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Berlin Fest, MoMA Plan Retro Focused on Use of Light in Film

Section will show influence of U.S., European lensers on Japanese pix

The Retrospective section of the Berlin Film Festival will focus on the use of light in movie-making, the event said Thursday. The section will be curated by Deutsche Kinemathek in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where the movies will also play.

The fest said that the line-up will allow auds to discover lighting styles from a variety of genres and periods of film history.

“We admire films such as Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Rashomon,’ but for the most part we don’t know the names of the cameramen and lighting technicians who, in a team with the director, create these superb worlds of light and shadow for us. In 2014, the Retrospective will illuminate these works,” said Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick.

The Retro will look at how the films of F.W. Murnau and Josef von Sternberg, with pics like “The Docks of New York” in 1928, and “Shanghai Express” in 1932 (pictured), influenced Japanese filmmakers. It will also look at the work of Henry Kotani, a Japanese cameraman working in the U.S., who was hired by Shochiku studio to modernize filmmaking with lighting effects and reflectors.

It will look at Japanese swashbuckler films like “The Revenge of Yukinojo,” in which flashing swords glitter in the black of night, and how sophisticated lighting concepts created for the face of thesp Kazuo Hasegawa, also known as Chojiro Hayashi, helped him become Japan’s biggest star.

The section also will look at Japanese and American war films, and their depiction of heroic acts, and the shift toward realism with the use of footage and locations from real war events. The same trend is reflected in films such as John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940), “Citizen Kane” (1941) and “The Naked City” (1948), all of which explore the boundaries between reality and fiction, the fest said.

The Retro will include several German premieres of Japanese films, such as the 1939 samurai musical “Singing Lovebirds,” which was directed by Masahiro Makino.

The section will include some 40 films. Among the highlights will be recent restorations, including Gerhard Lamprecht’s “Under the Lantern” (1928), Fred Niblo’s “The Mark of Zorro” (1920) and Allan Dwan’s “The Iron Mask” (1929). As with all the silent films in the program, these films will be accompanied by music performed live by leading  international artists.

The point of departure for the Retro was the publication this year of Daisuke Miyao’s “The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lighting and Japanese Cinema.”

“Daisuke Miyao’s fascinating insights into the art of lighting, and thus into an area of Japanese film history that has hardly been studied, impressed us so greatly that we are curating our film program in close cooperation with him,” said Rainer Rother, head of the Retrospective and artistic director of the Deutsche Kinemathek. The concept was developed by Charles Silver and Rajendra Roy at the Museum of Modern Art, and Rother and Connie Betz at the Deutsche Kinemathek.

The Berlin fest runs Feb. 6-16. The Retro program will be shown at MoMA in January and April.

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