To Be or Not To Be + Blue Moses

To Be or Not to Be
Ernst Lubitsch, USA, 1942
DCP, 99’

In Nazi-occupied Poland, a theater troupe are swept up in a complex plot of espionage to resist the SS. Using their skills as thespians, the troupe puts on different characters and roles at the drop of a hat, armed only with their pretentious pride in their halfway-decent skills and love for their country. Employing a multitude of genre forms – including black comedy, thriller-spy plot, cheeseball romance, and slapstick/screwball antics – To Be or Not to Be remains a classic meditation on identity, courage and hope in the face of the void.

“One might call it a tragical farce or a farcical tragedy – I do not care and neither do the audience. The picture plays – and that’s the only important thing in this issue.”
-Ernst Lubitsch

“Lubitsch was able to walk the very narrow path between the absurd and the realistic.”
-Douglas Sirk

Blue Moses
Stan Brakhage, USA, 1962
16mm, 11’

Presented as if from an existentialist monologue, an actor appears—in dramatic and menacing stage makeup, “as himself,” and at times as something of a wizard—as if conjured. Emerging from a cave to wander a rocky black and white landscape, Brakhage’s Moses addresses the audience with such lines as: “Look. This is ridiculous. I am an actor,” “you are my captive audience,” before lapsing into morose doubt pondering the existence of the filmmaker/conjuror behind the spectacle. Like a sad clown in a Beckett play, Benson strips off his makeup and laments the futility of drama even as the camera keeps rolling.
-Steve Polta

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