In 1962 I came to Paris as a young artist to live and work there. The time until 1969, in which I left the city again, was not only one of the most formative phases for me, but was also an epoch of intellectual, political and social upheavals in terms of contemporary history. The film “Paris Calligrammes” combines my personal memories of the 1960s with a portrait of the city and a sociogram of the time.
is German filmmaker and avant-garde artist Ulrike Ottinger’s love letter to the city where she came of age, and her explorations of her own artistic growth, fueled by bookstores, jazz clubs, workshops and cafés. “Calligramme” is the term coined by Guillaume Apollinaire for his poems featuring stunning visual typography. Like a series of calligrammes
, this film is divided into individual poetic segments, covering the period from Ottinger’s arrival in Paris in 1962 to her return to Germany seven years later. In the tradition of flanerie, Ottinger writes in her director’s statement, she takes us through the city, turning her lens on decisive personal and political focal points. They include her time at a legendary bookshop, the studio where she learned the art of etching, her embrace of the French New Wave through the Cinémathèque Française, and the cafés and streets where personal artistic ferment bled into political action against the war in Algeria—and, ultimately, to the protests of May 1968. Appearing herself only occasionally in archival photos, Ottinger creates a personal film that connects her own artistic awakening to the broader social issues of the day. Combining contemporary and archival footage, she evokes the past without succumbing to nostalgia.
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Germany-France 2020, 131mins. With English subtitles
Written, directed and filmed by Ulrike Ottinger
With special thanks to Contemporary Films
Paris Calligrammes will be released in the UK cinemas on 27 August 2021.
As the films will only be release in cinemas, the Goethe-Institut will not be offering an online screening.