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Facets / 359 Minutes / 1968-1973 / Unrated / Street Date: March 22, 2011
Scholarly and influential, the work of Alexander Kluge may not have the cultural permeation of, say, Rainer Werner Fassbinder (one of Kluge's leading advocates), but Kluge's writing and experimental films set the stage for the New German Cinema of the 1960s and 70s: He may not be a modern cinematic household name, but he's a lynchpin of a singular German national cinema movement.
With this Kluge in the Beginning collection, Facets has offered us an opportunity to experience some of the artist's early work. From the political activism of Part-Time Work of a Domestic Slave (1973) to the circus-as-social-reform curio of Artists Under the Big Top: Perplexed (1968) to the tweaked-out sci-fi ethos of In the Big Mess (1971) and Will Tobler and the Decline of the 6th Fleet (1972), Kluge uses his intellectually piquant sensibilities to make films that are unlike anything that was being made in Germany at the time.
Unfortunately, though, a study of intellectual relevance may be all these four films have to offer a modern demographic of film-watchers. Again, Kluge's emphasis that film is a primal scream, a mandatory, passionate act of activism and provocation definitely makes clear sense - and has relevance within Fassbinder's cinema (I can't help but think about what Kluge and Fassbinder would have talked about over coffee in Berlin cafes of the early 1970s) - but these are thinky, often clunky films that probably don't have much appeal outside of a modern German cinema film class.