Berlin (1940s Film Noir – #AtoZChallenge)

While Hollywood was the hotbed of filmmaking, especially in the 1920s and 1930s (when there was the absolute major output of featured film in the history of the American film industry), on the other side of the ocean Berlin and Germany established themselves as the centre of experimental cinema.

Although the German cinema started at the very end of the 1800s, it really exploded after WWI. Because it was especially prominent between 1920 (when The Cabinet of Dr. Caligaris was released) and the rise of the Nazis to power (1933), which is also the span of the Weimar Republic, this is also known as Weimar Cinema.

M (1931) by Fritz Lang

The Weimar Republic was a mind-blowing – if ill-fated – social and political experiment. It manifested an unprecedented freedom of expression for many minorities and for women, it dominated in the arts and the sciences, but it was also plagued by political and economic instability. Among these were the huge war reparations Germany was supposed to pay (which in 1923 led to the hyperinfaction) and the rise of a particularly strong totalitarian party destined to take in its hand the fate of the nation… and not just.

The artistic vitality was particularly evident in the film industry, which, if on the one hand expressed a romantic, even fantastic vain, on the other explored the essence of modern life. This more modern vein of German cinema explored the growth of cities, postwar social differences, the rise of the European fascism, technological progress and the shift in sexual roles. Avant garde at its highest.
But it also had to cope with the lack of funds. Unable to afford Hollywood’s huge sets, lavish customs and expensive props, German filmmakers had to find alternative ways to convey atmosphere, mood and emotions. They found their language in Expressionism, which born before the war, found its highest moment in the interwar years and it was a way to suggest what couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be openly said.

In the 1920s in Germany arose a national cinema of international influence #AtoZChallenge Click To Tweet

On the set of Metropolis

Weimar cinema sought to address contemporary issues and its themes were a lot darker than Hollywood’s: crime, immorality, social decay and the destructive power of money and technology. Born in the aftermath of WWI, which had left the German people physically and psychologically wounded and the country in a dire economic situation, these films depicted a decadent nightlife, a previously unseen eroticism and unfettered sexuality – particularly in women – whose sense of freedom was nonetheless undercut by a vein of hopelessness just below the surface. Unrequited and thwarted love, uncontrollable criminal activity and the clash between the classes and the generations were foremost film material. The idea of the urban environment simultaneously threatening and enticing; the figure of the immature man-child fatally incapable of taking control; the emasculated male, the fallen woman were all fair games.

The language of the Expressionist style, characterised by deeply shadowed lighting, distorted perspectives and intentionally artificial sets, was perfect for this message. It wasn’t a direct relay of reality, rather it was a filter, a way to express on screen the messy feelings of a vital but problematic time. Sex morality, depression, veterans ghoulishly mangled by war, the loss of innocence and the complete rejection of the past were the issues the German people dealt with in the postwar period. Films like M  explore ethics in a very complex, layered way. Films like Metropolis expose the injustice embedded in a society that accepts that not all people are equal. It was only a matter of time before this kind of cinema attracted the wrong kind of attention from the Nazi government.

Many directors and writers who first made their groundbreaking films in Germany were forced to flee when the Nazi Party rose to power. A great number of them poured to Hollywood, where they could find a job they knew how to do.
And soon, Hollywood realised these German cinematographers who had come from the other side of the world possessed the language to express the rising anxiety American society was experiencing.

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FILMS CITED

The Cabinet of Dr Caligaris (1921) by Robert Wiene
At a carnival in Germany, Francis (Friedrich Feher) and his friend Alan (Rudolf Lettinger) encounter the crazed Dr. Caligari (Werner Krauss). The men see Caligari showing off his somnambulist, Cesare (Conrad Veidt), a hypnotized man who the doctor claims can see into the future. Shockingly, Cesare then predicts Alan’s death, and by morning his chilling prophecy has come true — making Cesare the prime suspect. However, is Cesare guilty, or is the doctor controlling him?

Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang
This influential German science-fiction film presents a highly stylized futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers. When the privileged youth Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) discovers the grim scene under the city, he becomes intent on helping the workers. He befriends the rebellious teacher Maria (Brigitte Helm), but this puts him at odds with his authoritative father (Google synospis)

M (1931) by Fritz Lang
Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre), a serial killer who preys on children, becomes the focus of a massive Berlin police manhunt. Beckert’s heinous crimes are so repellant and disruptive to city life that he is even targeted by others in the seedy underworld network. With both cops and criminals in pursuit, the murderer soon realizes that people are on his trail, sending him into a tense, panicked attempt to escape justice. But when he is finally put to trial, his defence poses unexpected ethic questions. (Google synopsis)

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READ MORE ABOUT IT

The Modernism Lab at Yale University – German Cinema Between 1920 and 1930
Alpha History – Weimar Cinema
Harvard Film Archive – Decadent Shadows: the Cinema of Weimar Germany
Lacma Unfraimed – Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s
Mubi – German Expressionism: the world of light and shadow

 

SmashwordsBarnes&Nobles | KoboiBookStore
And many other stores

 

1940s Film Noir - BERLIN (AtoZ Challenge 2017) - In the 1920s in Germany arose a national cinema of international influence and its own language: Expressionism

Thursday Quotables – Tan

TAN (David Lawlor) - It’s 1914 and Liam Mannion is forced into exile for a crime he didn’t commit. He flees Balbriggan, the only home he has ever known and travels to England, where he enlists and endures the torment of trench warfare in France. Five years later he’s back in England, a changed man, living in the shadow of his battlefield memories.‘So long ago… a different world, Liam… How the fuck are ye, and what the fuck are ye doin’ in that get up?’ his voice took on an angry edge.

Liam leaned the rifle against the wall and sat on the bed, suddenly ashamed.

‘I’ve been asking myself the same question a lot these days. I’m sorry I ever got involved with this shower. How are you – apart from hidin’ out in attics, I mean?’

‘I heard you were back, but I didn’t believe what they were sayin’ – you, a Tan…?’

‘It’s a long story. I was in a bad fix in England and thought I’d found a way out.’

‘Well ye got that wrong.’

‘I know. I’m just tryin’ to figure a way out of it all.’

Frank picked up the Lee Enfield and studied it, a professional admiring another man’s tool. ‘What’s to figure? Just go – join me and the boys… put this thing to proper use,’ he said, shaking the rifle. ‘We’re fightin’ for our lives. We need good men, Liam; and you’re one of the best I know, in or out of that stupid fuckin’ uniform. Typical of the Brits, can’t even get a jacket and trousers to match and they still expect to rule this country. The arrogance…’

Liam smiled. ‘Still the same Francie…’

‘That’s Captain Cleary to you, boy, I’ve been elevated,’ he grinned. ‘Look, you can’t stay with that lot, it’s all wrong… fight for your country not these thugs. You’re needed… mind you, it’d take some convincin’ the lads you weren’t some manner of spy, soft head that ye are, but I’d bring them round. What d’ye say?’ the grin was gone and the eyes were deadly serious.

Tan by David Lawlor is one of those rare novels that jumps the more frequented time of the Easter Rising and delves into the painful time that follows in Irish history: the War of Indipendence. As all wars fought at home, this is a time that tasted people in more than one way. A man or a woman had to be really certain of their stance to go through such times.
David Lawlor clearly knows these time very well. His depiction not just of the events, but of the feelings of people and their reasons are so naturally entwined with the story that it’s almost a given. And some of the events described are so detailed and personalthat it almost suggests me they come from true oral history. In spite of the very sparse style, this is a story that involves because of the sheer power of its subject matter.

It is a very ‘male’ story, and I actually appreciated this. In a time where writing strong female characters seem to be the thing to do (and there are a few strong female characters in this story, don’t be misled!), I appreciate the choice to go in a different direction.
It’s a ‘male’ story not just because most of the characters are men doing men’s stuff (namely, war), but because of the kind and quality of the relationships depicted: father and son, brotherly love and friendship and betrayal, virile camaraderie and rivalry. But it also touches more universal themes of love and betrayal, of alienation and belonging.

It’s a good story. Read it!

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This post is part of the Ireland Reading Month organised by 746 Books and The Fluff Is Raging blogs.

“Last year we hosted a whopping 130 posts on all things relating to Irish culture. Books, food, travel, movies, theatre and favourite bookshops – your enthusiasm was boundless and so was your reading.

So this year we hope to be bigger and better.

To celebrate the wealth and breadth and general awesomeness of Irish cultural life, 746 Books and Raging Fluff are co-hosting a month long celebration of all things Irish.”

 

TAN (David Lawlor) - 1919 Stranded in England after WWI, Liam chooses to jain the Black and Tan heading to Ireland to sadate the rebellion. It will be a heartwrenching decision

Gang Roundup – March 2017

Welcome to another gang roundup! Because of my two weeks without the laptop, I feard this roundup was going to be quite thin. Instead it turned out quite nice, don’t you think?

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 10: Decopunk

Like Retrofuturism, Decopunk is a prolific subjenre of Dieselpunk, one that rests more firmly on the Art Deco aesthetics. Because it generally leans more on the earlier half of the Diesel Era (particularly the 1920s), it tends to be a little bit less dark than most Dieselpunk, which normally offers very strong noir elements.
This said, many people use Dieselpunk and Decopunk interchangeably.

 

 

Noir City 2017 Highlights Heists and Favors Risk Over Genre Purity

And speaking about noir, the Noir City Film Festival has just taken place in Seattle, showcasing noir (and not so noir) film, this year with a particular focus on heist movies.

“You could say that the heist film is the original antihero team endeavor, the supervillain squad combining their unique skills to a common cause—in this case, the impossible robbery. This is one of those times when we root for the bad guys.
Most of the time, anyway.”

Here’s a nice lineup of classics. Have a look!

 

SS-GB

I was nearly done with the roundup today, when I stumbled upon this trailer. Oh my!!!

Base on the book SS-GB by Len Deighton, this is a five-part BBC tv series that looks great. It is set in an alternative Great Britan where the Battle of London had been lost and now the country is dominated by the Nazis. This is certainly not the only story with this premise, but by this trailer seems like the story concentrates on moral choices and taking sides, and I always like this kind of dilemmas. And the setting is just gorgeous. I’ll try to get my hands on this one, and maybe on the book too.

I wonder about the popularity of this theme (The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. dick has also been make into a series recently). I smell the anxiety of our times here…

 

Mournful Fate of Mata Hari, and 14 Stunning Photos of This Dutch Exotic Dancer, Courtesan and Notorious WWI Spy from 1905-1917

Let’s face it, Mata Hari is probably one of the best known, more mysterious and controversial people of the XX century. She was the first to use truth and lie about her life, to the point that today discerning one from the other is very difficult. It was a dangerous game, whcih ultimately destoyed her. But she remains a romantic figure who still fascinates us after 100 years.

The trial took place before a military tribunal, in secret. It lasted only two days. According to some accounts, the defense was not allowed to question any of the witnesses. The official French intelligence file on Mata Hari was sealed for 100 years, and won’t be released until 2017. According to some who have claimed to have seen it, there is no hard evidence cited in the dossier to establish that the dancer actually passed any military secrets to the Germans.

Mata Hari was executed by a French firing squad on the morning of October 15, 1917.”

 

 

Tan by David Lawlor

It’s 1914 and Liam Mannion is forced into exile for a crime he didn’t commit. He flees Balbriggan, the only home he has ever known and travels to England, where he enlists and endures the torment of trench warfare in France. Five years later he’s back in England, a changed man, living in the shadow of his battlefield memories. Liam finds work in a Manchester cotton mill but prejudice and illness soon see him destitute. Starving and desperate, he enlists in a new military force heading to Ireland – the Black and Tans – and is posted to the very town he fled as a youth.

I’ve just started reading this and am really enjoying it, so expect to hear of it soon.

 

 

 

Das historische Berlin

My sister sent me this clip from 1920s Berlin. I love vintage futage and this is no exception. I get the impression of a very modern, very busy city, which certainly Berlin was in the 1920s.

 

Berlin 1920s

This is a presentation od Weimar Berlins 1920s, a section of the univers of Second Life.

Second Life is an online RPG, or I should say, a virtual reality where players can interact and create. Unlike most RPG, Second Life doesn’t have a set goal to reach, there’s no pre-made adventure to be unfold, but rather residents (as the players are called) freely goe around the reality they choose to be in (there are many different once) and create their second life by meeting other residents and creating their own plans.

Weimar Berlin looks pretty fascinating, don’t you think?

 

Gang Roundup March 2017 - What I've found of interest on the net this month in terms of dieselpunk (a few cook clips here) and 1920s life. And some literary tips

Thursday Quotables – The Green Mill Murder (Miss Fisher Misteries)

‘Charles, dear, do stop asking unanswerable questions and pay attention. What about the murder of Bernard? Did you know him?’

‘Yes.’

‘And you knew that he had incriminating photographs of you?’

‘Yes.’ Charles took a cigarette from the box on the table and lit it with a jazz-striped lighter.

‘And you were at the Green Mill to watch him take part in that ghastly dance marathon?’

‘Yes. Mother was nagging  at me to go out with you and I thought that as long as I had to go, I might has well see Bernard in the marathon and watch him break a leg, with any luck. But I never have any luck. If someone was going to kill him, and there must have been hundreds of people who wanted him dead as much as I did, why did they have to choose the night I was there? It looks bad, doesn’t it?’

‘Yes. But there are points in your favoure. One is the fact that you fainted at the sight of blood. The other is the weapon. It still hasn’t been found.’

‘Did they search all those musicians?’

‘Yes.’

‘Because they were all over the body like a rash. Tintagel Stone and Ben.’

‘Yes, but neither had any weapon to kill Bernard. Also, they only came down to see what had happened after he fell, and he was dead when he hit the ground.’

‘They’ll hang me, won’t they? The hangman will come up in a mask and put a bag over my head and a moose around my neck and they’ll kill me, they’ll kill me!’

Charles’ voice had risen to a scream. Phryne slapped him, hard, across the cheek. He gaped at her.

‘You hit me!’ he gasped. ‘ You hit me!’

‘And I’ll hit you again if you don’t pipe down. You’ll rouse the house. You have overlooked the factor that is going to preserve your miserable life.’

‘What?’ asked Charles, hand still capping his reddened cheek.

‘Me,’ said Phryne immodestly. ‘I am a vital factor. I will find out what happened and I will get you out.’

Thursday Quotables Meme

I first came in contact with Miss Phryne through the tv series. I don’t know why, I had a feeling it was going to be a silly show, but since it’s the 1920s and since it’s mystery, I decided to give it a go. I fell in love.

So when I got the chance to read one of the books through NetGalley, I immediately grabbed it. Once again, I was initially put off (it wasn’t the first book in the series and at the beginning I had a hard time getting into it), but then a fell in love all over again.

There is really a lot to love about this series. First of all, Miss Phryne Fisher is a fantastic character: haughty and elegant, but also good-hearted and generous. Clever, educated, self-confident, but also insecure enough to make her not really a superhero.
The cast of characters around her is equally endearing, very easy to love all of them in their own way. This was a huge winning point for me.

The era reconstruction is absolutely outstanding, one of the best I’ve read. It is plain clear this author did a lot of research and – this is the tricky part – integrated them into the story seamlessly. Greenwood’s 1920s world is vivid, real, and still different enough that you know it is not the world we’re living now. Still she depicts it in such natural tones you can’t help feel you’re there.

The mystery was clever and well constructed as well as the investigation. I even like the romantic parenthesis Phryne takes at some point, though that went on for a little bit too long for me (but hey, I’m not particularly fond of romances, so…). I really liked the connection with WWI, which – like all the rest – was integrated beautifully in the story.

It’s a great series. Read it!

 

 

 

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In post is part of the Thursday Quotables mem. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies

 

THE GREEN MILL MURDERA (Kerry Greenwood) - Miss Fisher investigates a few mysteries and a murder, connected to the Green Mill Jazz Club. Witty and clever

Gang Roundup – February 2017

Had a lot of fun with the Gang Roundup in January, guys! Lot’s a good posts to share. I have to warn you that this roundup leans dangerously on the dieselpunk sid, but I do have a few historical posts that I really love.

Hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.

 

Bizarre Paintings Of Mecha Robots And Werewolves Attacking East European Peasants Of The Early 20th Century

The World of Scythe is a beautiful 105-page art book showcasing the work of Jakub Rozalski for the board game Scythe, one of the most successful games ever funded on Kickstarter. The book was only made available to backers during the Kickstarter campaign, and is now only available on ArtStation Shop.

I find retrofuturistic illustrations absolutely fascinating. I love the mix of history and fantasy, that sense of displacement that isn’t scary, but reveals something new. I find it exciting.
I discovered the work of Polish artist Jakub Rozalski completely by chance and fell in love right away. Don’t you think it’s absolutely amazing?

The World of Scythe is a beautiful 105-page art book showcasing the work of Jakub Rozalski for the board game Scythe, one of the most successful games ever funded on Kickstarter. The book was only made available to backers during the Kickstarter campaign, and is now only available on ArtStation Shop.

Iron Harvest

Jakub Rozalski also created the setting for for the RPG game Iron Harvest, set in a dieselpunk 1920s East Europe-like world.

1920+ is an alternate version of our own world created by Polish artist Jakub Różalski. In the early 20th century, tradition clashes with progress, and the world is still full of mysteries and secrets.

 

Dieselpunk Lexicon

I’m really enjoying Larry Amyett‘s series about the keywords of Dieselpunk. This month, both his posts were concerned with the ‘era’ of Dieselpunk

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 8: Diesel Era

The most accepted definition of the Diesel Era is that it lasted roughly from the 1920s to the 1950s, although some dieselpunks (like myself) include both World Wars and see the second half of the 1950s as already out of it.
As with most genres, there isn’t a very definite border, besides creatives of all inclinations will always try to blur those borders. As it should be.

Dieselpunk Lexicon Part 8: Interbellum Period

“The Interbellum Period had clear starting and ending dates. It began on November 11, 1918, which the day the Armistice went in effect and hostilities stopped in World War One, and ended on September 1, 1939 when Germany invaded Poland.”

While both World Wars are very popular with dieselpunk authors, the Interbellum Period, particularly the last stretch nearest to WWII, is also very popular because it echoes of a defining characteristic of dieselpunk: the noir mood.
Many dieselpunk stories are drenched in noir mood and they envision a world that is very easily seen in the Golden Age of Hollywood film noir, the 1940s.

 

Surviving the 1930s

For a lucky coincidence, Tome Wilson also spoke about the Diesel Era on The Gatehouse website. This is a fascinating excursus on the historical period, with a particular enphasis on everything that Dieselpunk has gladly adopted as its own.
If the 1920s were a time of excitment, in good and bad, and the 1940s were a dark age inesorably falling into global war, the 1930s were a time in between where the preceeding and following era merged and collided.

 

 

With Copper, Foil, and Paint, a Little-Known American Sculptor Saved Scores of World War I Soldiers from a Faceless Future

I’m always surprised about how little we actually know about WWI. Because of how terrible WWII was, we generally tend to forget about the Great War which preceded it of just one generation, but WWI was truly a devastating experience for the generation of young men and women who were involved (and not just them).

It was a war that made millions of dead and that damaged permanelty (both in body and mind) millions of other.

One of the worst wounds that plagued those veterans of WWI were facial disfigurements. We never think about it because then surgery advanced so much that this was less of an issue in later years. But many young men came back from the war with their faces completely destroyed. I’ve seen photos that truely made me wonder how those poor men could even be still alive, with entire pieces of their face gone.
I can only imagine what it may have mean to live the rest of their life with such a face.

An American artist, Anna Coleman Ladd, took it upon herself to do something for these people. She created delicate masks that recreated the whole face of the injured and that could be disguised on the person’s face with makeup.
It’s an incredible story, one of the many that we don’t know about WWI.

 

Good Night, Angela and Flappers & Jelly Beans

Although in this post author Delynn Royer technically launches her book Good Night, Angela, she also tells of a fascinating place I didn’t even know excisted: the 20th Century Limited. This was an American luxury train, not very different from the European Oriental Express, that travelled from New York City to Chicago. You can see it in the ebove photo… which I have to tell you, is among the most popular photos I’ve ever spotted in the dieselpunk community.
It was nice to learn its history.

 

John Barleycorn Must Die: Today in History, Mock Funerals Took Place Across America as Prohibition Began in Earnest

“On January 17th, 1920, hundreds of fake funerals were held in churches and bars across the country for a man that didn’t exist. John Barleycorn, the anthropomorphic personification of beer and whiskey, was symbolically laid to rest amid cheers and tears at 12:01 AM, January 16th, 1920. These mock funerals saw the actual burial of a bottle effigy, complete with pomp and circumstance. The tone of the ceremony varied widely, however, depending on who was conducting the funeral rites.”

I’ve always found this part of Prohibition funny. Although I’ve read about it in many book and articles, this is the first time that I read about it in details.

 

 

A Proposal to Die For

The opening scene of A Proposal to Die For came to me in a flash: a lady in evening dress reaching for a golden lighter on a mantelpiece to relight her cigarette and then overhearing a few whispered words coming from behind an opulent Chinese silk screen. A marriage proposal, but in the same breath a reference to someone who would be better dead if the marriage is to work out.

I don’t know about you, but that’s an image that really really intrigues me. So this book goes straight in my TBR list, which is growing allarmingly long (and very much 1920s!) lately.

I met Vivian Conroy on Twitter Where she’s a lively animator of the #WritersWise chats. Do come along next time. It’s fun.

 

 

JustSomeMotion

And finally, something that is really only just fun.

Steve Otten is a Düsseldorf native dancer who has become very popular on the net with his reinvention of dancing moves that – in my opinion – have a lot of the jazz/swing era.
He’s featured in an Italian commercial, that’s how I discovered him. Then I learned of his first commercial for a German company.
Have a look, he’s fantastic!

 

 

Gang Roundup - February 2017 - A collection of posts about dieselpunk and history, plus some books and videos