The Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger died on April 23 while shooting in Liberia. In his memory, Art of the Real presents a special screening of his acclaimed, globe-spanning 2005 film, Workingman’s Death, and his rarely seen, Vertovian film poem, Haiku, from 1987.
Glawogger’s masterpiece, made in response to the invisibility of hard labor today, is a revelatory, globe-spanning monument to the working man. Contrary to its title, it finds several instances of back-breaking, downright hazardous manual work, still performed at the dawn of the 21st century. The film’s subjects—or, one might say, heroes—include miners who illegally brave the abandoned coal pits of the Ukraine, sulfur haulers on an active volcano in East Java, butchers in a Boschian open-air slaughterhouse in Nigeria, shipbreakers dismantling an oil tanker on the Arabian coast of Pakistan, and steelworkers in rapidly modernizing Anshan, China.
“Workingman’s Death can be seen as a last hymn (thus, a John Zorn soundtrack) to the worker—Promethean allusions abound—but at the same time it is a chronicle of disappearance, not least of class consciousness, a moving and important contemporary document as well as another testament to its relentlessly globetrotting director’s universal curiosity.” —Christoph Huber and Olaf Möller, Cinema Scope
Michael Glawogger, Austria, 1987, 35mm, 3m
Climb Mount Fuji
But slowly, slowly! —Kobayashi Issa