Following major awards and retrospectives this year in Berlin and New York, Ulrike Ottinger has produced a valuable new piece of contextual evidence: a künstlerroman, if you will. While some may know Ottinger for her role in the New German Cinema of the 1970s and 80s (including Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia), Paris Calligrammes is named after the Left Bank bookstore that served as meeting ground for a circle of émigré poets, painters, and sculptors, and covers her brief, fraught, and formative time in 1960s Paris, a period in which she practiced painting and photography, but not yet filmmaking.
Indeed, the first incursion of cinema comes in images of bodies piled up by police outside the Rex Cinema, brutalized and murdered for protesting against the Algerian War. British actress Jenny Agutter reads Ottinger’s thoughtful and reflective text over a montage of film clips, found footage and home movies, grappling with what personal and national archives can and can’t say.
"A work of vital and energetic modernism." - Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"One of the great works of first person cinema… The film is an extraordinary sort of aesthetico-political nonfiction bildungsroman, in which Ottinger fuses her self-portraiture and her reminiscences with the life of the city and the ideas of the times, as she encountered them." Richard Brody, The New Yorker
"Enriching, stimulating; vital and contradictory. Captures the zeitgeist as experienced by a young woman eager to soak up the cultural riches around her, which she then distilled through her own sensibility to create paintings reflecting the era’s upheavals." Jay Weissberg, Variety
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