A pompous yet kindly doorman (Emil Jannings) is demoted to the station of bathroom attendant in F.W. Murnau’s 1924 film The Last Laugh (Der letzte Mann), which debuted celebrated cinematographer Karl Freund’s “unchained camera” and other groundbreaking technical and special effects. The film’s feverish dream sequence, experimentation with subjectivity and interiority, and its peculiar epilogue remain among the most indelible cinematic experiences in the history of the medium.
The screening of a recent restoration of the film, provided by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung, was accompanied live by Pianist Michael Mortilla. Mortilla joined Charles Wolfe (Film and Media Studies, UCSB) for a post-screening discussion.
Musician Michael Mortilla
Michael Mortilla is a freelance composer and sound designer. His accomplishments include performing his own works as a piano soloist with the Chicago Symphony, composing for the 1996 Olympic Games, and scoring the world’s first broadcast of a film with sound over the internet (AFI/The Rink, 1977). He has received multiple commissions for new works from institutions such as the Library of Congress, The Academy of Motion Pictures, and The National Film Preservation Foundation. Mortilla was resident composer and faculty in UCSB’s Theater and Dance department from 1986 to 2000. He has guest lectured on music and sound design for film and animation at CalArts.
Moderator Charles Wolfe
Charles Wolfe is a Professor of Film and Media Studies at UCSB, whose research and teaching interests include international film history and theory; American cinema and cultural history; documentary film and photography; historiography; archival studies; comedy performance; voice in cinema; and film sound. He is the author of two books on the films of director Frank Capra and has published widely on various aspects of the history of commercial, independent, and documentary filmmaking in the U.S. With Edward Branigan, he co-edits the American Film Institute’s Film Reader Series, which to date has published 30 volumes of new critical essays on topics of contemporary concern in film, television, and new media studies.
This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center, the Department of Film & Media Studies and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies.
Hollywood Berlin: Exiles and Immigrants
Nearly a century ago, an unprecedented number of German exiles and immigrants working in the film industry left Europe for the United States. Lured by the resources of 1920s Hollywood and then pushed into exile by politics in 1930s Berlin, these filmmakers contributed some of the most influential films in the history of cinema. Focusing on the work of filmmakers who began their careers in Berlin and later worked in Hollywood, this series presents the latest restorations of their masterpieces in the state-of-the-art Pollock Theater with dynamic post-screening contributions from contemporary filmmakers, scholars, and artists.
The CWC Classics program celebrates cinema’s rich history, bringing classic films back to the big screen for critical viewing and discussion. These events feature filmmakers, academics, and professionals who can contextualize the production and historical impact of the films. The series occasionally presents classic films in their original 16 or 35 mm formats. CWC Classics events celebrate the history and significance of cinema’s enduring legacy.