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Cinematheque presents Murnau
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Cinematheque Ontario, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, presents...

JOURNEYS INTO THE NIGHT: THE FILMS OF F. W. MURNAU

 

February 11 to March 3, 2005

For tickets, call: 416-968-FILM

  • "Murnau was a passionate lover of the mellifluously moving camera, a visionary, a mystic, a theoretician, a maker of ballads, creator of the most organically oppressive, lyric, innately mysterious movies in all cinema." - Scott Eyman
     

  • "My dearest master." - Eric Rohmer
     

  • "The most generally admired film-maker in the entire silent period." - Jean-Andrť Fieschi
     

  • "Considered by many scholars as the best German film director." - Peter Cowie
     

  • "The greatest film director the Germans have ever known. . . . He created the most overwhelming and poignant images in the whole of German cinema." - Lotte Eisner
     

  • "The greatest poet the screen has ever known. . . . The most magical director in the history of cinema." - Alexandre Astruc
     

  • The good die first,
    And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
    Burn to the socket. - William Wordsworth

Strange that a director long acknowledged as a giant in the history of film - "his influence on the cinema has proved to be more lasting than Eisensteinís," according to Andrew Sarris - should also be thought of as a "neglected master," as David Thomson and several others have characterized Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931). NOSFERATU, TABU, SUNRISE, and THE LAST LAUGH have long reigned in the pantheon of world cinema, but the rest of Murnauís oeuvre has been difficult to see, variously lost, scarce, or simply unshown. A decade or so ago, after the discovery and restoration of several films thought lost, a Murnau retrospective in a Paris art house drew thousands of young cinephiles who found what the Cahiers du cinťma critics of the preceding generation - Rohmer, Rivette, Godard, Bazin, Chabrol, Truffaut - had long proclaimed: Murnau was a supreme poet of the cinema, and not only SUNRISE, which the Cahiers critics had pronounced the greatest film ever made, and the long-celebrated NOSFERATU, but also FAUST, TABU, THE LAST LAUGH, and TARTUFFE, ranked with or even surpassed the masterpieces of their beloved Rossellini, Mizoguchi and Renoir. With his innovative visual style (which introduced devices later used by the French avant-garde, BuŮuel, and Godard) and his themes of endangered innocence and alienation from nature, sexual dread, romantic obsession, plague, Faustian pacts, and occult mysticism, Murnau suddenly emerged as a thrillingly modern artist. Simultaneous to this rediscovery, a burgeoning interest in Murnauís sexuality made his work a prime excavation site for a new generation of scholars and cultural theorists. The belated English translation of Lotte Eisnerís invaluable book on Murnau, Herzogís remake of NOSFERATU, the apotheosis of SUNRISE by a new generation of critics and filmmakers, and the ongoing restoration of his films by archives in Munich (especially), Madrid and elsewhere, all helped to revise, refine, and burnish Murnauís reputation. Cinematheque Ontario presented a full-scale though unheralded retrospective of Murnauís films seven years ago, but, inspired by the recent restoration of SUNRISE, the Murnau retrospective at Film Forum, and the Murnau dossier in Positif magazine, we return to this fount of the cinematic sublime.

"Real art is simple, but simplicity requires the greatest art." - F. W. Murnau

One of the most provocative Murnau critics, Jean-Andrť Fieschi, denounces the "manifest critical impotence" which for him has reduced the analysis of Murnauís cinema to a compendium of clichťs, and has turned the director into "the Poet of Mortality." Fieschi seems to suggest that the strange variances of Murnauís career render systematic analysis impossible, and dismisses as casual, crude, schematic, and superficial the traditional observations of most Murnau critics: "the triumphant mobility" of Murnauís camera (over which Marcel Carnť and countless other directors rhapsodized); the mysteriousness of his imagery and his unearthly rendering of the natural world; the painterly compositions and delicate use of light and shadow, derived from his studies in art history; his rhythmic editing, associated with his training in music; the legacy and transcendence of the influence of German Romanticism, Expressionism, Symbolism, and kammerspiel; the Nordic mystical inheritance from his superstitious family; the importance of his collaborators, particularly the great scenarist Carl Mayer; and so on. Fieschi offers instead a reading that focuses on space in Murnau - narrative space, formal space, and imaginary space. His is a complex, vexing analysis of Murnau that offers its own schemata and evasions (a primary one being Murnauís sexuality; see below). Fieschiís summary statement that "all Murnauís films should be read primarily as voyages into the imaginary" and that they all have "points of transit" into this imaginary realm demarcated in them is illuminating and useful.

As well as voyages into the imaginary, Murnauís tenebrous films are also "journeys into the night," as the title of Murnauís earliest extant film suggests. Despite the coerced happy endings of such films as THE LAST LAUGH and SUNRISE, Murnauís cinema most often inhabits the shadows and obscurities of his much famed chiaroscuro. (Only in TABU does full natural light seem the conduit of his mystical vision, but even here critics have commented on "the hostile and sinister quality [of] the idyllic settings" and on the filmís "interior world of psychic conflict" and its "enclosed cosmos" with its dim, ghostly boat and grim patriarch.) One can easily overstate the claustrophobia, morbidity, and menace in Murnauís work, especially if one concentrates on the early films and on the unnerving details of his "foretold" death in a car crash the week before TABUís premiere. (Again, Fieschiís point about glib generalization is well taken.) The lyricism and humour in his trio of masterpieces - SUNRISE, CITY GIRL, and TABU - and the comic elements in such films as THE HAUNTED CASTLE and TARTUFFE, all but repudiate this common rendition of Murnauís tone. (One thinks of Lotte Eisnerís comment: "As all his friends tell us, Murnau could be shy, sensitive, and melancholy. But he could also suddenly be as gay and mischievous as a schoolboy." And she meant gay in the old way. Perhaps.)
Along with the "points of transit" which Fieschi identifies, one also finds a formal element which distinguishes Murnauís films from first to last: spatial indeterminacy, which associates him with a contemporary who lived much longer and made films very different from his: Kenji Mizoguchi. Though Murnau has been compared to Ophuls (the love of camera movement and design), Vigo (stifled homoerotic poetry), Rossellini (see Rohmerís comparison of SUNRISE and VOYAGE TO ITALY), Pasolini (eclecticism, Third World nostalgia, and art historical references) and many others, his affinities with the Japanese master are most marked.

Sovereign among poets of the cinema, Mizoguchi and Murnau, though dissimilar in many ways, share a reputation for their turbulent, searching natures, their precision, arrogance and artistic ruthlessness (pity the actors they terrorized!); a forceful visual style based on highly composed space, painterly composition, and elegant, insistent camera movement that is never merely decorative; an emphasis on atmosphere, what the Germans call Stimmung (water, mist and the moon figure prominently, symbolically in both their worlds); scrupulous realism employed to conjure the uncanny and spectral (cf. NOSFERATU, UGETSU); a sense of fatalism, transience and ineffable beauty. Both directors worked closely with great cinematographers (e.g. Freund, Miyagawa) and are known for their long takes and "all-over," organic compositions which structure space to imply a connection to the world around and beyond the frame. Gilberto Perez Guillermo asserts: "Murnauís cinema . . . is primarily a cinema of empty space. . . . [S]pace becomes the central object. . . . Like Velasquez, Murnau looks past the foreground and into the background. Attention . . . is dispersed throughout the whole, throughout space." The same might be said about Mizoguchiís compositions, but where his style is "objective" and distinct, Murnauís, contrived to envelop and incorporate the viewer, is subjective and obscure. (Ironically, the Prussian perfectionist has a more flowing and indeterminate sense of framed space than does the Japanese genius, whose exquisite designs, with their dynamic diagonals and meticulously deployed objects, organize space as a charged but largely stable unity.)

To read this spatial precariousness, which is conspicuous in Murnauís late films, in psychological terms is perhaps dangerous - it verges on "biographical fallacy" - but is it too much to suggest that it reflects another aspect of Murnauís character: his homosexuality? Uncertainty and apprehension, ambiguity and foreboding - all qualities evoked by the "incompleteness" of Murnauís space - surely are applicable to an artist whose sexuality was reviled, forbidden, punishable. Lotte Eisner writes that Murnau "lived under the ominous shadow which the inhuman Paragraph 175 of the pre-1918 German Penal Code, lending itself to all the horrors of blackmail, cast over him and those like him." She also notes that when Hollywood heard of the handsome fourteen-year-old valet who, acting as chauffeur, drove Murnau to his death, "not many people had the courage to come and bid the great director a last farewell." (Among the brave dozen was Greta Garbo, who had his death mask made and kept it on her desk.) Robin Woodís readings of NOSFERATU and SUNRISE make apparent the degree to which this censure of Murnauís sexuality manifested itself in his work. Wood emphasizes how, like most of Murnauís films, both NOSFERATU and SUNRISE are about a couple threatened by a heinous alien - the vampire and the vamp, respectively - who is associated with darkness, fog, contagion or contamination, and animals (one a rat, the other a cat). These evil outsiders who prey on an idealized couple can easily be interpreted as expressions of Murnauís own repressed sexuality, the hated self made manifest. (In this regard, Wood has called SUNRISE "one of cinemaís most extreme acts of self-oppression.")

Murnauís homosexuality is apparent from his first film, the lost BOY IN BLUE (1919) which is based on the famous Gainsborough painting, through his version of FAUST (1926) with its asexual Gretchen and seductive young Faust, to his premature testament TABU (1931), with its portentous title and glistening male nudes. Eisner is surprisingly direct about Murnauís homosexuality, granting that his "natural predispositions were as decisive a factor in the subtlety of his art as in his premature death," where many critics have merely ignored the obvious, or treated it with coded distaste and histrionic evasiveness. Fieschi, who condemns most other Murnau critics for their oversights, evasions, and clichťs, manages only this tortuous equivocation: "The details of Murnauís life . . . add considerably to the perplexities aroused by the missing films, and much play is made of enigmatic and unspeakable hints, of anything attesting to parallels, or indeed a fusion, between the man and his work, which may thus be considered as the ghostly reflection of an anguished and unhealthy subjectivity, aristocratic and languishing in exile: ĎI am at home nowhere, in no house and in no country.í [Letter written to his mother from Tahiti. . .]." Fieschi cunningly uses code words of recoil to make them seem other than his own. (And well he should. Note how, as it often does, homophobic coding shares the lexicon of anti-Semitism: cosmopolitanism is invoked as evidence of Murnauís moral infirmity.)

John Grierson, the most damning of Murnauís few detractors, uses a similar code: "Murnau was a student product, a manipulator of artificial effects, a manager of exaggeration, introspective, perverse: an artist who never smelt an honest wind in his life." This would be amusing were it not so typical of the puritanical Grierson, whose cramped, reproachful aesthetic mistook verism for virility and the latter for virtue. The "honest winds" of Griersonís "art" blew a straight, bracing gale of North Atlantic rectitude through dozens of documentaries, where Murnauís miasmic mists (NOSFERATU, SUNRISE) and South Sea breezes fragrant with frangipani (TABU) carried hints of darkness, decay, and sensuality. Compare TABU with SEAWARDS THE GREAT SHIPS, and youíll know which wind blows honest or ill.

- James Quandt

Cinematheque Ontario gratefully acknowledges the following individuals and organizations who helped make this retrospective possible: Sabrina Kovatsch, Transit Film (Munich); Gary Palmucci, Kino International (New York); Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum (New York); Karen Kolb, Goethe Institut (Boston); Filmmuseum MŁnchen (Munich); Bundesarchiv - Filmarchiv (Berlin); Schawn Belston, 20th-Century Fox (Los Angeles); Amy Heller, Milestone Films (Harrington Park); Martin Rubin and Christopher Sanew, Gene Siskel Film Center (Chicago); Juliet Clark, Pacific Film Archive (Berkeley); and Rosemary Ullyot (Toronto). Film stills of PHANTOM and TARTUFFE provided by Photofest (New York).

Please note: all silent film running times are approximate.

THE LAST LAUGH (DER LETZTE MANN)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1925 84 minutes
Cast: Emil Jannings, Georg John

Friday, February 11 at 6:30 p.m. 

"Just as great [as NOSFERATU]" (David Denby, The New Yorker). THE LAST LAUGH was long considered Murnauís masterpiece, and has steadily maintained its position in the pantheon. This poignant tale stars Emil Jannings as an old man demoted from doorman at a luxury Berlin hotel to toilet attendant, who steals a uniform to fool friends and family into thinking he has retained his position. As the humiliated doorman, Jannings gives a performance often ranked with Falconettiís in THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. Revolutionary in many ways, including Karl Freundís use of freely moving and subjective camera (with vertiginous pans to capture Janningís drunken state), THE LAST LAUGH had a transformative effect on world cinema, and helped prepare for the German invasion of Hollywood. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

RESTORED PRINT!
SUNRISE: A SONG OF TWO HUMANS
Director: F. W. Murnau
USA 1927 95 minutes
Cast: George OíBrien, Janet Gaynor

Friday, February 11 at 8:15 p.m.
"Considered the pinnacle of silent film art," SUNRISE has recently been restored in a collaborative project undertaken by the British Film Instituteís National Film and Television Archive (NFTVA), the Academy Film Archive, and 20th-Century Fox. The fascinating story of the restoration, which included the refurbishing of the music score, can be found at
http://www.bfi.org.uk/collections/release/sunrise/restoration.html.

Cahiers du cinťma pronounced SUNRISE the greatest film ever made, and it was recently voted one of the ten greatest films in Sight & Soundís international poll. Subtitled A SONG OF TWO HUMANS, SUNRISE is indeed very musical in its orchestration of light and shadow, night and fog, movement and stillness. A triumphant wedding of naturalism and abstraction, of European style with American narrative, SUNRISE lavishes visual invention on a simple plot: a temptress from the city enters the rural Eden of a young couple and convinces the husband (George OíBrien) to drown his wife (Janet Gaynor). The luminous Gaynor won the Best Actress Oscar as the imperilled wife. The film also won Oscars for Best Cinematography and "Unique and Artistic Picture," and itís little wonder: Murnau and his team drew on the influences of German expressionism and French impressionism in the filmís stylized sets, balletic camera work, and shimmering mise-en-scŤne. Among the many famous sequences are OíBrienís trek through a swamp where he first encounters the city woman (entire articles have been dedicated to this sequence), a restaurant dinner that is a study in silhouettes, and two trolley rides that, as so many things in the film do, mirror each other. "SUNRISE is a great film; a landmark in the use of a moving camera; and of crucial importance in showing how genre cinema may be complemented by the gravity of a true artistís feelings. SUNRISE is a world of art made out of a novelette" (David Thomson).

FAUST
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1926 92 minutes
Cast: Emil Jannings, Camilla Horn

Saturday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Astounding, one of the most pictorially beautiful films ever made; "gloriously baroque, a rival to Fritz Langís METROPOLIS as UFAís supreme spectacle" (J. Hoberman, The Village Voice). (Lotte Eisnerís description of the supernatural opening sequences - "the most remarkable and poignant images the German chiaroscuro ever created" - is justly famous, and historian David Shipman has claimed: "The opening and first thirty minutes are the most triumphantly visual of all silent movies.") Directors as unalike as Eric Rohmer and Michael Mann consider FAUST, the last film Murnau made in Germany before departing for Hollywood, one of the greatest in the history of cinema. Rohmer wrote a renowned essay on FAUST, calling it Murnauís finest achievement in its use of space, architecture and the interplay of shadow and light: "It is light that models form, that sculpts it. The filmmaker allows us to witness the birth of a world as true and beautiful as painting, the art which has revealed the truth and beauty of the visible world to us through the ages." Murnauís (homo)eroticized version of the Faust legend evokes the medieval world in compositions reminiscent of DŁrer and Breughel, of Mantegna and Holbein, and its eerie atmosphere both recalls NOSFERATU and foreshadows Dreyerís THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (note the intense close-ups of Camilla Hornís face). "One of the classics of silent film . . . Murnauís masterpiece and one that is just as strikingly powerful when viewed today" (Raymond Murray). Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

THE HAUNTED CASTLE a.k.a. CASTLE VOGEL÷D (SCHLOSS VOGEL÷D)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1921 84 minutes
Cast: Arnold Korff, Lulu Kyser-Korff
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Sunday, February 13 at 1:00 p.m.

The same team who made NOSFERATU collaborated on this spooky, mesmerizing old-dark-castle tale the year before that vampire classic. Under dimming autumn skies, a group of aristocrats gathers at the isolated Castle VogelŲd for a hunting vacation. Among them is the beautiful Baroness von Safterstadt whose husband died three years before in mysterious circumstances. As shadows - both literal and metaphoric - gather in the castle, the baroness, her new husband, her brother, and their guests learn the truth about the baronís death. Murnau is, of course, less interested in Gothic hokum than in establishing a mood of psychological torment and occult strangeness; note the smoke that rises from the chairs as the guests sit down! With its rain-lashed landscapes, deserted castle hallways, and spectral coach, the film creates, as Lotte Eisner says, "an authentic, oppressive, anguish-ridden atmosphere." Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

35MM TINTED PRINT!
NOSFERATU - A SYMPHONY OF HORROR (NOSFERATU - EINE SYMPHONIE DES GRAUENS)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1922 84 minutes
Cast: Max Schreck, Alexander Granach

Tuesday, February 15 at 6:30 p.m.
"There is one Murnau film that stands out above all others a great masterpiece. This is neither SUNRISE nor the LAST LAUGH, but the earlier NOSFERATU. . . . In my judgment, the highest of [his] peaks . . . a precarious and astonishing achievement." - Gilberto Perez Guillermo

"Murnauís first masterpiece . . . May be the best horror movie ever made" (David Denby, The New Yorker). Once simply seen as cinemaís first and most masterful "symphony of horror," this nightmarishly beautiful version of Bram Stokerís Dracula has since been endlessly debated and explicated - for its various versions and their different effects (an argument still unresolved), its sexual and political subtexts, its placement in traditions of Nordic mysticism, Symbolist art, and German Expressionism. (Many critics situate it less as a work of Expressionism than of realism or "the lyrical naturalism of his great trio of masterpieces: SUNRISE, CITY GIRL and TABU" [Tom Milne].) Looking like an upright rodent with rack-stretched limbs and tapering talons, Max Schreck is the creepiest Nosferatu ever. (Rumour had it that Schreck did not exist, and that the vampire was actually played by Murnau himself, which only added to the filmís sense of morbidity.) Tonightís print is tinted according to Murnauís instructions. "One of Murnauís (or indeed the cinemaís) least contestable masterpieces. . . . The genius of Murnau: NOSFERATU marks the advent of a total cinema. . . . With this film the modern cinema was born, and all developments to come, notably those of the Soviet film-makers, became possible" (Jean-Andrť Fieschi). "The finale in its visual perfection is the apogee of the art of silent film" (Lotte Eisner). Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT (DER GANG IN DIE NACHT)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1920 80 minutes
Cast: Olaf FŲnss, Conrad Veidt
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Thursday, February 17 at 6:30 p.m.

"Was JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT Murnauís first masterpiece?" asked Lotte Eisner, and the answer is obvious in this superb archival restoration. "This reconstruction of the earliest surviving Murnau film - long lost, and then existing only in a partial print - represents a major rediscovery of a work that, even on its release, was hailed as a milestone in the art of cinema" (Pacific Film Archive). A tale of sexual and psychological affliction, JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT is about a doctor who marries a dancer and moves to a small fishing village; he unwittingly creates a rival when he cures a local artist of his blindness. JOURNEY established the atmosphere and visual style for which Murnau became famous: spookily evocative pictorial effects; acting and camera styles that conspire to transform flesh into a topography of torment; luminous treatment of landscape and natural imagery, and the use of dream-like gestures, recalling the eerie world of Symbolist paintings. None other than Conrad Veidt of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI plays the blind painter. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

PHANTOM
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1922 130 minutes
Cast: Alfred Abel, Lil Dagover
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Sunday, February 20 at 3:30 p.m.

A legendary Murnau film, PHANTOM was long lost until various versions were discovered in archives in Moscow and elsewhere; it is now thought to be the "missing link" in Murnauís development. Made between NOSFERATU and THE LAST LAUGH, the film conjures a nightmare world of sexual fixation and death with a torrent of montage and trick effects. The somnambulistic Alfred Abel (who was the factory owner in METROPOLIS) plays a young clerk and aspiring poet who becomes obsessed with the image of a woman he has met briefly, but has to make do with her "phantom," a prostitute who closely resembles her. (VERTIGO would not be an inappropriate title for the film.) Undone by his obsession, the poet becomes a puppet in the hands of his aunt and her devious boyfriend, and is manipulated into committing a murder. Rarely in Murnauís cinema has the world been so unstable, the atmosphere so oppressive. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

THE GRAND DUKEíS FINANCES (DER FINANZEN DES GROSSHERZOGS)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1924 80 minutes
Cast: Harry Liedtke, Mady Christians
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Tuesday, February 22 at 6:30 p.m.

A very rare Murnau comedy, scripted by Thea von Harbou, who also wrote METROPOLIS and became a Nazi supporter at a time when most of the directors she worked with were fleeing Germany for Hollywood. The popular novel on which THE GRAND DUKEíS FINANCES is based was typically anti-Semitic, but Murnau expunged the slurs from the filmed version. A farce set in a mythical Mediterranean paradise - the film was shot on the scenic Dalmatian Coast - FINANCES focuses on the attempts of a shady financier to bilk the idle "grand duke" of his money in a scheme involving a sulphur mine. The wild goings-on, involving stolen letters and sudden disappearances, women in distress and a gang of criminals (including a midget and Max Schreck, who played Nosferatu), have reminded critics of Feuillade. The filmís visual style still astonishes, with its carefully composed images of sun-struck indolence, and an impeccably rendered city that looks forward to THE LAST LAUGH. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

CITY GIRL a.k.a OUR DAILY BREAD
Director: F. W. Murnau
USA 1929 88 minutes
Cast: Charles Farrell, Mary Duncan

Thursday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m.

"One of the ten greatest films in the history of cinema" (Thierry Jousse, Cahiers du cinťma).
A moral fable often compared to SUNRISE for its lyrical beauty and its extraordinary use of landscape, CITY GIRL turned Murnau against Hollywood when the Fox studio took control away from him and had it finished by hacks. When the silent version of the film was rediscovered in the seventies, it was treated as a revelation, and several critics elevated it to the Murnau pantheon. Based, like SUNRISE, on the contrast between city and country, the film opens in a dirty, noisy metropolis - Andrew Sarris called these early sequences "the last gasp of urban expressionism in Hollywood" - and soon moves to the countryside, where Murnau subordinates the love story between urban girl and farm boy to a poetic evocation of the natural world, captured in symphonic montages of wheatfields and interiors designed to look like DŁrer woodcuts. "CITY GIRL has brilliantly emerged as a major rediscovery, perhaps not something to top SUNRISE, but still a dazzling work which adds much to Murnauís already monumental reputation" (Richard Koszarski, Film Comment). "It remains an extraordinarily beautiful film" (Richard Roud).

THE BURNING EARTH (DER BRENNENDE ACKER)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1922 102 minutes
Cast: Werner Krauss, Wladimir Gaidarow
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Sunday, February 27 at 1:00 p.m.

A major find. Long lamented as the most important of the lost Murnau films - in her famous book, Lotte Eisner could only quote the tantalizing comments of critics who had seen it in the twenties - THE BURNING EARTH was found by a Jesuit priest, who bought a nitrate print of it at a sidewalk sale. Reconstructed at the Munich Filmmuseum, it was revealed as a work worthy of Murnauís pantheon. In what one wag has called "Dallas in Deutschland," the peasant Johannes finds his simple virtues tested when he marries into a family wealthy from oil-rich land called "the devilís field." Working in a style that compares with the brooding intensity of his Scandinavian contemporaries Stiller and SjŲstrom, Murnau proved a master both at interior design, with great attention to architecture and tonalities, and at stunning exterior shooting. The fire at the oil-well, "the burning earth" surrounded by snow, is an unforgettable image of hell on earth. The film was co-written by Thea von Harbou, Langís wife and collaborator (on such films as METROPOLIS), and stars Weimar vamp Lya de Putti. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.

TARTUFFE (TART‹FF)
Director: F. W. Murnau
Germany 1926 105 minutes
Cast: Emil Jannings, Lil Dagover
Note: German intertitles with simultaneous translation

Tuesday, March 1 at 6:30 p.m.

"Perhaps Murnauís masterpiece along with NOSFERATU" according to Murnau authority Jean-Andrť Fieschi, TARTUFFE also is ranked very high in Murnauís canon by Jacques Rivette: "This is MoliŤreís genius: his mad fits of logic are apt to make the laughter stick in your throat. It is also Murnauís genius" (Rivette). Fresh from the success of THE LAST LAUGH, the consummate team of Murnau, cinematographer Karl Freund, and scriptwriter Carl Mayer made this startling version of the MoliŤre play about a religious hypocrite whose pious imposture leads a rich patron to invite him to live in his home. Famous for its ingenious narrative structure and contrasting visual styles; its use of a very mobile camera that seems to take pleasure in accentuating the flawed physiognomies of its (make-up free) actors; and the elegance of the set design, with its emphasis on contoured architecture, TARTUFFE was an early triumph of Ufa style. "Emil Jannings comes close to genius" (David Shipman) as the scheming fraud who believes that God has made a pact with him. Presented with live piano accompaniment by William OíMeara.


TABU
Directors: F. W. Murnau & Robert Flaherty
USA 1931 90 minutes
Cast: Anna Chevalier, Matahi

Thursday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m.
"TABU is a great work of art" (David Thomson). One of the major cinematic events of the last decade was the re-release of TABU, the controversial final film of Murnauís career, which restored over five minutes of footage excised in the forties, including the nudity, as well as the original music score. Disillusioned with Hollywood, Murnau leapt at the chance to make a film in the South Seas with Robert Flaherty. Inevitably, the two directors clashed; their aesthetics and philosophies could hardly have been more different, and the perfectionist Murnau balked at Flahertyís naÔve approach to making films. Flaherty finally fled the production, and the final film is, the opening sequence aside, mostly Murnau: a headily mystical evocation of doomed love in a tropical Paradise. Among the filmís many fascinations is how the story of a young couple breaking a taboo on their Tahitian island carries strong traces of Murnauís Teutonic fatalism - the spectres of his German films haunt this South Sea Eden; how, though the love story is (of course) heterosexual, the film expresses a profoundly homosexual sensibility; and how the imagery, as fluid and sensual as it is, stresses immuring architectural elements (to such a degree that Andrew Sarris referred to the world of TABU as an "enclosed cosmos"). Floyd Crosby won the Academy Awardģ for Best Cinematography. "Now that we can once again see TABU the way Murnau meant it to be seen, it becomes obvious that . . . [it is] a masterpiece" (Scott Eyman).

Location and Ticket Information: All Cinematheque Ontario screenings are held at the Art Gallery of Ontarioís Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. West, Toronto (McCaul Street entrance). Regular tickets are $6 for Members; $5.50 for Student Members and Seniors; and $10.10 for Non-Members. All screenings are restricted to individuals 18 years of age or older, unless noted otherwise. For ticket information, visit the Official website, www.bell.ca/cinematheque, the year-round Box Office at Manulife Centre (55 Bloor Street West, main floor, north entrance), or by calling the Bell Infoline at 416-968-FILM.

 

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