HISTORY: In returning to Paris, German avant-garde filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger resurrects memories of the city that she called home through the 1960s.
Astra Zoldnere
Astra Zoldnere
Published date: October 18, 2020

In her essayistic documentary Paris Calligrammes, German avant-garde filmmaker and visual artist Ulrike Ottinger brings together the perspectives of a young and an old artist. She takes a look at her Paris years between 1962 and 1969 from a present-day viewpoint. The documentary is reminiscent of Ottinger’s Parisian paintings in the style of narrative figuration. The film is a fragmented mosaic, poppish, entertaining, but nevertheless critical and daring.

Artistic and intellectual influences

In a way, the autobiographical documentary is a love song to Paris embodying the spirit of the time. In Bernardo Bertolucci’s Dreamers (2013), cinema takes the leading place; in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011), dead litterateurs and artists materialize; in the Paris Calligrammes director’s personal memories, movie clips and found-footage material are mixed to capture an artistically explosive environment. Young Ottinger works in cafes next to Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, attends lectures by the anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, watches movies in the famous French Cinémathèque, learns etching technique in Johnny Friedlaender’s studio, organizes her canvases in the backyards of Montparnasse studios, and participates in the bohemian life of …


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