THE JOYLESS STREET (DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE)

DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE (THE JOYLESS STREET) is not only one of the most important films of the Weimar Republic, it is also one of the most spectacular censorship cases of the era. The story from the inflationary period in Vienna in the years immediately after World War I was considered too much of a provocation: nouveau riches currency and stock market speculators who wallow in Babylonian luxury, homeless and unemployed Lumpenproletariat living in barns, women who sell their souls for a bit of fresh meat at the butcher's, sexual orgies, bordellos and murders. This unique 2-disc DVD set offers the improved most complete restored version of the film as well as a lot of additional material including an excellent documentary about the life and work of G.W. Pabst.

"DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE (THE JOYLESS STREET), directed Georg Wilhelm Pabst from a script by Willy Haas, based on a novel by Hugo Bettauer, is not only one of the most important films of the Weimar Republic, it is also one of the most spectacular censorship cases of the era. While the film made its director famous, the state institutions of control guaranteed that no one would ever see the film in its original form. The film was considered too much of a provocation. Its story from the inflationary period in Vienna in the years immediately after World War I offered enough dynamite for several muckraking novels: nouveau riches currency and stock market speculators who wallow in Babylonian luxury, homeless and unemployed Lumpenproletariat living in barns, women who sell their souls for a bit of fresh meat at the butcher's, arrogant but impoverished former bureaucrats unaware of their social slide, young social climbers willing to prostitute themselves with high society women, sexual orgies and bordellos, murder out of jealousy, murder out of despair, and, finally, a revolution in the streets.
Contemporary film critics, as well as film historians have always recognized THE JOYLESS STREET as a seminal film, a film on the border between German Expressionism and Neue Sachlichkeit (new realism). Two quotes from contemporary reviews may illustrate the point: the Berliner Tageblatt wrote: 'In terms of its acting, this is a beautiful film with great direction and wonderful actors.' In fact, the film starred Asta Nielsen, Werner Kraus, Hertha von Walter, and a young Greta Garbo who would go on to a stellar career in Hollywood. In the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Otto Friedrich wrote: 'He (Pabst) achieves his goal in great style, does not tread on well-worn paths, presents new ideas which are uniquely his own, and with this achievement gives us a new hope. He captures the atmosphere of an idea, keeps redrawing it on the surface in ever more intensive images, in contrasts of action that make an ever stronger impression. He illustrates the down-trodden souls of the era and the manic lust for pleasure of its people who are trying to do nothing more than escape for a few minutes from the terrible truth of the present.'

Not only was the film cut for political and moral reasons in every country where it was publicly shown, it was also reedited in order to close the huge gaps created by censorship cuts. Thus, in almost every country totally different narratives of THE JOYLESS STREET emerged. According to Mark Sorkin, Pabst's editor, he and Pabst had made the first cuts the night before the premiere, because the theatre owner insisted the film be shortened. While the first version of THE JOYLESS STREET still had a length of 3738 meters (only four meters were initially cut by the censorship board on 25 May 1925), the film was back in court on 29 March 1926, because the police had issued a decree calling for a total ban on the film, due to its 'lewd' and 'seditious' tendencies. Now only 3477 meters remained of the film. None of the later surviving versions ever came close to this length. Neither a German version, nor the original German censorship cards are known to exist.

Everyone who has seen the new reconstruction of THE JOYLESS STREET agrees that it is a vast improvement over all previously existing versions. Yet it remains only a subjective attempt at a reconstruction. While it is true that the reconstruction team tried to base every one of it decisions on documentary evidence, it must also be admitted that without a surviving original German version, we will never know what the film really looked like. Given the incredible complexity of the narrative, involving at least six different subplots, and the fact that the film is still missing at least 700 meters, this version must be characterized as at attempt at a reconstruction."

– Jan-Christopher Horak

 
 
 

  Contents

Format: DVD-PAL / Region 0
(No Regional Code)

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THE JOYLESS STREET (DIE FREUDLOSE GASSE)
(Germany, 1925)

Director: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Writer: Willy Haas (based on the novel by Hugo Bettauer)
Cinematography: Guido Seeber
Cast: Asta Nielsen, Greta Garbo, Agnes Esterhazy, Werner Krauß, Karl Etlinger & Valeska Gert

• 151 minutes
• B&W

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Bonus Material

THE OTHER EYE (DER ANDERE BLICK)
(Austria/US, 1991)

Director, writer: Hannah Heer & Werner Schmiedel
Photographed by: Hannah Heer
With: Rudolf S. Joseph, Jan-Christopher Horak, Michael Pabst, Harold Nebenzal, Hilde Krahl & Micheline Presle

• 111 minutes

REVIEWING PABST (PABST WIEDER SEHEN)
(Germany, 1997)

Director: Martin Koerber, Wolfgang Jacobsen & René Perraudin
Writer: Martin Koerber & Wolfgang Jacobsen
Photographed by: René Perraudin
With: Jan-Christopher Horak, Klaus Volkmer, Gerhard Ullmann, Nicola Mazzanti & Gian Luca Farinelli

• 21 minutes

MEMORIES OF ASSISTANT DIRECTOR MARK SORKIN

• 49 minutes
• Excerpts from two interview, preserved by the Museum of Modern Art and the Deutsche Kinemathek.

• Outtakes & Intakes (14 minutes)

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Total Running Time: 05:46:00 (2 Discs)

Language: German intertitles, English subtitles.

Musical Score: Aljoscha Zimmermann

Booklet Text: Klaus Volkmer (German), Werner Sudendorf (German) & Stefan Drössler (German & English)

Published By: Edition Filmmuseum

Institutional Price: $300 (plus shipping).

To order call: 212.280.8654 or click here for information on ordering by fax, e-mail or post.