February 21, 2011 - Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) - Alpine Desire Film Series
February 21, 2011

Alpine Desire Film Series

Still from “Blind Husbands” (Die Rache der Berge) – USA 1919.

Alpine Desire Film Series
March 9 & 10, April 6 & 7, 2011

11 East 52nd Street,
New York, NY 10022



The Austrian Cultural Forum New York presents a four-part alpine-themed film series in conjunction with the exhibition, Alpine Desire, which is on view through May 8. A cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum and curated by Michael Loebenstein, the film series features restored gems from the silent movie era as well as rarely seen contemporary films. Just like the exhibition, the films examine the various desires associated with and the abysses hiding behind the cultural-historical subject of the Alps and the “alpine,” and show that beauty and horror can exist side by side, and the sublime can conceal nightmares.

Wednesday, March 9, at 7:00 PM
, Blind Husbands
Thursday, March 10, at 7:00 PM, The Rapture of the Alps.
Elaine Brennan will provide the live piano score for these two screenings.

Wednesday, April 6, at 7:00 PM The Inheritors (Die Siebtelbauern)
Thursday, April 7, at 7:00 PM Bellavista.

Considered a masterpiece of American silent cinema and set in the alpine scenery of South Tyrol, Blind Husbands (1919) is Erich von Stroheim‘s Hollywood debut. It still baffles today’s audiences with its precise visual language and its moral ambiguity. Austrian émigré von Stroheim uses the alpine backdrop, which was actually filmed in California, as a symbol for his protagonist’s erotic desires and as an arena for a post-World War I stand-off between ‘old world’ decadence and American pragmatism. The copy shown is the longest and oldest version available today: This 100-minute, gorgeously tinted 1921 Austrian release was restored by the Austrian Film Museum in 2006.

The Alpine Desire Film Series continues with The Rapture of the Alps, a selection of two contemporary Austrian experimental shorts and a recently rediscovered silent travelogue. The short films share an emphasis on the Alps as a sublime place of yearning as well as a fascination with the potential of cinema to playfully unlock their grandeur. Siegfried Fruhauf‘s Höhenrausch (1999) is a cinematic tour de force constructed with hundreds of Austrian postcards, ironically reflecting on the commercialization of nature. Elke Groen‘s NightStill (2008) is a filmic survey of the Austrian Dachstein region, shot with a clockwork-driven film camera over the duration of two winters. The time-lapse photography is as awe-inspiring as it is uncanny—an alien landscape showered by stars and buried in snow. A Motorcycle Trip Among the Clouds (1926) is a travel documentary directed by Austrian news and sports photographer Lothar Ruebelt. Shot on location in the Dolomites, where Erich von Stroheim’s Blind Husbands was situated, Ruebelt’s film is a noteworthy example of the ‘mountain frenzy,’ which gripped Europe in the 1920s and 1930s and sparked organized mountain tours, the construction of motorways across the Alps as well as the ‘Bergfilm’ (Mountain film) genre. At 56 minutes, the copy presented is the shorter, albeit colorized, version of this rare film preserved by the Austrian Film Museum.

Darker shades of mountain life come to the fore in Stefan Ruzowitzky‘s surprise hit, The Inheritors (1998), a clever, postmodern take on the ‘Heimatfilm’ and ‘Bergfilm’ genres of the 1930s and the 1950s. Set in a little farming valley in 1930s rural Upper Austria the Oscar-winning director of The Counterfeiters (2007) infuses the genre with the anxieties of higher elevations: isolation, oppression and the patriarchal society. When one of the farmers is found murdered one day the farm workers—treated as mere slaves until then—inherit the whole farm, much to the dislike of the powerful landowners. The award-winning film will be shown in its original German with English subtitles.

The Alpine Desire Film Series concludes on April 7 with Peter Schreiner‘s experimental documentary, Bellavista (2006), an intimate portrait of Giuliana, the keeper of a remote alpine resort in the Carnic Alps in the border region between Italy and Austria. As Schreiner’s film follows Giuliana without voice-over narration or commentary, the static, often oddly-framed, long black & white shots and Giuliana’s mumbled narration give the viewers insight into the dreams and pleasures as well as the horrors and limitations of a free-thinking woman’s life in an alpine village. The language Giuliana speaks adds to the delicacy and precariousness of the life portrayed – her language, the ‘Plodner’ dialect, is an ancient form of German only spoken in the region. The film will be shown with English subtitles.

Vienna-based Irish musician Elaine Brennan will accompany the silent film screenings on piano. She has been engaged by numerous universities, orchestras, broadcasters, chamber groups, and soloists, and has accompanied numerous silent films on piano, most recently the major works of directors DW Griffith, Howard Hawks, and Ozu Yasujiro.

All film screenings will take place at the Austrian Cultural Forum, 11 East 52nd Street, New York, NY 10022. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Check www.acfny.org or call 212 319 5300 ext. 222.

The exhibition, Alpine Desire, is on view through May 8. Artists include Adam Cvijanovic, Gelitin, Antony Gormley, Ellen Harvey, Koloman Moser, Ed Ruscha, and Hans Schabus.

E, M Train to Fifth Avenue/53rd Street
B, D, F, M Train to 47-50 Street/Rockefeller Center
E, M, 6 Train to 51st Street/Lexington Avenue
M 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 to 53rd Street

Media Contact: Kerstin Schuetz-Mueller, ksm@acfny.org, +1 212 319 5300 ext 203

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