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The Mechanical Age

Sunday, October 8, 2006
3:30 p.m. The Steel Beast
Willy Otto Zielke (Germany, 1935)

(Das Stahltier). Commissioned to celebrate the centennial of the Nuremberg-Fürth line, this film by a great German photographer from the twenties, Willy Otto Zielke, was a work of the avant-garde that was banned by the Third Reich for its decadent aesthetics. Zielke was influenced by Surrealism, and the film's originality is to be found in its unusual narrative organization, a daring collage of abstractions, rhythms, and historical commentary, all supported by the music of Peter Kreuder. With accentuated angles, a rotating camera, superimpositions, eroticized details of machines, and a prologue edited and framed so as to place the railways in perspective with the industrial world, this is a film with echoes of Dziga Vertov—the commissioned propaganda film that becomes an aesthetic experience.

—Dominique Païni, Cinémathèque Française

• Photographed by Zielke. (75 mins, Little dialogue, In German with French subtitles, B&W, 35mm, Courtesy Cinémathèque Française)

Preceded by shorts:

Bridges-Go-Round (Shirley Clarke, U.S., 1958). Clarke said her film “looks at bridges as they affect you when you cross them, which gives them movement and design like flying in space. The film is both beautiful and scary.” (4 mins, Color, 16mm, PFA Collection)

The Bridge (De Brug) (Joris Ivens, The Netherlands, 1928). Like The Steel Beast, Ivens's The Bridge was influenced by Eisenstein, Vertov, and other Soviet filmmakers. His picture of a Rotterdam drawbridge is both highly formalized and erotic. (12 mins, Silent, B&W, 35mm, Courtesy Nederlands Filmmuseum, permission Marceline Loridan-Ivens, Capi Films)

(Total running time: 91 mins)