Erwin Leiser | 21 mins* | Blu-ray (SD)
A slightly odd little documentary (these days, it would be — and, indeed, is — ‘just’ a DVD extra, though almost 30 years before that format (or even Laserdisc) I presume it had a different outlet. Anyway:), in which Erwin Leiser ‘interviews’ Lang about his early directing career.
Lang certainly has interesting stories to tell, in particular a long anecdote (taking up most of the film’s second half) about Goebbels’ reaction to Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse. It’s worth watching for this alone. (Even if, as the Bogdanovich/Kaiser/Koerber/Lang commentary on M reveals, it may not be wholly/at all true.) Earlier tales are more fragmented, however. Most of Lang’s major German films are touched upon, but none to any significant degree — it feels like random excerpts from longer, more thorough interviews.
The whole thing feels distinctly staged too. The interviewer and interviewee sit or stand in odd relation to one another — cutting away to film clips ‘disguises’ a change of position, usually to an even more unnatural one — while Leiser’s questions barely provoke the answers they actually get. Lang’s anecdotes feel genuinely told, rather than scripted and rehearsed, but the film’s structure and style makes it feel like they were very pre-prepared.
And when it ends, almost as abruptly as the numerous cuts and topic changes within it, there’s a long hold on a black screen with some discordant ‘music’/typing sound effects. Erm, what? Maybe I’m missing something…
The interview snippets are interesting, then, though they leave one with a desire to hear Lang talk at greater length about each of the films touched upon; and, as I said, the Goebbels story is worth the bafflement of Leiser’s directorial choices.
* This is the length as included on Masters of Cinema’s Blu-ray of M. IMDb lists running times of both 21 and 49 minutes; this comparison shows a German DVD with a version running 47 minutes; so maybe these are excerpts — as far as I can see, MoC don’t clarify anywhere.