Friday, October 12, 2012

Die freudlose Gasse / The Joyless Street (2012 print of the Filmmuseum München 1989-2009 restoration)

L’ammaliatrice / Street of Sorrows (Sofar-Film-Produktion GmbH, DE 1925).
    D: G. W. Pabst; P: Michael Salkind, Romain Pinès, G. W. Pabst, Mark Sorkin; SC: Willy Haas, based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer; ED: Mark Sorkin, G. W. Pabst; DP: Guido Seeber, Curt Oertel, Walter Robert Lach; AD: Hans Sohnle, Otto Erdmann;
    C: Asta Nielsen (Maria Lechner), Greta Garbo (Grete Rumfort), Gräfin [Countess], Agnes Esterhazy (Regina Rosenow), Werner Krauß (butcher), Henry Stuart (Egon Stirner), Einar Hanson (Lieutenant Davis, US Army), Grigori Chmara (waiter), Karl Etlinger (General Director Rosenow), Ilka Grüning (his wife), Jaro Fürth (Councillor Rumfort), Robert Garrison (Ganez), Tamara Tolstoi (Lia Leid), Valeska Gert (Frau Greifer), Hertha von Walther (Else), Mario Cusmich (Col. Irving, US Army), Max Kohlhase (Maria’s father), Silvia Torf (Maria’s mother), Alexander Mursky (Dr. Leid, a lawyer), Gräfin [Countess] Tolstoi (Fräulein Henriette), Edna Markstein (Frau Merkl), Otto Reinwald (Else’s husband), M. Raskatoff (Trebitsch), Kraft Raschig (American soldier), Loni Nest (Miriandl Rumfort)
    Première: 18.5.1925 (Berlin); 35 mm, 3270 m, 150' (19 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet method); print source: Filmmuseum München (printed 2012). Deutsche Zwischentitel.
    Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, 12 Oct 2012.

Restored version 1989-2009, this print 2012, first screening in Pordenone. The hand-tinting without splices to this print was performed by Synchro Film. Original length: 3738 m. There are still approximately 500 m / half an hour missing.

Nicholas Baer: "In an early scene of Georg Wilhelm Pabst’s Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street, 1925), a well-to-do woman suggests visiting the Viennese underworld while disguised in costume – “just like in the movies!” This self-reflexive line not only demonstrates Pabst’s awareness of his own cinematic construction of urban space; it also highlights the obliviousness of the city’s haute bourgeoisie, whose image of working-class quarters is filtered through sensationalist crime films. Acknowledging the crucial function of visual media in envisioning “how the other half lives”, Pabst’s film attempts to offer a verisimilar representation of both halves of Vienna during a period of economic polarization."

"The film initially juxtaposes Vienna’s two halves through parallel editing between an extravagant party at a luxury hotel and an extended line outside a butcher shop; abundance, gaiety, and gratification are counterposed to hunger, misery, and deferral. Pabst elaborates upon the city’s class dynamics and economic workings by establishing spatial hierarchies along vertical axes, by differentiating between affluent foreign speculators and struggling Viennese residents, and by revealing illicit affairs that occur behind respectable façades. Furthermore, through the inclusion of no fewer than 22 characters within four interwoven plot lines, The Joyless Street presents a veritable crosssection of a highly stratified Viennese society."

"In emphasizing the great disparity between rich and poor, The Joyless Street follows an aesthetic trajectory of films that deploy editing as a means of moral juxtaposition. In particular, Pabst’s film recalls D.W. Griffith’s A Corner in Wheat (1909), which likewise cross-cuts between a lavish banquet and an extended breadline, as well as his Isn’t Life Wonderful? (1924), which shows a long queue outside a butcher shop in inflation-era Berlin. Filmed contemporaneously with Griffith’s film, F.W. Murnau’s Der letzte Mann (The Last Laugh, 1924) similarly contrasts the destitute lives of German hotel attendants with the fortunes of American visitors."

"Set in 1921, The Joyless Street evokes the acute turmoil of the postwar years, when Austrians faced a disorienting and  disconcerting new sociopolitical reality. The 1919 Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye had stipulated the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into a new Republic of Austria, and the diminution of Austria’s territory and population, as well as the payment of large reparations for the Great War. Following this Treaty, long-standing political structures lost their bases, and traditional social hierarchies and distinctions were devalued."

"Like Germany, Hungary, and Poland, Austria underwent a period of hyperinflation in the early 1920s, with dramatic price increases and rapid depreciation of its currency. Though these countries’ national currencies stabilized by mid-decade, residents maintained a strong awareness of their economies’ precariousness and foreign dependency. Germany only found economic relief through the 1924 Dawes Plan, which reduced war reparation payments and provided American loans. The Joyless Street allegorizes such foreign aid, one might argue, in the form of two officers from the United States Army. The very production of Pabst’s film relied on forms of outside support and transnational exchange within this post-war “new world order”. The film was financed by Romain Pinès, a Russian Jew based in Paris, and produced by La Société des Films Artistiques, or “Sofar-Film” for short. Led by Russian-born Michael Salkind, this independent firm gave Pabst and his creative team a degree of autonomy otherwise unimaginable within an increasingly American-controlled German studio system."

"Written by Czech literary editor Willy Haas, The Joyless Street was based on a popular 1924 crime novel (originally serialized in Vienna’s Der Tag) by Austrian writer Hugo Bettauer. The film, Pabst’s third, was shot in Berlin during February and March of 1925, and premiered in the Berliner Mozartsaal on 18 May. The film features a multinational cast including veteran Danish movie star Asta Nielsen, German stage and film actor Werner Krauß, and German-Jewish dancer and cabaret artist Valeska Gert, as well as glamorous young Swedish actress Greta Garbo, who left for Hollywood later that year."

"Positioned at the cusp of Expressionism and New Objectivity, The Joyless Street can be associated with various cinematic genres, styles, and modes. Through its naturalist depiction of a working-class milieu and sustained interest in urban space, Pabst’s film reveals affinities with Weimar “street films” such as Karl Grune’s Die Straße (The Street, 1923) and Bruno Rahn’s Dirnentragödie (Tragedy of the Street, 1927). The film’s seedy locales, corrupt characters, and expressive lighting techniques also prefigure those of later film noirs made by German and Austrian directors in American exile. Finally, Pabst’s film aligns itself with melodrama or the “woman’s film” in identifying unmanageable social forces and highlighting women’s limited options under desperate circumstances."

"Indeed, like Pabst’s later Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box, 1929), The Joyless Street focuses especially on the circulation and circumscription of women during periods of crisis. The film emphasizes patterns of female display and objectification through the proliferation of windows, mirrors, mannequins, and tableaux vivants within the mise-en-scène. Moreover, recurring images of meat and fur coats evoke the dehumanizing situations into which women are forced, as well as their fetishization and reduction into pure physicality. Pabst’s film indicates that the status of women was particularly fraught with contradictions in the post-war years, when female agency was both a necessary means of survival and a source of masculine anxiety. During this period, an increasingly dispossessed and proletarianized middle class retained outmoded, constrictive, and even inimical bourgeois values. These values, the film suggests, were decisively at odds with the roles available to women, whose bodies served as objects of reliable exchange-value."

"Much as Ernst Bloch identified a temporal non-simultaneity (Ungleichzeitigkeit) resulting from the uneven rate of socioeconomic processes, Pabst’s film emphasizes the persistence of anachronistic social mores under new economic conditions. The film’s allusions to the Bible and to Dante’s “Gate of Hell” often gain ironic connotations in post-war, crisis-ridden Vienna. Furthermore, many of the film’s formal and stylistic devices – its multiple flashbacks, instances of reenactment, and slow-motion shots of Garbo – convey the sense that “time is out of joint”."

"Censored upon its release for its frank sexuality, brute violence, and inflammatory ending, The Joyless Street may itself have been untimely. Pabst’s film was twice shortened by the German censors, and other countries also trimmed, tweaked, or even banned the film on moral and political grounds. Recent decades have witnessed many reconstruction efforts, though it would now never be possible to establish with certainty a complete version as Pabst intended it. The Giornate is happy to be able to screen this premiere of the new restoration by Filmmuseum München and Filmarchiv Austria, done under the supervision of Stefan Drössler. Even with its abridgments and alterations, The Joyless Street remains rich, multifaceted, and resonant – especially in our own period of socioeconomic upheaval." NICHOLAS BAER

The Restoration

Stefan Drössler: "The Joyless Street was never a lost film, yet all extant copies are mere fragments, sometimes drastically changed and  mutilated due to censorship cuts and re-arrangements of scenes that aimed to defuse the film’s daring story of poverty, prostitution, financial speculation, and the ramifications and mastery of power. Unfortunately, no complete German version of the film survives. Without the first German censorship record, which documents all the film’s titles and would thus offer a reliable framework to arrange the sequence of scenes and the numerous shots within them, any reconstruction must remain merely a tentative approximation of the missing original."

"The surviving script of the film is so extensive that Pabst kept deviating from it, eliminating, combining, or rearranging many scenes. Thus, it is as unreliable as the film’s foreign versions, which all fall short of the film’s documented original release length. The exact circumstances of why, how, and by whom the various versions were created remain elusive. However, it is certain that titles were modified not only in translation but also out of necessity, to bridge narrative gaps caused by cuts and re-editing, or to invent new motivations for the plot. Even the sole surviving German censorship record from March 1926 represents a version already 200 metres shorter than the original length, and whether it still retained authentic titles remains unknown."

"In 1989 Enno Patalas created a first reconstruction of the film at Filmmuseum München. For the order of scenes and titles he entirely relied on the script, however with necessary modifications or edits to conform to the content and rhythm of the scenes at hand. A comparison of all extant nitrate copies of the film was the basis of the second restoration of the film, begun in 1995 under Jan-Christopher Horak and concluded in 1998. Due to the deplorable condition of extant materials, shots of the domestic A-negative had already been combined out of necessity with those from the export B-negative in the first restoration. This time, it was our goal to use material from only one of these sources, at least within each scene. Additionally, newly discovered shots from lost scenes – possibly outtakes – could be taken into consideration. Choosing the wording of titles, translations back to German from foreign prints were now preferred over phrases from the script. Since three of the available original copies were coloured, albeit differently, a colour concept was developed for the new version and implemented using the Desmet process."

"The version at hand was created by Filmmuseum München under my supervision for the 2009 DVD edition. For the first time, the graphic design of the titles, based on five original titles surviving in a fragment of the film, was taken into account. In creating the new titles, further scrutiny and correction of the phrasing was possible thanks to a contemporary souvenir programme, which was compared to the original script. Some instances of editing were also changed. The “happy ending” described in the script, which had been placed in the middle of Act 9 in the second reconstruction with rather little motivation, was moved back prior to the last scene of the burning house – although a conceivable reading of sources could also suggest placing it at the very end of the film. The new 35 mm print being premiered at the Giornate del Cinema Muto was prepared in collaboration with Filmarchiv Austria, and authentically tinted at Synchro Film, Vienna, allowing further improvement of the pictorial quality and colours." – STEFAN DRÖSSLER

AA: The first screening of this new colour print of the latest Munich restoration. There is a magnificent feeling of the epoch and the society. The epic, novelistic qualities of the movie are enhanced by the added details, as essential as in Erich von Stroheim's films. They are all part of a vital, organic, vibrant whole. From very challenging, often heavily battered and heartbreakingly duped sources (with even facial features sometimes lost) the Munich Film Museum has created a powerful reconstruction during many decades, now improved and providing the best version that has been available since the first run.

Resonant features this time, in the screening of the movie about the tragedies on Melchior Street: - the stock exchange speculation plotline - Agnes Esterhazy as Regina gives a performance stronger than the famous stars Asta Nielsen and Greta Garbo - the bordello madame (Valeska Gert) mentions that with moving images one can earn well - Viennese squalor offered as entertainment for tourists and rich people - first Regina has rejected the love of Egon because she is rich and he is poor, but when Regina, too, loses her wealth, they can connect - the US [Red Cross] Army soldier Davis (Einar Hanson) first believes that Grete Rumfort (Greta Garbo) is guilty of vice, squandering her means to "Glanz, Luxus, Sittenlosigkeit" - like in A Woman of Affairs screened the next day, Garbo is actually nobler than the others and a victim of misunderstanding - the young couple exhausted by hunger - the young mother committing a desperate deed with the butcher - the mobile camera following the young mother - their family perishing in the attic fire tinted red, the baby rescued in a bundle.

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