Dress Rehearsal

Werner Schroeter went to the 1980 Experimental Theater Festival at Nancy, France with his own questions-and many of his own answers-already framed. Dress Rehearsal is less a performance film than a subjective reverie: visually, in being the composition of a passionate colorist, and aurally, in incorporating an opera track (Maria Callas singing Puccini) drawn from Schroeter's own creative life in The Death of Maria Malibran and other films. That being said, Dress Rehearsal sets off some extraordinary performances-most notably by the Pina Bausch Dance Ensemble; then seventy-four-year-old Japanese mime and female impersonator Kazuo Oono (to whom the film is dedicated); and Sankai Juku. Schroeter, despairing of the place of art in the eighties, has gone to Nancy looking for "love," something we can interpret to mean the kind of passion he finds in the expression of these particular artists and few others. Schroeter frames his whole investigation with a theory of recent German history, planned by the "architect" Hitler with a grant from General Motors, as a dress rehearsal for a much larger, more frightening historical flow.

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