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Edgar G. Ulmer
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Edwin, a taxi driver, lives with Annie, a neurasthenic model. They plan to spend Sunday at the Nikolassee beach with Wolfgang, an officer, gentleman, antiquarian, gigolo, at the moment a wine salesman. After an argument, Annie stays at home while Edwin joins Wolf. Wolf has brought along a new girlfriend, Christl. Brigitte, Christl's best friend, joins the group. Brigitte is the manager of a record shop. At the beach Wolf tries to kiss Christl but she rejects him and he turns his attentions toward Brigitte, who is more receptive. Wolf and Brigitte go off together and he seduces her. Back on the beach, Wolf and Erwin, now tired of their dates, flirt with two other women as Brigitte and Christl look on, appalled. They have small satisfaction when the men have to borrow money from them to pay for the paddle-boat they were renting. As they part at the end of the day, Brigitte hopes Wolf will see her next Sunday, but he and Erwin have other plans. The bond between the two men is the one ... Written by
If you enjoy classic silent cinema then you won't want to miss this treat. At times scenes are reminiscent of King Vidor's The Crowd, made just the year before (most especially in those moments set indoors, during which one of the couples gently bicker or the scene during which the principals first meet up for their group date); while at others the open air, carefree mood is suggestive of Renoir's masterpiece Partie de Campagne, made a decade later. But People on Sunday is a distinct work in its own right, an evocative film made by some stellar talent: the Siodmak brothers, Edgar Ulmer, Billy Wilder and Fred Zimmerman - all of whom would go on to varying degrees of success in the States after fleeing the Nazis. Their film is thus both a record of a time lost, a beautifully shot piece showing a Berlin that was soon to vanish for ever, as well as demonstrating the collaborative talents of some major figures in their early years. There is no hint of the dark years to come seen here, or the debilitating effects of run away inflation which marked the end of the Weimar Republic and led to the inexorable rise of extreme politics. People on Sunday is above such explicit social comment, unless it is political by the mere fact of focusing on ordinary people. It simply tells the tale of a group (played by non professional actors we are informed, but it hard to tell such is the quality of the performances) enjoying themselves while out on one sunny weekend day, picnicking, boating, kissing, promising more to each other and so on, interspersed with more general shots of the German people similarly at play. The skill and pleasure for the viewer today is in the way this is done, completely without ostentation, shot marvelously, everything still feeling fresh, spontaneous and genuine , and with a real feeling for place. Ironically, for this viewer at least, so much of the film seems so natural and fluid that one is more aware that is an illusion; such unforced art as this takes a great deal of time, patience and skill on the part of the participants and creators.
If you want to see more of German cinema from this period, other than more familiar classics, then this is a real treat, being both less known and marvelously restored. The BFI DVD version has been created from several sources and is the longest version available. It also features a splendid Weill-like score, which fits the milieu like a glove and which begs issuing separately as it stands up well as a listen on its own.
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