Film notes of Wisconsin Film Society (1960)

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INTRODUCTION Since its inception in 1948, the Wisconsin Film Society has provided notes of varying quality for the many film classics it has shown. Because of the time needed by the printer, program notes frequently had to be written before the film arrived. As a result, the reviews either were based on the undependable memory of a previous showing or on the opinions of film critics, many of whom lack the critical and analytical techniques that are employed in other arts. This dependence on the printed word of film critics tends to repeat endlessly evaluations that are not necessarily correct. One of the more useful books is Paul Rotha's Film Till Now which has usually reliable summaries, however brief they may be. A much more scholarly work, From Caligari to Hitler, is the one book from which the harassed film note writer gleans all of his information on the German films. Dr. Kracauer's prevailing attitude is psychoanalytical and political rather than primarily aesthetic. There is of course room for such a method, but Dr. Kracauer unfortunately pursues his thesis (that German films run the gamut from Chaos to Tyranny, and thus to Hitler himself) much too obsessively. He seriously misinterprets the meaning of many films to accommodate his ideas. Such post-hoc reasoning is actually a reduction of the creative process to the ritualistic acting out of political facts of Hitler's regime. Of course there were tendencies towards dictatorship and authority by a small element of the populace (America too has had its moments) , but it is absurd to see Hitler and Goebbels in films made back in 1919 and 1920. Had we no depression in 1930, Hitler would not have taken control, as a reading of Alan Bullock's Hitler will reveal. If that be the case, then how valid is the interpretation of films made in the '20's by the arbitrary events of the '30's?* Dr. Kracauer's book is mentioned at such length because its influence has been so immense. A film society in Australia runs a whole series of German films to carry out the Kracauer thesis, a history professor here at the University of Wisconsin shows Caligari, and Metropolis and interprets them along the Kracauer line. To anyone trained in aesthetics such a one-for-one allegorical interpretation of the German films is a serious and unforgiveable error. Because there are no careful analyses of the German films, film societies are forced to rely not only on Kracauer's ideas but on his actual text which is frequently borrowed without even the courtesy of a credit. Because of the unreliability of existing remarks on films, we have chosen to provide only original notes. We have felt that an examination by one of our own members would be more worthwhile than reprinting oft-quoted comments. Furthermore, many of the films we show have not been commented on, except in a casual way, since their original *For more information on Kracauer, see the notes on Siegfried, and Warning Shadows.