Close Up

24 April 2012: Kurt Kren: Which Way to CA?


Close-Up present a unique screening of 18 films (all on 16mm) by Austrian filmmaker Kurt Kren. The series will be followed by Hans Scheugl's documentary Keine Donau – Kurt Kren und seine Filme, a thorough insight on Kren and his films.

"What does it mean to recognize a documentary gesture in Kren's films? What is being documented? The documentary images that Kren uses in his works do not arise out of a plan, but instead, come from the right moment, a coincidence, a momentary observation, or a seized opportunity." read more

18/68 Venecia Kaputt
Kurt Kren
1968 | 20 sec | Colour | 16mm

Hans Scheugl: You used real recordings that you drew on.
Kurt Kren: There was already a rumor that Venice would come to an end one day. And then there was an American battleship in the background. I had fun destroying the image.

22/69 Happy-End
Kurt Kren
1969 | 4'01 min | B/W | 16mm

Without looking through the viewfinder, Kren filmed feature films from off the screen in different cinemas. By using views and perspectives (ins and outs) from Mühl's Libi-Aktion, Kren added in the sexual climax left out in the cinema. 

23/69 Underground Explosion
Kurt Kren
1969 | 5'07 min | Colour | 16mm

The strong camera movement makes this film entirely different than all of Kren's previous films. It was meant to be a reportage from an underground festival that was on tour in Germany and Switzerland. Kren explained that at the time he was “experimenting” with a mixture of amphetamines and alcohol and at times didn’t even know what he was doing. He shot the film from the hip, which created the effect that the film, together with the music, gave a quite authentic impression of the event. 

24/70 Western
Kurt Kren
1970 | 2'54 min | B/W | 16mm

Kren filmed a poster that showed a photo from the My Lai massacre – a central motif of the anti-Vietnam war movement. The handheld camera created a very unsteady picture and its content was difficult to discern, similar to the picture in Schatzi. At the end of the film, Kren inserted a short recording of a landscape.

Kurt Kren: I filmed that from my window in Vienna. I had the impression that such things don’t happen only in My Lai, but in Vienna, too. 

26/71 Cartoon – Balzac and the Eye of God
Kurt Kren
1971 | 31 sec | B/W | 16mm

An animation film with stick figures of a man and a woman and the three-cornered eye of God. Kren got the story from Balzac, which tells of a hanged man who survived, and the custom that allows him in this case to take a widow as his wife. Despite the film’s brevity, the story is even more complicated in Kren’s version: the man is a suicide case, rescued by the eye of God after he has had sex with the woman. In the end, the woman hangs on the rope. 

27/71 Auf Der Pfaueninsel
Kurt Kren
1971 | 1'21 min | B/W | 16mm

A "home movie", showing a walk on the Pfaueninsel in Berlin.

29/73 Ready-Made
Kurt Kren
1973 | 12'20 min | B/W | 16mm

In a television film about the film Casablanca, Kren is meant to read aloud the three letters that Groucho Marx wrote to Warner Bros., because they wanted to take legal action against him for using the title in the Marx-Brothers film A Night in Casablanca. The recorded material could not be used on television and was meant to be destroyed. Kren found it and showed it uncut with its repetitions.

30/73 Coop Cinema Amsterdam
Kurt Kren
1973 | 3 min | Colour | 16mm

Kren showed the cinema mentioned in the title during and after film screenings. He used single shot recordings and time recordings of five to thirty seconds. Light sometimes comes in through the open cinema door, whereby the colours of the films change noticeably. There are then black sections when the light goes out in the cinema. The film is uncut. It was recorded with a shoulder tripod over the course of three weeks.

33/77 Keine Donau
Kurt Kren
1977 | 8'16 min | Colour | 16mm

"Here there were several attempts. The first attempt was in Munich, which is why the title is: Keine Donau (No Danube). We had a problem there, my camera got stuck. Also, with the multiple exposures, I had closed the aperture too tightly; the film was meant to be exposed at a different place each time, going through the camera thirteen times. That was difficult to calculate, of course. During the second attempt in Munich still, there was a sideways incidence of light. Then I came to Vienna and took recordings from Trude Rind's balcony with Ernst Schmidt's Bolex. Something was wrong with the automatic there. I think it was the fourth attempt when it finally worked. The film went through the camera thirteen times, each time at a different distance setting: infinity, 8, 6, 5, 4, and 3 meters. And the one-meter sequence with a colour filter." – Kurt Kren

34/77 Tschibo
Kurt Kren
1977 | 1'58 min | Colour | 16mm

In single shots, the film shows Kren's diary-like notes from 1968 to 1976, in particular, work recordings on the previous three films. Right at the end there is a short fragment of a failed first attempt at Keine Donau. There you can see the coffee company that gives the film its name (although it is actually spelled differently). 

39/81 Which Way to CA?
Kurt Kren
1981 | 3'18 min | B/W | 16mm

Kren on the way from Vermont to California. Kren said that his different cars are the red line that runs through the story. The beginning of the film is missing as Kren needed money and wanted to leave the camera with a pawnbroker in San Francisco; as he demonstrated that the camera was working, the film was exposed. Kren called the film a "bad home movie", because amateurs play around with their films a lot more, but he, on the contrary, took everything as it was, without cutting out anything afterward. 

40/81 Breakfast Im Grauen
Kurt Kren
1981 | 3'13 min | B/W | 16mm

Kren in New Hampshire, New England. Together with friends he lived from tearing down wooden houses and selling the wood. Kren was the "de-nailer", pulling the nails out of the wood.

Kurt Kren: It was a great time.

41/82 Getting Warm
Kurt Kren
1982 | 3'22 min | Colour | 16mm

The third of the "bad home movies." Kren and his Thunderbird moved from wintry New England to warm Texas. A section of the film was shot in Austin.

42/83 No Film
Kurt Kren
1983 | 3 sec | B/W | 16mm

"It was a time when I was pretty upset because I wasn’t making anything, no more films. That is why: No Film. Wilhelm and Birgit Hein once recorded a newspaper photo and said that although the picture is not moving on the screen, it is still a film. I recorded a writing – "No Film"– which also does not move and is still a film. That is why: No Film. Question mark." – Kurt Kren

43/84 1984
Kurt Kren
1984 | 1'43 min | Colour | 16mm

Kren's contribution to the Orwell year. He recorded the last television debate in the Reagan/Mondale election campaign. Kren had gotten a Bell & Howell as a gift. In the viewfinder, the television filled the entire picture, but the viewfinder did not match the lens entirely so that the television screen in the picture was very little. That was not the plan, but Kren decided to "adopt" the film in the end.

44/85 Foot'-Age Shoot'-Out
Kurt Kren
1985 | 3'03 min | Colour | 16mm

The Battle of the Film Bands was a film showing hosted by the Cinematheque in San Francisco and a group of filmmakers called No Cinema. It was designed as a shoot-out between the organizers' different concepts for putting together a programme. The filmmaker Marian Wallace sent Kren a film reel with the request to make a film fast: "Better hurry. Make a movie!" The presentation would be in two weeks.

46/90 Falter 2
Kurt Kren
1990 | 30 sec | B/W | 16mm

A film that was created as an advertisement for the Viennese city paper Falter. It comprises five quickly cut recordings made in Vienna’s subway.

50/96 Snapspots (For Bruce)
Kurt Kren
1996 | 4'12 min | Colour | 16mm

"Having shown us the dance of photographing tourists in 49/95 Tausendjahrekino, in Snapspots Kren shows us countless visitors to Vienna, who photograph each other, or have their photo taken by the local stranger, Kren, in front of the statue of Johann Strauss jr. – either as individuals, in families, or by the busload." – Thomas Korschil 

Keine Donau - Kurt Kren Und Seine Filme
Hans Scheugl
1988 | 55 min | Colour & B/W | Digital

A thorough insight on Kurt Kren and his films by filmmaker Hans Scheugl.