Friday, June 30, 2017

Das Glas Wasser (1960) / A Glass of Water

Das Glas Wasser (1960). Liselotte Pulver (Queen Anne), Horst Janson (Arthur Masham).

Lasi vettä / Ett glas vatten.
    Director: Helmut Käutner. Year: 1960. Country: Germania.
    Section: Watchful Dreamer: The Subversive Melancholia of Helmut Käutner.
    Sog.: dalla pièce Le Verre d’eau [1842] di Eugène Scribe. Scen.: Katja Fleischer, Helmut Käutner. F.: Günther Anders. M.: Klaus Dudenhöfer. Scgf.: Herbert Kirchhoff, Albrecht Becker. Mus.: Bernhard Eichhorn, Roland Sonder-Mahnken.
    Int.: Gustaf Gründgens (Sir Henry St. John), Liselotte Pulver (regina Anna), Hilde Krahl (duchessa di Marlborough), Sabine Sinjen (Abigail), Horst Janson (Arthur Masham), Rudolf Forster (marchese di Torcy), Hans Leibelt (il maggiordomo Thompson).
    Prod.: Georg Richter per Deutsche Film Hansa GmbH & Co. 35mm. D.: 84’. Col.
    Print with Swedish subtitles by Albert Wemmerlöw from Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet.
    Introduce: Olaf Möller.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Sala Scorsese, with e-subtitles in Italian and English by Sub-Ti, 30 June 2017.

Olaf Möller: "The world-wide success of Des Teufels General got Käutner a contract with Universal resulting in two Ross Hunter productions: The Restless Years (1958) and Stranger In My Arms (1959), both quite excellent and decidedly more personal than critics back then claimed. And yet, he was not happy in Hollywood. Legend has it that Käutner cancelled his contract when Hunter asked him to direct a western, which he considered a demotion. But what was the first project he tackled once back home? A Hunsrück Horse Operetta called Der Schinderhannes (Duel in the Forest, 1958)."

"All in all, Käutner spent only a year abroad – but that, in hindsight, was probably the most important year in post-war FRG film history. A changing of the guard took place in 1957-58, a young generation of critics as well as filmmakers with a different idea about what cinema should look, sound and feel like made their presence finally felt for real, not to mention that television by then had started to take away cinema’s erstwhile core audience."

"A lustrum on, the film culture Käutner knew would be gone. During those twilight years, he made some of his greatest works, of which Das Glas Wasser is formally the most dazzling, perplexing, eye-popping – let’s go out on a limb here and say that its radical sense of stylization combined with a bold use of colour make it look as if Minnelli and Suzuki had joined forces to do a ’90s Resnais film."

"In that it’s interesting to consider Das Glas Wasser in tandem with another 1960 FRG production, Peter Gorski’s Faust, not only because both feature Gustaf Gründgens in his only post-war screen appearances but also because they fuse film and theatre in a remarkably similar way – at a point in time when Tv was defined by a sparse, almost Spartan aesthetic close to the modern stage. Das Glas Wasser and Faust, with their stunning colour concepts and modernist set designs, seem to say that cinema can do this kind of stuff as well, but in a far more challenging, seductive fashion."
Olaf Möller

AA: Helmut Käutner was a man of the theatre, deeply reflective of the medium, and his film adaptation Das Glas Wasser is theatrical in a blatantly stylized way, flaunting its theatrical nature. Drawing on his experience in the revue format Käutner turned the play into a musical comedy and wrote witty lyrics to its numerous songs.

Eugène Scribe was a playwright who developed the pièce bien faite into an industry, producing hundreds of plays and libretti from a conveyor belt, engaging a trusted stable of talented co-authors, some of whom devised plots while others provided dialogue and jokes. Besides his libretti for Auber, Meyerbeer, Halévy, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Verdi, and the plays A Masked Ball, Fra Diavolo, and Adrienne Lecouvreur, A Glass of Water is one of his most famous works.

Scribe's was the kind of conventional theatre against which geniuses such as Strindberg and Chekhov fought, while others, including Ibsen and Miller, perhaps learned a lesson from him in drama construction.

Käutner's interpretation of the Baroque story, set during the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1715), is razor sharp. The main intriguer, Duchess of Marlborough (Hilde Krahl) is outwitted by the mastermind Bolingbroke (Gustaf Gründgens) while the young lovers, Queen Anne (Liselotte Pulver), Abigail (Sabine Sinjen), and Arthur Masham (Horst Janson) remain puppets in their game. The game is only about power.

The code expression "a glass of water", used in an unexpected way, provides an explosive turning-point in the comedy.

The Bologna audience in the packed cinema reacted to the brilliant repartee with immediate delight. Personally I was not in the right mood and felt an aversion to what seemed to me an over-polished quicksilver mentality. I was hoping for a moment to breathe in the relentlessly mercurial dialogue.

A complete vintage print with a good and full colour world.

No comments: