Short films with Karl Valentin | Chicago Reader

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Restored by the Goethe-Institut in Munich, these five silent shorts showcase the work of German cabaret comic and film pioneer Karl Valentin (1882-1948), a man so impossibly spindly he gives the impression of a marionette broken free of its strings. The first three, released in 1913, will seem rather tame to fans of American slapstick, though The New Desk—in which Valentin takes a saw to the legs of his oversize writing desk, then to his chair, then the desk again, until he finds himself seated on the floor—is a well-executed take on a long-lived gag. The real gem here is the surreal and sinister The Mysteries of a Hairdresser's Shop (1923, 25 min.), directed by Erich Engel and Bertolt Brecht, in which Valentin plays a barber who accidentally slices the head off a customer and has to reattach it with a bandage. Total running time for the program is 58 minutes.

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