Fear of Flying

The headiest film, and the one which best captures the anger and despair of post-'68 Paris, is Patrick Deval's Acéphale (the title comes from Georges Bataille), a potent combo of vérité street scenes, direct camera address, and avant-garde theatrics. Shot by Michael Fournier, Philippe Garrel's bleak religious allegory Le Révélateur is visually stunning in its use of high-contrast black and white. These are not great films, but their immediacy and stripped-down style has influenced directors from Chantal Akerman and Jean Eustache to Arnaud Desplechin.

A similar devotion to film as the language of 20th-century history animates Samira Gloor-Fadel's Berlin-Cinéma (Titre Provisoire). The film's interwoven subjects—film history and the history of Berlin—are filtered through the perspective of director Wim Wenders with a little help from Godard and architect Jean Nouvel. It seems to have been shot largely at the beginning of the period of accelerated construction that followed the razing of the Wall. Thus, the bombed-out lots on the periphery and the wasteland at the very center—what Wenders refers to as the gaps that give the city its meaning—are still very much in evidence.

Heroic solo: Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
photo: Chan Kam Chuen
Heroic solo: Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Directed by Ang Lee
Written by James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling, and Tsai Kuo Jung
A Sony Pictures Classics release
Opens December 8

The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of May 1968
Anthology Film Archives
December 8 through 14

Berlin-Cinma (Titre Provisoire)
Directed by Samira Gloor-Fadel
American Museum of the Moving Image
December 9 and 10

Wenders takes us on a tour of the city, the set for his epic Wings of Desire. We see him also directing actors and delivering a lecture on film and its inevitable obsolescence. At one point he discusses the difference between the films made by the Russian and the American armies in 1945. Careful study revealed that the Russian films were staged, but because they were shot in black and white, they seemed like documentaries. The American films, on the other hand, were not staged, but because they were shot in color, they looked to Wenders as if they had been made on a studio back lot. While Wenders's comments are specific, Godard's voice-over fragments provide a kind of meta-commentary. For Godard, the first films, because they were black and white, were a continuation of the printed page.

Shot in both black and white and color, Berlin-Cinéma is almost a ventriloquist's act. It's not a film that either Wenders or Godard could have made, but it's hard to locate Gloor-Fadel's voice within it. Oddly enough, that absence mirrors Wenders's idea that film draws its meaning from the space between images. It screens as part of a Berlin mini-series that also includes Wings of Desire and Walter Ruttman's 1927 classic Berlin, Symphony of a City.

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