Retrospective: Phil Karlson


Retrospective: Phil Karlson

This year‘s retrospective will focus on Phil Karlson (1908–1985), one of the most prominent figures of American film noir in the 1950s. In the short period between 1952 and 1957, Karlson made a series of eight noir films that are characterized by a direct, spare, and uncompromising style, a high degree of violence, and an attempt to capture the struggle of the individual against dysfunctional or corrupt institutions. The protagonists of Karlson‘s films – mostly through no fault of their own – become entangled in a web of crime (a frequent motif of wrongful conviction) from which they must extricate themselves without the help of the police or the courts, which cannot be relied upon. Karlson often combines quasi-documentary techniques (inspiration from real-life events acknowledged by the opening title, use of authentic locations, heterodiegetic narrator) with stylization, applying expressionistic lighting, skewed camera angles or extreme close-ups of the faces of the protagonists and their adversaries. Our collection of four films will offer a great opportunity to become better acquainted with a filmmaker who, in terms of his contribution to film noir, should be associated in the same breath as Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak.


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