DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

YESTERDAY GIRL (ABSCHIED VON GESTERN) (ANITA G.) (director/writer: Alexander Kluge; screenwriter: based on the story Anita G. by Alexander Kluge; cinematographers: Thomas Mauch/Edgar Reitz; editor: Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus; cast: Alexandra Kluge (Anita G.), Gunther Mack (Pichota), Eva Maria Meineke (Mrs. Pichota), Hans Korte (Judge), Hans Brammer (The Professor), Peter Staimmer (Young Man), Fritz Werner (Fur salon owner),  Joseph Kreindle (Record company's owner), Edith Kuntze-Pellogio (Parole Board Officer), Ado Rigler (Priest), Palma Falck (Mrs. Budeck), Alexander Kluge (Narrator); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Kairos Film; Facets Video; 1966-West Germany-in German with English Subtitles)

"An early example of the New German cinema."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut feature film of auteur Alexander Kluge ("Occasional Work of a Female Slave"/"The Patriotic Woman"/"Germany in Autumn") is an early example of the New German cinema. It's based on an actual case Kluge encountered as a lawyer. The low-budget black-and-white film, influenced by Godard's fast-cut editing style, is an acerbic comedy that satires modern Germany for trying to sweep its horrible recent past under the rug. It won the Venice Special Jury Prize in 1966.

Anita G. (Alexandra Kluge, the director's sister) is a listless and amoral 22-year-old Jewish woman, who left East Germany nine years ago to make a better life for herself in West Germany and couldn't. Though there's an economic boom in the west and she has the training to be a nurse or a typist, she can't settle down and find work. Instead she becomes such things as a petty thief, the mistress of a feckless married civil servant (Gunther Mack), a prostitute and wanders from place to place, carrying all her belongings in a suitcase as she runs away from paying rent to her landlady and the hotel manager before they can confiscate her belongings. After many episodes with a variety of dull stereotypical urban characters she encounters, the titular heroine sadly can't get the professional help she needs for her lingering problems from her childhood and seems doomed to be on a path of ruin. Unable to be rehabilitated by those in social services who are clueless, the former resident of Leipzig is viewed as a lost soul by an uncaring society that hypocritically pretends it wants to help her but can't.

We're told in the film's opening that "What separates us from yesterday is not a rift but a change in position."After the climax scene, where Anita goes to prison for a five-year sentence for shoplifting, we're told that "we're all to blame for everything."

The pic is told with intelligence, wit, terseness and a good sense of historical oversight, and it always seems fresh and not bound by a political agenda.

REVIEWED ON 3/10/2014       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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