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Germany Year 90 Nine Zero
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This powerful and provocative double bill contemplates two defining events in 20th-century German history—the Holocaust and post-Cold War reunification—from a French perspective. The best-known of Alain Resnais’ documentary shorts, Night and Fog contrasts solemn tracking shots of former Nazi death camps with horrific archival footage of their results. This influential 30-minute 1956 film is a powerful testament, but its subject is as much memory—Resnais’ enduring theme—as the Holocaust itself. The curiously unspecific voice-over commentary (written by Paul Celan and concentration-camp survivor Jean Cayrol) was inspired in part by contemporaneous French atrocities in Algeria. Where Night and Fog is elegantly formal, Jean-Luc Godard’s Germany Year 90 Nine Zero is characteristically complex and diverse. This 60-minute 1991 film contemplates capitalism, communism, and the legacy of the Holocaust, while borrowing motifs from Murnau’s Nosferatu and Godard’s own Alphaville. As it crosses the now-erased line separating West Germany from the former East, the journey of “last spy” Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) lurches from ideological burlesque to haunted elegy and back again. The end of Marxism parallels the collapse of Godard’s own idealism, as well as the fall of cinema—or the idea of cinema as a revolutionary force, which the director has been eulogizing for almost two decades. With chilling irony, a maid in the futuristic hotel where Caution takes refuge tells him, “Work makes you free”—the infamous legend emblazoned over Nazi concentration-camp gates, now just another advertising tagline. The program begins at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, at the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes’ Goethe-Forum, 814 7th St. NW. $5. (202) 289-1200. (Mark Jenkins)