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You know I suppose you know about Maxim Gorky he was somewhat later generation and probably in Chekhov although he knew them in fact as a young man he was a disciple of both and in fact his reminiscences of tossed by and jack up probably the very best things about these two right is absolute modeless little books you want to look at in the future and about and in a lot of. Maqam grow he was deaf and dumb both of them and even down to asking and being really a man of the people he was very an illegitimate child and a very poor family and fact until the age of 30 he had no money he was it. And he lived as kind of a life. So he really was the funniest Russian rider that could be said to be not of the middle class but probably a writer I don't know unlike the others because he came later passed other because he was also a very early in fact. 19:5 I thought he was on I would find a good line and. Time when
Lennon had you know 300 followers perhaps and go out he was one of them they were going to get that and then of course the lower depths of the novel thought I don't think he's really anything near as great as the other one I'd bet he is a very respectable writer the. Only. You are listening to McDonald on film. During the past decade Mr McDonnell has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics and during this past year he was distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from that lecture series the topic for this program is the German and Russian cinema of the 20s and 30s. Once again here is Dwight MacDonald. I thought I would say something about what happened to the three great schools
of thought on film in the 30s through the German the Russian and the American and you know what the main people were and so I want to talk about that I won't go over that. But now the German film to begin with which I think I've sort of slighted here and when we think Caligari we can have a chance to go into it some moron and perhaps the last laugh. The last laugh by the right is another absolute to have for us. But much more successful than Hitchcock's Rope because here is a silent film in which there was not run subtitles for an hour and a quarter and not one subtitle. And otherwise in a sense it's the purest kind of a film that you could possibly imagine. Now the German film of the 20s. Well first of all let me read you a description of some of its main characteristics from George Rocco who did a sociology of Fermat recently. And he describes German expressionism because this is what they were mostly
in various times won the compositions emphasized the northern broken angles to such large objects as houses towers and drawings on noticeably tilted and I read that too large or too small in relation to human figures and three all shapes are subject to frequent change by the play of light and shot up. In other words this is a rather odd official kind of a cinema and there are analysts that the article kind of a cinema and even when you have a movie like the last laugh which is very realistic. Even then compared to the Russians or even combat the Griffith it has a calculated contrived and artificial sort of atmosphere about it in Germany. The reason that the German cinema of the 20s the silent cinema. Some examples would be. Man I was last laugh I mentioned Caligari PAP's films. Siegfried by fits
and M by Fritz Lang. Lang writer came to Hollywood made a couple of good films but didn't do very well in fact none of these people. I do not think you see these people except for a little bit look which is about the only important foreign director that I can think of that rise time a lot of the Hollywood and in fact he made as base for most of his life and really continue to do good work for some reason the other Brahmins not so devilishly RAI that. Hollywood was a rotten because of death for them. Now the reason for this renaissance in the German film between roughly 19 20 and 1930 right was that the Weimar Republic subsidized the film industry as a kind of public relations business. International goodwill advertisement. And gave a free hand to artists who really make good films. Louis Jacobson his history of the American film. Says the discovery of the movie technique were in many ways revolutionary in that kind of news into American terms
addition were numerous. Then he mentions kind of guy who was the most widely discussed film in this country of the time that is around 19 21 not even the birth of a nation created quite as much comment argument and speculation. And this was because Caligari is really one of the best. Well that's one of the most far out abstract film that you'll ever see because this was conceived by pandas and all the backgrounds are not only painted drops but they're frankly painted backdrops and also of a cubist in expressing this nature I mean there is not a right angle and time. So it gives the appearance quite frankly of a theatrical production and the Germans also were very good at camera angles. That was one of the main things they how alive it was is now a commonplace an overuse of the use fences and the servant tabby overuse them of using camera angles for emotional fact and also lighting. Also right I called fucking
shots in which the cameras out of dollies are wrong and they didn't go in very much for cutting and montage that was a Russian specially in fact they did almost everything except cut. Now what happened to the German film doesn't take more than a couple of words. Because what happened to the rise of Hitler and the sort of Hitler got into power. Like Stalin and the curious thing is that these two were political formations the communists and and that's that were at each other's throats of course in the Foreign Affairs and every country. Actually they have much more in common with each other than I had with the Liberals or the conservatives in their own country. And Heather had exactly the same out of it as bonded towards anything that we would call God advanced experimental modern and so on. Exactly the same out of it in fact much the same. Language of the next year and he said that this was a decadent corrupt British rock and so that's really funny because the fact is that brothers can hate each other
more than non brothers can as you probably know it. The very fact that they were are so close in every way except in their programs. That is not system in communism and now is there is this of course made them even furious with each other they were going competitors of each other. It was much easier for a communist to become a Nazi psychologically after the Nazis had taken power in 1933 that it was liberal or even for a conservative much easier in fact some of the most Hitlers best recruits came from the Communist Party because they were used to discipline and they also shared his. His objection to modern society relate to. Everything that we've achieved in the. Modern culture. Well anyway that's what happened to the German film and the Germans never recovered the Russian film to some extent as we kind of well you cited one example the film was made in 1939 and I didn't find my do very interesting films I've been on and there have been three or four of fairly interesting films made since they were on since Stalin
died anyway and Russia but nothing has come out of Germany. It's actually extraordinary even though there was no political vision somehow that our thing was just cut off like that. Now the State of the art films Jacobs says of the several films followed quickly after the German film this is on the influence on an American. Bent upon American firms doing twenty three thousand twenty nine. He would have not yet to come out of the kind of business of the jam and pictures when the billion phones of the DOT can appear in more excitement kind of measure than a German production that the bugs are not part of the show I remember because that's when I was really just beginning between 26 million I'm just beginning to be fascinated by the movies as an art form. And certainly I admired some of the German fans but the Russian the films were what really did. Send me. You might say because later on there was a political vision for this not at that time but later on I became as we all did in the 30s. You know more and more were antagonistic to capitalism and more and more and not really problems found this but anyway
for some sort of a socialist government and I saw these as things politically to what happened there I've already told you that I mean about it and John I will go over it again what happened there was it. Stalin came into power in 1929 and immediately clamped down on all again on all kinds of experimentation formalism and. Put up the doctrine of socialist realism which wasn't realism at all which isn't the ultimate All this is their own plan I think those people and watch as there are plenty of them socialist ruin of them what it really means is socialist propaganda and it don't even mean socialist it really means political parties state probe party propaganda. It means that I must be in the service of something else and as I've said before it is something that can have no practical use or at least it might have a practical use. But this is not why it's important and this is not right that we look at it later and now today in the last century.
It's very hot except for the sign of Russia to find an example of an art that is used for propaganda that really is a high level. But anyway I know that what happen to the Russian famine they sometimes make some good ones but not so often. Now I want to talk a little bit about the times crime movie the target of mice and this is one of the great movie listed films of violent crime. It's not like came out talk about it later but anyway what you will see is that they count those almost frightening away from being pleasant and jolly and sympathetic to being very hostile round really terrifying and this is again I think the way that life is. This is a movie by a Russian director named Dunn who was born in 19 and Ron who is still alive still makes movies The odd thing about him if I'm going to end it there I've never seen any of the other movies and I suspect this is because they probably aren't
terribly interested. I don't know maybe as I'm sure this must be it because I would have been proud of them and so on but the on thing is that he mayn't produce them between nine hundred thirty eight and nine hundred forty three of them. It's called a groggy trilogy. We're going to just see the first one which is about as a child. And now. Let's see about downscale himself I haven't very much put out and powers. Who is one of the main people in the film scholarly world came out about a year ago is invaluable if you read French in fact it has something about every I see here the great common man of Fellini and Antonioni is in him and so on. But anyway I says about Dunn it's hard to come by information about Don's guy he's a good director especially good for adaptations
and he's an ass about patients based on his gawky trilogy. He follows with a kind of cruelty a fence in my accent. He knows how to reconstruct with a tender cruelty the atmosphere I was always rushing around 900 and that's what this is. Now this is the most unbiased film that I've ever think I would say that in it one of the most the film that I was seeing and otherwise I can think of no less the film which is closer to life than this film Citizen Kane is at the farthest removed from from life in one sense I mean I don't you know with about live and so on but the technique the only exception that is even closer to life in a sense of being completely and with cockle is another film we're going to see in the cause. Namely the cows that are the conduit of a
condom which was made by the young French director about 1930. Furthermore he died before I became 30 film about the school life in France. It resembles this particular movie in that it presents life from the viewpoint of a child with a sudden transition as the obscure motivations the poetic days of adult life as it appears to a sensitive child. I'm something I wrote some years ago when I first saw this in England. I wrote there's an encounter but it seems to express really what I want to tell you. Achieve in a kind of direct realism which is so lacking in the literary dramatic conventions we're used to that it had a sort of realistic effect. Now of course the great file and cinema in standup shank of which you see one example this is a cause an extremely rich powerful cinema to buy back shop with this tradition. His work is phatic emotional rather
than intellectual. Intimate and lyrical. In fact you will be right hard put to it to find any particular cinematic devices used in this except the most obvious kind of ones where when there's a fire or some violent that scene the camera shakes a little bit but I mean it's not much more than that so I mean don't bother yourselves with trying to find. Anything of that kind. AIDS is not the masses not history but individuals a whole gallery of drug tests eccentric and pungent characters. Like the grandfather for instance and the noble people like the grandmother. All the other for the good and technique are good they are not like in a religion or a montage is conventional and there aside you know dramatically composed single shots. The heart of it comes from simply keeping the common people by the way they're not real people. That is to say in the sense that fandom Balcones web because by this time this was made 10 years after this period when Saddam was in complete control active
these people bought to some extent you're now an Iraq that can give a better impression of a real prize and then of their present while trying to shout a crock made up part of a ghastly movie called a cool world. Some you may have seen it about life in Harlem about a teenage gang of Negro kids in Harlem. And she was very proud of us out because she actually painted Jurado language in Holland Well I'm sure that they were they were probably vile dangerous characters and so on but they would have all actors and you just couldn't get weather though. These people but they are real people. It's extremely unusual to see what you see here which is people acting as if they were actual people and not as if they were kind of through it which is that there was no explanation and never toggle and position where you have to sort of get this all for yourself. Things aren't build up anymore and the
scenes are not resolved and as I just stop. And sometimes I stop abruptly sometimes and sometimes nothing happens at all. And another one of the trilogy I mention Braj is being unloaded and that's all it seems to be the point of it. I carried out the logical realism and as always happens when the logic of any approach to life is carried out to the end. He produces a profoundly artistic effect really doesn't carry that becomes him. Another example of his greed which I guess none of you have seen or if you want to think in times of the novel The advisor and. And so on. Because you seem to carry realism to the extent that he does it here and otherwise to the rhythm and Pyatt and Flower of Life the time and the shape of the movie as he does to a large extent here. Earth itself highly abstract and sophisticated
generalization about the nature of what you have in bad movies such as they produce in Hollywood all the time what you have there is a kind of I compromise and which you don't have realism in this sense. And you don't have formalization Either you have a kind of a lower grade realism sort of call and other ways in which the realism kills all the former beauty of the movie. But on the other hand they don't have the intelligence of the coverage to realize in the time in the movie in fact the ordinary average person's idea of realism is actually not realism but simply a certain number of cliches that have been involved in television movies. And bad novels which seem to be realistic but of course they will not. You see a movie like this where actually the director has been under the influence are required to pry a book like darkeys autobiography.
And you see that in here. He's thought about the problem of realism so well and then becomes as I say something of a nature. You know I suppose you know about Maxim Gorky he was somewhat later generation unpolished and Chekhov although he knew them in fact as a young man he was a disciple of both. And in fact his reminiscences are tossed by and jack up probably mung the very best things about these two writers absolute modeless little books you want to look at in the future in advance and divide it. From both of them and even to asking and being really a man of the people he was first of all an illegitimate child and a very poor family in fact until the age of 30 he had no money he was it. And he lived this kind of a life. So he really was the finest Russian writer that could be said to be not at all middle class but really an apology and writer and
also unlike the others because he came later passed other ways he was also a very early in fact. 19:5 us out he was on I was trying to land and. Time when Lennon have you know 300 followers perhaps and he was one of them and they were in exile together. And then of course the Lauer DAPs novels and so on I don't think he's really anything near as great as these other writers but he is a very respectable writer. He died about 10 15 years ago. Grant he always had a special position in Russia because of this close association with Lenin before the revolution because he was a part of town himself and because his books in fact were revolutionary part of how in books they were novels of books of social protest and this thing here you can see the element here. So we had a special position and even Stalin didn't really dad to interfere very much with Graca in fact grokking
was the only cultural figure who survived through the period of Stalin. And who was able to protect to some extent other people. He couldn't do it in time. That's true but he was able to protect a few of the better people from Stalin's brutal venomous punishment and put in death and so on. And Stalin I think really probably long gone. And anyway he didn't do that in the fear with him very much because the last 15 years were cobbles thing because he realized what had happened to the revolution and to the ideals of Lenin and Trotsky and M south. He realized that things were worse and worse under this madman Stalin but I think the high with reasonable dignity and courage. And then the irony of the timing of this rumor was that after his death the star in the room has that as an excuse for one of these murderous shouts to political opponents that he thought were opponents of having poisoned and
16 or 17 leaders were bumped off by Stalin's execution is because they were supposed to have been involved in a plot to poison grokking Well I mean this of course was absolute nonsense but it's sort of the irony of the thing that this right should be used for this kind of base Piper's after his death. Now how was it possible for dance and light in there for Audi to make this survey's which is a good servant. Well I think there are several explanations and one of them is about growth. That's one thing another thing is that it was not the MLS that certainly that's true. And another thing is that because it was about Desire's days and therefore there wasn't any great pressure are you now when you when you talk about anything after 1917 then you get into all kinds of political questions in the Stalin period but in this case not so I suppose that was a reason. And also I supposed
because it seems to be a very straight forward realistic kind of presentation I suppose that in a sense I figured wow this doesn't have any of this abrasive tendencies because they want very clever I mean bureaucrats never clever that's one of the few things that we have on our side that any administrators and people like that that never very bright you can often get around the you know I mean but anyway I found this bureaucrats didn't realize that this film really runs in their time subversive because you know they had this doctrine of socialist realism which means a kind of realism which is in the US in which men actually get really mad in the service of the Kremlin of the political bosses of Russia at that time. Now this is not that at all this is not in the service of any political And so this is not socialist realism this is something really this is the rivalry right. And Russia I would say at
least this kind of life. You have been listening to Dwight McDonald on film. In this programme Mr McDonald has discussed the German and Russian cinema of the 20s and 30s. These programmes were drawn from Mr. MacDonald's lecture series during his recent tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. This series was produced by a communications center in the University of Texas for national educational radio producer for the series billed Georgia. Phil Miller speaking. This is NPR. The national educational radio network.
Dwight Macdonald on film
1930s: Germany and Russia
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University of Texas
KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
The 1930s: Germany and Russia; The Childhood of Gorky.
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Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
Film and Television
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Announcer: Miller, Phil
Producer: Jordan, Bill
Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-16-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:24:45
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Chicago: “Dwight Macdonald on film; 1930s: Germany and Russia,” 1967-04-19, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Dwight Macdonald on film; 1930s: Germany and Russia.” 1967-04-19. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Dwight Macdonald on film; 1930s: Germany and Russia. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from