Fritz Lang

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December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976
 
“I think that certain people overestimate the power of a director. A film is the result of teamwork. But the director has certain powers. Permit me to tell you a story. When Fury was finished, the producer asked me into his office after a private viewing of the film. He accused me of changing the screenplay. I asked him how I could have done that since I didn’t speak a word of English. He demanded a copy of the screenplay, and after reading it he exclaimed, ‘Hell, you’re right. But it seems different on the screen!’ And perhaps it was different—for him!”

FILMMAKERS ON JEAN-LUC GODARD

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Chantal Akerman: You can see him excluding himself from the world in an almost autistic manner. For people like me, who started doing film because of him, it is a terrible fright. And the fact that the long evolution that Godard has been through can lead to this, almost brings me to despair. He was kind of a pioneer, an inventor who didn’t care much about anybody or anything. And that a man at this stage of his life isolates himself, should also be a lesson for us other film makers.
 
Woody Allen: I think he’s a brilliant innovator. I don’t always love every film he’s made. I think he’s very inventive, but sometimes his inventions are taken by other people and used better. But he’s certainly one of the innovators of cinema.
 
Paul Thomas Anderson: I love Godard in a very film school way. I can’t say that I’ve ever been emotionally attacked by him. Where I have been emotionally attacked by Truffaut.
 
Michelangelo Antonioni: Godard flings reality in our faces, and I’m struck by this. But never by Truffaut.
 
Ingmar Bergman: I’ve never been able to appreciate any of his films, nor even understand them. Truffaut and I used to meet on several occasions at film festivals. We had an instant understanding that extended to his films. But Godard: I find his films affected, intellectual, self-obsessed and, as cinema, without interest and frankly dull. Endless and tiresome. Godard is a desperate bore. I’ve always thought that he made films for critics. He made one here in Sweden, Masculin Féminin, so boring that my hair stood on end.
 
Luis Buñuel: I’ll give him two years more, he is just a fashion.
 
Jean-Luc Godard: I am not an auteur, well, not now anyway. We once believed we were auteurs but we weren’t. We had no idea, really. Film is over. It’s sad nobody is really exploring it. But what to do? And anyway, with mobile phones and everything, everyone is now an auteur.
 
Werner Herzog: Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.
 
Fritz Lang: I like him a great deal: he is very honest, he loves the cinema, he is just as fanatical as I was. In fact, I think he tries to continue what we started one day, the day when we began making our first films. Only his approach is different. Not the spirit.

Roman Polanski: In fact the worst thing possible is to be absolutely certain about things. Hitler, for example, must have been convinced in the certainty of his ideas and that he was right. I don’t think he did anything without believing in it, otherwise he wouldn’t have done it to start with. And I think Jean-Luc Godard believes he makes good films, but maybe they aren’t that good.
 
Satyajit Ray: Godard especially opened up new ways of… making points, let us say. And he shook the foundations of film grammar in a very healthy sort of way, which is excellent.
 
Quentin Tarantino: To me, Godard did to movies what Bob Dylan did to music: they both revolutionized their forms.
 
François Truffaut: You’re nothing but a piece of shit on a pedestal. […] You fostered the myth, you accentuated that side of you that was mysterious, inaccessible and temperamental, all for the slavish admiration of those around you. You need to play a role and the role needs to be a prestigious one; I’ve always had the impression that real militants are like cleaning women, doing a thankless, daily but necessary job. But you, you’re the Ursula Andress of militancy, you make a brief appearance, just enough time for the cameras to flash, you make two or three duly startling remarks and then you disappear again, trailing clouds of self-serving mystery.
 
Orson Welles: He’s the definitive influence if not really the first film artist of this last decade, and his gifts as a director are enormous. I just can’t take him very seriously as a thinker—and that’s where we seem to differ, because he does. His message is what he cares about these days, and, like most movie messages, it could be written on the head of a pin. But what’s so admirable about him is his marvelous contempt for the machinery of movies and even movies themselves—a kind of anarchistic, nihilistic contempt for the medium—which, when he’s at his best and most vigorous, is very exciting.
 
Wim Wenders: For me, discovering cinema was directly connected to his films. I was living in Paris at the time. When Made in USA opened, I went to the first show—it was around noon—and I sat there until midnight. I saw it six times in a row.

Fritz Lang

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How did you come to leave Germany at the height of your career and seek refuge outside the country?
 
Fritz Lang: I had made two Mabuse films and the studio had asked me if I could make another one because they made so much money. So I made one which was called The Testament of Dr. Mabuse.
 
I have to admit that up to two or three years before the Nazis came I was very apolitical; I was not very much interested and then I became very much interested. I think the London Times wrote about the fact that I used this film as a political weapon against the Nazis—I put Nazi slogans into the mouth of the criminal.
 
I remember very clearly one day, I was in the office and some SA men came in and talked very haughtily that they would confiscate the picture. I said if you think they could confiscate a picture of Fritz Lang in Germany, then do it, and they did. I was ordered to go and see Goebbels, and they were not very sympathetic to me, but I had to go, maybe to get the picture freed, so I went.
 
I will never forget it. Goebbels was a very clever man, he was indescribably charming when I entered the room. He never spoke at the beginning of the picture. He told me a lot of things, among other things that the Führer had seen Metropolis and another film that I had made, Die Nibelungen, and the Führer had said, “This is the man who will give us the Nazi film.” I was perspiring very much at this moment, I could see a clock through the window and the hands were moving, and at the moment I heard that I was expected to make the Nazi movie I was wet all over and my only thought was “How do I get out of here?” I had my money in the bank and I was immediately thinking “How do I get it out?” But Goebbels talked and talked and finally it was too late for me to get my money out! I left and told him that I was very honored and whatever you can say. I then went home and decided the same evening that I would leave Berlin that I love very much.
 
[ Interview with Alexander Walker, 1967 ]

January 10, 1927 — Fritz Lang’s Metropolis premieres in Berlin.

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Ah, that’s Brigitte Helm in Metropolis. God, she was beautiful! Metropolis, you know, was born from my first sight of the skyscrapers of New York in October 1924, and then I took myself to Hollywood where UFA sent me to study American production methods. It was terribly hot that season… In any case, while visiting New York, I thought it was the crossroads of multiple and confused human forces, blinded and knocking into one another, in an irresistible desire for exploitation, and living in perpetual anxiety. I spent an entire day walking the streets. The buildings seemed to be a vertical sail, scintillating and very light, a luxurious backdrop, suspended in the dark sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize. At night, the city did not simply give the impression of living: it lived as illusions live. I knew I should make a film about these impressions.”Fritz Lang, 1965

Peter Lorre

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“My trouble is that I try to cover a part entirely. When you do there’s the danger that the patron will leave the theatre feeling that you are so perfectly suited to the character he has just seen that he can’t imagine you in any other part.

…Mothers with children ran from me in the street. Terrible letters came to me. Letters came from strange people; people who I never believed lived in the world; depraved and disturbed minds, thinking they saw in me the perfect companion, a fellow psychopathic. A success can be too great, I tell you.”

-Peter Lorre, on his role in 1931’s M

(via)

 

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M (1931, dir. Fritz Lang) (via)

Fritz Lang

“There’s something which you should get out from an actor, something which is under his skin, something which he himself maybe doesn’t know exactly. I hate — and I never did — to show an actor how to play a role. I don’t want to have twenty-five little Fritz Langs running around. I have too much respect for an actor.”lang

Fritz Lang

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Fritz Lang & Peter the Monkey at home, c. 1960’s (via)

“Lang had a weakness for stuffed monkeys. His first one was probably a present from Gerda Maurus in Berlin. Even in production stills, a monkey can often be seen perched on a camera . [Film critic] Lotte Eisner once found herself in the awkward position of having to explain to Kurt Pinthus who Peter was: ‘It is, however, very difficult to convey Peter’s value to a serious scientist. So I alluded to the romantic element, that he had been given to you by a beautiful woman. Which he understood better’ (Dec. 3, 1968)

Lang had a rather touchingly tender, sentimentally boyish relationship to Peter the Monkey: he took him with him on trips, put him to bed, dressed him up and posed in pictures with him. In the countless letters he exchanged with his lifelong friend Eleanor Rose, there are many passages devoted to Peter: for example, greetings from him for Magali, Eleanor Rose’s favorite cat; or letters directly addressed to Peter or ‘written’ by Peter to Eleanor:

‘Peter sends his warmest regards. He is meditating a great deal and enjoying the California sun. He loves martinis, smokes a long pipe now and again, and has taken to chewing gum. He sends his compliments to Magali and wishes her the best.’” (Fritz Lang to Eleanor Rose, July 30, 1963)

-excerpted from Fritz Lang: His Life and Work, Pictures and Documents

Brigitte Helm in Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang)

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On the creation of Robot Maria:

“The concentric rings of light that surround her and move from top to bottom were in fact a little ball of silver rapidly swung in a circle and filmed on a background of black velvet. We superimposed those shots, in the lab, over the shot of the robot in a sitting position that we had filmed previously.”

-Fritz Lang