Review: Yesterday Girl DVD

STUDIO: Facets | DIRECTOR: Alexander Kluge | CAST: Alexandra Kluge, Hans Korte, Palma Falck, Ado Riegler, Hans Bramm
RELEASE DATE: 5/25/2010 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: two shorts, news clip from 1966 Venice Film Festival
SPECS: NR | 88 min. | Foreign-language drama | 1.33:1 fullscreen | stereo | German with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The debut release in Facet’s scheduled “Alexander Kluge Collection,” wherein a number of the filmmaker’s features and shorts from his half-century-long career will be issued over the next year, 1966’s Yesterday Girl is often considered to be the title that launched the New German Cinema of Herzog, Wenders and Fassbinder. Though he is lesser known in the U.S. than his contemporaries, Kluge remains a seminal founding figure in the movement, deserving of attention from those interested in European cinema. And Kluge’s Yesterday Girl is a perfect place to start.

Starring his younger sister Alexandra, Kluge’s first feature is an experimental, narratively splintered story about Anita, a young German Jewish woman from the GDR who arrives in West Berlin to set out on a new life. Weaving her way through a tempting capitalist society for the first time in her life, she quickly falls under the influence of the West’s consumerism and its accompanying desire for instant gratification. A bunch of demeaning jobs and uninteresting love affairs soon lead to crime and prostitution as Anita becomes a nomadic near-refugee in her own country.

With its mix of cinematic tones that bounce from realism to verité to Nouvelle Vague-ishness, Yesterday Girl is satirical in its delivery but dead-serious in what it has to say about post-war Germany’s economy and overall identity crisis. Fresh, sharp and decidedly uncommercial upon its release, the film is of its time, deliberately arty and very watchable.

Supplements on the DVD include a pair of Kluge shorts—the impressionist documentary Brutality in Stone (1961) about Third Reich architecture, and the relatively recent An Experiment in Love (1998), about a fertility test performed by the Reich on two prisoners.

Also included is a news clip about Yesterday Girl’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival, where it was awarded the Special Jury Prize.

 

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.