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[OPIRG-EVENTS] BRECHT & CINEMA: The Bertolt Brecht Workshop - starts Sat. Feb.2

BRECHT & CINEMA: The Bertolt Brecht Workshop

ONE OF THE 20th CENTURY theatre's greatest
dramatists and most influential
thinkers, the Marxist playwright, poet, director,
critic and theorist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)
radically transformed our conceptions of the
stage with revolutionary ideas of
politically-engaged "epic theatre" - a theatre of
critical audience "alienation" or
 "distanciation" that would "show the machinery,
the ropes and the flies." In cinema as
well, Brecht's radical, anti-illusionist
aesthetic ideas would exert a profound influence,
as evidenced by the notable likes of Godard,
Fassbinder, and many, many others.
This unique film series, assembled by the
Goethe-Institut Munich, is designed to
show the authentic Brecht and his directorial
method in action. It collects all existing
films in which Brecht himself was involved as a
director of actors or scenes, and
includes features and shorts, early cinema
experiments, filmed records of important
theatrical productions, and rare private films
from the Brecht estate. 

Presented in collaboration with the
Goethe-Institut, InterNationes, Toronto 

Acknowledgements: Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes
Toronto for making this exhibition possible. 
Special thanks to Doina Popescu, Programme

All screenings at 395, rue Wellington Street
National Archives Auditorium/Archives nationales
du canada 

For the full schedule see

Sat./sam. Feb. 2 fev, 19:00
Kuhle Wampe oder Wem gehört die Welt?
Germany 1932, 73 min. Director: Slatan Dudow
This rare classic of German cinema, made during
the dire economic crisis of the early
1930s, offers "a comprehensive document of
Brecht's artistic aspirations" (Wolfgang
Gersch). Kuhle Wampe tells the tragic tale of the
family Bönike, working-class
Berliners devastated by poverty. After the
suicide of their jobless son, they find
themselves forced to move into Kuhle Wampe, a
tent city for the unemployed on the
outskirts of the German capital. Brecht co-wrote
the script. The film includes ballads,
in the Brecht manner, and features, in the male
lead, noted Berlin singer Ernest
Busch, who also appeared in The Threepenny Opera.
The film's pro-communist
sentiments saw it first banned and then heavily
censored by the Weimar authorities;
when the Nazis came to power less than a year
later, Brecht fled into exile.

 "Profoundly moving . . . Brecht's script
incorporated many of his own deepest feelings
about life in German at the time and Slatan Dudow
superbly brings these feelings to
life" (Georges Sadoul). 

SHOP/Die Mysterien eines
Frisiersalons (1923, 24 min. Directors: Bertolt
Brecht, Erich Engel). Brecht
co-directed this surreal slapstick short, a
"cinematic grotesque" featuring legendary
Munich comedian Karl Valentin as an apprentice
hairdresser given to macabre
methods. Also, A MAN'S A MAN/Mann ist Mann (1931,
15 min. Director: Bertolt
Brecht ) The first cinematic document of a
theatre production by Brecht, featuring
Peter Lorre in a 1931 Berlin production of
Brecht's 'antiwar grotesque.' "A very
interesting experiment, a little film we made
with the idea of filming the focal points of
the action with interruptions, so that the
gesturing element shows up in greatly
contracted form" (Brecht). 

Sun./dim. Feb. 10 fev., 21:15
Die Gewehre der Frau Carrar
East Germany 1953, 54 min. Directors: Bertolt
Brecht, Egon Monk 
Brecht's short play, written in the 1930s, was
designed as a show of support for the
Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.
Favourite leading lady Helene Weigel stars
as a fisherman's wife who tries to keep her two
sons from going off to war; despite her
intentions, she and her family are caught up in
the struggle. The play deviates from
the usual "Brechtian" aesthetic in favour of a
more traditional Aristotelian drama, which
made it more palpable to the East German
authorities, who had recently denounced
Brecht as a "formalist". This Berliner Ensemble
production was filmed by East
German television, and stands as the only sound
film documenting an original Brecht
stage production made during Brecht's lifetime.

 "A sensational view into the world of
Brecht's theatre... This is the marvellous
lightness that distinguished Brecht"
 (Wolfgang Gersch)

Preceded by SHORT FILM/Kurzer Film (1953, 3
min.): Several candid scenes shot
backstage during the making of Señora Carrar's
Rifles, including lead actress Helen
Weigel laughingly pouring drinks for the film

Sat./sam. Feb. 16 fev., 19:00
Die Dreigroschenoper 
Germany 1931, 131 min. Director: G.W. Pabst
Pandora's Box director G.W. Pabst's atmospheric
adaptation of The Threepenny
Opera is one of the highpoints of German cinema
in the last days before Hitler and the
most renowned film adaptation of a Brecht play.
Although Brecht denounced the film
for muting his social criticism in favour of more
romantic and stylistic elements, most
agree that this lush, lyrical work still
preserves much of his original's flavour. In
Victorian-era London, dashing criminal Mack the
Knife, friend of corrupt police
commissioner Tiger Brown, ditches mistress Jenny
in favour of beautiful Polly, whom
he marries over the strenuous objections of her
father, the king of the beggars. Full of
delicious bordello decadence and creepy
Caligari-like shadows, Pabst's film mixes
social realism and German Expressionism to
marvelous effect. Preceded by
PRIVATE FILMS (1928-29, 3 min.), rare home movies
from the Brecht estate
including clips of Brecht with Kurt Weill, Lotte
Lenya, Helene Weigel, and others. 

Sun./dim. Feb. 17 fev., 21:15
Syberberg filmt bei Brecht
Germany 1953/93, 90 min. Director: Hans Jürgen
While still in high school, Hans Jürgen
Syberberg, future notable of the New German
Cinema, received Brecht's permission to film
several productions of the Berliner
Ensemble, including The Mother and a
controversial adaptation of Goethe's Urfaust
that was denounced by the East German authorities
for its "fatalism and pessimism"
and "bias against the cultural heritage." The
footage provides a rare record of the
famed company on its own stage under Brecht's
direction; years later, Syberberg
would re-edit the material and add commentary by
Brecht authority Hans Mayer.
Brecht is said to have admired 17-year-old
Syberberg's silent era-style film technique
for the way it captured the gestural quality of
this theatre. Preceded by GALILEO
 (USA 1947, 30 min.) A member of Brecht's staff
made this silent film recording of the
legendary 1947 Hollywood stage version of Galileo
featuring actor Charles Laughton,
the only major theatre production of Brecht's
exile. It was directed by Joseph Losey
under Brecht's supervision.

Sun./dim. Feb. 24 fev., 21:15
East Germany 1957, 96 min. Directors: Max Jaap,
Manfred Wekwerth 
Under pressure by the East German government to
stage a politically correct socialist
play on prevailing conditions in the GDR,
Brecht's Berliner Ensemble undertook a
production of Erwin Strittmatter's comedy
Katzgraben. Premiered in 1953, the play is
set against the "socialistic re-organization" of
rural areas after the expropriation of
large agricultural holdings, and tells of the
David-and-Goliath battle between big
landowners, out to sabotage the process, and
small farmers who will benefit from the
new economic order. Brecht's able direction
alleviated some of the more sterile
propagandistic elements and brought the work
alive, even though this could hardly
have ranked as a favourite project. "Even a
brilliant genius pays a price in a
dictatorship, and thanks to the film recording,
which was done after Brecht's death,
this genius can continue to prove himself"
(Wolfgang Gersch). 

Sat./sam. March 2 mars, 21:00
THE MOTHER Die Mutter 
East Germany 1958, 147 min. Director: Manfred
Brecht's grand "epic" of political theatre,
written in 1931, was an adaptation of Maxim
Gorky's novel, and tells the moving story of an
oppressed Russian woman who is
transformed into a militant revolutionary. His
celebrated Berliner Ensemble production
opened in 1951, and starred favourite actress
Helene Weigel in a signature role.
Stalinist critics in East Germany were quick to
denounce the production as "formalist"
and "politically harmful"; Brecht defended it as
"a poetic portrayal of an epoch that has
already become classic." This film, made by East
Germany's DEFA Studio, records a
new, 1957 Berliner Ensemble production that was
directed, after Brecht's death, by
Manfred Wekwerth. It features many members of
Brecht's original cast, and stands
as a monument to the talents of Weigel, who gives
an intelligent, sensitive, and
uncompromising performance in a role she would
play to the end of her life. 

Sun./dim. March 10 mars, 19:00
Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder
East Germany 1961, 148 min. Directors: Peter
Palitzsch, Manfred Wekwerth
The most famous production of the Berliner
Ensemble, Mother Courage and Her
Children proved Brecht's international
breakthrough when it won the 1954 Theatre
Festival in Paris. Previous attempts to bring the
play to the screen had foundered on
political or aesthetic objections (the play's
pacifism was unpalatable to the Stalinist
authorities in East Germany at the height of the
Cold War, while Brecht himself pulled
the plug on a 1955 film production that wasn't to
his liking). This 1961 version,
directed by two Brecht collaborators, was adapted
from the Berliner Ensemble's
celebrated production, and features the great
actress Helene Weigel re-creating her
legendary stage performance. In the title role,
she is the strong-minded canteen
woman who seeks to profit from war, unaware of
the terrible, tragic contradictions of
her actions. English sub-titles

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