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Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Same, but Different

Posted By on Sat, May 23, 2015 at 6:11 PM

click to enlarge ripleys.png

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Good artists copy; great artists steal. Do with these aphorisms what you will. For guidance, consult Goethe Institut’s “Copy & Paste: A Comparative Double-Feature Film Series,” happening Sunday at the Roxie.

This two-part program investigates the strange and deeply cinematic inclination to remix, remake, and reimagine — proving if nothing else that obsession, historically a great subject for movies, also is a useful technique in making them.

Some auteurs can’t seem to help repeating themselves, or even outright ripping themselves off. Alfred Hitchcock comes to mind, especially in Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet’s collage film Phoenix Tapes, from 1999, which artfully reduces 40 Hitchcock films to their essential patterns and motifs. Running more briefly yet also more broadly, Müller’s short 1990 collage Home Stories is a brisk collection of midcentury leading ladies, from films by various directors, being put through the now common-seeming paces of melodramatic piteousness.

It says something about us that we like to keep watching, over and over. And it reaffirms the symbiosis of show and business. Speaking of which, Nothing Ventured and Yella — the former a documentary, the latter not — are two German films about the machinations of early 21st-century capitalism, in more ways than one two sides of a coin.

Non-newness under the sun always invites both profit and loss. Consider Tom Ripley, the most famous character conceived by novelist Patricia Highsmith, and a good case study of borrowed — ok, stolen — identities. In Wim Wenders’ 1977 film The American Friend, he takes the form of Dennis Hopper; in 1999’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, it’s Matt Damon. Fake somebody? Real nobody? Who is this guy? 

Copy & Paste: A Comparative Double-Feature Film Series: 2:30pm and 7pm Sunday, May 24, 2015. Tickets cost $12 for each program, and $20 for a day pass including both programs. For more information, visit
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About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.


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