In the cinema: art and soul
The new Bauhaus
The German Bauhaus (roughly “house-building”) was a touchstone for 20e C. Western art, architecture. and design. It was founded after World War I by Walter Gropius and other creative thinkers who brought both new ideas and philosophies to a then broken Germany. Based first in Weimar (from 1919) and later in Dessau (in 1925), its teachers have shown immense influence based on the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk (“Total work”) in which all the arts would ultimately be combined (the film is now available to stream, lasts 89 minutes and is unrated).
The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, modernist architecture, and architectural education. The movement had a profound influence on subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphics, interior design and typography. Led by the works and writings of Gropius, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Hungarian radical artist László Moholy-Nagy, the program lasted until 1933, when it was closed under pressure from the Nazi regime.
Moholy-Nagy finally moved to Chicago in 1937, where he directed “The New Bauhaus”, which was inspired by the famous German school and brought together art and design students, an innovation at the time. The history of this school is the subject of the current documentary “The New Bauhaus”,
From his experiences at the Bauhaus, Moholy-Nagy adopted a pioneering interdisciplinary and mixed approach to art and design that was far ahead of its time. Although the school struggled financially at first, it eventually found an angel in Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America and one of America’s early industrial design champions. Seeing a clear financial benefit in the direction of the school, Paepcke offered his personal support, and in 1939 Moholy-Nagy was able to reopen the school as the Chicago School of Design. In 1944 he became the Institute of Design, where he still resides at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
The film tells the animated history of the Institute, illustrated by a myriad of clips and photos of the time, showing both the ideas germinated in the classrooms and the exhibitions, and interviews with one-off students, many of whom have gone on to become prominent designers and creators. To consolidate this story, occasional quotes in a narrative aloud by Hans Ulrich Obrist, reading the words of the master. More current material is covered in intimate interviews and footage with Moholy-Nagy’s daughter, Hattula, which adds a personal touch and in-depth exploration of her father’s vast and groundbreaking work, as well as her compelling and unassuming personality. limits. energy (Moholy-Nagy died in 1946 at age 51).
What is exciting about this review of the work of Moholy-Nagy and his colleagues is the astonishing scope and ambitions of the documentary’s filmmakers, led by co-writer and director Alyssa Nahmias, who has carefully and fruitfully compiled at from mountains of material and serious research. —The major works of the movement, from stunning new buildings and well-crafted craftsmanship to more pedestrian advertising designs.
“The New Bauhaus” offers an enlightening portrait of a visionary teacher and thinker and his legacy.
Summer of the soul
“I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Everyday People,” “Oh, Happy Day,” “When I Sing the Blues,” “Let the Sunshine In” – sounds like a roll call of major black music from the last century. And so it was that all of these pieces, and many more, were delivered in long-forgotten musical performances at the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, held at Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park) in Harlem. . The festival, promoted by storyteller and MC Tony Lawrence, lasted six weeks in June-July 1969 with an audience of over 300,000 people. We can now see him with joy in “Summer of Soul (Or, When the Revolution could not be televised)” (The unrated film lasts 117 sparkling minutes).
Despite its attendance reserved for standing people and its notable artists such as Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, The 5th Dimension, The Staple Singers, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Sly and the Family Stone, the festival, which will take place during the same summer as Woodstock, never entered the consciousness of the general public. While most of the music was considered “soul” at the time, the playlist was quite inclusive and also included numbers from gospel, jazz, pop, Afrobeat, funk, and even Latin. One of the highlights of the concerts is when gospel legend Mavis Staples sings “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”, then hands the mic to Mahalia Jackson (his mentor), and the two end the number in an electrifying duet (and the crowd is going crazy!)
Although forty hours of Festival footage was recorded live on videotape, it was then placed in a basement, where it languished for about 50 years, without being released. Years later, producer Robert Fyvolent took notice of the footage and eventually acquired the film and television rights from its original producer and cinematographer, Hal Tulchin. Then, in 2018, producers brought it to the attention of musician and drummer Questlove Thompson (now frontman of Roots, the house band of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”). The footage survived and was able to be restored and edited by its director after several months to become one of the best American concert films in recent memory (although it looks and sounds great, it only shows its age because ‘it was shot before high definition images). It premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Prix.
“Summer of Soul” is also a wonderful time capsule in Black Consciousness in the late 1960s, a booming Black Power dress and costume period, flamboyant, African-inspired, and the opening of new avenues. for the black expression. The film brings out this awareness through the over-voice narration of the event attendees, one of whom remembers the crowd as if he “sees royalty”. The crowd shots, omnipresent throughout the film, are vivid reminders of a highlight in black life, of an entire people vibrating to the rhythm of its diverse culture.
It will be difficult to prevent your feet from tapping and your body from moving while watching “The summer of the soul.”
Hill resident Mike Canning has been writing on films for the Hill Rag since 1993 and is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Association. He is the author of “Hollywood on the Potomac: How the Movies View Washington, DC”. His reviews and film writings can be found online at www.mikesflix.com.