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People On Sunday

directors: Robert Siodmak, Edgar J. Ulmer

74 minutes (E) 1929 BFI retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
People On Sunday has the subtitle: A Film Without Actors. It's 1929 in Berlin, a summer Sunday: we watch as Berliners enjoy their day off. The next day, they are back in their usual jobs.
   The original negative of People On Sunday has been lost. This BFI video is the longest available version, pieced together from prints held in film archives. The film has a playfulness that distinguishes it from other 'city-symphony' documentaries that were made around the same time. For an hour and a quarter, we get a glimpse into ordinary people's lives, not to mention a picture of Weimar-era Berlin. People On Sunday is historically important not just for that but also for the talent behind the camera. In addition to the two directors, Billy Wilder wrote the script from an outline by Curt Siodmak, and Fred Zinnemann was the assistant director. The only non-first-timer was cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan. (This copy has its share of flickering contrast levels, scratches and splices - as you might expect, given the age of the material - but it's in pretty good shape, and the quality of Schüfftan's camerawork is quite apparent.) All these men went on to noteworthy careers in America (and in Schüfftan's case, France as well). Above all else, People On Sunday gives a sense of several considerable talents flexing their creative muscles and seeing what they can do.
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