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The Chair is the Star
by Becky Tan

Small nuggets of special films are sometimes hidden away, only to be discovered by chance. Twice I came to the Berlinale just for the day. That meant that all the tickets for well-advertised films were no longer offered free to journalists. Often that is a blessing, because horizons are suddenly open. You can try short films, children’s films, Berlinale Talent programs, press conferences or drink coffee in the new Berlinale Lounge sponsored by AUDI.

I had always tried to get into the Arsenal 1 cinema in the past and this time I was lucky. I snatched up a ticket to a film called Provenance which ran in the Forum category. Some people might call Forum the “leftovers” after not reaching the categories of competition or Panorama. Naturally, there is nothing leftover about any of the Forum films. In fact they are often avant-garde from talented new directors worldwide. Many insider journalists only go to Forum films in the knowledge that they will be the first to find that special film, which Provenance definitely was: special.

In 41 minutes American director Amie Siegel presented perfect settings of 1920’s antique furniture arranged in expensive Manhattan apartments. This furniture: chairs, a day bed, a settee, a desk, lamps, were from Le Corbusier (1887-1965) or Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967). Siegel films each setting as if it were a work of art (which it is, of course). It caused me to picture how a film of my own living room furniture would look. Then she takes us to auctions in New York City where these pieces are sold for $60,000 (daybed) or $22,000 (lamp) or $70,000 (table). Then we go to India where the furniture was made or where it has been restored.  She does this without sound or commentary or any kind of action. The pieces of furniture are the stars and, believe it or not, starring at a chair for minutes at a time is not boring. The film makes you want to know more about these pieces of art.

In conjunction with the showing of Provenance, we saw a six-minute short called Lot 248. This was a lot auctioned on October 19, 2013, at Christie’s in London where they say “fair warning” which means “last call” before the gavel comes down on “sold.” The item sold was Siegel’s very own original copy of her film Provenance. Imagine what the buyer, who must have been a collector of antique furniture, paid for this film? Yes: 42,000 British pounds. For a film!

Amie Siegel discussed her film with the sold-out audience in the Arsenal 1 cinema. She introduced her camera woman Christine Meier who is based in Berlin.