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Program: Ulrike Ottinger, Dorian Gray Im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse (Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press), Germany, 35mm (on Blu-Ray), Color, 150 min., 1984
Dirty Looks NYC partners with DCTV for a rare screening of Ulrike Ottinger’s epic feature, Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press. The film is an early media theory fever dream, wherein Frau Dr. Mabuse (art film icon Delphine Seyrig) plots to boost the circulation of her media empire by molding dapper aristocrat, Dorian Gray (Veruschka von Lehndorff), into a tabloid celebrity of her own designs. Introducing Dorian to a world of power and intrigue, Mabuse pairs him with opera star Andamana (Tabea Blumenschein). But as readers tire of the new couple’s amorous exploits, Mabuse dispatches her maniacal henchmen (Fassbinder star, Irm Hermann, Magdalena Montezuma, Barbara Valentin and writer, Gary Indiana) to kill off the starlet. And so begins his plummet into the darker, criminal underbelly of 1980s Berlin.
“Frau Dr. Mabuse, whose illustrious precursor is Fritz Lang's psychopathic, counterfeiting boss of the underworld, derives her power from the fabrication of reality based on the seduction of images and words. Her perfect object and victim is the Bauhaus-dandy Dorian, whose relation to Oscar Wilde's prototype is as marginal as his relation to power. The fairy-tale framework of Ottinger's feature compositions asserts itself strongly in this film as Dorian replaces the evil tycoon and becomes king of the media conglomerate.”
Dorian would be Ottinger’s last entirely fictional feature, as her following directorial effort, China. The Arts – The People, a 270 minute document of her encounter with Chinese arts and culture, and Johanna D’arc of Mongolia (1989), divides its 165-minutes between a fictional film framework and situational documentary approaches. Dorian is also the final film in her Berlin trilogy, in which a “stylized composition provides a sightseeing trip through Berlin, an examination of the city’s topology,” that is, at once, fictional and phantasmagorical, yet wholly documentary in its approach to the urban milieu, architecture and underground.
Ulrike Ottinger is a prolific German filmmaker who started her visual art career in Munich and Paris in painting, photography, and performance. Ottinger’s commitment to film took off with her move to Berlin. Her “Berlin trilogy” began with Ticket of No Return (1979), followed by Freak Orlando (1981) and Dorian Gray. Collaborating on the films were Delphine Seyrig, Magdalena Montezuma, Veruschka von Lehndorff, Eddie Constantine, and Kurt Raab, as well as the composer Peer Raben. China. The Arts – The People (1985) was the first in a series of long documentary films made in the course of Ulrike Ottinger’s travels through Asia. She made the narrative film Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia in Mongolia in 1989, followed three years later by the eight-hour documentary film Taiga. Alongside her journeys to the Far East, she applied a virtually “ethnographic” attention to the changes taking place in her own city between the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification in the documentary film Countdown. After the documentary film Exile Shanghai (1997), her travels took her to southeast Europe, where she once again created a documentary film and a narrative film: Southeast Passage (2002) and Twelve Chairs (2004). Recent films include Under Snow (2011), The Korean Wedding Chest (2008), and Prater (2007).