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MoMA to Present the Most Extensive Exhibition of Weimar Cinema Ever Mounted in the U.S.
Viktor und Viktoria. 1933. Germany. Written and directed by Reinhold Schünzel. Courtesy of MoMA.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Museum of Modern Art, in association with the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden and in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, presents Weimar Cinema, 1919–1933: Daydreams and Nightmares, the most comprehensive exhibition surveying the extraordinarily fertile and influential period in German filmmaking between the two world wars. It was during this period that film matured from a silent, visually expressive art into one circumscribed yet enlivened by language, music and sound effects. This four-month series includes 75 feature-length films and 6 shorts―a mix of classic films and many motion pictures unseen since the 1930s―and opens with the newly discovered film Ins Blaue Hinein (Into the Blue) (1929), by Eugene Schüfftan, the special effects artist and master cinematographer originally renowned for his work on Fritz Lang‘s Metropolis (1927). Running November 17, 2010 through March 7, 2011, Weimar Cinema is augmented by an exhibition of posters and photographs of Weimar filmmaking in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1 Lobby Galleries and an illustrated publication, which includes an extensive filmography supplemented by German criticism and essays by leading scholars of the period. The film portion of the exhibition is organized by Laurence Kardish, Senior Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Eva Orbanz, Senior Curator, Special Projects, Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen. The gallery exhibition is organized by Ronald S. Magliozzi Assistant Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, with Laurence Kardish and Rajendra Roy, The Celeste Bartos Chief Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

The years of the Weimar Republic—between the end of World War I, in 1918, and 1933, when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany—was a period of rich stylistic and narrative innovation in German film, producing a wave of moviemaking that altered the course of modern cinema. As the Third Reich took power, many of the Weimar filmmakers went into exile, and their achievements either banned or censored. As the war came to an end, and Soviet troops first occupied Berlin many of the surviving German films were sent to Russian film archives and not returned to Germany until decades later.

This extensive program reaches beyond the standard view of Weimar cinema—which sees its tropes of madmen, evil geniuses, pagan forces, and schizophrenic behavior as dark harbingers of Hitler—by adding another perspective: that of the popular German cinema of the period. The development of Weimar cinema coincided with the transition from silent films to ―talkies‖, and German filmmakers excelled in the making of popular musicals, cabaret-style comedies, and dramas—shot outside the studio—that tackled social issues.

Weimar Cinema includes not only classic films by Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and G. W. Pabst, among others, but also many films, unseen for decades, that were restored after German reunification, including two films by Alexis Granovsky, the former director of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, Die Koffer des Herrn O. F. Ein Märchen für Erwachsene (The Trunks of Mr. O. F.) (1931) and Das Lied vom Leben (The Song of Life) (193), which was censored in Germany for its sexual suggestiveness.

Other highlights include Die Frau, nach der Man sich sehnt (Three Loves) (1929), the newly-restored film starring Marlene Dietrich, made prior to Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) in 1930, which was long considered to be the first film in which Dietrich starred; and Lohnbuchhalter Kremke (Bookkeeper Kremke) (1930), made by Marie Harder, one of the few female directors of the time. Harder, the director of the German Social Democratic Film Office, made only two known films before her accidental death in exile in Mexico in 1936.

German cinema‘s strong influences on American films can be seen in Ernst Lubitsch‘s Madame du Barry (Passion), 1919, which was the first film imported into the US after World War 1; and the 1933 musical Viktor und Viktoria—remade in 1982 starring Julie Andrews—one of the last of the Weimar films, made almost a year into the Third Reich.

Accompanying the film series is an exhibition in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1 Lobby Galleries, drawn from the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Deutsches Kinemathek, Museum fur Film und Fernsehen, Berlin, consisting of posters, film stills, and moving images from Germany‘s Weimar period, in addition to rare studio presentation books acquired by the founding curator of MoMA‘s Department of Film, Iris Barry, on her historic 1937 tour of Europe. The selection attests to the German film industry‘s distinguished application of design and graphics to the promotion of the medium in the period.

The Museum of Modern Art | Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation | New York |

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