So this film is dealing with opera, but where does cinema, as a form and as a mode of thought, fit into what you were just saying? STEWART-STEINBERG:  Is it Stravinsky at some point? The answer in the film is that when something touches you it keeps reverberating for so long that you cannot but keep dying, as it were. KOCH: OK, so taking up this question. This I always found very amazing. One answer would be that what the fairy tale alerts us to is that there is a difference between seeing with one’s eyes, as we normally do, and a kind of second vision. DIRECTED BY WERNER SCHROETER Maria Malibran was one of the most lauded mezzo-sopranos of her time when she died in 1836 at just 28 years old, … It’s the fact that, apparently, she performed with her father. All of this is different from love. She died soon after. For the first twenty minutes or so, when the characters are leaning toward one another, it’s like watching a scene from Elective Affinities. DÜTTMANN: Yes. . BEWES: Until the end, right? . And you can’t sing if you touch the mouth of the other. We don’t know where it will lead us. KOCH: I think there are two notions of passion involved here. SZENDY: Yes. The first Film-Thinking event took place on October 28, 2019 at Acoustic Java. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28. When you close your eye, closing the lids, there is something that is akin to the opening and closing of a mouth. These women in the film can’t die. Not in general, but by means of two impossible gestures. You know, where suddenly something like a minimal plot comes in, after we have no plot at all for most of the film. It’s going into flow. It’s not Wagnerian. You have these very old discs that are playing, historic things. You can say a singer incorporates music, but an actor is incorporating a role. If you don’t know where everything’s going then there’s nothing to take comfort from. I would say just a few words before I answer the question. Torontoist has been acquired by Daily Hive Toronto - Your City. I also ask myself: why is there this fairy tale in the middle of the film? Some are completely, of course, out of her time. Perhaps I could start off the conversation by just saying something about that. I wonder if this might be a sort of taking-off point for placing this film in the history of cinema, a history that has been so fascinated by passion and affect. But I think there is something else involved here that has more to do with what Alex referred to in his statement: the time and timing of passions. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28. So you can’t see if the eye of the other is against yours, if it touches yours. One of them, the first image that then recurs: the knife and the eyelid; and, immediately after that, the mouth with the make-up. In Schroeter you definitely have these illusions with the miserere: it goes to these musical forms and also to sculpture and so to a wonder of sufferance that leads to healing. Whereas the heterosexuals expect something to happen in half an hour, and reasonably so — and there will be a fulfillment, or not — the queerness of the film is, as it were, to inhabit those two images, that repetition, that constantly repeated gesture that leads nowhere, because it’s only that one moment of passion without a development, which is both the quintessence and the incapability of fulfillment — but maybe there’s nothing else. . You have this kind of asynchronized movement of lips and bodies, as in karaoke, but it brings it together in an aesthetic unity, despite all these interruptions that Alex was referring to. ), Spanish mezzo-soprano of exceptional vocal range, power, and agility. For the main difficulty, for opera, involves the incorporation of music. What is this more operatic, more performative engagement with emotion doing in relationship to that larger history? It’s really mysterious why that happens. This, I think, is a cinematic innovation, one that he takes from experimental film — from avant-garde film. How to sync bodies with affect? But how this “touch,” as it were, leaves us in this strange state, this strange immortality almost, where we can’t go on. Musical, Drama, Comedy. It’s like a composition. . The vision that is restored is not the same as the initial vision. This gives it this homogeneity. Maybe this is where the queerness might come in. It’s playing with the inherent melodramaticness, in a way, of cinema — and this ties to the queer issue, because this is such a strong through-line in queer cinema. Directed by. Alexander García Düttmann (University of the Arts, Berlin) selected Werner Schroeter’s film Der Tod der Maria Malibran (Germany, 1972). Today, Maria remains one of the legendary names in the history of opera, with countless scholars and fans dreaming of recording equipment and a time machine to transport it; depicted several times during her life by noted painters and sculptors, Maria's story has made it to the silver screen at least three times, the last in 1971 when Candy Darling portrayed her in "The Death of Maria Malibran". So you would go in, let’s say, a swimming pool, without water, and have, there, an opera directed in the swimming pool. When that happens, and the continuity of the course of events is interrupted, you are stuck; all you can do is repeat again and again and again the same thing. That had a very liberating effect upon me, because I much prefer Schroeter to Kluge and I thought it was a wonderful suggestion. Because here the eyes are restored in this kind of miracle that happens in the end to the girl who loses her eyes to that evil sorcerer or whatever he is. What film shares with theatre, but not with painting and other image-based arts, is that it works with live action, live actors. A sort of limit of seeing and non-seeing. Foucault says several things in this little interview. BEWES: Well, we haven’t yet mentioned the performers, such as Candy Darling . Apparently, this idea struck Schroeter enough that he wanted to meet Foucault and talk with him. Here, perhaps, it is the essence of passion, or passion as an essence. Maybe what the film is about is what it calls the “abnormal fact.” What does that mean? . In the seventies, the first retrospectives of early film were shown. Werner Schroeter mixes Stravinsky, Beethoven, Brahms, Maria Callas and Janis Joplin in this delirious biography of the doomed nineteenth-century mezzo-soprano. So, that detail continued to haunt me when I watched the film again this evening. Maria Malibran (24 March 1808 – 23 September 1836) was a mezzo-soprano who commonly sang both contralto and soprano parts, and was one of the most famous opera singers of the 19th century. So what we have here is a transformation of human bodies and incorporations into a filmic body. SZENDY: But still, there was one detail that surfaced and kept haunting me. We are touched by this film, perhaps. So that is the context of the question that I want to begin by asking you, Alex. The interminability of dying, as it were: that is, being incapable of one’s own distress. One of them would be for two eyes, two closed eyes to touch one another. 1h 44min | Musical, Drama, Comedy | 2 March 1972 (West Germany) This is about the life and myths about famous opera singer Maria Malibran (1808-1836). What would be the equivalent impossible situation in the language or medium of opera? This is the reason he says that passion is communication — not communication in the sense of communicating something, but more like a contagion, something that has no direction. So, I’m going to start with a quotation from the film. I think it’s diegetic only insofar as we have kind of micro-narrations of passion in it, but it’s not diegetic in the sense of a classical melodrama where you would have leitmotifs for the young hero, and so on. The genres are rather more discrete and there is a conversation between them. I think — and I don’t know if you would agree, Alex — I think it has something to do with what you were trying to say about the quintessence, because all these snatches of tunes, they try to catch, to seize, to grasp the quintessence of something — maybe passion, an affect, I don’t know. Those deliberate winks to the clumsy nature of both stagecraft and filmmaking are a nice counterpoint to the often gorgeously dilapidated, baroque set design and costumes, as well as to the statuesque performances of Schroeter muse Magdalene Montezuma and Andy Warhol favourite Candy Darling, which were praised by no less than French theorist Michel Foucault. You would have, let’s say, a displacement of operatic sites into environments that could be caught with a camera. I felt there was a movement over the course of the film. Callas, all the campy things. I do at least. It’s a second vision, as it were. For the 1943 French film La Malibran, see Sacha Guitry. Given that the actual Maria Malibran's death was brought by her refusal to seek help after an accident combined with her commitment to performance, the defiant nature of this film is quite fitting. The image gets a kind of heartbeat. STEWART-STEINBERG: Curated! So it’s always something that will be tomorrow, but tomorrow will never happen, because people will die before. So maybe what the film is about is what it calls the “abnormal fact.” What does that mean? What leads to that, precisely, is repetition of the same, again and again and again. "Cecilia Bartoli leads a tribute to the extraordinary life of Maria Malibran, the first female superstar in music history. It leads to something that gives us no longer empirical facts in an orderly fashion, but something like an essence or the quintessence of something. There is photography, perhaps, or painting, but film is at least two images. PETER SZENDY: So, I didn’t see the film before today, and I was quite anxious about what I would be able to say when I saw it. KOCH: I think what was really new — but it was shared by this whole group of directors at the time, when you think about the Fassbinder films — these kinds of schmaltzy melodramatic songs play an enormous role, so what I think was the interesting work Schroeter is doing is not only the editing, but that it goes into a flow. There, where something seems to be accomplished — where you finally get to the essential moment of love, passion, distress, or whatever. But then when we are touched — often people say art “touches.” We are touched by art. Actually, this reminded me of a beautiful sentence that Derrida wrote in a book called On Touching — Jean-Luc Nancy. They are constantly trying to do that, but they can’t. I started to do some quick readings and research before realizing that that was not the right way to do it. It is that what would normally be seen as an exception is no longer exceptional, it becomes the rule. Sunday’s screening will be introduced by Alexander Neef, the general director of the Canadian Opera Company. He sort of dreams or fantasizes about what it would mean for two eyes to touch one another, and he asks: would it be night then or would it be day? I’m going to ask a follow-up question and then I’ll pass the mic to the others. ideas and research from the Cogut Institute community. . . Let’s postpone it for tomorrow.” This is like a quote from the time-theories about melodrama, where passions have to be unfulfilled. After a rocky start featuring a series of faces almost looking at each other that had me staring at my figurative watch, The Death of Maria Malibran transfigures itself into a glorious aesthetic experience, an asynchronous melding of wildly emotional visuals and separately, equally emotional audio that proves rather overwhelming even as it remains hard to proffer… West Germany, 1972. But it does seem like the notion of syncing runs across the whole film. I mean, I am a contemporary of the film. Touch is something so unbelievable. So it’s no longer just a talkie picture. Maybe Alex will have some more. It’s because I’m giving a paper on opera tomorrow, and I thought it would be nice to see a film tonight that would have something to do with opera. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It’s the moment where touch is mentioned. That is extremely important here, because it’s not just, let’s say, a chain of quotes, of operatic gestures, or silent film gestures, but a way to incorporate these gestures into a cinematic body. Across the history of queer filmmaking there’s been this deployment of melodrama as a way to get at — what? DÜTTMANN: It’s like in Beckett’s Not I! PAMELA FOA: I just wonder why you take repetition and the flatness of the cinema to be beautiful and not anxiety, a representation of anxiety. In many moments, you have these two faces getting very, very close to one another and almost as if the two eyes are about to touch one another. So again, I’m wondering if any of you have more thoughts about the way this ties to the history of queer cinema or even just the deployment of gender and sexuality, the performativity around gender and sexuality. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28. La Malibran redirects here. There is some kind of communication happening. It’s always too much. I wrote to Gertrud because I knew she would be here as well, and she said, Oh let’s not do Kluge, let’s do Werner Schroeter’s Der Tod der Maria Malibran. So, opera being “always too much” — this film being specifically about a particular kind of fascination with opera as a kind of halting of the action and a halting of the linear evolution of life itself. The Death of Maria Malibran Der Tod der Maria Malibran. The film is very funny in many ways. That’s not enough. May 19, 2020 April 17, 2020 by Damien Mahiet. Touch is something so, so incredible. When you look at the tradition of sound in film, it’s a very sad history. Until her death, because at that moment . When that happens, and the continuity of the course of events is interrupted, you are stuck; all you can do is repeat again and again and again the same thing. ALEXANDER GARCÍA DÜTTMANN: I’m very happy to be here tonight with you and Gertrud and Peter. So that this is, you know, a repetition that has absolutely no future. That even though there is radical proximity, it’s also as if they’re not aware of one another. Again, that to me is the queerness of it, because there is no natural syncing, and it seems that the film plays with that. They are not. A wide variety of her possessions have been preserved at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in the Maria Malibran fund. One sense of it leads to the quintessence of something. You no longer do one thing after the other, as you normally would do, your satisfaction, your happiness, does not lie in that. What led you to select this film, The Death of Maria Malibran, for tonight’s discussion? So — this is when we open it up. That would have to do with something that is also very present in the film, namely death or dying. The film is no biopic; rather, it unfolds as a series of tableaux, primarily featuring pairs of performers in static, dramatic poses. DÜTTMANN: Communication without transparency. KOCH: Yes. [long pause] [laughter]. So, we watch differently. Both lovely and taxing, it’s an unorthodox biopic that as its first point of order changes its subject’s cause of death to suicide by singing. The really ingenious thing with Schroeter is that at some point he took it up. First of all, that there is no love in Maria Malibran, and this claim has to do with the distinction he makes between love and passion: “These women are chained in a state of suffering that binds them together which they are unable to break away from but which at the same time they would do anything to free themselves from. That is part of the strange images we see: where the bodies themselves are sometimes, you know, “deformed,” but still very vibrant. But after having seen the film, to sort of close my eyes and forget all these things and details and to ask: what is it that remains — without plot, without trying to demonstrate anything. Of course, it’s not enough that we sing at the same time the same lines for us to say that our voices are touching. The reason is very simple. Bringing film towards a pure cinematic — in fact, a sound-cinematic — image. Thank you, everybody. Synopsis. What is the significance of cinema in this structure that you’re presenting us with? . We are filled with anxiety. Where do we place this film, for example, in relation to Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, with its prolonged shots that focus very closely on Joan’s face, that, in fact, encourage us really to enter into her passion? BEWES: Thank you, Alex. It’s not meant to sing something or see something. You asked, Tim, what does this have to do with cinema. If cinema is also about a second vision, then everything you hear, the music, you have to listen to as if it were snatches of old tunes and not something simply, immediately, present and given. One way, maybe, of thinking about this is to ask how we even talk about the music here. Their work — or rather, a very short film by Straub from 2009 (Joachim Gatti, Variation de lumière) — was the subject of the talk that Alex was giving on the occasion we first met — a conference called “Thinking Feeling” at the University of Sussex. Werner Schroeter. But what is Schroeter doing with it? I was a bit scared to show this film. . There was so much about this that resonates with, for example, the work of Jack Smith or with Kenneth Anger, of course with Fassbinder, with Todd Haynes, and even, in some ways, with John Waters. Love itself, passion itself, in those always repeated gestures, very melodramatic, very exaggerated, very artificial, outside of normality, if you wish. BEWES: We have time for one last comment. So my first suggestion was something much more accessible perhaps, Alexander Kluge’s The Power of Feelings (Die Macht der Gefühle). Timothy Bewes, Interim Director of the Cogut Institute, introduced and moderated the discussion. Whereas love, he says, expects something in return, and is supposed to lead somewhere. I was really interested in what Alex said: this quintessence of passion, this sort of quintessence of impossibility. Even though she was seriously hurt, she chose to ignore her injuries and continued performing. 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