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Tribute to WERNER SCHROETER: the unlimited cinema

10 years ago, in April 2010 (it was also the month of his birth), one of the greatest figures of cinema in the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century left us: the German filmmaker WERNER SCHROETER (1945-2010).

He was born for the cinema in the late sixties, with the New German Cinema, of which he was one of the seminal figures, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who with Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndorf, Alexander Kluge and Schroeter in those years gave new life to cinema in Germany, said he was the best, of all.

“Werner Schroeter was for more than ten years - a long time, too long - the most important, most passionate and most decisive director of an alternative cinema, of a cinema, which, in general, is called underground, which reduces, minimizes and ends up muffling it. […] In fact, there are only films in a gray set. And there are also those who make films. And if men and their films are different from each other, the need that was felt to make films also varies naturally. […] Werner Schroeter, who one day will have his place in the history of cinema (in literature, I would consider him between Novalis, Lautréamont and Louis-Ferdinand Céline) was therefore an underground filmmaker for ten years and did not want to make it possible to escape from that role. […] An attitude as easy as it is stupid, because Schroeter's films are close to us; it is true that they are beautiful, but not exotic, on the contrary. ” - wrote Fassbinder, in 1979, ten years after the debut of Schroeter's first and sweeping feature film, Eika Katappa, that won the Josef von Sternberg prize at the festival of Manheim (Schroeter had actually started in 68, with the making of several “underground” shorts, certainly due to the influence that the New York underground had on him, with whom he had contacted at a film festival in Belgium).

In 1971 he filmed The Death of Maria Malibran, inspired by the mythical soprano mezzo of the 19th century. His films, with a predilection for a kind of operatic excess and for artifice, which mixed, in a heterogeneous way, opera and pop music, theater and cabaret, melodrama and contemporary dance, painting and literature, the “high” and the “low” culture, defied all categorizations. They were allegories, fables, driven by a romantic impulse, desire and loss, but also salvation, in a work of enormous strength and vitality, which chose “outsiders”, strangers, foreigners. The huge critical impact made him quickly gain a number of devoted followers on the festival circuit.

Werner Schroeter, whom Hans Jürgen Syberberg considered “one of the truly revolutionary artists of our time”, made four dozen films, including short and feature films, documentaries and fictional films, in which he worked with actors who were practically unknown, but also with actresses like Bulle Ogier, Carole Bouquet or Isabelle Huppert. He was also an actor (namely Fassbinder's, in Berlin, Alexander Platz), and prolific theater and opera director, in Germany and other countries.

The Kingdom of Naples (1978) and Palermo or Wolfsburg (1980) also stand out in their work, which resulted from their “Italian years” and marked the change to a more linear narrative structure (with Palermo he won the Golden Bear at the 1980 Berlin Film Festival, the first time that the prize of best film was awarded to a German director). Malina (1991), among others, would also make an adaptation based on the future Nobel Prize for Literature Elfriede Jelinek, from the eponymous novel by Ingeborg Bachman, with Isabelle Hupert as the protagonist.

Paulo Branco, his friend for more than three decades, produced 3 films for him, all of them shot in Portugal: The Rose King (1986, International Critics Award and Best Film, at the Rotterdam Film Festival), shot in the areas of Sintra and Montijo, a very unique film and a tribute to his muse from the first hour, Magdalena Montezuma, who would die shortly after the shooting of the film), Deux / Two (2002, Cannes Film Festival - Directors' Fortnight), with Huppert, Bulle Ogier, Arielle Dombasle and Portuguese actor Rogério Samora, shot in Lisbon and in the Sintra area, and This Night, his last work, filmed in Porto, with Pascal Gregory, Eric Caravacca and Bulle, an adaptation of the novel by Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti, which debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2008, where Werner Schroeter was awarded the Special Golden Lion by the Jury, an exceptional prize from the Festival given for “his work devoid of commitment and rigorously innovative for 40 years”.

He was twice at LEFFEST, then still called Lisbon and Estoril Film Festival: in 2007 (in addition to a tribute and the exhibition of his films, an exhibition of his photographs was presented there for the first time; over the years Schroeter continuously developed an extensive photographic work, which, until that date, had never been presented in public), and in 2008, when he presented in Portuguese premiere This Night. At that time, he also gave a masterclass, where he said that cinema had to arouse reactions in viewers, that it had to provoke them.

In relation to this film, where he filmed the chaos that is taking over Santamaria (a fictional city, invented by Onetti, and that Schroeter found in the magical atmosphere of the Porto dawns), the director drew attention to the counterpoint: “the life is very rich despite catastrophes ”[…] and “we are the ones who can change the world! ”.

We will return next week to Werner Schroeter and pay tribute to him making available on the Medeia Filmes website, in free streaming, and simultaneously, between 12pm on April 30th and 12pm on May 3rd, the 3 films produced by Paulo Branco, distributed by Leopardo Filmes: THE ROSE KING; DEUX / TWO; THIS NIGHT.

Leopardo Filmes | Medeia Filmes

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