Matthias Stork is more likely to be found hunched over a research desk at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library than in the darker recesses of a multiplex cinema playing the latest Hollywood visual effects laden action flick. He is, after all, a graduate student in the Department of Film and Television at UCLA. He has an M.A. in Education from Goethe University, Frankfurt, in his native Germany. His current focus is on German expressionist films of the 1920s.
In the last decade of the silent era the Hollywood studios siphoned off many of the finest German filmmakers; the stream became a flood with the rise of National Socialism in 1933. It included director Fritz Lang and the great cinematographer Karl Freund, who had emigrated to the US in 1929. Several years earlier, German émigré F.W. Murnau’s first American film, Sunrise, was one of the high water marks of this great stream. But it is the lesser-known director, Paul Leni, who is the object of Stork’s current research. Leni had made the macabre Waxworks in 1924 Weimar Germany. In Hollywood, he directed only four films before an early death at age 44 in September of 1929. He seems a worthy figure for exegesis for a young German film scholar.
But here is the surprise. Stork’s real scholarly passion is the American action film, a genre that at first glance seems ill tailored for an academic suit. But one of the endearing qualities of German scholarship in science as well as in the arts is its ability to imprint an academic perspective on pop culture as easily as on philosophical ontology.
Stephen Pizzello and Martha Winterhalter emailed me the link to a two-part video essay they had found called “Chaos Cinema.” They suggested it would make a good blog essay. Its creator, Matthias Stork, was not someone whom I knew, nor (despite having his own blog) whom I was able to track down easily. Finally, William McDonald, Professor of Film, Television and Digital Media at UCLA, provided me with Stork’s email. The young scholar met me a few days later on a bench outside the Herrick Library. The juxtaposition of his precise, even scholarly, English—as he spoke about the tropes of “action cinema” with its signature cataclysmic car chases and violent shootouts with exploding body parts—and the spatial and psychic dislocation of the films themselves, was intriguing. Even better, it turns out we both share an abiding love of the seminal films of the French New Wave.
You can read the rest of John Bailey’s interview with Matthias Stork here at The American Society of Cinematographers website.
Matthias Stork is a Press Play contributor and film scholar-critic from Germany who continues to pursue an academic career at UCLA where he studies film and television. He has an MA in Education with emphasis on American and French literature and film from Goethe University, Frankfurt. He has attended The Cannes film festival twice (2010/2011) as a representitive of Goethe University’s film school and you can read his blog here.