Saint-Germain-des-Prés by underground artist Ulrike Ottinger


Paris Calligrammes, by German artist and director Ulrike Ottinger, born in 1942, is not only “leafed through” like an album of memories, from the arrival in the French capital of the young plastic artist in the early 1960s, until her departure, in 1969, after the political movements against the Vietnam war, the uprising of May 68, etc. The theatrical release of this free film coincides with a presentation of Ulrike Ottinger’s works at the Parisian gallery Eric Mouchet, rue Jacob (6e arrondissement), until October 31. Among the canvases, a portrait-tapestry of Allen Ginsberg (1969), made up as Uncle Sam – which illustrates the poster of the documentary.

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Ulrike Ottinger is also an experimental filmmaker whose work is rather unknown, while her films have been screened at MoMA in New York, the Center Pompidou in Paris, etc., and awarded at festivals. Let us quote Berlin go never return (1979), the first part of a Berlin trilogy, or even Dorian Gray (1984), a lesbian version of Oscar Wilde’s hero, with Delphine Seyrig, Veruschka von Lehndorff, Tabea Blumenschein.

A place of artistic and intellectual mixing

Paris Calligrammes, named after a collection of poems by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), refers to the bookstore of the same name in rue du Dragon, in Paris (6e), where the young Ulrike Ottinger felt at home, when she was not learning printmaking in Johnny Friedlaender’s studio. The bookshop was then managed by the Jewish exile Fritz Picard and was a place of artistic and intellectual mixing, between Dadaists, surrealists and “People of all political persuasions”. The voice-over of Fanny Ardant, which brings this era back to life, lists the names of the personalities who frequented the bookshop – Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Annette Kolb, Marcel Marceau, Tristan Tzara… Paris Calligrammes, “A place where the hope that a brutally unbalanced world can be reunited again”, she said again. The film assumes its old-fashioned side and its value as a testimony. In her Parisian wandering, Ulrike Ottinger captures beautiful reflections, as well as the profile of Simone Signoret on the terrace of a café.

German and French documentary by Ulrike Ottinger (2:10).

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