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People On Sunday  [DVD]
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History of the Avant-Garde
PEOPLE ON SUNDAY
a Film by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G Ulmer
History of the Avant-Garde:A series of video releases featuring the best of radical and innovative filmmaking from the first hundred years of cinema.
A tale of five young Berliners - a taxi driver, a travelling wine dealer, a record-shop sales girl, a film extra and a model - spending a typical Sunday. In this vivid snapshot of Berlin life, a trip to the countryside reveals the flirtations, rivalries, jealousies, and petty irritations common to any group outing. All too soon it is the end of the day, and the prospect of Monday looms, and the return of weekday routine.
Considered one of the most important works of the German film Avant-Garde of the 1920s, and a huge influence on the French New Wave and Italian Neorealist movements, People on Sunday also marked the start of the film careers of six cinéastes who would go on to great international success: Billy Wilder, Robert and Curt Siodmak, Edgar G Ulmer, Eugen Schüfftan and Fred Zinnemann.
The original negative of the film is lost and no complete copy exists, but this restored version has been reconstructed by the Netherlands Film Museum and contains important scenes previously missing. This version also features a vibrant new score by Elena Kats-Chemin.
- This Year London (UK, 1951), a 25-minute film which follows the adventures of a Leicester-based shoe factory staff on their annual holiday outing
- Filmmakers biography
- 12-page booklet providing background information on the film
Germany | 1929 | black & white | 73 minutes | silent with music soundtrack | Ratio 1.33:1 | Region 2 DVD
People on Sunday (1929) was the collaborative work of a formidable team of young German/Austrian film-makers, all of whom would end up making their careers in Hollywood. It was co-directed by Robert Siodmak, who went on to make several noir masterpieces of the 1940s, and Edgar Ulmer, king of the Poverty Row Z-movies. Siodmak and his brother Curt, who became a prolific Hollywood screenwriter, wrote the script in collaboration with Billy Wilder. Fred Zinnemann (High Noon, etc) was production assistant and the film was photographed by Eugen Schüfftan, special-effects wizard extraordinaire. For all the team except Schüfftan it was their first film--yet People on Sunday is like nothing any of them would ever make again.
The film is a beguiling blend of feature and documentary--a celebration of the everyday street life of late-1920s Berlin with, grafted on to it, a fictional story. As a story it's nothing startling--a commonplace affair of casual flirtations on a Sunday trip into the countryside--but it's handled with an honesty and sense of quietly ironic observation that's kept it fresh and engrossing for more than 70 years. All the five principal players were amateurs who had never acted before, and who actually worked at the jobs their characters do in the film--taxi driver, music shop assistant, wine seller and so on. They all give natural and remarkably unselfconscious performances. People on Sunday was made at the very end of the silent era, the period that had seen the greatest flowering of German cinema. Yet there's nothing nostalgic about it. Light-hearted and clear-eyed, it's full of youthful vitality.
The negative of the film has long been lost. The present print, reconstructed by the Netherlands Film Museum, restores several passages missing from previous releases and is over 95 percent complete. The orchestral score, specially composed for this release by Elena Katz-Chernin, deftly evokes the style of the period. --Philip Kemp --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Both came towards the end of the silent era, amid the explosion of creativity and experimentation which marked the tumultuous Weimar years and offer a visual feast of candid images, of life in Berlin immediately before the dawning of the Third Reich.
Whereas Ruttman's film is a montage depicting the city as a living, breathing organism, through the juxtaposition of industrial machinery, light, traffic and the movement of people as they go about their daily routine, Robert Siodmak's "Menschen am Sonntag" (which is also credited to Billy Wilder among other notables) follows four young Berliners who escape the tedium of their working week by spending a day together at the Nikolassee on the edge of the city.
"People on Sunday announces itself as a 'film without actors': the five principals are all amateurs, who actually worked in the jobs described in the film: taxi driver, music shop assistant, wine salesman, film extra, mannequin. Yet their performances are strikingly natural and unselfconscious. Since they all had weekday jobs, the film was shot over a number of Sundays during the summer of 1929, and the sense of unforced credibility must derive from the fact that these were exactly what the title says - ordinary Berliners on their day off, doing pretty much what they would have been doing in any case." (Philip Kemp, DVD liner notes).
A certain degree of sexual tension inhabits this movie, as one might expect given the initial scenario: Taxi driver Erwin lives in an apparently tumultuous relationship with model Annie who can't quite make it out of bed to enjoy the promise of an adventure by the lake.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
before they became some of Hollywood's best & brightest, "thanks" to the awful conditions in Europe that, in part, account
for the classic era of Hollywood movies. (It's interesting, finally, how different their contributions were.)
But apart from this being a fascinating and essential historical footnote to the later careers of these men,
the movie is also great fun in itself, perhaps because of the sense that there was nothing to lose, no compromises necessary--of, hey,
let's try doing it this way...or what about this? It's like a brilliant home movie, made quickly and independently--very smart about both the lives of people & cities--that eventually became a primer for many cinematic impulses to follow, including Italian neo-realism and the French New Wave.
And it's full of the sense of what it feels like to be young, the energy and possibilities--both within the casual narrative itself and implicit in the making of the film.
One technical observation. I love all the good that BFI does for us, but in this case I think the recently released Criterion Blu-ray is a much cleaner
transfer, with a choice of two soundtracks. (For a comparison, go to dvdbeaver.com.)
For a film produced in 1930, "People on Sunday" is refreshingly serious, realistic and frank. Even comparing with the movies produced much later, European and Japanese realistic and neorealistic films of the late 40's and even 50's, Siodmak's film doesn't come across as less sophisticated. All the movies, produced by Siodmak, Ulmer and other creators of "People on Sunday" in Hollywood are more predictable and mechanical, conforming to the requirement of maximizing the box office numbers.
Even in comparison with Murnau's The Last Laugh one can easily see brute force of Siodmak's expressive power. Non-professional actors in most of the roles, lots of street scenes beautifully shot by Fred Zinnemann, real people, real relationships, real life - instead of Hollywood fakes and sheer entertainment movies of the same period. Surely not everyone would like that, as, again one can see from the frenzied reception of Hazanavicius' The Artist...
Miraculously, this film doesn't look dated at all. To my opinion "People on Sunday" is one of the top achievements of cinematography.
As always - thanks to Criterion Collection.
The film was shot in 1930 in and around Berlin. The main actors are all regular people who had never been filmed before. There was very little budget, and according to actor recollections, the film was thought out while at a cafe with notes scribbled on napkins. Though there are many famous names attached to this film, it seems that many of these more famous people might have had very little to do with this actual film and later exaggerated their input and influence due to the positive reviews the film garnered. Much of this is explained in the included booklet.
Despite this, the film was beautifully shot. The transfer, even to DVD is amazing. The film looks pristine with most of the noise, dirt, and static removed. Also of note is that Criterion used a Dutch version of the film for the base (the German original having been lost, presumably destroyed). But there was much of the film missing, so Criterion gathered bits from other recordings in Italy, France, and beyond to restore much of the film. Their efforts were mostly successful, though there is a bit that seems to have been permanently lost. A brief introduction provided by Criterion discusses this.
There are two music tracks, one created for a Czech film festival, the other created for the Criterion release. I watched with the Criterion composition. But you can select either. Also of note, there are very few script stills. Many of the stills were edited or lost, and Criterion made every effort to recover the original lines.
The film takes place mainly on Sunday, though we see the events on Saturday leading up to Sunday. A chance meeting between two people leads to plans to enjoy Sunday together. Each brings a friend and it ends up as a double date of sorts. We watch the character interactions and their courting of each other over the course of the day.
The scenes are amazingly shot. The settings chosen are fantastic. At times it's sad to think about what the city will look like 14 to 15 years after the filming...
Many have said that this movie was a precursor to French New Wave or Italian Neorealism, and I tend to agree. Though the French and Italian films have different themes, the core film style is remarkably similar. I don't know if this film directly influenced him, but I see a lot of this film in Truffaut's movies. It may just be coincidence.
A lovely film for students or fans of classic cinema. A masterpiece of silent film wonderfully restored and brought to life by Criterion. Bravo!