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Film

Hello, Marlene Dietrich! "One of the most glamorous creatures ever to grace the silver screen is back in pictures at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C."  (CNN, 6/19/17; NPR, 6/19/17)

In Cate Shortland's new thriller, Berlin Syndrome, handsome German stranger meets cute with Australian tourist—and then he imprisons her.  (The Guardian, 4/19/17; The New York Times, 5/25/17)

In memoriam: Michael Ballhaus (1935-2017), "cinematographer who brought lyricism and light to films by Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and a string of other eminent directors."  (The Guardian, 4/13/17; The New York Times, 4/14/17; Goethe Institut, 4/2017)

"Shot in evocative black and white, 'Karl Marx City' is a sleek, absorbing detective story, a fascinating primer on mass surveillance in the pre-Snowden era, and a roving memoir of East German life."  (The New York Times, 3/28/17; NPR, 3/30/17; Los Angeles Times, 4/20/17)

Greg Gerke takes a closer look at Toni Erdmann's "anti-Hollywood ending."  (Los Angeles Review of Books, 3/17/17)

If I Think of Germany at Night, a new documentary by Romuald Karmukar, is an intimate portrait of techno DJs at work. (The Hollywood Reporter, 2/14/17; The Economist, 5/22/17)

"The dead are haunting We Were So Beloved, Manfred Kirchheimer’s personal documentary, from 1986, about the Washington Heights community of German Jewish people who escaped or survived Nazi Germany."  (The New Yorker, 2/13/17)

"Marx and Engels meet cute" in The Young Karl Marx, an intelligent communist bromance directed by Raoul Peck.  (The Guardian, 2/12/17)

"On the Firing Line With the Germans" gives us a rare glimpse of the Kaiser's army in 1915— through the eyes of American filmmakers.  (The Washington Post, 2/7/17)

George Prochnik and Maria Schrader discuss the relevance of Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday today.  (The New Yorker, 2/6/17; Los Angeles Review of Books, 2/17/17)

Director Christian Schwochow has made a new film about the life of painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. (Deutsche Welle, 12/15/16)

In memoriam: Götz George (1938-2016), award-winning film and TV actor best known as Tatort Kommissar Horst Schimanski.  (Deutsche Welle, 6/26/16; The Hollywood Reporter, 6/27/16)

Maren Ade captivated Cannes—and then Oscar voters—with her new film, Toni Erdmann, "the world’s first genuinely funny, 162-minute German comedy of embarrassment."  (The Hollywood Reporter, 5/13/16; The New York Times, 5/22/16; The New York Times, 12/28/16)

Look Who's Back (Er ist wieder da): "yes, this movie exists, and despite (or perhaps because of) its genre-defying weirdness, you won’t be able to look away."  (Slate, 5/13/16) 

Christian Braad Thomsen brings us a "confused, partial, awkwardly constructed tribute" to the ever-fascinating Rainer Werner Fassbinder.  (Artforum, 4/25/16; Film Comment, 4/27/16; The New York Times, 4/28/16)

"In Germany, The Jungle Book (1967) is the biggest movie of all time."  (The Hollywood Reporter, 4/22/16)

Skip Vincent Perez's new film Alone in Berlin and read Hans Fallada's novel instead.  (The Guardian, 2/15/16; Variety, 2/15/16; NPR, 1/12/17)

Deutschland 83 wasn't a hit at home, but its success abroad is nonetheless opening "the floodgate for a German TV renaissance."  (The Guardian, 2/23/16)

No hiking the Pacific Crest Trail here: Nicolette Krebitz's Wild "tells a visceral tale of a young urban woman drawn to nature in a way that will shock mere tree-huggers."  (The Hollywood Reporter, 1/23/16)

Why do we find ourselves rooting for the "bad guys" in recent on-screen depictions of East Germany?  (New Statesman, 1/15/16)

"When hunting for ratings, it's always springtime for Hitler." Don't expect a break from those gratuitous TV programs about Nazis anytime soon.  (Variety, 11/12/15)

Yes, the hills are still alive...A new film version of the Trapp family story is coming your way.  (Deutsche Welle, 11/3/15)

Dietrich and Riefenstahl "is the story of two glamorous women whose achievements in another time might have been no more substantial than the images on a screen but who assumed real-life roles with the highest historical stakes."  (The New Yorker, 10/19/15; The Guardian, 10/24/15; The New York Times, 12/4/15; The Telegraph, 12/5/15)

Germany's selection for the best foreign-language film Oscar, Labyrinth of Lies, tackles its subject with "the dogged tone of an honorable, well-made television movie from the late 1950s or early ’60s."  (The Guardian, 9/29/15; Los Angeles Times, 9/29/15; The New York Times, 9/29/15)

Richard Brody explains where Wim Wenders went wrong, becoming "the exemplary art-house filmmaker of the age of Reagan." Ouch!  (The New Yorker, 9/3/15)

"No one else has taken a specific animation technique and made it so utterly her own.” Here's a brief introduction to the work of silhouette animator Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981).  (Open Culture, 9/1/15)

Nina Hoss and Christian Petzold: "the greatest actor-director duo today"?  (The Daily Beast, 7/25/15)

"You are up against something more than tourist scenery. You are up against German history. It isn't good."  (Open Culture, 6/29/15)

New on DVD: vintage Cold War dramas from 1962/63, produced on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall.  (The New York Times, 6/26/15)

Do we really need a reboot of Das Boot, Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 classic?  (The Guardian, 6/25/15) 

New investigations of Nazi concentration camps
In 1945, the British Ministry of Information produced a "German Concentration Camps Factual Survey." The newly restored film "is as unadorned as its title, a document shot in the moment to capture forever evidence of the unimaginable."  (The New York Times, 5/21/15)

Der Schuh des Manitu and Traumschiff Surprise: "They're the most popular modern German films within Germany. But are they any good? (Spoiler alert: no.)"  (This Week in Germany, 5/10/15)

Christian Petzold's "post-Second World War film noir Phoenix is surely in contention to be in any top five list of the best Hitchcockian thrillers ever made."  (The Independent, 5/7/15; The Telegraph, 5/8/15; The New York Times, 7/23/15)

Berlin and its discontents
"No one had the intention to destroy the Wall. After all, it was the life insurance for West Berlin." B-Movie recalls the mid-1980s counterculture of a divided city.  (Dazed, 3/18/15; Deutsche Welle, 5/20/15)

"Blatantly stagy and inventively cinematic," The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is a Fassbenderian concoction you won't forget.  (The New York Times, 3/6/15)

See Wim Wendersand more than twenty of his filmsat the Museum of Modern Art, now through March 17.  (This Week in Germany, 2/14/15; Financial Times, 2/27/15; The Wall Street Journal, 3/1/15)

What if Georg Elser had succeeded in his attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1939? Oliver Hirschbiegel's 13 Minutes is "a meticulous contextualization of the increments by which an ordinary man may come to commit an extraordinary act." (Indiewire, 2/12/15; The Guardian, 2/15/15; The Economist, 2/18/15)

Deutschland 83: "Love is a battlefield for the undercover spy kids in the 1980s-set Eurodrama, soon to become the first German-language TV series ever to air on a US network."  (The Hollywood Reporter, 2/11/15; The Guardian, 2/14/15; The Economist, 5/7/15; Time, 6/16/15)

Sebastian Schipper's Victoria is "a bravura experiment and a kinetic, frenetic, sense-swamping rollercoaster ride." It swept the German film awards, and soon it may win over international audiences, too.  (The Hollywood Reporter, 2/7/15; Deutsche Welle, 6/19/15; The New York Times, 10/2/15; The Daily Beast, 10/8/15)

"There is not, as yet, any prize given for 'best supporting location' at the Academy Awards. But Görlitz, 60 miles east of Dresden on the German-Polish border, has a history of doing well at the Oscars."  (The Guardian, 1/19/15; YouTube, 2/22/15)

Forty films made during the Nazi era remain banned in Germany today. Felix Moeller has put (parts of) them together in one new documentary.  (j.b. spins, 1/18/15; The New Yorker, 1/22/15; The New York Times, 5/7/15; Tablet, 5/12/15)

"An amateur is a force of nature, which is why a satisfying performance by an amateur is overwhelming and awe-inspiring, as seen in the 1930 silent film 'People on Sunday'" (Menschen am Sonntag).  (The New Yorker, 1/14/15)

"German soldiers of fortune, fugitives and propagandists" found lucrative professional opportunities in the post-WWII Middle East, as depicted by filmmaker Géraldine Schwarz in The Nazi Exiles: The Promise of the Orient.  (The New York Times, 1/10/15)

Filmmaker Yael Reuveny's great-uncle Feiv'ke Schwarz "survived Buchenwald only to change his name to Peter and settle in Soviet-occupied Germany — a stone’s throw from the satellite camp where he had been imprisoned." She explores her family's history in Farewell Herr Schwarz.  (The Dissolve, 1/7/15; The Jewish Daily Forward, 1/7/15; The New York Times, 1/8/15)

Beloved Sisters, Germany's candidate for the best foreign-language Oscar, depicts poet Friedrich Schiller "and the two sisters who agree to share him, body and soul." Spoiler alert: it's more about the sharing than the poetry.  (The L Magazine, 12/31/14; The New York Times, 1/8/15; Los Angeles Times, 1/8/15)

Ten classic German expressionist films at your fingertips—what's not to love about that?  (Open Culture, 12/11/14)

Cinematically strong, if historically flawed: "In his new film Diplomacy, Volker Schlöndorff has expertly created the creepy, almost surreal atmosphere of two men discussing the ruination of Paris while sitting in Louis XVI chairs, a fine claret readily at hand..."  (The New York Times, 10/14/14; The New York Review of Books, 10/15/14; Los Angeles Times, 11/6/14)

Rüdiger Suchsland's documentary From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses may not be groundbreaking, but its vintage film clips "look glorious."  (Deutsche Welle, 9/4/14; Variety, 9/5/14)

A complete retrospective of Fritz Lang's silent and talking feature films! At the Harvard Film Archive, now through September 1.  (WBUR, 7/16/14; Harvard Gazette, 7/17/14)

"The nineteen-twenties were a time of unrestrained cinematic audacity." See F. W. Murnau's Faust, among the decade's audacious best.  (The New Yorker, 6/24/14)

In memoriam: Karlheinz Böhm (1928-2014).  He played Emperor Franz Joseph, Beethoven, and a creepy serial killer on film. In real life, he helped to raise millions for a country in need. (Deutsche Welle, 5/30/14; The Guardian, 5/30/2014; The Washington Post, 5/30/2014)

In Christian Petzold's "Ghosts" trilogy, money "is the fuel that keeps the narrative of the engine running and the obstruction that makes it stall, an object that corrupts those who have it and cripples those who don't."  (Film Comment, 2/25/14)

In memoriam: Alice Herz-Sommer (1903-2014): classical pianist, Holocaust survivor, subject of the Oscar-winning short documentary The Lady in Number 6.  (The New Yorker, 11/26/13; The Guardian, 2/23/14; Slate, 2/28/14)

Writer-director Feo Aladag takes on the German military in Afghanistan in Inbetween Worlds.  (Variety, 2/11/14; ScreenDaily.com, 2/12/14; The Economist, 2/21/14)

In memoriam: Maximilian Schell (1930-2014). "Austrian by birth, Swiss by circumstance and international by reputation...a distinguished actor, director, writer and producer."  (The New York Times, 2/1/14; The Guardian, 2/2/14; The Smart Set, 3/15/14)

The first English-language reviews are in for the film adaptation of Charlotte Roche's Wetlands: "Director David Wnendt and breakout star Carla Juri leave no bodily orifice unexplored in this spiky, smartly packaged commercial enterprise."  (Screen, 8/11/13; Indiewire, 8/15/13; Variety, 8/19/13; The Daily Beast, 1/17/14; Slate, 8/20/14)

Billed in the U.S. as "a German Band of Brothers," Generation War receives mixed reviews.  (The New York Times, 1/14/14; NPR, 1/14/14; The Village Voice, 1/15/15; The New Yorker, 2/3/14; The New Republic, 2/3/14; The New York Times, 2/4/14; The New York Review of Books, 2/19/14)

Oh Boy, Jan Ole Gerster's "black-and-white indie film about late-twentysomething urban ennui has touched a nerve in Germany, where it won six German Film Awards." Now it's in limited release in the UK.  (The Arts Desk, 1/13/14; Electric Sheep, 1/16/14)

"Terrible and brilliant at the same time." Memory of the Camps, a rarely seen 1945 documentary from the British Army Film Unit, is being restored for release later this year.  (The Independent, 1/8/14; The New Yorker, 1/10/14)

The Book Thief "tries so hard to warm our hearts amid grotesque suffering, it goes a bit mad under the strain. It relays an uplifting story that, ill-advisedly, is not so much Holocaust-era as Holocaust-adjacent, determined to steer clear of too much discomfort."  (Chicago Tribune, 11/14/13; The Atlantic, 11/15/13; Boston Review, 1/6/14; The Guardian, 2/7/14)