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Christian Petzold Hates Netflix and Amazon’s Lack of Curation: ‘I Have a Headache After’

The "Undine" director is also planning his next film, a gay love story inspired by his "X-rated" COVID fever dreams.




Stricken with COVID-19 earlier this year, celebrated German filmmaker Christian Petzold has been a busy cinephile in quarantine. But during a recent New York Film Festival podcast promoting the premiere of his latest film “Undine,” he didn’t mince words about his experiences using streaming platforms that, according to him, don’t offer much in the way of curation. (The Film Stage first picked up details out of the conversation.)

“I make a film festival on my own based on my DVD library, and this was the best festival I have ever been to,” he said. “I have seen two Ozu movies, one Bresson movie, three Chabrol movies… I hope in the future we have curated programs, really curated programs. Therefore I hate Amazon and Netflix. It’s not curated. I have a headache after.”

Meanwhile, he’s prepping a new project. Petzold has explored themes of desire in his past films, from his water nymph romance “Undine” to his Hitchcockian lost love story “Phoenix” in 2014. But the German director now says his next movie will deal with love in more explicit terms, and specifically gay love.

His latest run of movies, beginning with “Undine,” is a trilogy centered on the elements, with “Undine,” the Berlinale Silver Bear winner for Best Actress for Paul Beer earlier this year, dwelling in water. Next up, he said, is fire. “‘The Red Sky’ is the name of the next movie, but I will realize the movie when the pandemic is gone, not before,” said the filmmaker, who was hit by COVID-19 earlier this year. “It’s also something to do with love and kissing and homosexual love too. I want to see bodies, and so on. I can’t do it with masks and so I want to do it for real.”

Petzold previously mounted a trilogy centered on “Love in the Time of Oppressive Systems” with “Barbara,” “Phoenix,” and “Transit,” and he says he’s now ready to tackle that format again. “I’m a Protestant and someone asked me the element water in ‘Undine’ and I said I’m working on a trilogy because I want to set myself on fire to work on two other things. [Fellow German filmmaker] Harun Farocki said to always think about a trilogy so you have something to work on, work on, work on. You are thinking in serials and patterns and you are work on the difference…like the ’40s and ’50s where people make one movie after another and they have some correlation.”

Petzold said that his COVID-19 experience convinced him not to move forward with making a dystopian movie as he originally planned. “I said to myself, ‘When I’m healthy again and I’m out of this shitty bed, I want to work on love and young people and not about a world which is in a breakdown situation.’” He also added that a recent brush with fever dreams as a result of his illness is making its way into the script, some of which he said are “X-rated. But many of them are really fantastic.”

Listen to the full podcast over at Film at Lincoln Center’s website here.

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