An Evening with Rainer Simon

June 17, 2010

Evan and Rainer - Fall 2008 - Amherst, MA

Reality

After a day straining my eyes at the Bundesarchiv with microfiches detailing debates about film as a “kulturpolitisches Instrument,” it was nice to go to Potsdam and catch up with a friendly acquaintance.

Rainer Simon, one of the most prominent DEFA directors in the 1980s, invited me over to his art-bedecked apartment to talk shop and watch the World Cup.

While I hold much of our conversation in strict confidence, I can say he’s doing quite well:  he was at a film festival in Guadalajara, and intends on re-visiting Mexico via Ecuador this fall if all goes right.  He also foresees being in the U.S. for an extended stay in 2011, which may mean his films will be screened wherever he’s at.  As a foreign director working in Mexico, he finds himself revisiting Sergei Eisenstein and his “failed” project ¡Que Viva México! (1931), which never does one harm to do.

At a certain point, the match between Brazil and North Korea began, such that we spent the next 90 minutes gaping at the television as the rare spectacle of the tightly coordinated North Korean defense pitted against the Brazilian powerhouse offense unfolded before our eyes.  We naturally rooted for North Korea – Simon: “Ich stehe immer auf der Seite der Außenseiter.” – and were sad for their 2-1 loss.  Nevertheless, we found it so poetic that they posed such a strong resistance for the first 65 minutes of the game that we forgot the renewed geopolitical dispute over the 38th Parallel N the country’s leaders have offered us in recent months.  Then again, we are all captivated by immaculately kept soccer fields amidst a South Africa stricken by the horrific economic and social consequences of neoliberal capitalism.  So it goes.

Fantasy

Lady Snowblood (dir. Toshiya Fujita, 1973)

The classic “child of vengeance story”: a woman’s family is killed by four evil people, so she murders one and bears a child for the express purpose of having the remaining three killed.  Kill Bill (2004) extensively references this film, but let’s not dwell on that.  Instead, our attention should be focused on the intense shock edits demonstrating the revenge-obsessed psychology of the protagonist (cf Lone Wolf and Cub), the simple-yet-effective fight choreography (cf Seven Samurai) and the different philosophical paradigms embodied by the antagonists (cf El Topo).  A masterwork of generic excess.

Les Vampires (dir. Louis Feuillade, 1915)

I remember watching this French serial back at the University of Iowa in the summer of 2001 and wanted to see if it was as good as my memory of it.  It is.  Though the pacing of individual scenes runs against modern viewer expectation (i.e., we spend a long time watching actors walking all the way into buildings, across roofs, etc.), the mise-en-scène is still quite stunning, with multiple fields of action and a coherent delineation between them all.

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2 Responses to “An Evening with Rainer Simon”

  1. Great blog, Evan. You really get around to meet a lot of interesting people from the DEFA past! We should have a talk about possible joint projects one of these days 🙂

    Jon

  2. guyintheblackhat said

    Thanks, Jon! I’m pitching the Westerns trilogy DVD idea to my superiors in a short while (July) and will get back to you about that.

    Best,

    -Evan

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