The Phoenix Tapes show re-edited excerpts from 40 films by Alfred Hitchcock. The six chapters focus on a subjective selection of various leitmotifs in Hitchcock’s work.
Burden of Proof: A surreal patchwork of close-ups and a tribute to the magic and beauty of details one can find in Hitchcock’s work. The tape follows the track of motifs lengthwise and across the Hitchcock film years.
Derailed: The dynamic montage of Derailed confronts the viewer (and the tape’s protagonist: a train passenger rocking in sleep) with a dark and dream-like imagery embedded in shots of locomotives under steam and moving machine parts–a monstrous dream-factory setting free haunting icons of human angst.
A childhood in the Sixties. A heart beats in the cabinet. Voices rain down on the city. A tree grows on planet Mars. It is a miracle. In 'Alpsee', Matthias Müller combines for the first time his specific method of the experimental-surrealistic montage of found-footage-material with the conventional narration of a story in film scenes. The film has on the one hand scenes done exactly according to a script, and on the other hand makes use of material from the private collection of Müller 's father and selected scenes from the TV series Fury and Lassie. The story turns on a boy growing up in the early 1960's and his relation to his mother. Both are bound by a strangely emotionless relation, from which every affectionate and physical gesture is excluded. Most of the time we see the mother at work in the household. She cleans, she irons, she bakes and cooks, while the boy sits beside her bored. When she for once embraces her son, this seems less like an affectionate gesture than a clench. The montage and repetition of similar scenes from the TV series Fury make this particularly vivid. From this narrow world the boy can flee only in his day-dreams. His longing for freedom is reflected in the motif of the sky and outer space, which often introduces the film's fantasy sequences. At first sight, the boy looks very well-behaved. His hair is parted orderly at the side and his shirt buttoned up to the top button. Yet he harbours aggressive-subversive thoughts. The story in Alpsee is framed by found-footage-material from Matthias Müller’s father. Thus we see at the beginning pictures of a wedding and at the end one of Müller 's mother bathing at sunset. By contrast, the scenes from the TV series Lassie and Fury function to support the narrative. They visualize the boy's dreams, or they double certain scenes. Alpsee develops its experimental and surrealistic power through montage, which functions in accordance with the principle of similarity.
“With the glowing colours in Alpsee, Müller leaves the gloom that prevailed in the universe of his earlier films. His clinical sharpness, however, does not deprive the film of its secret, its disquieting strangeness–and thus recalls Buñuel and Hitchcock." Jacques Kermabon, Bref, Paris, 1995
“Despite the seemingly innocuous gestures of household life, a dark, unmanageable world seems to want to erupt from it. At one point it literally does: in a stunning image, the milk the mother pours for her son overflows the glass onto the table, the floor, and eventually down the hall in an endless stream. This uncontrolled secretion, pure white, is disturbingly connected to the enigmatic maternal body. The sparse decor of the home, the primary color scheme, and high key lighting all emphasize the preternatural clarity of the image in Alpsee. As in allegory, the sharp definition of the image belies its opaque, brooding signification. The pristine look of this film thus gives rise to its confusing, nightmarish quality, borne out of its name: the German word for nightmare is Alptraum.“
Alice A. Kuzniar: “The Queer German Cinema“. Stanford, 2000