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Culture Watch: 'People on Sunday' DVD and Elena Katz-Chernin

August 31, 2011 |  9:00 am

"People on Sunday"
"People on Sunday"

(The Criterion Collection)

This 1930 German silent film is a kind of "Sunday in the Park" with the likes of Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer (co-directors), Billy Wilder (writer) and Fred Zinnemann (assistant cinematographer) -- all of whom would go on to have significant Hollywood careers as directors. Here, shortly before they fled Germany, they broke new ground by engaging five everyday young Berliners, never before in front of a camera, and putting them in a sexually charged situation on a Sunday outing.

The film is an engrossing look at roaring '20s Berlin, but Criterion's new release (both DVD and Blu-ray) adds a fascinating twist by offering two new soundtracks. One is catchy silent-movie style music by the Mont Alto Orchestra. The other is by Elena Kats-Chernin, a major figure in the avant-garde music scene in Australia (where she emigrated from Uzbekistan). She has a feeling for the film's period but she is also a fascinating musical subversive able to make what you see that what's on the screen is not always what it seems.

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-- Mark Swed

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