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Master of Darkness: The Testaments of Fritz Lang

June 5 - 8, Aero Theatre

Presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles

Born in Vienna, Fritz Lang (1890-1976) moved to Germany after WWI to write for the Berlin-based Decla film company, but the former art student’s visual sense soon earned him a spot in the director’s chair. Expressionism was all the rage in German cinema at the time, and its stark geometry and dark psychology course through such films as METROPOLIS and M. Lang’s talents caught the eye of Josef Goebbels, who offered to install the filmmaker as head of Germany’s UFA studio after the Nazis had come to power. That was Lang’s cue to flee the country.

Arriving in Hollywood in 1934, Lang set up shop at MGM; over the next two decades, he would work for virtually every major studio. Though he made a couple of distinctive Westerns, the director specialized in crime dramas, and such films as SCARLET STREET and THE BIG HEAT underline the debt that film noir owes to Expressionism. American studio executives looked upon Lang as a skilled but difficult journeyman, and he returned to Germany to make his final films at the end of the 1950s. It was only later that Fritz Lang’s seminal contributions to sci-fi and film noir got their critical due, prompting the British Film Institute to dub the monocled director a “master of darkness.”


Series programmed by Gwen Deglise, Grant Moninger and John Hagelston. Program notes by John Hagelston.

The Series:

Thursday, June 5 - 7:30PM



Friday, June 6 - 7:30PM



Saturday, June 7 - 7:30PM

M (1931)


Sunday, June 8 - 7:30PM



"[Food] is one of my persistent obsessions that had its source in my childhood. I was a child who did not want to eat. My parents were desperate. They would pour fish oil, fortified wine and various other liquids into me to enhance the taste of food, and they would send me to ‘fattening’ camps and other such places. I ended up so weakened and bony that I could not stand and my mum had to push me in a wheelchair. I was not even accepted in school. Besides, a chewing mouth is quite a fitting symbol of this aggressive, all-devouring civilization." [x]

"Food is perhaps the most apt symbol of our civilization because in its insatiable aggression, our civilization consumes everything around us: nature, animals, whole ethnic groups, cultures… everything gets digested in its utilitarian maw only to be excreted as money—the excrement of our times. Just like a small child our civilization considers its excrements to be the most valuable product it managed to squeeze out, and uses it to reward its favorites." [x]

Jan Švankmajer on the recurrent theme of food in his films.

Films for Lent 2014: Ash Wednesday - About Schmidt and/or The Seventh Seal

At the imposition of the ashes the priest says “you are of the dust and to the dust you shall return.” We set a regular time to repent and aspire because our time is short. Here’s two movies that carry the notion of mortality and using well the time we have. I will try to always have two recommendations: mainstream and stretching. Naturally the films won’t be identical but complimentary - for best results know yourself when choosing or watch them both

The Seventh Seal

This pick is from world cinema and serves as a good introduction to Ingmar Bergman, foreign language film, and art house cinema as well as a meditation on mortality. In the famous opening sequence, a Crusader plays chess with Death.

In this film we wrestle with the brevity of life and the silence of God. Burning bushes are rare (and suspicious) while most of us hurtle toward death with very little divine intervention. This was also a film I watched when I gave up God for Lent last year.

Can we live in faith in light of so many challenges? How do we respond when faith feels empty? These seem to be Bergmans questions which are answered by embracing love over nihilism. Love of living and experienced with others helps us reckon with life’s (and death’s! ) absurdity. This is not an answer but a way of living with the unanswerable.

About Schmidt

This film is more about the mundaneness of life than problems of faith, but like The Seventh Seal is haunted by the specter of death.

This film affirms that much of life is meaningless and absurd but it is the responsibility of humans to make sure it is not entirely so. The challenge is to make those differences we can in the lives of other human beings. You are going to die anyway, so why not be a source of love and joy while you can?

Much more cheerful than the Seventh Seal, this film is strong enough to resist sentimentality and schmaltz-iness that is typical of these “life is for living” films.

In a similar vein, check out Kurosawa’s Ikiru

Films for Lent 2014

This Lenten season I will be recommending films of repentance and aspiration as I prepare for Easter. Feel free to journey with me as I watch seven films in corporate repentance of sin and spiritual aspiration- conversation on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Letterboxd.

Up Next: Week One Ash Wednesday Film…

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