24/08/2006

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Die Zeit, 24.08.2006

"We need a new feminism" it says in big letters on the front page of the Life section of the weekly paper. Fifteen women, including fashion designer Gabrielle Strehle (Strenesse), comedienne Anke Engelke, writer Alexa Hennig von Lange (homepage) and judge Gerturde Lübbe-Wolf explain why. Novelist Karen Duve finds an article by newsreader Eva Herman in Cicero magazine (in which she expresses her doubts about feminism, saying it has brought more trouble than it was worth and in the light of Germany's shrinking population it would probably be better for women to stop making things complicated for themselves and get back to the stove) "enough to make you vomit bones". Duve senses a prevailing hostility in the feuilletons. "What once was goodwill has turned into something harsh and ugly, now that some of the most desirable and prestigious positions in the culture and media world are occupied by women."


"The Free Will" hits the German screens today

Matthias Glasner's provocative, disturbing film "The Free Will" (more here), which earned Jürgen Vogel a Silver Bear for best actor at this year's Berlin Film Festival, opens in German cinemas today. The feuilletons are divided on Glasner's portrayal of the loves of a sex offender.

Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Fritz Göttler would have preferred a little less instinct and a little more understanding from "The Free Will". "The loneliness of the sex offender is portrayed as a horror trip. But this portrayal lacks precision, and a clear idea of how cinematographic narrative works. The result continually slides from the analysis of a social situation into a picture of the abject side of humanity – in which Jürgen Vogel gives everything he's got. Ultimately, the film hides behind slogans and announcements in a thicket of well-meaning. And its glorification of the principle of immediacy and instinct is all too frivolous. 'Instinctively I felt: pure handicraft won't get me any further, but if we live through this, we'll be closer when we come out the other side.' 'The Free Will' doesn't lose its credibility through its excesses, but in sentences like this by its director. No American B-movie director would talk about his trade with so little respect."

Don't mention symbolism! Birgit Glombitza of die tageszeitung let's the word "pieta" slip from her lips in the course of an interview with director Matthias Glasner, who counters there is no redemption in his film, and certainly not for the rapist who slashes his wrists and dies in the lap of his weeping girlfriend. "This stupid pieta! Oddly enough no ordinary cinema-goer has mentioned it, only journalists. It always gives me the impression that journalists are bringing it up only to please themselves. And the amazing thing is that the film does not make this explicit in any way. Pieta would mean that the film steps back and makes an image. We are right in the middle of Nettie's complete inability to do anything, here is a woman who has no idea any more about what she should do. There is nothing symbolic about that, nothing aggrandised. It is all very intuitive and direct."


Berliner Zeitung, 24.08.2006


Martin Ebbing has visited the exhibition of Holocaust cartoons in Tehran, observing "the absolute normality, how completely matter of course the show is for organisers and visitors alike. No one seemed to take offence, and there's not a whit of indignation. Visitors at the 'Museum for Contemporary Palestinian Art' in the centre of the city nod approvingly in front of the drawings, each of which is supposed to represent a sort of intercontinental weapon in the clash of cultures." Ebbing quotes the exhibition director Massoud Shojai Tabatabai, who asks: "Why is it that in the West cartoonists can insult the Prophet Muhammad with impunity, but are punished when they portray the Holocaust?" One answer was given by Andre Glucksmann here at signandsight in March.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24.08.2006

Mark Siemons has read "Chinese Beauties" The book was written by Zhang Xiaomei, publisher of a major fashion magazine and consultant to the government on all questions pertaining to the beauty industry." She explains the true hallmarks of Chinese beauty: "Cherry lips, peach blossom eyes (long and moist, with the corners slightly raised), wasp-waisted and willowy, light enough to dance like a swallow on the back of a hand, and white skin (epitomising reserve and elegance) which sometimes blushes slightly (sublimity and arousal)." Chinese find actress Zhao Wei the most beautiful of all (images here, here and here), the new supermodel Du Juan is considered alright (image here), actress Zhang Ziyi is seen as moderately cute (images here, here and here), while no one at all in China can understand why model Lu Yan is so successful in the West (image here).


Der Tagesspiegel, 24.08.2006

Berliner lawyer and patron Peter Raue makes a sharply polemic case against the return of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's painting "Berliner Straßenszene" (1913) to the heirs of a Jewish family who in 1938 sold the painting to Germany from their exile in Switzerland. "No one knows what considerations prompted Berlin cultural Senator Thomas Flierl to extend the restitution demands to the case of a voluntary return of a painting to Germany and to give up the painting unconditionally: without public discussion, without calling in an informed commission, without expert certification." In a counter-article Senator Flierl argues there are no doubts that the family was racially persecuted and forced to sell the painting for money: "In 1936 the office of the Nazi district financial advisor enquired whether the employees, board members, supervisory board members or shareholders of the shoe factory were Jewish. The answer must have been affirmative. In 1937 the Hess family lost their shareholdings because of Nazi rule."

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