Film program: Ulrike Ottinger

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Film program at the Austrian Filmmuseum from May 26 until June 30

From May 26 until May 30 in the presence of Ulrike Ottinger

In the context of the exhibition Defiant Muses. Delphine Seyrig and the Feminist Video Collectives of 1970s and 1980s France

During the 1970s and 1980s, work with women filmmakers became a way for Delphine Seyrig to rethink her work as an actress in light of her growing feminist awareness and to delve into the complexities of women’s experiences. The roles she played in films directed by Ulrike Ottinger (Freak Orlando, 1981; Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse [Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press], 1984; and Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia, 1989) and others challenged the passivity in which the female star is usually trapped.

The Austrian Filmmuseum is showing following films featuring Delphine Seyrig:

30/5 & 17/6 2022
Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse [Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press]

2/6 & 17/6 2022
Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia

26/5 & 16/6 2022
Freak Orlando

Welcome to the revolutionary cosmos of Ulrike Ottinger! To celebrate the 80th birthday of this cinematic pioneer, multi-talented artist, and world traveler, the Filmmuseum will present a complete retrospective of all her films and show you something you’ve never seen before. With her equal parts auteurist and avant-garde cinema, Ottinger is a filmmaker who refuses to conform to the mainstream (both Hollywood and the average art house film). Her films follow two tendencies: We can differentiate between an artifice-heavy and eccentric body of work strongly invested in fiction and an ethnographic, documentary body of work based around photography and editing. Both convey a subtle sense for fairy tales and magic, for the manufactured quality of everyday life, and its enchantments.

Ottinger‘s films are very alluring, hers is a cinema of attractions full of astonishment and visual curiosity. These are films that speak of a great thirst for the world and how to go further in it: Namely via transformations, as she suggests in her first work Laokoon und Söhne (Laocoon and Sons, 1975), about a fantasy-filled alternative art world. Metamorphosis as a way towards new sensations starts with perception and what we understand as reality – for Ottinger, something to expand. Die Betörung der blauen Matrosen (The Enchantment of the Blue Sailors, 1975) pursues this extension and accesses new poetic worlds, expanding cinema: The artist builds on her experience with collage – on film in its effectiveness as a conglomerate of painting, photography, dance, music, architecture, literature, choreography, rhythm, composition, and the drama of color and light. As early as Madame X – Eine absolute Herrscherin (Madame X – An Absolute Ruler, 1977), she cedes the psychology to an expert and turns towards the surface of the image. In her famous Berlin Trilogy – Bildnis einer Trinkerin (Portrait of a Woman Drinker, 1979), Freak Orlando (1981), and Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse [Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press] (1984) – she celebrates the city’s diversity as an artistic kaleidoscope of curiosities, wonders, and oddities, which she lifts from the everyday reality of many centuries and rebuilds before the backdrop of Berlin’s industrial landscapes. In doing so, she exiles the yellow press to the sewars.

Ottinger‘s works are incredibly dense: Every object, material, costume, and character (and their names) is culturally loaded. Allegories and puns whisper, twinkle, blink, screech, and sing from the images. The filmmaker unites stylistic elements from different genres and artistic fields (surrealism, dadaism, and pop art especially), makes the past visible in the present, and creates a space for the imagination beyond reassuring sources of identification.

Far outside the simplifications of identity politics, Ottinger makes queerness and sexuality as well as art itself tangible creatives forces with the potential for an aesthetic release from ideological rigidity. She seeks out otherness abroad too, observing it from the alleged margins. Alleged insofar as they view the “exotic as a question of attitude.” In today’s world of border closings, re-nationalization, and the perceived endlessness of a system driven into the ground, politically and medially sobering, we find in Ottinger‘s films something that seems to have been completely lost: An atmosphere and spirit of upheaval and change motivated by encounters and captivated by the passionate examination of borders and movements that enable their dissolution.

Her films are both the results and exhibitions of collection processes. Qualities of the museum, collection, and archive as well as the experience of the positive impressions she connects to them are meaningful: She finds in them a reservoir for rediscovering film’s visual language.