LULU   1978    FEATUREAvailable on AMAZON PRIME- LULU Ronald Chase

From the Plays of FRANK WEDEKIND and the Opera by ALBAN BERG

LULU was filmed in San Francisco in the summer of 1974 .  Interiors were created in the warehouse at 136 the Embarcadero, and the auxilary scenes were filmed in the elephant cages of the San Francisco Zoo.  These scenes were to be used for the Houston Opera's production of Lulu.  Chase found additional funding, and asked many actor friends to volunteer in the cast. Paul Shenar was one of the leading actors at the American Conservatory Theater , Elisa Leonelli was the wife of a comedian friend from Italy. who had acted in films there.  The filming was completed at the end of August, and all the crew then set out for Europe, where another project was filmed for 2 weeks in Europe. (see Bruges-La-Morte).  When Chase returned his editor informed him that there simply wasn't enough footage to make a film of Lulu.   The scenes were edited for the Houston production (and play simultaneously with the staged action) but the film project was declared dead and void.

One year later, Chase returned to the project and decided there really was enough footage to mold into a film.  He re-thought the entire project.  The film now was silent, with dialogue cards, and constructed in the shape of a cone--the earliest scenes with the most artifice and adding elements moving toward a strict realism in the final scene.  At one moment the film bursts into sound, utilizing the most effective dialog scene from the original shoot. All the actors returned for a week of filming all the close-ups and moments missing from the first shoot..  Music from the period, and appropriate small sections of the opera added to the atmosphere. An elaborate soundscape was created by his good friend, Todd Boekelheide.     After its run at European festivals in 1978, the film was scheduled to open at La Pagode in Paris.  However, the company who owned the rights to the Berg score refused to approve the music rights and the film was shelved.


Berlin Film Festival, London Film Festival, Dublin Film Festival, Deauville Festival, FILMEX, Los Angeles, Florence Film Festival of American Films, Rotterdam Film Festival, Ghent FIlm Festival, Brussels Film Festival.

Selected as one of the 3 best films of 1978 by Paris Match.







Lulu is the fourth film version of the two plays by Frank Wedekind, Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box.   The first was a silent film in 1923, the second , and most famous, is the Pabst version in 1929 and there is a version by the Polish director, Walerian Borowczyk for French television in 1980.  Chase had admired the Pabst version, which he had seen in his college years, and it had led him to a deeper study of Wedekind.  Chase directed a production of Wedekind's Spring's Awakening for his senior directorial thesis at Bard.

Through these earlier film versions and the popularity of Louise Brooks (the Pabst Lulu), and the rising prominence of Alban Berg's opera of the same name, Lulu has become an international icon for a femme-fatale.   However, in Wedekind's work she is much more complicated .  She remains completely guiltless and innocent --more of a symbolic receptacle in which men place their sexual desires, their fantasies and emotional baggage only to have them destroyed when facing reality.  A huge part of the Wedekind is a condemnation of a repressed and hypocritical society, especially from a man's perspective. He was one of the first writers (an acquaintance of Freud) to put his finger on one of the sources of men's persecution of women --their fear of a women's " sexual power" that might destroy them.  Certainly this accounts for the wide range of interpretations given Wedekind's two plays.  From a man's perspective it is obviously misogynistic, from a woman's perspective it is a harbinger of women's liberation.

In an interview at the Berlin Film Festival in 1978, Chase had this to say:

"I was attracted to its visionary attitudes, its modern ideas about women's liberation. If you look at the play superficially, you might think it was by a man who hated women. But I think as Wedekind went deeper into ideas he didn't quite understand and he came up with a portrait of a women in a mythological sense, a very classic femme fatale that defied cliche definitions. He understood something about the toxic attitudes of men toward women.  He was interested in the psychological states of perversity, which makes the material extremely contemporary.  Take the dialogue: bits seem almost to be written yesterday: they're all about sexual roles, about changing identity, men becoming women, women becoming men; they have to do with a woman who is used by other people but somehow manages to understand them and get back at them while remaining completely innocent.  She remains a force of nature."

Gene Youngblood (author of Expanded Cinema) wrote this about the film:

It isn't a remake.  Nor is it a cultish "homage" for the edification of film buffs.  Rather it is an impressionistic meditation on, and evocation of Pandora's Box as a prophetic cultural myth, as collective erotic dream.   All the characters are there, but they are given not as realistic characters so much as archetypes.  Lulu still belongs to another era (title cards are used throughout) but, viewed from the perspective of the 70's , its psychological insights and social prophecies seem like revelations. Chase evokes rather than imitates the style of Pabst & Wedekind. On one hand there's Wedekind's synthesis of comedic, dramatic, farcical and satirical forms. On the other hand there's Pabst's dramatic framing and moody chiaroscuro.  The movie starts at a feverish pace, moods and styles shift in rapid succession; gradually the film loses its artifice, scenes are longer, sync-sound dialoug is heard.  A foreboding realism encroaches as Lulu's thoughtless lifestyle propels her toward her tragic destiny.  The last scene is silent, in darkness and overwhelmingly powerful.  It should be noted that never has a "silent" film had such a rich aural texture.  The sync and voice-over tracks are works of art in themselves, the non-programmatic use of Berg's opera is inspired, and a haunting piano score perfectly augments the film's obsessive nature.


LULU TRAILER    (2 Minutes)


THE FILM   (85 MINUTES)  Available on AMAZON PRIME under LULU - Ronald Chase

WARNING: 16 years or over FOR MATURE AUDIENCES : contains nudity, violence and sex.