Thursday, March 05, 2009
'Yesterday Girl' was one of the first important films of the New German cinema. The most well known [and talked about] directors were Wim Wenders, Ranier Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta. But not mentioned as much is Alexander Kluge. I don't know the exact reason except that it probably has to do with the tepid [and naive] response by the New York Times to his first two films here in the US. But in Europe he was much more appreciated. 'Yesterday Girl' won the Silver Lion in Venice in 1966.
Shot in black and white and edited in a dynamic way that jumps from scene to scene the narrative style of 'Yesterday Girl' is very much like a Jean Luc Godard film from the sixties. And, as Peter Cowie mentions in his book Revolution!: The Explosion of World Cinema in the Sixties, the main actress [Alexandra Kluge] would be right at home in a Godard film from the period.
In the film the woman has moved from East Germany to West Germany but cannot find a way to fit in. She is alert, attractive but confused and cannot get a good job or meet anyone who is friendly. She moves from place to place, job to job, school to school - usually in a skirt and with a suitcase. It's not necessarily a literal film so much as a film with metaphors and impressionistic scenes that give the viewer the feeling of alientation. The film is about 89 minutes in length but has a fresh feel throughout and is over before you know it mainly because there is a terrific energy to the whole thing.
Kluge is still not well known in cinema circles. His first two films 'Yesterday Girl' and 'Artists under the Big Top: Perplexed' aren't even mentioned in this Wikipedia post.
And they are very hard to find on DVD. Facets put out a few of his films last fall and they are already out-of-print. I searched and noticed that 'Artists under the Big Top: Perplexed' is available on Ebay. [But I cannot vouch for their quality since they may actually be copies of Facets DVDs rather than the real thing].
I have yet to see 'Artists...' but from reviews I have read it seems to be even more abstract in its editing style. Which means I cannot wait to see it. But I recommend watching 'Yesterday Girl' if you can find it.
Here's a good write-up on the film from Film Ref.
Here's a cinemascope article on Kluge and here's one from Senses of Cinema.