In February 1962, a group of young German film-makers issued a statement at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in North Rhine-Westphalia. Called the Oberhausen Manifesto, the declaration stated, “Der alte Film ist tot. Wir glauben an den neuen” (“The old cinema is dead. We believe in the new cinema”):
The decline of conventional German cinema has taken away the economic incentive that imposed a method that, to us, goes against the ideology of film. A new style of film gets the chance to come alive.
Short movies by young German screenwriters, directors, and producers have achieved a number of international festival awards in the last few years and have earned respect from the international critics.
Their accomplishment and success has shown that the future of German films are in the hands of people who speak a new language of film. In Germany, as already in other countries, short film has become an educational and experimental field for feature films. We’re announcing our aspiration to create this new style of film.
Film needs to be more independent. Free from all usual conventions by the industry. Free from control of commercial partners. Free from the dictation of stakeholders.
We have detailed spiritual, structural, and economic ideas about the production of new German cinema. Together we’re willing to take any risk. Conventional film is dead. We believe in the new film.
It was signed by twenty-six film-makers including Alexander Kluge and Edgar Reitz. But it would take until the end of the decade before a more radical and ambitious group of film directors put into practice the aims of the Oberhausen Manifesto.
Volker Schlöndorff, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, Jean-Marie Straub and Rainer Werner Fassbinder allied themselves to a New Cinema that dealt with the interests and issues of their generation, and sought to achieve an excellence of creativity, rather than films made for purely commercial reasons.
Signs of Vigorous Life: New German Cinema is a short documentary on the origins of New German Cinema, which features interview footage with Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
AJ Weberman is infamous, if he is known at all, among Dylan aficionados for being the obsessed stalker who Bob Dylan physically assaulted in 1971 because he had been harassing his family. Weberman picked through their trash (he calls his stinky style of sleuthing the science of “Garbology”) and staged demonstrations (with the “Dylan Liberation Front,” the students of his “Dylanology” classes) outside of Dylan’s MacDougal Street brownstone, apparently with the aim of convincing Dylan to, uh, join the revolution, man… but having the result of really pissing him off.
Bob Dylan vs. A.J. Weberman is the title of a much-sought after Dylan curio, a bootleg LP made from recordings of Weberman and Dylan talking on the telephone. It’s a fascinating conversation—indeed it’s what got the filmmakers interested in such an odd character in the first place—but it’s baffling why a superstar like Bob Dylan would have given such a freak his phone number in the first place (Weberman taught a class in “Dylanology” and had interviewed Dylan for the underground press before he got weird on him).
Here’s what Weberman told Rolling Stone’s Marc Jacobson, years later, about the time Dylan beat him up:
“I’d agreed not to hassle Dylan anymore, but I was a publicity-hungry motherfucker. . . . I went to MacDougal Street, and Dylan’s wife comes out and starts screaming about me going through the garbage. Dylan said if I ever fucked with his wife, he’d beat the shit out of me. A couple of days later, I’m on Elizabeth Street and someone jumps me, starts punching me.
“I turn around and it’s like—Dylan. I’m thinking, ‘Can you believe this? I’m getting the crap beat out of me by Bob Dylan!’ I said, ‘Hey, man, how you doin’?’ But he keeps knocking my head against the sidewalk. He’s little, but he’s strong. He works out. I wouldn’t fight back, you know, because I knew I was wrong. He gets up, rips off my ‘Free Bob Dylan’ button and walks away. Never says a word.
“The Bowery bums were coming over, asking, ‘How much he get?’ Like I got rolled. . . . I guess you got to hand it to Dylan, coming over himself, not sending some fucking lawyer. That was the last time I ever saw him, except once with one of his kids, maybe Jakob, and he said, ‘A.J. is so ashamed of his Jewishness, he got a nose job,’ which was true—at least in the fact that I got a nose job. . . .”
I’ve had my own (one-sided) run-ins with the notoriously prickly Weberman: In April of 1997, only a matter of a few months after Disinformation was launched on the Internet, I posted an innocuous enough item there about Aron Kay AKA “Pie Man,” another aging Yippie holdover like Weberman who was known for his habit of “pieing” people he thought deserved ridiculing like Anita Bryant, William F. Buckley, Phyllis Schlafly, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt and Andy Warhol.
Kay and Weberman are old cronies and I guess what happened is that he told Weberman about this counterculture website that had written about him and Weberman took a look, noticed a collection of links to various JFK assassination sites that I’d prepared, saw that his JFK assassination site wasn’t listed there and promptly started leaving long, hateful, spiteful messages (three in all) on my answering machine. Someone I’d never met was fucking furious at me, over something that I didn’t do. My sin was one of omission—I didn’t know about his website—but it seemed to leave the guy utterly unhinged.
I didn’t hear from him again for ten years until my wife signed me up for Facebook. One day soon afterwards she asked me: “Do you know some dude named AJ Weberman? He’s saying shitty things about you and trolling you on your Facebook wall.”
“Oh that guy. No, I don’t know him, but he’s done this before to me, just ban him, will you?”
That’s the end of my AJ Weberman story, although I suspect he’ll read this post and have something to say in the comments.
Via email, I asked the filmmakers, James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfeabout getting tangled up with Weberman:
I know that both of you are big Dylan fans. How did you stumble across AJ Weberman and decide to make a film about him?
We first came across Weberman in various biographies of Dylan. He was and probably always will be portrayed as a persistent nuisance in the extreme. The way people wrote about him was purely hateful which stuck out. We then heard the bootlegged phone call him made to Dylan which made for fascinating listening and we thought, ‘I wonder what this guy is doing now?’
What do you make of his “Dylanology”?
Weberman has an incredible analytical brain. His conclusions maybe off kilter but the ride is entertaining and sometimes illuminating. While many scholars interpret Dylan’s work within the vernacular of the blues or folk music traditions, it’s interesting to read Dylan from a street slang, streetwise level, which is where Weberman places him. And some of his insights, the way he sees those songs are fascinating. However, I feel Weberman has an agenda which often shapes his interpretations and distorts them. Some of his conclusions I disagree with, some anger me, some amuse me. It’s important to note for those that haven’t seen the film, that it’s not just a mouth piece for Weberman’s insights and wild fantasies about Dylan – there’s plenty of that you can read for yourselves on the web if you want to.
In the infamous recording of his phone conversation with Dylan, I couldn’t for the life of me understand Dylan’s own motivation in bothering to accommodate an asshole like Weberman. Most people, let alone someone as famous as Bob Dylan, would have told Weberman to go fuck himself or let the police deal with him, but Dylan, even after insulting him, continues to speak with him—albeit warily—and even agrees to a future call. Do you think Dylan was thinking “Well this guys a kook, but he’s a fan, so I owe him politeness” and just trying to deal with him on that level or WHAT? (My wife remarked during that part of your film “Why does Bob Dylan stay on the phone with this creep?” as well. It bothered her!)
I think perhaps Dylan was trying to work out how much of a nut Weberman was. This is a good few years before Lennon was shot but I bet part of Dylan’s receptiveness to Weberman was to try to work out if he was dangerous. By the time of the phone call however, Dylan had met Weberman a number of times and probably worked out that he wasn’t a psycho, so I think there was something else going on. I think in some way Dylan enjoyed the banter. Weberman does not kowtow to Dylan, he doesn’t let him get away with anything on that call, he challenges Dylan and when Dylan counter attacks these challenges, Weberman comes back at him with more. Perhaps Dylan found this refreshing to the hordes of people that fell over themselves to agree with him and praise him.
I’ve never had any personal interaction with Weberman, but he’s called my apartment in NYC and left abusive messages for me and some nasty posts on my Facebook wall. However, I must say, he doesn’t seem nearly as crazy in your film as I imagined he’d be in real life. Do you reckon he was on his best behavior because there was a camera on him?
Not really. Weberman has a nasty streak in him which I think you see in our film but it’s not the only aspect of his personality.
Near the start of the film he admits to getting physical with his wife resulting in a retraining order and also of spending some time in jail. How long was he actually incarcerated for dealing pot?
I forget now – I think the sentence was two years.
How does Weberman make a living these days?
It’s a good question. I believe he does a bit of work gathering information for the Jewish Defense League. He also writes books – the Dylan to Englishdictionary, his book on who really killed JFK and Homo Thug which was about Giuliani. I don’t know how much money he makes from these however.
How did he react to your film? Did he throw a tantrum and call your voice mail repeatedly? Nasty emails?
He never really commented on the film. In fact, he has never really asked us any personal questions about our lives at all. When we meet up with him these days, it’s just straight into whatever is on his mind. So no, he’s never let on what he thought about it. He probably would have preferred it if we used more of his Dylanology rants and kept in some of the more outrageous conclusions he comes up with. There was one point while shooting he said he would prefer it if we stopped filming, then he immediately changed his mind and said fuck it, lets keep it in the style of cinéma vérité. I liked that.
Have you ever heard if Bob Dylan saw your doc? I’d imagine that he’d get a real kick out of it.
I really hope he has seen it. I gave a copy to the producer of No Direction Home who promised he’d pass it on to Dylan. Who knows if that happened? If he has seen it, I hope he liked it.
Holy-motherfucking shit, our friends at Cinefamily (here in sunny Los Angeles) have outdone themselves (yet again) for what looks like an incredibly fun time this coming Saturday night:
An Evening With Paul Williams
Why are there so few songs about rainbows? Because Paul Williams wrote the absolute definitive one for all-time with “The Rainbow Connection”, and no one else since has dared to go near the rainbow zone. This one feat alone doesn’t make a career—but the theme song to “The Love Boat” and huge chart hits for The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand, Helen Reddy and Three Dog Night sure do, as well as the smash soundtracks for Phantom of the Paradise, Bugsy Malone, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas and A Star Is Born, all in conjunction with an incredible acting career in which he’s played boy geniuses (The Loved One), sleazy businessmen (Smokey And The Bandit) and monkey dudes (Battle For The Planet of the Apes). WHEW!
Short in stature but towering in talent and charisma, Paul Williams was one of the faces of 1970s American pop culture—you couldn’t tune into late-night TV without seeing his joyful, bespectacled grin. Deserving of every accolade every bestowed to him, Paul is a national treasure, one fully deserving of rediscovery. Join us as we sit down with this living legend for a juicy career-spanning convo, moderated by Steven Kessler (director of the brand-new doc Paul Williams: Still Alive) and peppered with rare archival footage of Paul at his best!
Phantom of the Paradise Tribute Concert
One of the most intense, baroque and satirical films of Brian De Palma’s filmography deserved an equally shimmering, catchy and reference-laden rock score—and that’s exactly what Paul Williams bestowed upon De Palma’s 1974 movie musical masterpiece Phantom of the Paradise. Starring in the film as well as singing several of its cult-hit earworms, Paul cemented an unforgettable legacy as “Swan,” the Svengali-like evil spirit chairman of Death Records—in addition to penning other soulful, memorable numbers for his co-stars, tunes that giddily run the gamut from glam rock sleaze to doo-wop parody, singer-songwriter sensitivity and beyond. The Phantom songbook is instantly hummable and forever meaningful to lovers of pop pastiche—and after our live Q&A session with Paui, it’s time for a full-on live tribute show to this epic showstopping soundtrack! The evening’s vocalists include Eryn Young, Django and Sam Stewart, Sierra Swan, Tim Young and Heather Porcaro—and the band is manned by Tim Young, Kaveh, Aaron Sterling and Steve Porcaro. Thrill to this ace team’s renditions of “Faust,” “Old Souls,” “The Hell of It” and more!
An Evening With Paul Williams begins at 6:00pm and the Phantom of the Paradise Tribute Concert begins at 8:30pm, Saturday June 16th. Get tickets here.
(The evening prior, Cinefamily will be screening a Paul Williams double bill of The Muppet Movie and Phantom of the Paradise. Info here.)
When she found him in the early hours of the morning, it seemed as if he was sleeping. Lying on the bed, with an ink-marked script beside him, still dressed, his shoes carelessly kicked off, a television flickering in the corner. The room smelled of smoke and sweat, a table lamp, cigarettes, an overfilled ashtray. It seemed as if he’d fallen asleep as he worked on his latest screenplay Rosa L., a film about the revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg. He looked pale. An unlit cigarette drooped from his lips, a small trickle of blood glistened from one nostril. For 4 years, Juliane Lorenz had been his partner, she had seen him tired out like this before, falling asleep while working late at night, geed-up by cocaine and alcohol, but this time there was something different. Juliane listened. He was too quiet. When he slept he snored. But now, all she heard - the ticking clock, the television, the hush of traffic outside - was his silence. Rainer Werner Fassbinder was dead.
It’s still hard to believe Fassbinder managed to do so much in his short thirty-seven years of life. That fact he was working on a script at the moment he died, says everything about his dedication to his art. In less than 15 years, Fassbinder made 40 feature films, 3 short films; 4 TV series, 24 stage plays and 4 radio plays. He also acted in 36 productions and worked scriptwriter, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer and theater manager.
Born into a middle class family, his father was a doctor who worked near Munich’s red light district. His mother helped with her husband, and neither had much time for their son. After their divorce, Fassbinder lived with his mother, who worked as a translator but was often absent, hospitalized with tuberculosis. Then, Fassbinder spent his time with neighbors, listening to their life stories or, going on his own to the cinema - he later claimed he saw a film a day during his childhood.
“The cinema was the family life I never had at home.”
His favorite films were melodramas, his favorite director Douglas Sirk, of whom Fassbinder said:
“The important thing to learn from Douglas Sirk’s movies is that on the screen you are allowed to, or better still, supposed to, enlarge people’s ordinary feelings—as small as they may be—as much as possible.”
Fassbinder started writing plays, and read about the Spanish playwright Lope de Vega, who had over 1,800 plays attributed to him. This became the gold standard to which Fassbinder aimed his ambitions. At 18, he joined a theater group, and the first hint of his incredible talents and ambitions became apparent.
Within 2 months of joining the Action Theater group, he became its leader. This proved too much for other, older members, who led to the group’s disbandment. Fassbinder then created a new company and drew together a team, or family of actors - Peer Raben, Harry Baer, Kurt Raab, Hanna Schygulla and Irm Hermann - who were to work with him until his death.
His first movie was a “deconstruction of the gangster films”, called Love is Colder than Death, it caused considerable controversy at its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in 1969, where Fassbinder was jeered and denounced as a “dilletante” by members of the audience. Even so, it established his reputation as a talent to watch, and led on to his next film, Katzelmacher, which was adapted from his stage play. It was the start of his movie career that saw such an unparalleled output. Everything in Fassbinder’s life went towards his film-making. He was often ruthless and allegedly pimped some of the theater group actresses to raise money for his films.
“I would like to build a house with my films. Some are the cellars, others the walls, still others the windows. But I hope in the end it will be a house.”
The turning point came in 1971 with the release of The Merchant of the Four Seasons, the tale of a merchant who is slowly destroyed by circumstances beyond his control. the story epitomized Fassbinder’s world view as tragedy. Life was battled out against insurmountable odds, at great cost to its players. Though his films were often described as “bleak”, I never found them less than engrossing, for the theme to all his films is love - the cost love has on us all.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Fassbinder made such unforgettable films as The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) (adapted form his play); World on a Wire (1973); his first major international success Fear Eats the Soul (1974), the story of love between an older woman and Moroccan immigrant, played by Fassbinder’s then lover El Hadi ben Salem; Effi Briest (1974); Fox and His Friends (1975); Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven (1975); Despair, his first English film, with a script adapted by Tom Stoppard form the novel by Vladimir Nabokov; In a Year of Thirteen Moons (1978), Fassbinder’s bleakest and personal movie, made in response to the suicide of his lover, Armin Meier; The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), which became a breakthrough movie in America; Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), a 13-hour TV series adapted form Alfred Döblin’s novel; Lili Marleen (1981), another big budget English movie; Veronika Voss (1982) which was inspired by Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard; and his last major feature, which progressed cinematic narrative in a new and original way, Querelle (1982), adapted form the novel by Jean Genet. Fassbinder had just finished editing Querelle when he died.
The official cause of his death was “an overdose of cocaine and sleeping pills”. The cost of his lifestyle and his ambition took too great a toll. Before he died, his body had bloated from an excess of drink, food and drugs, and he once said, he became fat to make it harder to be loved. Fassbinder used his body, as he used chain-smoking, or his excessive drinking, as means to protect and distance himself from others. His sense of being unloved or, of being unworthy of love, stemmed from the parental indifference of his childhood. When he was older, he often treated his lovers and those closest to him badly, testing their loyalty and love for him. Emotionally, Fassbinder was childlike, as he always searched for that imagined lack, which would make him feel loved. It was this, Fassbinder’s own emotional biography that underscored his films.
Thirty years after his death, we can more fully appreciate the scale and quality of Fassbinder’s genius; and see the real beauty of the man who was Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is in my top ten favorite films of all time. I remember vividly the first time I saw it on opening day, September 19, 1986, in New York City. When the credits finished rolling, I staggered out of the theater and immediately went to my neighborhood bar where I waxed poetically about the psychedelic noir well into the wee hours of the morning. The next day I went to see it again. This was my kind of film - a dark, funny, dreamlike mindfuck that was beautifully shot and had an exquisitely haunting score.
Blue Velvet’s original shooting script is reputed to have been over four hours long. The theatrical release came in at 120 minutes. An additional hour of deleted footage was thought to have been lost when the producer of the film, Dino De Laurentis, sold his company. Fortunately, the footage was located and was released as an extra on the Blu-ray edition of Blue Velvet . These deleted scenes have been uploaded to YouTube and I present them here for your viewing pleasure. Rumor has it that there is even more footage out there.
Things kick off with a bang in a barroom scene with Jeffrey Beaumont, Frank Booth, a bevy of prostitutes, an old dude singing some deranged blues tune, violence on a pool table and a woman with glowing nipples.
I would love to see a director’s cut with these scenes re-integrated into the film. Would they add any resonance to an already great film or was Lynch right in excising them? Perhaps one day we’ll find out.
A short clip from Come to London, British Pathé‘s featurette highlighting some of the attractions available in the Swinging Sixties’ capital. This is worth watching for the water-bike, but especially for Peter Sellers giving Britt Ekland a birthday cake in 1966.
This gorgeous artistic collaboration by Luke Insect and Kenn Goodall was inspired by Michael Reeves’ 60s British cult horror film, Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm as it was known in the States) starring Vincent Price.
This 370mm x 594mm, 3-color screenprint uses metallic gold, fluorescent red and matte black inks and is printed on 300gsm Snowdon Acid-Free Cartridge Paper in an edition of 50, signed and numbered by the artists.