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Press > Press releases > PR 5: Oldenburg honors Rock‘n’Roll Rebel Auteur - Director George Armitage - with Retrospective

PR 5: Oldenburg honors Rock‘n’Roll Rebel Auteur - Director George Armitage - with Retrospective


“I’ve always tried to include something subversive, not hidden from anyone, just for my own interests”. George Armitage

This personal credo of one of America’s most enigmatic auteurs resonates throughout his body of work, wherein portraits of misfits and outcasts are uniquely informed by his deadpan humor, wry political commentary, and intimate knowledge of the sub-cultures he captures. Shot entirely on location, his films are like time capsules – infused with iconographic figures and genre bending satire. Creating characters memorably captured by such talents as Morgan Freeman, Owen Wilson, and Kris Kristofferson, he’s launched or re-defined the careers of many, including Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and John Cusack.      

Beginning in the late 60s making movies for Hollywood’s King of counter-culture, Roger Corman, the young auteur and his rising-star peers Johnathan Kaplan, Johnathan Demme, Joe Dante, and Allan Arkush broke rules and irreverently pushed boundaries with their self-described “45RPM Rock ‘n’ Roll” movies.

A decade earlier, in 1956, at age 13, he had moved from his hometown in Connecticut to the racially mixed neighborhood of Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, where surfing, music, hot-rods, and drive-in’s presented a culture shock and teenage paradise which would inform and fuel his authentic signature as a filmmaker.

The Oldenburg International Film Festival is honored to present a Retrospective of seven films incorporating his works as both a writer and director. 1971s Gas-s-s-s marked his debut as a writer. Given only a title and a one-line concept by director Roger Corman to follow (“Everybody over 30 dies”), a freewheeling post-apocalyptic parody of genres and youth culture resulted, in which Armitage also debuted an as an actor, aptly playing the outlaw Billy The Kid. In 1972, he wrote and directed Hit Man, a Blackploitation twist on Get Carter, ingeniously setting it in the African-American community with Bernie Casey in its lead. With 1976s Vigilante Force to be released during the Bicentennial craze, Armitage wove coded references to the Revolutionary War throughout, challenging revisionist historians with a thinly veiled role-reversal of Vietnam as an American town is taken over by a psychotic invader, and with a wink to Cagney’s White Heat.  

In 1979s Hot Rod, Armitage took a vivid drive down memory lane, recalling the hot rod car culture of his youth. Starring Gregg Henry as an outsider with a James Dean red jacket, this cult classic is considered by film lovers and car enthusiasts alike as one of the best street racer movies of all times.

After a decade of writing, he returned to the director’s chair with his spectacular adaptation of Charles Willeford’s novel Miami Blues. Starring Alec Baldwin as one of film history’s most unforgettable and hilarious anti-heroes, although Armitage was the first as the 90s market became flooded with crime novel capers, his audacious balance between satire and gravitas was too unfamiliar in tone to be recognized at the time as the nonconformist masterpiece it is.     

Ever ready to take a bullet, John Cusack headlined Grosse Point Blank as Armitage’s next comedic anti-hero: the hit man with an identity crisis. A subversive satire on everything American culture holds sacred, it met with critical acclaim for its saucy stabs at the questionable ethics of America’s heartland.

In 2004, his adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel The Big Bounce came to screen. In a dream cast of misfits, Owen Wilson stars alongside such esteemed actors as Morgan Freeman, Charlie Sheen and Harry Dean Stanton. But with no faith that an R-rated comedy could make money, the film was butchered for a PG-13 rating, destroying any trace of Leonard, and Armitage hit the road with his uncut director’s version - and both disappeared.

After a decade of silence, George Armitage will attend Oldenburg to present his films from Sept. 16-20. It is our honor.




GOD OF HAPPINESS: Dito Tsintsadze. Germany, Georgia (WP)

The acclaimed filmmaker has garnered many awards including the prestigious Silver Leopard. And with his masterful eye, he magically capturesthe complicated relationship between a father and daughter who have been estranged for a decade, as its deep and bitter message is delivered with extraordinary humor and profound pathos.

DARK: Nick Basile. USA (WP)

Cassavettes meets Hitchcock in this gritty psychological thriller. Set in New York during the biggest blackout in American history - as darkness descends upon the city, Whitney Able stars as a woman forced to confront her greatest fears as she fights to survive through the night. With no escape, her paranoia grows in this journey into the darkness of ones own mind.

TOO LATE: Dennis Hauck. USA (IP)

In his stunning debut, the tangled world of a private investigator becomes a wildly woven tapestry of Southern California and the lost souls who inhabit it.  With a gut-wrenching performance by John Hawkes, it tells the story of a missing woman, but paints the portrait of a lost man.

DIXIELAND: Hank Bedford. USA (IP)

Chris Zylka and Riley Keough sizzle as star-crossed lovers in this Mississippi pot-boiler. Framed as a crime-thriller, and intercut with real-life interviews with local characters, Bedford’s debut seethes with atmospheric poetry and heartbreaking emotional heat as it simmers deep into the soul.

ONE WILD MOMENT: Jean- François Richet. France (DP)

Vincent Cassel and François Cluzet charm the screen in this steamy remake of the 1977 originalas best friends on holiday with their teen daughters. And when the divorced Cassel finds himself having sex with Cluzet’s daughter, temperatures rise as summer heats up.


As the undisputed indie breakout hit of 2015, Baker has blown away critics and audiences alike with his inspirational odyssey into the transgender subculture of LA - never before captured with such joyful and candid authenticity, and never before on an iPhone.


Stills and further material can be found here.