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The Way of the Termite: The Essay in Cinema

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
7:30 p.m. From Today Until Tomorrow
Danièle Huillet, Jean-Marie Straub (Germany/France, 1997)

PFA Collection Print
Introduced by Erik Ulman

Erik Ulman is a composer who teaches at Stanford and codirects the arts organization Poto.

(Von Heute auf Morgen). Based on a rarely performed Schoenberg opera from 1929, From Today Until Tomorrow explores one night in a marriage. A husband and wife return from a party where she has flirted with another man while he has cast an appraising eye toward one of her acquaintances. Each dreams, briefly, of leaving the marriage for the excitement and mystery of a new lover. Directors Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub present the opera to us in long fixed shots and austere black and white, so that the focus remains on the brilliance of the twelve-tone score and the voices of Richard Salter and Christine Whittlesey. That Schoenberg would choose to use his challenging musical language to convey a relatively lighthearted message—especially since the conclusion reached by the husband and wife, to stick with the tried and true, seems directly at odds with his own philosophy of composing—only adds to the compelling mystery of this film.

• Based on the opera by Arnold Schoenberg. Photographed by William Lubtchansky. Performed by Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt Radio, conducted by Michael Gielen. With Christine Whittlesey, Richard Salter, Claudia Barainsky, Ryszard Karczykowski. (62 mins, In German with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, PFA Collection)