Toronto International Filmfestival 1999

Real to Reel

Berlin-Cinéma (Titre Provisoire) by Samira Gloor-Fadel

Berlin-Cinéma (Titre provisoire) is a documentary that has more than one subject at its centre. In fact, it is not a traditional documentary built around fact or subject. It is more ambitious than that. It is an attempt to deal with a number of topics that may be linked, but often the audience must supply some of the links. One of its focuses is the cinema, and it uses two of the greatest filmmakers in the world, Wim Wenders and Jean-Luc Godard, to range through a bevy of ideas. We never see Godard, we just hear his voice. Wenders is omnipresent, talking, discussing, shooting, but never interviewed in the traditional sense, for it bears repeating that it is not a traditional documentary.

Wenders and Godard talk about the cinema, about the origins of documentary and fiction and how this is a false separation, about space - the space between the lines - about how formulas have replaced stories and how beautiful stories are. The thoughts are fragments, but fragments of a highly illuminating nature. Wenders confesses that he could shoot a scene in a cemetery for a documentary film but not for a work of fiction. He talks about how he resisted video until Antonioni persuaded him otherwise and why. Godard talks about what the cinema means to him - to make us see, learn and think.

A parallel film, tied very closely to both men, is about Berlin, shots of which comprise most of the visuals of Berlin-Cinéma (Titre Provisoire). Wenders describes why he can live in this German city and not any other, but why he has to escape it as well. He and an architect involved in a Berlin building project talk about the similarities between architecture and the cinema while Godard muses on German and European history.

And there is a third film,about a young boy, reading, visiting some of the locations used in Wings of Desire, lamenting the death of Fassbinder, receiving his education in this strange city of ghosts. What could give one greater pleasure than hearing from two of the cinema's masters,while ruminating on a city whose history is full of contradiction and destruction but which still occupies a predominant position in Europe?

This film is a breath of fresh air, a salve for minds overloaded with information, for it gives us the space to think and reflect. Anyone who cares about the cinema will luxuriate in Berlin-Cinéma (Titre Provisoire).

Piers Handling