People On Sunday (Robert Siodmak and Edgar G Ulmer, 1930)

Directed by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G Ulmer, written by Curt Siodmak and Billy (or Billie) Wilder, shot by Edgar Schufftan and Fred Zinnemann, all while they were still young Berliners. People on Sunday is an act of democracy from a country about to plunge into the depths of something much darker. It is a suggestion, completely freeing, that if it exists then it must be worth filming and it must have something beautiful about it. This is not naivety, and it is not all sunshine- there is indeed, as per Thomson, traces of Wilder’s saltiness and Philip Kemp’s glimpses of Ulmer’s ambivalence about sexual relations (a pan from a kissing couple to a garbage pile), not to mention the film’s dismissiveness of the falsity of professional movie icons (their images torn from the walls and ripped up by the taxi driver and his model girlfriend). But it is still reaching towards a (cinematic-) utopia of sorts, a reminder that the Lumieres may have been right after all, that nothing is better than capturing something real at the right moment, or in a way that makes it always, eternally, the right moment. Crystalline and draped in sunshine, lost but also there forever. Just like the faces of those citizens of Berlin who line up to have photos taken in a sweet, memorable sequence. Just like the youthful days of these untrained, unsuspicious actors we follow- no, not actors, simply people. Now if only there wasn’t that looming, disappointing promise of the drudgery of work to follow the next morning, casting it’s subtle shadow on all these stitched-together moments and flurries of freedom… Freedom in action and form, cinematic and personal, trembling at the knowledge of it’s own imminent erasure.


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