Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Komedie om geld [restored by EYE Film Instituut Nederland]

Gli scherzi del denaro / The Trouble With Money. NL 1936. D: Max Ophüls. Story: Walter Schlee. SC: Walter Schlee, Max Ophüls, Alex de Haas. DP: Eugen Schüfftan. ED: Gérard Bensdorp.  AD: Heinz Fenschel, Theo Van der Lugt, Jan Wiegers. M: Max Tak. S: I. J. Citroen. C: Herman Bouber (Brand), Matthieu van Eysden (Ferdinand), Rini Otte (Willy), Cor Ruys (Moorman), Edwin Gubbins Doorenbos (Verteller). PC: Will Tuschinski-Cinetone. Premiere: 30 ottobre 1936. 35 mm. 81’. B&w. Restored by EYE Film Instituut Nederland. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). English subtitles, E-subtitles in Italian.

Peter von Bagh: “During his vagrant career in the 1930s Max Ophuls directed films not only in Germany and France but also in Italy and Holland (one film in each country). Komedie om Geld is the Dutch rarity, a film that hardly got any distribution but that has a place among a captivating little group of movies that seemed to challenge the Hollywood mode of narrative: Friedrich Feher’s The Robber Symphony, the Czech films of Voskovec and Werich, certain Soviet films, You and Me by Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill. Ophuls’ film was the greatest of this harvest, being clearly an outgrowth of Three Penny Opera tradition, and showing the director’s personal touch by including a ‘master of ceremonies’, like the memorable figures he created later for La Ronde and Lola Montès.

“The film has a poignant sense of locale (Amsterdam’s canals were filmed as only Eugen Schüfftan could) and at the same time a rare sense of universality, being all about the common denominator of money, although ironically. The story as such is a trifle: a modest man loses a briefcase and 50,000 florins and seems doomed socially. Yet the dramaturgical web born out of almost nothing – one of Ophuls’ beloved habits – grows into a complex vision of social roles, always deceptive, and the only certainty is money, that turns everybody into a thief. Ophuls gives that theme a creative angle as well: “It is never about money – it is about believing that there is money”. It was the golden decade of fakes and gigantic financial swindles, all that grotesque overkill born from the depths of social structures. Property is either (or both) illusion and theft, the social network is all a delusion. It’s a vision of capitalism with feet of clay, wisely witnessed from the point of view of a small decent people and a small country.” Peter von Bagh

AA: A witty, spirited satire, one of the rare purely Brechtian movies, with Verfremdung and entertainment. The satire about the financial world is entirely topical. "It's about making people believe that there is money", says the bank director who employs Brand believing he actually has stolen the 50.000 that he has lost from his bank runner's pouch. Brand's task is real estate developing, but problems start with his honest purpose to build affordable houses which are well built. The scene where he tests good and bad bricks, and the bad ones break to pieces, brings to mind Kurosawa's High and Low where the shoe king tests shoes. Brand gets wealthy, and that's when he starts to yell at his daughter. He hires a butler who is more refined than he is. "A good butler is like a bad radio. Switch it on, and he's silent." The camera movement is eloquent, and there is a deft use of the ellipse. An excellent restoration from EYE Film Instituut Nederland.

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