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Paris Calligrammes
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Ulrike Ottinger, Germany

(Documentary mixed with historical archival footage)

German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger takes us on a historical kaleidoscopic tour of 1960’s Paris. Using archival footage to build a multi-layer visual collage to elaborate on her autobiography, the film is primarily but not completely black and white footage. As the narrator she describes the Paris she loves, intertwining it with local cultural problems and politics of the time. At times her voice is a bit annoying; she also seems to constantly name-drop. On the other hand, it is unimaginable how many important connections she made, truly very special moments in her development as an artist. I recently heard the word sociogram meaning a digital graphic representation of a social link that a person has collected. Sociogram is the perfect word to describe Ottinger’s visual odyssey. She dives full-heartedly into the subject matter linking her to these historical archives so that we come away with a sense of awe.

She refers to many places such as the Paris Librairie Calligrammes, a meeting place of exiled German intellectuals had fled to and still loved there. This gave her the opportunities to move in interesting circles and express her love of this magical city. She also shows us the dark side of Paris – the birthplace of many a political upheaval, which in the end led her to leave. This poignant film reflects the current uncertainty we are facing and how we will react with these political and economic struggles.