There’s something beautiful about a young person breaking free and carving out an uncharted path, and then her older self looking back years later. Ulrike Ottinger – experimental German filmmaker, painter and photographer – left home at 20 for Paris in 1962, making this city her home instead until the end of the 60s; and during these heady years she’d immerse herself in its throbbing cultural scene, become part of its rich émigré circle, befriend intellectuals and trailblazers, witness the political hotbed, and find her voice as an artist. Paris Calligrammes, her absorbing, eclectic, vibrant memoir is a portrayal of this unforgettable period from her life. It’s therefore packed with memories, experiences, nostalgia, anecdotes, adventure and bittersweet reflections, even if recollected and posited from a vantage point, as the director and the protagonist – separated by five decades – were surely two very different individuals. But it wasn’t just that; it was also an intoxicating time capsule, an ethnographic study of a city with myriad shades during an epochal period, and an engrossing mosaic of people and moments. This diary film comprises of diverse interconnected facets – Fritz Picard’s bookshop Librairie Calligrammes, a legendary melting pot, where she loved hanging out; Johnny Friedlaender’s studio where she lmearned lithography; indulging the flâneuse in her while exploring the city’s locales, from Saint-Germaine and Latin Quarter to Bouquinistes, cafés and jazz joints; becoming an avant-garde painter by dabbling in pop-art, Dada and surrealism; falling in love with cinema at Henri Langlois’ Cinémathèque Française; and her tryst with Holocaust remembrances, the Algerian War and 1968 student protests. These enthralling, impressionist, kaleidoscopic vignettes were vividly evoked through film clips, news reels and photographs, accompanied by her serene voiceover.
Director: Ulrike Ottinger
Genre: Documentary/Essay Film/Diary Film