Swiss film classics

La Salamandre (1971)
Alain Tanner
Switzerland
114′
Rosemonde the Salamander is a young girl who gets by thanks to low-paid jobs of all kinds. She is suspected of attempting to kill the uncle with whom she lives. A journalist and a writer are hired to get to the bottom of this mystery, as the basis for a television film scenario. They are unsuccessful however. The truth about Rosemonde and her special appreciation of life continue to elude these two amateur detectives.
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La Paloma – The Time for a Look (1974)
Daniel Schmid
Switzerland
109′
Nightclub singer La Paloma succumbs to the persistent courting of a chubby rich admirer and marries him. Before the marriage, she was thought to be dying, but soon she is well. She believes her husband’s love has cured her, but her efforts to love him begin to fade as she discovers true love with her husband’s old school friend. An excessive film opera that brings fiction to life in its most beautiful form.
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Black-Out (1970)
Jean-Louis Roy
Switzerland
96′
Out of paranoid fear of a nuclear catastrophe, an elderly couple isolates themselves from the outside world in their small suburban villa. An apocalyptic retreat told with a pinch of humor that makes one shudder and at the same time smile every now and then. Will the couple find their way out of isolation again? A chef d'oeuvre that already shows the situation of being quarantined in 1970.
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Die Herrgottsgrenadiere (1932)
Anton Kutter
Switzerland
82′
In the middle of the mountains around the Lötschental is a lonely village that is exposed to the forces of nature. A state of excitement arouses when an international mining company discover a gold vein and acquired mining rights. Swiss western with magical mountain and climbing scenes in rock and ice. First Swiss sound film.
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Bäckerei Zürrer (1957)
Kurt Früh
Switzerland
104′
The widowed, stubborn master baker Zürrer makes life difficult for his three adult children and only becomes conciliatory when his life takes the worst possible turn.
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Das Fräulein (2006)
Andrea Štaka
Switzerland
77′
Ruza (Mirjana Karanović) left Serbia, her country, over thirty years ago and lives in Zurich. Her daily life is a string of repetitive moments until, one day, Ana (Marija Škaričić) arrives on the scene and upsets Ruza's painstakingly organized world. A subtle friendship develops between the two strongwilled women.
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William Tell (1960)
Michel Dickoff
Switzerland
93′
The deeds of the Swiss national hero William Tell in his fight against despotism and violence in 1291. Based on the drama by Friedrich Schiller and the chronicle by Aegidius Tschudi, filmed on original locations. The film is now protected as a Swiss cultural property.
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It Happened in Broad Daylight (1958)
Ladislao Vajda
Switzerland
96′
Having doubts about the guilt of the obvious suspect in the murder of an eight year old girl, a police detective decides to investigate the case on his own.
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Siamo italiani (1964)
Alexander J. Seiler
Switzerland
76′
More than 500 000 Italians live and work in Switzerland. They are considered a „problem“. An over-employed economy needs their labour – a small nation of distinct peculiarity perceives them as foreign objects. They live beyond the barrier of a different language. Discussed as a problem, they remain unknown as human beings.
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Klassezämekunft (1988)
Walter Deuber and Peter Stierlin
Switzerland
82′
Fifty years after her graduation, Senta von Meissen invites eight former school friends to a class reunion at her castle. The table is set for ten people. One place remains empty: Teddy, the hostess's once great school sweetheart, died in an accident on the Rhine Falls during the after-graduation trip. But was it really an accident? The evening turns into a murderous act of revenge.
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Die Venus vom Tivoli (1953)
Leonard Steckel
Switzerland
93′
A small theater troupe is stranded in Switzerland after World War II: the artists hope to get a visa to South America. But to get it, they first have to pay off debts to the Swiss government – and perform an operetta. Swiss cinema classic, based on one of the most successful Swiss stage plays of the time.
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Quand nous étions petits enfants (1961)
Henry Brandt
Switzerland
90′
The daily life in the primary school of Taillères, in the La Brévine valley, is filmed over the course of an entire school year, from 1959 to 1960. Henry Brandt's film, which won the Vela d'argento in Locarno in 1961, is a unique testimony to pedagogical processes, with a tender observation of the relationship between the young protagonists, their place of birth and the adult world.
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Il Bacio di Tosca (1984)
Daniel Schmid
Switzerland
87′
Giuseppe Verdi's «finest work», as he himself described it, still stands today on the Piazza Buonarroti in Milan. It is the «Casa di riposo», founded by Verdi in 1896 for «people who are less fortunate than I» - people who never made a big career, and people who have long spent their dream salaries. Today they live, all long forgotten, in a small room with a suitcase full of memories.
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Light Years Away (1981)
Alain Tanner
Switzerland
107′
The year 2000: 25-year-old Jonas is working in a pub in Irelad when one day, he meets hermit Yoshka Poliakoff (Trevor Howard). He is so impressed by the old man, he follows him into seclusion shortly after. Ultimately, Poliakoff lets him in on his secret: he knows how to fly. A film about the failed ideals of the '68 movement, the longing for happiness and the realization of dreams. Full of magical sensuality and meditative power.
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Visages d'enfants (1925)
Jacques Feyder
Switzerland
117′
Faces of Children (Visages d'enfants), a masterpiece, was filmed on location in the Haut-Valais region of Switzerland, with spectacular mountain scenery adding important atmosphere to the characters' complex emotions. The film is about the effect on a sensitive boy (again Jean Forest, who is heartrending) of his mother's death and his father's remarriage.
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Heidi und Peter (1955)
Franz Schnyder
Switzerland
89′
The second part of the famous story on Heidi. Returning from Frankfurt, she applies her new knowlegdes.
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Der Berg (1990)
Markus Imhoof
Switzerland
102′
1922: For the first time, the lonely weather station on the Säntis summit is occupied by a married couple. The unemployed Joseph Manser marries the pregnant Lena overnight and thus gets the post. But the weather warden couple have an adversary who feels cheated out of the job - he wants to take command on the mountain and climbs after the two. A showdown ensues at the weather station. - The film is based on true events.
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HD Soldier Läppli (1959)
Alfred Rasser
Switzerland
112′
Läppli is arrested as a supposed opponent of the army and misses the general mobilisation. Eventually he arrives at the barracks after all. There, as HD Läppli, he drives every superior mad in record time with his obtuseness and sense of justice.
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Le retour d'Afrique (1973)
Alain Tanner
Switzerland
107′
An ode to liberated speech and to the power of words, “those one speaks to others, those one speaks in silence”, Alain Tanner’s third film is inspired by a poet and a poetic text which deeply affected him as a young director: Cahier d’un retour au pays natal, written in 1939 by Aimé Césaire. A poem extolled by the Surrealists, this seminal flow of anti-colonial thinking by the West-Indian-born poet is the bubbling spring which inspires the gestures and words of the film’s main character, Vincent (François Marthouret), a 30-year-old from Geneva.Weighed down by the monotony and boredom of his life as a well-off westerner, he sells all his possessions and decides to leave for Algeria with his fiancée. The subject is clearly that of escape from one’s place of belonging, a Rimbaudesque theme dear to Tanner, which is here directly linked to the Third Worldist discourse of the 1960s and 1970s. But the strength of the film lies in the way it turns this thinking on its head: on the eve of their departure, chance circumstances prevent the couple from leaving. Instead, they decide to pursue their dream of escape by living hidden away in their empty apartment. Again, Tanner shows that it is the inner mileage travelled that matters, not the arrival at a destination; the posing of a question rather than the answer. As the director says at the beginning of the film: “Speaking words can be an act in itself, it can also be a substitute for action.” This is an important precept for the understanding of Tanner’s cinema: poetry is a form of action, and having it in mind, reciting it, can help to give a new shape to reality: in the film’s final scene, the couple decide to have a child.
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Off season (1992)
Daniel Schmid
Switzerland
89′
The scene of the action is a closed-down, dilapidated hotel in the Swiss mountains which has been lying empty for some time. The hotel used to belong to the narrator’s grandparents, and it was there that he was born and brought up. He visits the hotel for the last tim with the intention of losing himself in memories connected with the old building.
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Der Fall (1972)
Kurt Früh
Switzerland
102′
In this Swiss film noir a private investigator stumbles onto a case involving blackmail and an oversexed, under-aged girl. He finds the girl, and, tragically, becomes involved with her.
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The Unknown Man of Shandigor (1967)
Jean-Louis Roy
Switzerland
96′
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The Lacemaker (1977)
Claude Goretta
Switzerland
103′
The shy Pomme (Isabelle Huppert) meets the philosophy student François on holiday in Normandy. François becomes her first lover and she moves in with him: head over heels in love, the young and inexperienced couple return to Paris with big dreams. But their social and cultural differences stand in the way of happiness. The student she had unconsciously saved herself for will, without meaning to, ruin Pomme.
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Messidor (1979)
Alain Tanner
Switzerland
123′
Project initially entrusted to Maurice Pialat, who had already begun to film it under the title of “Meurtrières” (see the special edition of Les Inrockuptibles devoted to Pialat), Messidor is based on a crime story which hit the headlines in France in the 1970s: two adolescent girls run away and go on a criminal spree which ends in their deaths. On the face of it, this subject is remote from the world we associate with Tanner, since a violent story of this kind and its social background would seem to impose the realistic, even naturalistic form always shunned by the Swiss director. Moreover, Tanner is instinctively averse to filming physical violence. “Killing a person”, he says, “is generally a gratuitous special effect.” Consequently, of all Tanner’s films Messidor is the only one in which someone dies of non-natural causes. It is also Tanner’s most sombre work, characterised by a despair unmitigated by his usual verbal and situational humour. This is because Tanner accepted the project only on condition that he could recast the original idea and use this violent story as a vehicle for more personal preoccupations: the limits of freedom (already treated in his previous film) are here related to the girls’ frantic flight in the Swiss countryside. What interests him is the possible sullying of this place of excessive peace and quiet, now transformed into a field of experience and criminal fun-and-games by the two characters..
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Charles mort ou vif (1969)
Alain Tanner
Switzerland
91′
The film paints the portrait of an old man who decides to abandon his comfortable bourgeois way of life and live with a Bohemian couple. There he rediscovers his freedom to think and his joie de vivre.
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Seelische Grausamkeit (1961)
Hannes Schmidhauser
Switzerland
99′
On a summer morning, the opening of the trial in the Zurich District Court is announced for 8 o'clock. On trial is the divorce case of Marlene Faber and Nick Merk. The couple is waiting outside the courtroom for their divorce and is reviewing their marriage once again: From the honeymoon over the first quarrels until the end.
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Matlosa (1981)
Villi Hermann
Switzerland
94′
Alfredo seems to lead the life of so many Ticinese families born in the valleys, who now only go back to their native village for the weekend. But Alfredo doesn’t longer experiences the journey as a form of escapism, but as an obsessive rite which is repeated over and over again. Alfredo has lost his own identity.
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