An agit-prop hallucination inspired by Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetsky March.

Empires Of Tin by Jem Cohen

The Vienna International Film Festival (Viennale) takes place in October of each year. For the 2007 edition, New York filmmaker Jem Cohen was commissioned to close the festival, which he did with his program entitled Evening’s Civil Twilight In Empires Of Tin. This piece, inspired by Joseph Roth’s novel The Radetsky March, is a meditation on the decline of empires, juxtaposing images from the twilight stages of the Hapsburg empire and WWI with footage from present-day Vienna and Cohen’s hometown of Brooklyn, NY, where he traces his own visual meditations on the twilight of American empire. An impressionistic narrative is constructed through live readings from the texts of Joseph Roth, and a live musical score performed by Vic Chesnutt, members from The Silver Mt Zion, Guy Piciotto (Fugazi), and The Quavers. The music includes improvisations, wonderfully blown-out interpretations of Strauss’ “The Radetsky March”, and bracing renditions of a number of Vic Chesnutt songs. The result is a sort of agit-prop hallucination, a string of film vignettes bound by the poetry of Roth’s writing and by the sounds and songs of the live musicians.

This 2007 film performance was recorded (audio and video) by the Viennale. Video footage of the live event was then combined with Cohen’s original film footage and edited in Vienna by Jem. The live audio was mixed at the Hotel2Tango in Montreal by some of the participating musicians. The resulting DVD is a politically charged and unique hybrid of concert and film — a document of a very special multi-media performance, and one hailed as one of the highlights of the Viennale.

Empires Of Tin was co-released on DVD by The Viennale and Constellation. It received its premiere screening at the 2008 Viennale.
Release date: 26 January 2009
Running time: 100:00

16mm film and DV footage by Jem Cohen.
Live video of film performance shot by the Viennale crew.
Produced by Jem Cohen and Paolo Calamita (Viennale).
Video post-production by Andreas Neureiter and Golden Girls (Vienna).
Audio mix and post-production at the Hotel2Tango by Thierry Amar, Efrim Menuck, Radwan Moumneh and Harris Newman. ✪


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