Wienfilm 1896–1976. 1977. Austria. Directed by Ernst Schmidt, Jr. In German; English subtitles. 117 min.
With Arnulf Rainer, Otto Muehl, VALIE EXPORT, and many others. Schmidt, Jr. described this major work in typically modest terms: “A kind of anthology about Vienna, from the discovery of film up to the present time.” Actually, Wienfilm 1896–1976 is one the great collage works and collaborative acts of historical re-imagination in post-1968 cinema. For his—often very funny—treasure trove of both new and regained images counter to the clichéd ones still prevalent during the 1960s and 1970s, Schmidt invited many great poets and artists to contribute their words, faces, images, and performances, including Ernst Jandl, Arnulf Rainer, H. C. Artmann, Dieter Roth, Otto Muehl, Friedrike Mayröcker, VALIE EXPORT, Friedrich Achleitner, and Peter Weibel. But the full “cast” also includes historical figures who enter the film via found footage, texts, and rediscovered music from the early twentieth century: Charles Chaplin, Adolf Hitler, Sigmund Freud, the Jewish cabaret singer-songwriter Armin Berg, the Austro-fascist dictator Engelbert Dollfuss, Emperor Franz Joseph I, and Vienna’s most beloved stage actor of 1900, Alexander Girardi. As much as its creator, this rich serving of Viennese wit should be destined for a second life in cinema’s pleasure dome. Courtesy sixpackfilm.