Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#226 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:52 am

Image

THE FRITZ LANG LIST

01 M (1931) 19 (6)
02 Das Testament des Dr Mabuse / the Testament of Dr Mabuse (1933) 17 (3)
03 Fury (1936) 18
04 the Big Heat (1953) 19
05 Scarlet Street (1945) 17 (3)
06 the Woman in the Window (1944) 15 (2)
07 Metropolis (1927) 11 (2)
08 Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler / Dr Mabuse the Gambler (1922) 13 (2)
09 You Only Live Once (1937) 11 (1)
10 Hangmen Also Die! (1943) 13

11 the Blue Gardenia (1953) 9 (1)
12 Spione (1928) 9
13 Die Nibelungen (1924) 5
14 While the City Sleeps (1956) 6
15 Human Desire (1954) 3 (1)
16 Der Mude Tod / Destiny (1921) 4
16 Man Hunt (1941) 5
18 Der Tiger von Eschnapur & Das indische Grabmal (1959) 2 (1)
18 Ministry of Fear (1944) 3
20 Rancho Notorious (1952) 4
20 Secret Beyond the Door (1948) 2

KEY Number of lists film appeared on, out of 22 total ballots (Number of lists with film ranked in first place)

ALSO RANS
Clash by Night, House by the River, Die 1000 Augen des Dr Mabuse, Frau im Mond

ORPHANS
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, the Return of Frank James

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domino harvey
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#227 Post by domino harvey » Tue Sep 05, 2017 8:55 am

My list plus lone orphan

01 the Blue Gardenia
02 the Woman in the Window
03 Fury
04 the Return of Frank James
05 Scarlet Street
06 the Testament of Dr Mabuse
07 1000 Eyes of Dr Mabuse
08 Spione
09 the Big Heat
10 Clash by Night

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Mr Sausage
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#228 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:25 am

The runner up, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, is our new discussion topic over at the Film Club.

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knives
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#229 Post by knives » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:46 am

Sorry Dom, I couldn't get to your orphan this time so you can blame me. For the sake of honesty I also didn't get to see You Only Live Once, Rancho Notorious, Moonfleet, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, and The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.
For everyone else here's my top ten:
1. Scarlet Street
2. Dr. Mabuse the Gambler
3. The Big Heat
4. The Blue Gardenia
5. Hangmen Also Die
6. Secret Beyond the Door...
7. Spies
8. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
9. While the City Sleeps
10. M

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Drucker
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#230 Post by Drucker » Tue Sep 05, 2017 11:02 am

1000 Eyes is on Amazon, and I did have it queued up, but never got to it.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#231 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Sep 05, 2017 12:41 pm

My top 10:

1. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
2. Metropolis
3. The Big Heat
4. M
5. Fury
6. Scarlet Street
7. Hangmen Also Die!
8. Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler
9. The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse
10. While the City Sleeps

No orphans, though I rescued one of Dom's- Thousand Eyes is one of those movies that lives really well in my memory, and might have climbed a bit if I'd gotten a chance to rewatch it. I wonder if it's getting neglected a bit now because to get it one must buy the MoC box with dvd copies of the other two movies, which you can get separately on their own- I'd be a little hesitant to spend 35 pounds or whatever just for that one, though I think it's worth it. It's very low budget and the only one that really looks anything like the non-Lang Mabuse sequels (which are worth watching, though they aren't necessarily GOOD) but it's full of memorable images- the seance sequence, Howard Vernon's maniacal looking assassin, the mirror smashing- it's a series of incidents that could have happened within the original Mabuse, but which have a different character taking place in the divided, paranoiac Cold War torn Germany of the 60s. The series as a whole is remarkable for how well it seems to suit the character of the three very different eras in which the entries take place.

Outside of that, it looks as though my list is fairly conventional- I'd be curious to see the point differentials, but it looks like there was a lot of agreement overall on the high points of Lang's filmography, since we have 22 lists and something like 15 movies which literally nobody thought to be one of Lang's best. I'm interested to see that Woman in the Window landed so high, placing just below its near clone- given the number of people who voted for each, I would guess that it's mostly people voting for both, rather than choosing one or the other. Interesting, too, that Fury landed so high without being anyone's favorite- it's my girlfriend's favorite Lang and one of her favorite movies overall, and could probably jump over M for me on a different day, but I don't think it would ever displace my top two.

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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#232 Post by markhax » Tue Sep 05, 2017 1:30 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:My top 10:

No orphans, though I rescued one of Dom's- Thousand Eyes is one of those movies that lives really well in my memory, and might have climbed a bit if I'd gotten a chance to rewatch it. I wonder if it's getting neglected a bit now because to get it one must buy the MoC box with dvd copies of the other two movies, which you can get separately on their own- I'd be a little hesitant to spend 35 pounds or whatever just for that one, though I think it's worth it.
I had the same reservations about making the plunge when I owned the other two, but the MOC box with all three films is currently only GBP 12.99 at Amazon.co.uk.

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Shrew
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#233 Post by Shrew » Tue Sep 05, 2017 2:30 pm

This was my list:

1. Scarlet Street
2. Fury
3. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
4. You Only Live Once
5. Hangmen Also Die!
6. The Big Heat
7. Woman in the Window
8. Rancho Notorious
9. The Blue Gardenia
10. Spione

I managed to watch 31/37 films, and having started with only 14 (10 if I exclude the ones I watched for the All-Time List just before this), I consider that pretty good. My unwatched were 4 Around the Woman, An American Guerrilla in the Philippines, Moonfleet, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, The Indian Tomb, and The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse.

Before this project, I didn't care much for Lang outside a handful of movies (see the first two films on my list); I had never been that enamored with most of his German films. Overall, I gained a much deeper appreciation for Lang's talent, even if ultimately he's never going to end up one of my favorites. Still, I now know that the Mabuses are pretty fantastic, and I even warmed up to M upon rewatching, which is one of those classics I've always felt to be more admirable than enjoyable (I still think it drags terribly in parts though). In fact, I almost put it in my top 10; if we had submitted extended lists, this would have been my next 5:

11. M
12. Liliom
13. Human Desire
14. You and Me
15. Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler

But alas, Liliom and You and Me have to sleep in that weird netherworld of Lang's second-tier oddities. Maybe Sylvia Sidney can explain to Liliom how domestic violence causes a tangible net loss in productivity and profit.

So thanks for arranging this Domino.

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Rayon Vert
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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#234 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Sep 05, 2017 10:37 pm

Thanks Domino.

My top 10 divided into three grades of liking-intensity:

1. The Woman in the Window
2. The Big Heat
3. Scarlet Street

4. While the City Sleeps
5. Man Hunt

6. Fury
7. Hangmen Also Die!
8. Ministry of Fear
9. House by the River
10. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

The noirs & (anti-)Nazi films are obviously my favorites!

(YOLO, Blue Gardenia and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt were the next in line. Spies was my top silent at no. 15. The ones I haven't seen are the second part of the Indian Epic and Harakiri, The Wandering Image and Four Around a Woman - I figured they had no chance.)

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Re: Auteur List: Fritz Lang - Discussion and Defenses

#235 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Sep 07, 2020 4:43 pm

The Return of Frank James

I don't recall the first film enough to draw comparisons, but regardless I thoroughly enjoyed this. Almost right away, Lang implements a flexibility in film language to accentuate his drama. We begin the story with Frank free, literally and figuratively practicing acceptance and refusing to sacrifice his physical freedom for vengeance. In these scenes, Lang's camera acknowledges the possibilities of this freedom all around in wide-open nature. So I appreciated how the scene where Frank finally tips over the edge to seek revenge, his gears turning as he rationalizes and succumbs to his emotions at once, also happens in an outdoor area yet confined to a closed frame surrounded by tree branches, imprisoned from the promises of liberation. If this film is intentionally ironic, Lang sure uses physical space well to construct the mental process of our peripheral landscapes shrinking as we narrowly hone in on our anger and resentment. This trick gets repeated -albeit with a polar opposite tone- when Ford meets Tierney, fittingly serving the same purpose of dissipating extraneous details from the background, such as it is when we’re romantically star struck. The process of being objective is constantly thwarted into subjectivity via humor, anger, impulsivity, romance, etc. similar to the relationship between picture and viewer when watching a movie, or story and listener when hearing a tale. Whether we take it as fact or treat it as inherently skewed material is part of the point.

Ford’s casting is perfect in transforming a historical deviant into a character who exudes the personality of a moral good ‘ol boy to contrast his own history and active behavior. The film’s function is in idolizing him just as the legends have, but Lang’s skepticism is subtly woven into the fabric of this work, overstating the formulaic narrative structure and archetypes with enough aloof objectivity to make us question the act itself through our own detachment forcing our own suspicions to grow. It helps that a lot of the film is spent with characters literally telling stories, whether perpetuated by Frank, those hunting him, or the various arguments in the trial, with a comic relief that skewers the motives behind history’s construction and people’s willingness to believe whatever information comes their way. We are all the heroes in our own stories, but like Robert Ford’s theatrical fabricated rendition of the events that led to Jesse’s death, Lang supposes that Frank’s version is hardly more justifiable. In many ways, this film is a cheeky version of Robert Ford’s monetized stage play, flipping the tables on the audience to show how we can so easily dilute our history through a strainer of perspective too. Though in a strengths-based view, that’s a positive attribute to cinema's role in affecting us toward expanding ours, and Lang allows us to enjoy the fun here in a symbiotic validation for the format of alignment just as often as it destabilizes it with reflexive transparency. The film occupies a grey area where the very responsibility of the art form is called into question for the same reasons that it's invaluable, and makes one wonder what part we have in responsibly or irresponsibly contextualizing what we're watching.

Had I participated in this list project, this surely would have made my top ten, though it's honestly hard for me to parse together a list of ten Lang films I love. After a handful of viewings, The Blue Gardenia would easily be number one, but there would be much less overlap between my list and typically-simpatico board members.

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