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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 8:06 am 
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Trees wrote:
The Swedes, for example, would not have been similarly saddled with guilt from the war, so perhaps this allowed directors like Bergman to make beautiful historical and period pieces... It's just conjecture on my part, as I honestly [haven't] studied the issue in depth.
I corrected what I believe was your typo - actually your Swedish example is a perfect demonstration of that lack of in-depth studies, as it betrays a lack of familiarity with both the history of Sweden (whose wartime activities included supplying war materials for Hitler's Germany, tolerating and aiding the persecution of Jews and providing railway transport routes for German troops - where do you think all those swastikas in Roy Andersson's films come from? :D) and the person and films of Bergman (a self-confessed Nazi sympathizer until as late as 1946, and probably one of post-war Europe's foremost guilt-fixated filmmakers!). (And surely you can't seriously equate a nation's official position on war guilt with the personal feelings of the people of that nation, as you seem to be suggesting by saying "Germany felt" while "Japan did not"...)

Look, while I'm wholeheartedly of the opinion that this is exactly the sort of stuff we should all be troubling ourselves with (instead of Criterion's release plans or whatever anyone called Anderson - with one s - is up to), I think you'd be better off hitting the books (or even Wikipedia or whatever) and trying to formulate something more substantial as a basis for discussion, if only for the reason that people will probably only be frustrated by (or will simply ignore, which again will frustrate you) such untenable speculations. Personally I'm all for asking these sorts of questions aloud even as pure conjencture, if only to maybe get people to recommend some study materials, but I can understand that others might find it irritating.

Trees wrote:
by national contributions to "cinema as an art" or if you prefer, simply to "cinema", I am mainly talking about innovation and influence, though of course making masterpiece films is often the vessel for such
But again, this only makes sense if you're exclusively interested in some kind of a narrowed-down international/universal canon of cinema that largely ignores what is actually interesting about the national cinemas themselves. The ways and vagaries of influence are infinitely more complex than what you suggest - for example Ozu and Kurosawa themselves were influenced by now-obscure films from the US and Europe (including Germany, to get briefly back on topic) that will never have any business on any canonical list of "important films". The trouble with this whole idea of "significance" is that the it makes the vast majority of cinematic history disappear as "irrelevant", and leave you with only a very general textbook-type idea of what actually went on (which I guess can be OK as a starting point, but no more than that).

Tommaso wrote:
And the idea of leaving reality behind, or playfully inventing a new one, is precisely what is disliked in the German film financing system, which is why there's noone comparable to Greenaway, Tsai, or Wong in Germany.
Tommaso, did you see Finsterworld? I thought that was a marvelous example of a film that rejects that customary drab realism that the financing system loves to promote (in fact the filmmakers said that that was their first decision: "no realism!") without however resorting to any kind of escapism regarding the country's recent past - definitely deserving a place high up on the list suggested by the title of this thread...


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 8:33 am 
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repeat wrote:
But again, this only makes sense if you're exclusively interested in some kind of a narrowed-down international/universal canon of cinema that largely ignores what is actually interesting about the national cinemas themselves. The ways and vagaries of influence are infinitely more complex than what you suggest - for example Ozu and Kurosawa themselves were influenced by now-obscure films from the US and Europe (including Germany, to get briefly back on topic) that will never have any business on any canonical list of "important films". The trouble with this whole idea of "significance" is that the it makes the vast majority of cinematic history disappear as "irrelevant", and leave you with only a very general textbook-type idea of what actually went on (which I guess can be OK as a starting point, but no more than that).


This point cannot be emphasised enough. Unless you've actually delved into a country's film history beyond the very narrow selections made by international distributors, it's very very unwise to make sweeping generalisations, as the local audience will most likely have a very different impression of their film culture - as will, in many cases, local filmmakers. To cite a national cinema with which I am pretty familiar, you'd be forgiven for assuming that the Poles mostly made searing psychological dramas and were particularly averse to comedies - which isn't the least bit true: romantic comedy and historical costume dramas are two of the most commercially lucrative domestic genres, and Bogusław Linda is much more famous as a macho action star than he is as an actor in films by Andrzej Wajda, Agnieszka Holland and Krzysztof Kieślowski. Indeed, one of the reasons Kieślowski turned to television is because his big-screen films were either being banned or deliberately marginalised (for instance, by punitively playing them in remote cinemas whose local audiences couldn't have cared less). Ask a Hungarian to name their greatest national director and you'd be more likely to hear names like Zoltán Fábri and Zoltán Huszárik than Miklós Jancsó or Béla Tarr - indeed, the latter is an extremely marginal figure at home, whatever his film-festival credentials abroad. Similarly, the Swedes might not place Bo Widerberg above Ingmar Bergman (it's Bergman who ended up on their banknotes, after all), but the local gap is a lot narrower than their respective international reputations might suggest.

This is why I warmly recommend this thread, which compiles national-cinema canonical polls originating in the countries themselves. I also recommend releases like Second Run's Szindbád, Goodbye, See You Tomorrow and All My Good Countrymen and Eureka's Bakumatsu Taiyo-Den, as all four films are colossal in terms of the local film culture while being comparatively or sometimes entirely neglected abroad. (I wrote the booklet for the first two Second Run releases and could find very little English-language material to draw on - which upped the pressure on me to get the facts right, as I knew that what I wrote would by definition become the definitive English resources, at least until somebody else picked up the baton.)


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 10:06 am 
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MichaelB wrote:
This is why I warmly recommend this thread, which compiles national-cinema canonical polls originating in the countries themselves. I also recommend releases like Second Run's Szindbád, Goodbye, See You Tomorrow and All My Good Countrymen and Eureka's Bakumatsu Taiyo-Den, as all four films are colossal in terms of the local film culture while being comparatively or sometimes entirely neglected abroad. (I wrote the booklet for the first two Second Run releases and could find very little English-language material to draw on - which upped the pressure on me to get the facts right, as I knew that what I wrote would by definition become the definitive English resources, at least until somebody else picked up the baton.)


Nice thread. \:D/

repeat, don't worry, I am very familiar with WWII, and in particular Sweden's involvement. Note that I said Swedes "have not been similarly saddled" with guilt. That was not to say that they have none. But you really did not address my point about Japanese cinema thriving on historical subjects like samurai pictures and ancient Japanese fairytales while Germans have not had a similar, thriving cinema industry with these subjects and genres, generally speaking. Another poster here pointed out that Japan's film industry was largely built on these kinds of historical genre films after WWII, so it's worth exploring why German cinema may not have produced similar historical genre films, which might have bolstered its cinema. American post-war cinema, to some extent, was built on cowboy pictures and westerns, for example.

If a people have been told repeatedly that their culture is evil, perhaps they are not as likely to celebrate it, or its past.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:28 am 
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Trees wrote:
But you really did not address my point about Japanese cinema thriving on historical subjects like samurai pictures and ancient Japanese fairytales while Germans have not had a similar, thriving cinema industry with these subjects and genres, generally speaking. Another poster here pointed out that Japan's film industry was largely built on these kinds of historical genre films after WWII, so it's worth exploring why German cinema may not have produced similar historical genre films, which might have bolstered its cinema. American post-war cinema, to some extent, was built on cowboy pictures and westerns, for example.

If a people have been told repeatedly that their culture is evil, perhaps they are not as likely to celebrate it, or its past.

Trees, your argument is increasingly showing signs of confirmation bias. You're selectively picking your evidence (national cinemas, in this case) to fit your hypothesis. France and Italy, at least at an auteurial/art level, did not particularly have a film industry built on the equivalent of the kinds of Japanese "historical genre films" that you are referring to, yet by consensus they probably had the two greatest national cinemas outside the US during the 1950s-80s. First you need to demonstrate that having a rich vein of "historical genre films" is somehow conducive to having a "thriving cinema industry".

In terms of genre films in the wider sense, Germany actually had a industry dominated by genre films for much of the post-War 20th Century. There's the Krimi/pulp films, the Karl May Westerns and the horror films. They've just never been considered art films on an international stage, much in the same way that the majority of spaghetti westerns and peplum films in Italy have not. In fact, I imagine that the majority of films made in West Germany in the 1960s were genre films of some sort.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:47 am 
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TMDaines wrote:
Trees, your argument is increasingly showing signs of confirmation bias. You're selectively picking your evidence (national cinemas, in this case) to fit your hypothesis. France and Italy, at least at an auteurial/art level, did not particularly have a film industry built on the kinds of "historical genre films" that you are referring to, yet by consensus they probably had the two greatest national cinemas outside the US during the 1950s-80s. First you need to demonstrate that having a rich vein of "historical genre films" is somehow conducive to having a "thriving cinema industry".


Some genres are more popular in some countries than others. Poland, for instance, is peculiarly bad at making horror films - there've been remarkably few that you can reasonably pigeonhole as such (even going back several decades, the total is barely into double figures), and they've mostly been thoroughly mediocre. Now you can read all sorts of things into this statistic, such as the fact that Poland's experience of the twentieth century was so exceptionally horrific that they have no psychological desire to expose themselves to genre films, and this may or may not be true - but it could also be as simple as the lack of any particular horror tradition in any Polish art form and the fact that Polish filmmakers with some affinity for the genre (Roman Polanski being a particularly good example) tended to find more congenial creative opportunities abroad.

And the popularity of particular genres comes in waves. Italy produced virtually no horror films prior to the mid-1950s, but a decade later it was a world leader. Why? The initial paucity might have had something to do with Fascist censorship (in fact, that's a reasonable hypothesis), but that wasn't an issue in the dozen years leading up to Riccardo Freda's groundbreaking I Vampiri. Sometimes films come along that just happen to strike a particular chord, and other people jump on the bandwagon for purely commercial reasons - it often is as simple as that.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:13 pm 
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If you look at this list, for example, Germany has three films in the top 50 (SUNRISE, METROPOLIS, M) all three of which were made before WWII. Japan has three films on the list (TOKYO STORY, SEVEN SAMURAI, RASHOMON) all three of which were made after WWII.

http://theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_all1000films.htm

This is at least somewhat objective evidence that Germany's national cinema has lagged since WWII, while Japan's has thrived. The question is: Why?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:33 pm 
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Trees wrote:
If you look at this list, for example, Germany has three films in the top 50 (SUNRISE, METROPOLIS, M) all three of which were made before WWII. Japan has three films on the list (TOKYO STORY, SEVEN SAMURAI, RASHOMON) all three of which were made after WWII.

http://theyshootpictures.com/gf1000_all1000films.htm

This is at least somewhat objective evidence that Germany's national cinema has lagged since WWII, while Japan's has thrived. The question is: Why?


A US-centric list like this is utterly meaningless when trying to draw conclusions about other national cinemas. It proves absolutely nothing other than that certain eras proved more internationally popular than others at certain times, which should be a statement of the obvious.

For starters, you could use that list to make a sweeping claim that the vast majority of Japanese cinema made outside the 1950-55 period must be subpar. Which would be a cataclysmically stupid argument, obviously, but look - I have "supporting evidence" to back it up!

And what's "objective" about US distributor taste? Having worked for or alongside film distributors for a fair chunk of my career, I can assure you that there's absolutely nothing objective about it - great swathes of outstanding world cinema are routinely ignored because they don't happen to tick the right box at a particular moment, which might be down to nothing more than turning up at the wrong time. I remember going to the Cannes market in 1993, seeing a Danish film and recommending it to a colleague. He agreed that it was rather good - but sadly, it was Danish and "there's no market for Danish films. Now if it had been French..."

You can probably guess the punchline already: a couple of years later, thanks to the Dogme 95 initiative, Danish films came massively under the international spotlight and distributors couldn't get enough of them. Ditto Romanian films - barely any were released prior to 2005, and now they're all over the place. Were all pre-2005 Romanian films rubbish? Of course not - they just weren't fashionable. And I absolutely guarantee that if that list had been drawn up a decade ago, Marketa Lazarová wouldn't be on it - because despite being made in 1967, it was all but unknown in the English-speaking world until the late 2000s.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:40 pm 
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I referenced that TSPDT list before as one that pulls from a large enough sample size (something like 4000 individual critic's lists) to give a sense of the consensus opinion of, say, Tarkovsky's stature as a director. To cherry pick a handful of films from the top 50 of the resulting list and use this to make sweeping generalizations about the entirety of any country's national cinema is once again running into a problem of limited sample size (among other things). You could just as easily note that the top two films on the list are pre-1960s American films and ask why American cinema appears to have been in decline since the Vietnam War.

Also, Sunrise isn't even German, so you're trying to hang an argument on the long-established reputations of two Fritz Lang films.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:47 pm 
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MichaelB, to me, it's patently obvious that German cinema has been lagging since WWII. Ask any German -- they will admit it. Let's try to simplify this: Where are the great German films since WWII? Can you name them? Do they compare with those masterpieces out of Japan? Can they even compare with Taiwan? Hong Kong?

Do you deny that Germany is being outshone by Japan, Sweden, Italy, France, Taiwan, and even tiny Hong Kong when it comes to cinema made after WWII?


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:55 pm 
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To me, you are way too obsessed with comparing and ranking things, rather than just enjoying them.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:00 pm 
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Drucker wrote:
To me, you are way too obsessed with comparing and ranking things, rather than just enjoying them.


That's the problem: There are not many great German films to enjoy as of late.

Let's leave rankings aside. Where are the great masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII? Can you name them? I can name dozens from Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Taiwan.

Here's my assertion: Cinema from Germany has been lagging since WWII. The way to refute this is to tell me about all the masterpieces that have come out of Germany.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:11 pm 
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Trees wrote:
MichaelB, to me, it's patently obvious that German cinema has been lagging since WWII. Ask any German -- they will admit it. Let's try to simplify this: Where are the great German films since WWII? Can you name them? Do they compare with those masterpieces out of Japan? Can they even compare with Taiwan? Hong Kong?

Do you deny that Germany is being outshone by Japan, Sweden, Italy, France, Taiwan, and even tiny Hong Kong when it comes to cinema made after WWII?


I can't confirm or deny it, because the question is predicated on a whole host of assumptions that I suspect I don't come close to sharing.

Clearly, Japan was doing much better in the 1950s than Germany, both creatively and commercially - there's plenty of evidence to back up that contention. But what about the 1970s, when Japan's major film industries had all but collapsed (can you imagine a Hollywood major turning exclusively to soft porn, as happened with Nikkatsu?) and Germany had comprehensively revitalised itself thanks to a new generation of filmmakers mostly born during or after WWII? This is why it's so absurdly simplistic to make such sweeping generalisations about countries' outputs "since WWII" - in other words a full seven decades spanning more than half of the totality of film history and innumerable changes of national, industrial and financial circumstances.

Trees wrote:
Let's leave rankings aside. Where are the great masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII? Can you name them? I can name dozens from Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Taiwan.

Here's my assertion: Cinema from Germany has been lagging since WWII. The way to refute this is to tell me about all the masterpieces that have come out of Germany.

And here's MY assertion: life's too short. The regular posters in this thread know perfectly well how many masterpieces have come out of Germany since WWII, and I suspect that were I to waste time compiling such a list, your response would be to tediously nitpick the "masterpiece" status of every title while continuing to make sweeping and unsupported claims about "dozens from Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Taiwan".


Last edited by MichaelB on Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:14 pm 
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Trees wrote:
Let's leave rankings aside. Where are the great masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII? Can you name them? I can name dozens from Japan, Sweden, Hong Kong, Italy, France, Taiwan.

Here's my assertion: Cinema from Germany has been lagging since WWII. The way to refute this is to tell me about all the masterpieces that have come out of Germany.

Not that this is anything close to a complete picture, but that TSPDT list you referenced includes at least a couple dozen post-WWII German films (without counting the films where Germany is merely one of several countries of production). This is more than Sweden, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:15 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
Trees wrote:
MichaelB, to me, it's patently obvious that German cinema has been lagging since WWII. Ask any German -- they will admit it. Let's try to simplify this: Where are the great German films since WWII? Can you name them? Do they compare with those masterpieces out of Japan? Can they even compare with Taiwan? Hong Kong?

Do you deny that Germany is being outshone by Japan, Sweden, Italy, France, Taiwan, and even tiny Hong Kong when it comes to cinema made after WWII?


I can't confirm or deny it, because the question is predicated on a whole host of assumptions that I suspect I don't come close to sharing.

Clearly, Japan was doing much better in the 1950s than Germany, both creatively and commercially - there's plenty of evidence to back up that contention. But what about the 1970s, when Japan's major film industries had all but collapsed (can you imagine a Hollywood major turning exclusively to soft porn, as happened with Nikkatsu?) and Germany had comprehensively revitalised itself thanks to a new generation of filmmakers mostly born during or after WWII? This is why it's so absurdly simplistic to make such sweeping generalisations about countries' outputs "since WWII" - in other words a full seven decades spanning more than half of the totality of film history and innumerable changes of national, industrial and financial circumstances.


Well I agree about the 70s in Japan, but by the 80s and 90s it roared back in a major way. I'm not trying to bash Germany here; I'm just trying to understand why a people so talented would fall behind in a major art form like cinema.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:22 pm 
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Trees wrote:
I'm not trying to bash Germany here; I'm just trying to understand why a people so talented would fall behind in a major art form like cinema.

You're not going to come close to understanding complex historical and cultural phenomena if you insist on arguing on this superficial level and falling back on populist US-sourced lists as "evidence".


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:25 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
Trees wrote:
I'm not trying to bash Germany here; I'm just trying to understand why a people so talented would fall behind in a major art form like cinema.

You're not going to come close to understanding complex historical and cultural phenomena if you insist on arguing on this superficial level and falling back on populist US-sourced lists as "evidence".


What evidence do you suggest we look at? I'm open to anything. I asked if you would provide a list of masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII, but you have said you don't want to do that.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:28 pm 
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Trees wrote:
I asked if you would provide a list of masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII, but you have said you don't want to do that.

Such information is readily available via Google: you don't need someone to compile a proprietary list specially for you. Especially since I generally charge for my filmographic research.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:31 pm 
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MichaelB wrote:
Trees wrote:
I asked if you would provide a list of masterpiece films out of Germany since WWII, but you have said you don't want to do that.

Such information is readily available via Google: you don't need someone to compile a proprietary list specially for you. Especially since I generally charge for my filmographic research.


Okay, based on all the evidence I have looked at, Germany has been lagging since at least WWII when it comes to cinema. My evidence: no great masterpiece films. You can easily refute this by providing evidence of German masterpiece films since WWII.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:34 pm 
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I knew I kept track of this stuff for a reason. Look at the results of our forum's lists projects for the last several decades, particularly how they can be attributed to individual countries. Germany didn't perform very well during the '50s, but rose to the top 10 in the '60s and was in the top 5 countries from the '70s to the '90s.

1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:38 pm 
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repeat wrote:
Tommaso, did you see Finsterworld? I thought that was a marvelous example of a film that rejects that customary drab realism that the financing system loves to promote (in fact the filmmakers said that that was their first decision: "no realism!") without however resorting to any kind of escapism regarding the country's recent past - definitely deserving a place high up on the list suggested by the title of this thread...


Yes, I've seen it. A fine film with some very funny and absurd scenes, and especially the sequence in the concentration camp memorial is surprisingly respectless (in a good way) for a German film. But all in all, I wouldn't say that it's a particularly important film.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:42 pm 
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swo17 wrote:
I knew I kept track of this stuff for a reason. Look at the results of our forum's lists projects for the last several decades, particularly how they can be attributed to individual countries. Germany didn't perform very well during the '50s, but rose to the top 10 in the '60s and was in the top 5 countries from the '70s to the '90s.

1960s
1970s
1980s
1990s


Okay, now we're talking. I will dive into these lists. Great stuff. Thanks, swo17.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 04, 2015 2:58 pm 
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For an easy way in, have a look at this list - especially the thirty or so entries between 1949-1969, which constitute a compact primer to world-class-masterpiece level German postwar cinema (on both sides of the Wall) before the days of Fassbinder, Herzog, Wenders et al. Most of those should be easily available with English subs.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 6:45 am 
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What rankles me is how Trees keeps switching between "since WWII" and "recent."

German cinema output in the 60's and 70's is pretty impressive:
Fassbinder was hyper-creative in the 70's
Herzog prolific too.
I'm not big on Wenders, but he has a solid reputation.
Alexander Kluge is a pretty major artist.
Volcker Schlondorff
Margarethe von Trotta
Jean-Marie Straub
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
Konrad Wolf und Frank Beyer to include a little of East Germany.
And I'm sure there are others I'm leaving out.

Mid-60's to 1980, the New German Cinema was flourishing and vibrant.
Then in the early 80's, you also have Mephisto (Hungarian director, but a very German film) and Heimat -- just off the top of my head.

If you want to discuss the topic of this thread -- the last 25 years -- I think a case could be made for German cinema, and most European cinemas, lagging. Some here have brought up funding structures.

I'm not sure how widespread the practice is, but I know there have been a number of German co-productions with China, resulting in the terrific Blind Shaft. Successful enough they made a follow-up of sorts, Blind Mountain.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:41 am 
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Well the question posed by OP in this thread was related to "the last 25 years" but the theory about WWII leaving scars on the German psyche that may have negatively affected German cinema necessitates that we look instead at the timeframe from the end of the war until now. This is why there has been some switching around. I wasn't trying to move goalposts, just to examine whether WWII may have had some negative effect on German cinema.


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:50 pm 
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I don't have a problem with looking at an expanded time frame.
But lumping in the very fertile and productive New German Cinema of the 60's and 70's with the past 25 years and declaring there isn't much there is misguided.

Here's some German films you should watch if you haven't from the 60's and 70's:

Naked Among Wolves -- Frank Beyer (East Germany; 1963)
Young Törless (Der junge Törless) -- Volker Schlöndorff (1966)
Yesterday Girl -- Alexander Kluge (1967)
I Was Nineteen -- Konrad Wolf (East Germany; 1968)
Even Dwarfs Started Small -- Werner Herzog 1970
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul -- Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1974
Hitler: A Film from Germany -- Hans-Jürgen Syberberg 1977
In a Year of 13 Moons -- Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1978
Mephisto -- István Szabó 1981
Veronika Voss -- Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1982

That's a pretty impressive collection from a 20 year period.
Those are just some of my favorites and some of the more interesting films.
I'm sure others would include some Wenders and different Fassbinders and Herzogs.
As well as some other directors, maybe von Trotta, Straub, etc.


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