Dream of a City and Manfred Kirchheimer’s New York
May 24th - May 30th
Manfred Kirchheimer is one of New York City’s consummate film poets. Born in Saarbrücken, Germany in 1931, Kirchheimer fled to New York with his family five years later. While a student at City College, he studied under Hans Richter (Rhythmus 21, 1923) who had pioneered abstract film as part of the Absolute Film movement. Upon graduation, he formed a close association with the activist documentarian Leo Hurwitz. Kirchheimer’s films extend these influences in the left-wing avant-garde, as well as his origins in the European Jewish diaspora. In the spirit of Hurwitz’s 1930s Popular Front newsreels (Heart of Spain, 1937), they espouse a ground-level interest in the lives and labors of urban people, especially displaced minorities such as members of the filmmaker’s own Jewish community in Washington Heights. Their rhythmic montage style recalls the city symphonies of the silent era, loud and frenetic films like Absolute filmmaker Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Big City (1927), but these works operate in a quiet and meditative mode as they traverse their own uniquely dreamy frequency. Endowed with Kirchheimer’s passion for vernacular modernism in music and architecture, they assume a resolutely local character, forming keenly observed studies of the flora and fauna of New York life in the mid-20th century. From an early short like Colossus on the River (1963) to a mature masterwork like Stations of the Elevated (1981), Kirchheimer bears witness to a vanished city in the midst of its vanishing.
For one week only, Maysles Documentary Center will present Kirchheimer’s latest wonder Dream of a City (2018) in its theatrical premiere run. Each night, the film will pair with an earlier work.
Director Manfred Kirchheimer will appear in person for the first three shows from Friday, 5/24 through Sunday, 5/26.