A tribute to the German Expressionist director pays homage to his seminal film noir masterpieces.
Master of Darkness: The Testaments of Fritz LangAero Theatre (1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA) Map it $11
Dubbed a "master of darkness" by the British Film Institute, Fritz Lang undoubtedly made a crucial contribution to the genres of German Expressionist cinema and film noir. Psychologically dark and geometrically stark, Lang's cinematic style is perhaps best exemplified by his earlier films and, more specifically, by his two groundbreaking masterpieces: 1927's seminal silent film and contemporary cult flick, Metropolis, and 1931's chilling thriller, M, widely acknowledged as a precursor to film noir. The Austrian art student-cum-director--whose astute eye and austere aesthetic sensibilities earned him a pivotal role in Weimar-era German cinema--caught the attention of none other than Joseph Goebbels, aka the Nazi's Reich Minister of Propaganda and one of Adolf Hitler's closest associates, who offered to install Lang at the helm of Germany's UFA studio. Concerned that his Jewish heritage would be come into question in Nazi Germany in spite of his Catholic upbringing, Lang fled to Los Angeles after a brief stint in Paris. After joining MGM studio in 1936, he went on to work for almost every Hollywood studio, releasing a couple of Westerns, but excelling as a director of noir-tinged crime dramas. Lang's films somewhat failed to impress Tinseltown, but the director's genius was later praised by the likes of Truffault, prompting critics to credit Lang for his integral role in the formation and fine-tuning of film noir. Presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles and programmed by Gwen Deglise, Grant Moninger, and John Hagelston, the tribute to the Master of Darkness includes Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Hangmen Also Die!, and Clash by Night.
Born in Vienna, Fritz Lang (1890-1976) moved to Germany after WWI to write for the Berlin-based Decla film company, but the former art student’s visual sense soon earned him a spot in the director’s chair. Expressionism was all the rage in German cinema at the time, and its stark geometry and dark psychology course through such films as METROPOLIS and M. Lang’s talents caught the eye of Josef Goebbels, who offered to install the filmmaker as head of Germany’s UFA studio after the Nazis had come to power. That was Lang’s cue to flee the country.
Arriving in Hollywood in 1934, Lang set up shop at MGM; over the next two decades, he would work for virtually every major studio. Though he made a couple of distinctive Westerns, the director specialized in crime dramas, and such films as SCARLET STREET and THE BIG HEAT underline the debt that film noir owes to Expressionism. American studio executives looked upon Lang as a skilled but difficult journeyman, and he returned to Germany to make his final films at the end of the 1950s. It was only later that Fritz Lang’s seminal contributions to sci-fi and film noir got their critical due, prompting the British Film Institute to dub the monocled director a “master of darkness.”
Series also includes THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE, HANGMEN ALSO DIE! and CLASH BY NIGHT.