpom-Film and its German branch Prometheus wrote film history from 1922 to 1936.

Moisei Aleinikov, a Russian film expert and producer from tsarist times who had a great instinct for the right topics, and Willi Münzenberg, a German communist and “red media entrepreneur”, joined forces in 1922 to combine clever business ideas, a political mission and boundless enthusiasm for new cinematic narratives. And so the film studio Mezhrabpom-Rus (later called Mezhrabpom-Film), a unique German-Russian film venture, was set up in Moscow, with headquarters in Berlin.

After producing some 600 films, this international experiment was brutally ended eleven and fourteen years later by Hitler’s and Stalin’s regimes. Entitled “The Red Dream Factory”, the Retrospective of the 2012 Berlinale will be dedicated to this studio rediscovered in Russian archives.

The Retrospective will present some 30 programmes made up of over 40 silent and sound films. The silent films will all be accompanied by live music performed by renowned artists. The film programme will be accompanied by discussions and events at the Deutsche Kinemathek. Berlin’s Bertz + Fischer will also be publishing a book for the Retrospective. In it, German and Russian authors will illuminate the development of the studio and the aesthetics of the films that were produced there.

In cooperation with Arte / ZDF, the Berlinale presents Sergei Eisenstein’s classic Oktjabr (October, 1928). The film about the revolution in October of 1917 has written film history, particularly due to its crowd scenes. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra will accompany the screening on February 10th, 2012 at the Friedrichstadt-Palast with the original, reconstructed soundtrack by composer Edmund Meisel.

Berlinale Special Gala
Oktjabr / Oktober. D: Sergej M. Eisenstein. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. C: Vasili Nikandrov, Vladimir Popov, Boris Livanov, Nikolaj Podvojskij, Eduard Tissé. Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Dirigent: Frank Strobel. 116'. Commissioned by the CPSU, Eisenstein’s depiction of the October Revolution was criticised for its lack of emotion and withdrawn from distribution after its premiere. This HD version features a re-recording of Edmund Meisel’s mechanical-sounding score.

Schachmatnaja gorjatschka / Chess Fever | Schachfieber. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Nikolai Schpikowski. USSR 1925. English Intertitles. C: Wladimir Fogel, Anna Semzowa, Natalja Glan. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 27'. An amusing chamber-drama about a chess fanatic and his lover. The interaction between historical protagonists and famous actors creates an entertaining pot-pourri of reality and fiction.

Prasdnik Swjatowo Jorgena / St. Jorgen's Day | Das Fest des heiligen Jürgen. D: Jakow Protasanow. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. C: Anatoli Ktorow, Igor Iljinski, Michail Klimow. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 92'. A satirical film rich in anti-religious signals and ironic attacks on the clergy, its managers and their beneficiaries. Although this comedy may well have adopted a political line, it also managed to deliver a surfeit of entertaining cinema.

Solotoje osero / The Golden Lake | Kampf um Gold. D: Wladimir Schnejderow. USSR 1935. C: Iwan Nowoselzew, W. Tolstowa, Andrej Fait. 83'. An expedition-cum-action-film made for the cinema, complete with ethnographic information on the distant Altai Mountains, their inhabitants, and their minerals, which the Soviet Union urgently needs.

Potomok Tschingis-chana / Storm over Asia | Sturm über Asien. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin. USSR 1929. C: Waleri Inkischinjow, Lew Dedinzew, L. Belinskaja. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 127'. Expressive images of the transformation of an exotic character, presented as an ethnographic fairy tale. Or: how a wounded Mongolian mobilises his sense of justice, fights, kills and becomes a revolutionary.

Zeitprobleme. Wie der Arbeiter wohnt / Problems of Our Time. How the Worker Lives. D: Slatan Dudow. Germany 1930. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 17'. This 12-minute film shows the insurmountable contrasts in Berlin around 1930: poor living conditions in the city, which has over a million inhabitants, and the merciless treatment of the poorest of the poor by the house owners.

Im Schatten der Weltstadt / In the Shadows of Metropolis. D: Albrecht Viktor Blum. Germany 1930. German Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 16'. The director, Albrecht Viktor Blum, pieces together documentary film material taken by other camera-people to create new and frequently shocking contexts of meaning – a surprising look at the dark sides of the city of Berlin in 1930.

Um's tägliche Brot / For Our Daily Bread. D: Phil Jutzi. Germany 1929. German Intertitles, English Intertitles. C: Sybille Schloß, Holmes Zimmermann. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 61'. A strict reportage and a document from the Silesian coal basin: focusing solely on the everyday lives and work of the miners around 1929. An indictment as befitting the workers’ relief organisation Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (IAH).

Gibel sensazii / Loss of the Sensation | Der Untergang der Sensation. D: Aleksandr Andrijewski. USSR 1935. C: Sergej Wetscheslow, Wladimir Gardin, Marija Wolgina. 90'. Robots as tireless workhorses animals and fighting machines. Yet not in Hollywood, but in a Russian sound picture made in 1935.

Dewuschka s korobkoi / The Girl with the Hat Box | Moskau wie es weint und lacht. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1927. C: Anna Sten, Wladimir Michajlow, Wladimir Fogel. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 99'. Money and appearances: deviously acquired living space and a lottery ticket create a variety of amusing complications. On its release, Barnet's comedy about finding good fortune in a big city was a big hit with audiences in Moscow and Berlin.

Slutschajnaja wstretscha / Accidental Meeting | Zufällige Begegnung. D: Igor Sawtschenko. USSR 1936. C: Jewgeni Samoilow, Galina Paschkowa, Walentina Iwaschjowa. 64'. A collective combine as a workers' paradise – with sport, fun and lots of singing. Irina, the popular blonde forewoman, succeeds in everything. Until she falls in love with her trainer! Socialist realism: this time as a musical melodrama.

Aelita / Aelita - Der Flug zum Mars. D: Jakow Protasanow. USSR 1924. C: Julija Solnzewa, Walentina Kuindschi, Nikolai Zereteli. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 101'. A fantastic excursion to Mars, in which the futuristic technical dream of the flight itself is of merely marginal interest. Only four years after the October Revolution, the film-makers were searching for a new utopia.

Putjowka w schisn / The Road to Life | Der Weg ins Leben. D: Nikolai Ekk. USSR 1931. C: Nikolai Batalow, Iywan Kyrlja, Michail Dschagofarow. 104'. An idea is made into a film: the education of the “new human being” through work is demonstrated on a homeless group of young Moscovites, commanded by a resolute instructor. The first Soviet sound-film.

Ledolom / Thaw | Eisgang. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1931. Russian Intertitles. C: Wera Marinitsch, Aleksandr Schukow, Anton Martynow. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 65'. Village life is bloodily torn apart because the Soviet state wants to enforce collectivisation. An angry film, rich in imagery. A complete surprise from the master of friendly films, Boris Barnet.

Okraina / Outskirts | Vorstadt. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1933/65. Russian, German. C: Sergej Komarow, Jelena Kusmina, Robert Erdmann. 96'. How does war affect peaceful people? What happens when they have had enough of the trenches, poverty and oppression? Barnet describes provincial village life in detail, using “poetic montages”. Then the Russians and the Germans join forces and revolt.

Artek. D: Fjodor Proworow, Wladimir Nesterow. USSR 1936. 24'. A paradise for small Soviets: Artek, a famous holiday camp in the Crimea, is a great resort, and an elite training centre for a new generation of Communists. A rare document of the Stalinist approach to training young people to become new human beings.

Pesn o gerojach / Songs of Heroes (Komsomol) | Komsomol. D: Joris Ivens. USSR 1933. Russian. 50'. A documentary symphony on industrialisation and the heroic work of the Komsomol – commissioned by the Soviets and spectacularly filmed by Joris Ivens. The music was performed by the collective combine in Magnitogorsk, in co-operation with Hanns Eisler.

Schiwoi trup / The Living Corpse | Der lebende Leichnam. D: Fjodor Ozep. Germany, USSR 1929. German Intertitles. C: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Maria Jacobini, Viola Garden. Musik-Illustration / Score by Werner Schmidt-Boelcke (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 1988). 121'. A man, his wife and her lover – but divorce is impossible. In their conflict with the church and the state, they face an agonising solution. An early socially critical co-production, in which pre-revolutionary melodrama encounters montage in Soviet film.

Katok / Skating Rink | Eisbahn. D: Juri Scheljabuschski. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 6'. Animation. A matchstick man wants to dance, run and float – lightly and elegantly – in the skating rink. An entertaining little film, witty and a fast moving, produced at the young Mezhrabpom-Film cartoon-film workshop: free from advertisements or ideology.

Prikljutschenija kitajtschat / Adventures of the Little Chinese | Die Abenteuer der kleinen Chinesen. D: Margarita Benderskaja. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 18'. Animation. In puppets’ faces, the eyes – rolling this way and that – are a prime means of expression. This film tells story of two Chinese children who seek a land in which the “poor people are free”. They find it (of course) in the Soviet Union.

Budem sorki / Let's Be Attentive! | Seid wachsam!. D: Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 10'. Animation. One of the creative domains for the special-effects people at Mezhrabpom-Film involved linking montages, facsimiles and simple line drawings with real scenes. With these means, as well as humour, the film promoted subscriptions to state-bank bonds.

Blek end uait / Black and White. D: Leonid Amalrik, Iwan Iwanow-Wano. USSR 1932. Russian. 7'. Animation. The class struggle pure: black slaves against white oppressors. The propagandistic appeal at the end of the film obeys the logic of the cartoon-film fable: the oppressed ought to seek international solidarity – and contact the Comintern immediately.

Skaska o slom medwede, kowarnom lise i wesjolom pastuche / Fairytale of the Evil Bear, the Spiteful Fox and the Cheerful Shepherd | Märchen vom bösen Bären, dem tückischen Fuchs und dem fröhlichen Hirten. D: Dmitri Babitschenko, Aleksandr Bergengrin. USSR 1936. Russian. 9'. Animation. A promotional film à la Mezhrabpom-Film 1936: a peasant boy is good with anthropomorphised domestic animals, which grow and thrive. But only the best specimens will be presented at the exhibition of breeds, which is due to open soon.

Senka-afrikanez / Senka the African | Senka, der Afrikaner. D: Daniil Tscherkes, Juri Merkulow. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 27'. In dreams, everything is possible: even flying to faraway continents and playing with wild animals and fabulous creatures. Real films and cartoon films are brilliantly combined – and the animation artists have splendid ideas and quickly realise them.

Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt? / Kuhle Wampe or Who Owns the World?. D: Slatan Dudow. Germany, Switzerland 1932. C: Hertha Thiele, Ernst Busch, Martha Wolter. 69'. Unadorned histories of families, unemployed people, a pregnant girl, a mass sports protest by Berlin workers – grouped around a permanent camp-site in the countryside at Berlin’s Mueggelsee lake.

Wosstanije rybakow / Revolt of the Fishermen | Aufstand der Fischer. D: Erwin Piscator, Michail Doller. USSR 1934/35. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksej Diki, Dmitri Konsowski, Nikolai Gladkow. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 60'. When deep-sea fishermen struggle to earn more money for their catch... Visual material showing fierce social conflicts was part of Mezhrabpom-Film’s programme, especially when these could be staged with expressive imagery.

Miss Mend (1). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 93'. A brilliant starting point: three adroit reporters are hunting for sensations. And a fundamental decision is taken by the studio: the first three-part series to be shown in Soviet cinemas, each telling exciting full-length fables.

Miss Mend (2). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 96'

Miss Mend (3). D: Fjodor Ozep, Boris Barnet. USSR 1926. Russian Intertitles. C: Natalja Glan, Igor Iljinski, Wladimir Fogel, Boris Barnet. Piano: Eunice Martins. 77'

Dwa okeana / Two Oceans | Zwei Ozeane. D: Wladimir Schnejderow, Jakow Kuper. USSR 1933. Russian. 65'. Documentary. An epoch-making documentary about a pioneering achievement: the ice-breaker Sibiryakov is the first ship to complete the voyage along the North-West Passage: from the Arctic Ocean to the Pacific. Vladimir Shneyderov is on board with his sound camera!

Wintik-schpintik / Little Screw | Die streikende Schraube. D: Wladislaw Twardowski. USSR 1927/30. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Eunice Martins. 6'. Animation. When just one little screw is missing... or: little causes, dramatic effects. Lively drawings and bold animations turn vast machines in a factory into mobile monsters that become autonomous and lead lives of their own.

Bronenosez Potjomkin / Battleship Potemkin | Panzerkreuzer Potemkin. D: Sergej Eisenstein. USSR 1925. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksandr Antonow, Nikolai Lewtschenko, Grigori Aleksandrow. Komposition / Score by Edmund Meisel (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 2005). Rating R12. 73'. The most famous and still most appealing film of early Soviet cinematography. It has continued to exert a powerful appeal ever since it was first released in 1925. A sailor’s revolt as a media event.

Dom na Trubnoi / The House on Trubnaya | Das Haus in der Trubnaja-Straße. D: Boris Barnet. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. C: Wera Marezkaja, Wladimir Fogel, Jelena Tjapkina. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 86'. What a madhouse! In Moscow, Parasha, a “country girl” is caught up in bustle of city life. The poverty of the little people, grand entrances, confusion, shouting and modest tones. A socially critical comedy bearing the inimitable stamp of Boris Barnet.

Gorisont / Horizon | Horizont. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1933. Russian. C: Nikolai Batalow, Jelena Kusmina, Michail Doronin. 102'. The emigration and re-migration of an irrepressibly optimistic child of nature. And an example of the career of a man whose wishes cannot be fulfilled and who, as a consequence, has to content himself with his own company.

Odna is mnogich / One of Many | Eine von vielen. D: Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 16'. Animation. A convincing combination of real scenes and cartoon sequences: the dream of a turbulent kidnapping – ending up in the glittering world of Hollywood and a rude awakening. The film pokes fun at the mass enthusiasm for Hollywood stars.

Pozelui Meri Pikford / The Kiss of Mary Pickford | Moskau glaubt den Tränen nicht. D: Sergej Komarow. USSR 1927. Ukranian Intertitles. C: Igor Iljinski, Anel Sudakewitsch, Mary Pickford. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 79'. A highly gifted Russian comedian, a romance with a discriminating film-enthusiast, some dangerous stunts, and real American movie stars – Sergei Komarov combines all these ingredients to create an easy-going comedy about the star cult and film-making.

Grosny Wawila i tjotka Arina / Terrible Vavila and Auntie Arina | Der schreckliche Wawila und Tante Arina. D: Olga Chodatajewa, Nikolai Chodatajew. USSR 1928. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 7'. Animation. Women’s Day in the Soviet Union. An official holiday throughout the country. The cartoon film, which adopts the stylistic means of a Russian fairy tale, makes fun of the way men and women come to terms with one another. But nobody really wins.

Proryw! / The Backlog! | Der Rückstand!. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 14'. Documentary. Down with idling and failing to meet the plan! Down with backlogs – long live the Stakhanovites! With these phrases in mind, Kuleshov made this little agitfilm in record time. Simplistic at times, it nevertheless contains some startling metaphors.

Sorok serdez / Forty Hearts | Vierzig Herzen. D: Lew Kuleschow. USSR 1931. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. 56'. Documentary. The new power stations are beating like hearts to the pulse of modernisation. At huge expense and effort, the Soviet Union is rapidly industrialised. Kuleshov's rediscovered educational film is also a hymn to the wonder of electrical energy.

Rwanyje baschmaki / Torn Shoes | Zerrissene Stiefelchen. D: Margarita Barskaja. USSR 1933. Russian. C: Michail Klimow, Iwan Nowoselzew, Anna Tschekulajewa. 84'. A moving children’s film and a stirring performance by the 30-year-old woman director. It paints a crude and very one-sided picture of Germany in the early 1930s. All its sympathy lies with the children, however...

Jenseits der Straße / Harbour Drift. D: Leo Mittler. Germany 1929. German Intertitles. C: Lissy Arna, Paul Rehkopf, Fritz Genschow. Piano: Maud Nelissen. 94'. A beggar, a prostitute and an unemployed man are entangled in deadly conflicts over a pearl necklace – it is their escape from poverty. A masterpiece of the proletarian cinema by Leo Mittler. Now being shown in its entirety again for the first time.

Tri pesni o Lenine / Three Songs of Lenin (1938 silent version) | Drei Lieder über Lenin (stumme Fassung von 1938). D: Dsiga Wertow. USSR 1935/38. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 54'. Across the country, the hero is mourned and celebrated. On the 10th anniversary, the enfant terrible of Soviet cinema, Dziga Vertov, creates a hymn to Lenin. Stalin is standing before the mausoleum. A milestone in the history of sound documentary film.

Konez Sankt-Peterburga / The End of St. Petersburg | Das Ende von Sankt Petersburg. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin, Michail Doller. USSR 1927. Russian Intertitles. C: Aleksandr Tschistjakow, Wera Baranowskaja, Iwan Tschuweljew. Piano: Stephen Horne. 77'. What makes someone a revolutionary? Ivan, a villager, embarks on a long journey involving a steel factory, strikes, prison, deployment on the front and, finally, the Winter Palace. This classic on the Revolution made Pudovkin, the director, world famous.

Pjatiletije sowjetskoi Rossii / Five Years of Soviet Russia | Fünf Jahre Sowjetrussland. USSR 1922. German Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 45'. Documentary. This film, commissioned by the Workers International Relief, was one of the first films from and about the Soviet Union to be shown in Germany after the war. An early jubilee film, with shots of old Moscow, Leon Trotsky, and parades on the Red Square.

Drugaja schisn / The New Life | Das andere Leben. D: Juri Scheljabuschski, Aleksej Dmitriew. USSR 1930. Russian Intertitles. Piano: Stephen Horne. 72'. Documentary. Fuelled by oil, modernity is coming to the Steppes. Blessed by nationalised black gold, the Soviet state of Azerbaijan is flourishing. Film director Zhelyabuzhsky presents modern Baku and its inhabitants as the boom town of the East.

Potomok Tschingis-chana / Storm Over Asia | Sturm über Asien. D: Wsewolod Pudowkin. USSR 1929. Russian Intertitles. C: Waleri Inkischinjow, Lew Dedinzew, L. Belinskaja. Komposition / Score by Bernd Schultheis (Aufnahme von / Recorded in 2008). 127'. Expressive images of the transformation of an exotic character, presented as an ethnographic fairy tale. Or: how a wounded Mongolian mobilises his sense of justice, fights, kills and becomes a revolutionary.

Tri pesni o Lenine / Three Songs of Lenin (1970 sound version) | Drei Lieder über Lenin (Tonfassung von 1970). D: Dsiga Wertow. USSR 1934/38/70. Russian. 62'. Documentary. Across the country, the hero is mourned and celebrated. On the 10th anniversary, the enfant terrible of Soviet cinema, Dziga Vertov, creates a hymn to Lenin. Stalin is standing before the mausoleum. A milestone in the history of sound documentary film.

Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück / Mother Krause's Journey to Happiness. D: Phil Jutzi. Germany 1929. German Intertitles. C: Alexandra Schmitt, Holmes Zimmermann, Ilse Trautschold. Piano: Stephen Horne. 119'. Such a concentration of poverty, the little joys in life, and people squeezed in such little space – how long can it last? A well-known drama of proletarian life in Berlin, based on motifs taken from Heinrich Zille. A classic of German left-wing cinema.

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