Hellmuth Costard’s Rare 1970 soccer Film


March 5th, 2010

For the rest of the world, “football” equals soccer and passions and obsessions run deep. It’s hard to imagine an American filmmaker focusing on a single player for an entire game or match, but that’s just what German filmmaker Hellmuth Costard did in 1970 – filmed Manchester United star George Best for an entire match (long before British artist Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno made their 2006 variant “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait”).

FOOTBALL AS NEVER BEFORE (1970, 105 mins, 16mm on video, Germany), is legendary among soccer aficionados and one of the great works of post-WWII German cinema, but is little known here and rarely screened (no prints are available in the U.S.). White Light Cinema is pleased to provide an alternate sports-fix to baseball spring training.

Like the film, director Hellmuth Costard (1940-2000) is little known in the U.S. He was part of the vibrant New German Cinema movement of the 1960s and 70s – which included Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders, and others – that revitalized and revolutionized German film. Costard was more of an avant-gardist than the better-known names of the period, and his work is more often aligned with Alexander Kluge, Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, and Klaus Wyborny. His work ranges from experimental films, allusive narratives, documentaries, children’s television and a child’s storybook, to magazine cartoons.

“The sun shone on Old Trafford on 12th September 1970 as Manchester United beat Coventry 2:0 in a league match. It was not an important victory; that season Man Utd would only be also-rans in the race for the championship. But a record was preserved of the match that is probably unique in the history of film and television. Using eight 16mm cameras, Hellmuth Costard, one of the most important experimental filmmakers in German cinema of the 60s and 70s, followed every move over the 90 minutes of the man in the red jersey with the number 11 – traditionally associated with the conventional outside left, but here worn by the mercurial George Best.” (Goethe Institut)

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