Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna 2006 offered triple programming in the cinemas Lumière 1, Lumière 2, and Arlecchino, with Peter von Bagh as artistic director. All programmes were significant, but as it was impossible to cover but a third, I parked at Lumière 1, tightly scheduled with ambitious short film programmes and expert introductions. The actual schedule was often ultra-tight non-stop for 4-5 hours, with coffee breaks erased because of swelling in actual programme durations, but common lunch and dinner breaks gave ample opportunities for meetings.
The silent film crop was excellent. We are experiencing the harvest time of the silent film revival, which started in the 1970s. Still in the 1980s one often had to endure poor presentations of silent films even when superior elements existed. Now as a rule what we see is "as good as it gets" from the elements that survive. The archival standards are higher, the filmographic knowledge is on a new level, and there is a wide range of professional research into silent cinema, which helps make better sense of the films. The result is a new profundity in the silent cinema experience.
The Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary with a discussion over the the fate of the cinema experience and the photochemical film in the digital era. David Robinson made the best statement saying that in presentation, if digital can achieve the level of film, there is no problem with digital; the ethical criterion for restoration and reconstruction is: would the film artist thank you; in preservation, forget digital.
RITROVATI I RESTAURATI
Maciste (IT 1915), PC: Itala, D: Luigi Romano Borgnetto, Vincenzo Denizot, starring Bartolomeo Pagano. Restored (2006) by Cineteca di Bologna and Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, based on a nitrate positive at Nederlands Filmmuseum, tinted and toned, presenta Alberto Barbera, Davide Pozzi, ♪ Antonio Coppola, 1350 m /18 fps/ 65'. A meta-film, a playful sequel to Cabiria, a modern story, where a heiress in distress sees Maciste on screen in a cinema screening Cabiria, and goes to Itala studios to get the strongman for rescue. It's light entertainment, but there are witty ideas there. The concept resembles Sherlock, Jr. and The Purple Rose of Cairo, with the difference that the lady does not enter the screen illusion but finds the "real" hero in the film studio.
Les Gaz mortels (FR 1916), PC: Le Film d'Art, D+SC: Abel Gance, DP: Léonce-Henri Burel. Restored (2006) from an incomplete original negative by Cinémathèque française with help from Gance's screenplay in Cinémathèque de Toulouse, presenta Claudine Kauffmann, ♪ Alain Baents, 1449 m /18 fps/ 70'. For the first time since the first run the film makes sense in this reconstruction, stated CK. It is an interesting work in the history of the catastrophe film. Sabotage at an American factory unleashes a poisonous gas cloud which threatens a whole city. The use of gas masks and the horrendous impact of gas poisoning were topical matters during the Great War. Penny-dreadful elements in the storytelling; fascinating images of snake-hunting in Mexico and poison being elicited from snakes in Texas. Many instances of Gance and Burel's striking visual sense.
Hearts are Trumps (US 1920), PC: Metro Pictures, D: Rex Ingram, SC: June Mathis, DP: John Seitz, ED: Grant Whytock, starring Alice Terry. Restored (2005) by Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique from a nitrate positive, sous-titres français, tinted, ♪ Alain Baents, 1841 m /18 fps/ 90'. I left after the first boring 15 minutes of the film the print of which suffered from heavy tinting and high contrast. The dream team got their act together next year in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Store forventninger / Great Expectations (DK 1922), PC: Nordisk, D: A.W. Sandberg, based on the novel by Dickens, a short version, sous-titres français, preserved by Cinémathèque française, ♪ Antonio Coppola, 1701 m /20 fps/ 74'. Sandberg, probably the finest Danish film director of his time, was a Dickens expert, and there is a strong feeling for the eccentric characters here, expressively visualized. Although David Lean directed the best film adaptation of the novel, this one holds its own in comparison, and maybe influenced Lean. The original long version exists at DFI; this short French print was beautifully toned.
The Open Road (GB 1924-1926), P+D: Claude Friese-Greene, reconstructed (2006) from nitrate original negatives by NFTVA / BFI, via digital intermediates, presenta Kieron Webb, ♪ Neil Brand, /24 fps/ 65'. A pioneer of colour cinematography, Claude Friese-Greene shot 26 travelogue episodes in Great Britain in 1924-1926 in his own special two-colour process. The original exhibition technique caused heavy flicker in the presentation. NFTVA has now reconstructed the films in flickerless two-colour, which looks better than the original, in the sense of realizing the full potential of the original. The colour reconstruction is very successful, but there is a lifeless quality in the image due to the digital processing. Claude Friese-Greene takes us from Land's End to John O'Groats on the British west coast by car. The original episodes have been judiciously edited by NFTVA. However, the film never rises above the basic travelogue.
Verdun, visions d'histoire (FR 1928), D: Léon Poirier, restoration carried out by L'Immagine Ritrovata (2006) from an interpositive printed at Gosfilmofond and preserved at Cinémathèque de Toulouse by Xavier Berthet, presentano Natacha Laurent, Martine Offroy, Gian Luca Farinelli, ♪ original score by André Petiot, arranged by A. Bernard, performed on the piano by Hakim Bentchouala Golobitch, 3449 m [/20 fps/ 153' announced], actually 149'. This remarkable film, a highlight of the Festival, is not a documentary compilation but a fiction film in the best French Realist tradition. Its precise documentation and multi-perspective storytelling from both sides of the front make it a predecessor of The Longest Day. It covers the strategic significance of the battlefield with ample animation and the individual experience of the soldier and the civilian with good actors (including Antonin Artaud as "The Intellectual"). This French film should interest the Germans, as well, with its lively portrayal of Kaiser Wilhelm, for instance. The extraordinary carnage of Verdun with its hundreds of thousands of casualties signified the loss of glory in warfare forever, and Poirier fully conveys its desolation, while paying some lip service to the patriotic impulse in this officially backed expensive film monument. Film and print have high visual quality. A landmark in the history of the war film.
Ljodolom / The Ice Breaks (SU 1931), PC: Mezhrabpomfilm, D: Boris Barnet, from Cinémathèque française, ♪ Maud Nelissen, 1786 m /24 fps/ 65'. Barnet's last silent film belongs to the same cycle as Starije i novoje (Eisenstein), Zemlja (Dovzhenko) and Krestjanje (Ermler). It's different from Barnet humoristic films such as Devoshka s korobkom and Okraina. Clearly influenced by Dovzhenko, maybe by Vertov, it has an unusual visual style and sense of form for the director. The feeling for the earth, for sensuality, and for the cycle of nature is strong. We witness a time of brutal violence in the fight over the earth in the era of forced collectivization, with the big land-owners as the sole villain. A disturbing film from an era when truth was suppressed.
Der heilige Berg (DE 1926), PC: Ufa, D: Arnold Fanck, DP: Sepp Allgeier, Hans Schneeberger, Helmar Lerski, starring Leni Riefenstahl (the ballerina Diotima), Luis Trenker (the mountain climber), Ernst Petersen (Vigo), FWMS, restored (2001) with Bundesarchiv and Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, presenta Friedemann Beyer, ♪ Marco Dalpane, 3100 m [/24 fps/ 83' announced], actually 95'. A masterpiece of the mountain film and the ski film. A glorification of the communion of man and nature. Visions of nature's grandeur. A triangle romance between a dancer and two mountain climbers. The stormy sea, the wild mountain rivers, the devastating ravines, the unsurmountable North Wall. I have never seen better ski scenes on film. Wonderful sequence of the night ski patrol. The climax is about the ultimate trial of the mountain climber, when one has to sacrifice the other, or both will perish. There is an original score by Edmund Meisel, which it would be interesting to hear. Beautifully tinted and toned.
WILLIAM S. HART, STAR OF THE WEST
A cura di Richard and Diane Koszarski
The William S. Hart Westerns are about the conflict between wilderness and civilization, and his star persona is a battleground for both. The stories are ideal material for an actor, who gets to display extremely different sides of a single character, including the polar opposites of good and evil. There is a sense of realism in Hart's Western milieux, and also a sense of the elementary mythic forces of the stories. Encounters with women and children are important. Without them, the man is doomed to stay a wild being. He must tame the town for the woman, and facing the child, he finally grows up himself. The Western is about the birth of society, law, justice, and conscience. The Western starts in the wilderness of the soul, but the state of utter egoism is arid and lonely, based on lies and deception. It is the road of spiritual death. Redemption is the true story of William S. Hart's "soul fights", as the contemporary critics called them. They are adventures of the conscience. The films are full with action and laconic humour, also in the witty intertitles.
On the Night Stage / Postrøveren fra Montana (US 1915), PC: New York Motion Picture Company, P: Thomas H. Ince, D: Reginald Barker, SC: C. Gardner Sullivan, starring William S. Hart ("Silent" Texas Smith), GEH, restored from a 28mm positive with Danish intertitles, ♪ Donald Sosin, 1161 m /16 fps/ 63'. The William S. Hart star persona is already mature in his second feature film. In his calm charisma as the strong silent man he is the first in a series of Western heroes that continues with Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, and Clint Eastwood. Already he has a good producer, screenwriter, and director comparable with the dream team around Randolph Scott in the 1950s. William S. Hart's hero is already the good badman, the bandit who faces some devastating experience, which forces him to change his life. The milieu is already the lawless frontier town, which must be made fit to live for women and children. The laconic wit of the intertitles can be sensed even in this Danish version. GEH has done a great job with the 28mm material. The definition of light in this print is better than in most of the other films in the Hart retrospective.
The Taking of Luke McVane / The Fugitive (US 1915), PC: New York Motion Picture Company, P: Thomas H. Ince, D+starring: William S. Hart (as Luke McVane), MoMA, print (1992) from a diacetate print from the original camera negative, ♪ Donald Sosin, /19 fps/ 26'. In self-defense, Luke shoots a card cheat. An escalating tragedy starts as he escapes an imminent lynch mob. His friend Mercedes helps him by creating a false trail in the sand, but the sheriff finds Luke. In a tragic twist, they meet an Apache renegade band.
"Bad Buck" of Santa Ynez (US 1915), PC: New York Motion Picture Company, P: Thomas H. Ince, D+starring William S. Hart (as "Bad Buck" Peters), Library of Congress from a nitrate positive at the AFI/Miller collection, 1924 Tri-Stone reissue, ♪ Gabriel Thibaudeau, 530 m /18 fps/ 26'. Bad Buck Peters insults the sheriff, but escaping the posse he meets a covered wagon where the father has died, helps bury him, and then the little girl is bit by a rattlesnake. Peters sucks the poison from the wound and rides back to get "the only doctor in Santa Ynez, specialist in snake bites and delirium tremens". The doctor arrives on time, but in a tragic ending Peters collapses having sacrificed his life for the girl.
The Return of Draw Egan (US 1916), PC: Triangle (Kay-Bee), P: Thomas H. Ince, D+starring: William S. Hart ("Draw" Egan / William Blake), SC: C. Gardner Sullivan, DP: Joe August, also starring Louise Glaum (Poppy), Photoplay, Digibeta (alas) transfer (2006) from an original tinted Kodascope positive, presenta Kevin Brownlow, ♪ Gabriel Thibaudeau, 55'. Egan the bandit arrives into the Round-Up Saloon in Yellow Dog, the town of broken hope, changes his name to William Blake (qf. Jim Jarmusch: Dead Man!) and is appointed sheriff. He is caught between two women, the kind Myrtle and Poppy the queen of the dance hall. A bandit companion of Egan's, Arizona Joe, teams with Poppy, and they expose Egan. After the showdown he is prepared to quit, but asked to stay as a marshal and a friend. "I reckon I better be goin'". Myrtle: "Even if I ask you to stay?". Egan: "In that case it'll take dynamite to move me".
The Narrow Trail (US 1917), PC: William S. Hart Productions for Paramount-Artcraft. D: Lambert Hillyer, DP: Joe August, starring William S. Hart ("Ice" Harding), Sylvia Breamer (Betty Werdin), Cinémathèque française (1997) from a safety dupe negative with flash titles>lengthened, French/English intertitles, ♪ Neil Brand, 1454 m /20 fps/ 64'. "The beginning of the end" is the memorable intertitle when the outlaw meets woman. But this time the girl that changes the outlaw's life is an outlaw, herself, Betty "the undisputed queen of the Barbary Coast honky tonk". The ironic double twist is that meeting each other, they see purity, and the truth (that they are a robber and a whore) is a terrible disappointment for both. The films contrasts the purity of the mountains with the true wild west of the San Francisco underworld. "The narrow trail that leads to the light" is Biblically contrasted with "the crooked road that leads into darkness". Of equal importance is Fritz, Hart's beloved little pinto pony; the film was conceived as a love poem to him! Magnificent scenes and action due to a bigger budget.
Selfish Yates (US 1918), PC: William S. Hart Productions for Paramount-Artcraft. D+starring: William S. Hart (as "Selfish" Yates), SC: C. Gardner Sullivan, DP: Joe August, also starring Jane Novak (Mary Adams), MoMA (2005), colour with supplemental tint flashing as well as using additive lamps, world premiere of the print, presenta Anne Morra, ♪ Gabriel Thibaudeau, 1257 m /19 fps/ 57'. This screening of this great Hart film was its first in decades. It's a tall tale resembling a Biblical parable or a fairy-tale with its bold stylization and intentional caricature. There is something Balzacian in the juicy exaggeration of a single character trait. Yates is a man whose selfishness borders on the proverbial, and his young protégé Hotfoot ("nameless offspring of a 'departed' showgirl"), is a terrible miniature image of Yates. Again a father dies in a covered wagon, and two orphan daughters arrive in the awful desert city, to the gambling saloon of selfish Yates. It's Hotfoot whose encounter with the younger daughter starts him thinking, and it's he who first takes alphabet lessons with the girls. Riley saves Mary from his rapist partner, and, at Mary's request, more dangerously, he stops the lynching party for the partner, for the citizens have realized that "she's the only good thing this town's known".
The Toll Gate (Cowboypäällikkö, US 1920), PC: William S. Hart Company, D: Lambert Hillyer, DP: Joe August, starring William S. Hart (Black Deering), Anna Q. Nilsson (Mary Brown), MoMA (early 1970s) probably from Hart's own 1929 nitrate print, ♪ Alain Baents, 1518 m /20 fps/ 66'. Black Deering wants to disband his gang of outlaws, but Tom Jordan persuades them to a last great train robbery. The bandits are killed except BD who is arrested and TJ who had betrayed them. BD escapes from the moving train, and when he does not get a job in the town, he sets it on fire. During the two-day escape from the sheriff's posse his horse is killed. He saves the little son of Mary Brown from drowning, and gets to play husband and dad as the posse arrives. The play turns into reality, but not before a final terrible showdown with TJ. As the title of the film (like that of The Narrow Trail) reveals, it's a Biblical lesson, with a direct reference to the Sermon on the Mount: "by their fruit ye shall know them". Clean, strong cinematography by Joe August.
The Testing Block (Sierra Bill: taistelu naisesta, US 1920), PC: William S. Hart Company, for Paramount-Artcraft, D: Lambert Hillyer, DP: Joe August, starring William S. Hart ("Sierra" Bill), Eva Novak (Nelly Gray), Cinémathèque française, ♪ Neil Brand, 1820 m /20 fps/ 78'. The life of the bandits at its most arid, and the frustration of the bandit chief at its greatest. He is really fed up with the all-male drinking and fighting. The turning-point is the meeting with a travelling minstrel show with the "girl with the magic bow". The masked bandits order the players to perform at gunpoint, but the sound of the violin touches the bottom of their souls. Sierra Bill is a swine, himself, and when he spares the girl from an abject fate in the hands of the criminals, he weds her at gunpoint. Jump in time: "the drink-crazed being" has turned "into a being of tenderness". The bandit companion from the past sets a psychological trap of mistrust for the happy family, a weapon more terrible than guns. Child, horse, and woman are all significant in the final battle.
The Whistle (Vihellyspilli, US 1921), PC: William S. Hart Company, for Paramount-Artcraft, D: Lambert Hillyer, DP: Joe August, starring William S. Hart (Robert Evans), Library of Congress (1975) from a nitrate positive from AFI/AMPAS, ♪ Donald Sosin, 1633 originally, [1377 m /20 fps/ 60' announced], actually 71'. The motto refers to Plato and Socrates and the old conflict between capital and labour. It's an industrial story about the rich man and the poor man. The girl they both loved has selected the rich man. William S. Hart is the poor man, a factory foreman, a single father, who has to keep his young boy employed at the factory. In a splatter image, the most shocking image of the Hart oeuvre, the boy gets stuck in the conveyor belt, and we witness him whacked to death on-screen. Hart rescues the boss's boy in an accident that is also related to the boss's gross negligence of labour safety; believed dead, the boy grows up with Hart on a huge dam construction site. The mother is mentally crippled by the loss of the child. An accident brings them all together, and Hart, by the "punishing inquisition of his own conscience", does the right thing, as does the boss, who sets about better labour safety.
Tumbleweeds (Aavikon kulkuri, US 1925), PC: William S. Hart Company, for UA, D: King Baggot, SC: C. Gardner Sullivan, DP: Joe August, starring William S. Hart (Don Carver), Barbara Bedford (Molly Lassiter), Academy Film Archive & Film Preservation Associates (2006) from a dupe negative, presenta Mike Pogorzelski, ♪ Marco Dalpane, /22 fps/ 85'. Hart's last film is his "end of the West" saga. Might this be the earliest film to explicitly use the term? It's one of the 1920s epic Westerns (Covered Wagon, The Iron Horse, 3 Bad Men). A strong finale to a great oeuvre, though somewhat clumsier than some other Hart films. The exciting land rush sequence obviously inspired John Ford in 3 Bad Men (1926). The theme song "I'm a tumblin' tumbleweed" about a wandering cowboy. is quoted in the intertitles and was ignored by the pianist. The print is OK with a duped look.
Tumbleweeds Prologue to 1939 Reissue, from the original negative (2006), 9', William S. Hart's talking testimony, the most moving "extra" in Western film history.
PERFORMING PASSIONS: SARAH BERNHARDT AND THE SILENT SCREEN
A cura di Victoria Duckett
The legend of the stage, Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), made her first feature film at 68, and after her right leg was amputated at 72, continued starring in feature films. I think her charisma is more in evidence in her early short films, and although the agenda of the retrospective was to question the received opinion of her film work as representative of the obsolete mastodont style of the static Film d'Art school, for me it confirmed that this is indeed the case. Stage charisma does not automatically translate into screen charisma.
Le Duel d'Hamlet (FR 1900), P+D: Clément Maurice, 1', Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet duelling with Laertes, impressive
La Dame aux camélias (FR 1911), PC: Le Film d'Art, D: André Calmettes, Henri Pouctal, starring Sarah Bernhardt (Marguerite Gauthier), Lou Tellegen [his first film] (Armand Duval), 16', impressive histrionics, especially SB's famous "standing death" scene.
Les Amours de la Reine Elisabeth / Queen Elizabeth (FR 1912), PC: Le Film d'Art, Histrionic Film, D: Louis Mercanton, Henri Desfontaines, based on the play by Emile Moreau, starring Sarah Bernhardt (Queen Elizabeth), Lou Tellegen (Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex), English intertitles, MoMA (1992) from a 1916 dupe negative and an acetate dupe negative, ♪ Alain Baents, 1006 m /16 fps/ 55'. At first, the image in the print seems about to break down, but it gets better, and is at times quite enjoyable. Done in the histrionic Film d'Art style. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) based on Maxwell Anderson's play follows the same story structure quite closely. Bette Davis and Errol Flynn are certainly superior in their roles. The plot of this film goes on after Elizabeth has had Essex executed, showing the Queen's agony ("never had a happy moment", "gradually faded away") and the inevitable "standing death" scene. Sic transit gloria mundi. And Sarah Bernhardt takes the bow. Better than I remembered from Pordenone's The Road to Hollywood (1988) screening.
Sarah Bernhardt à Belle Isle (FR 1912), PC: Le Film d'Art, 20'. Victoria Duckett states that this must be one of the first films to offer a supposedly "intimate" vision of a celebrity's private life, with views of SB's holiday in her retreat in Bretagne.
Jeanne Doré (FR 1916), PC: Eclipse, D: Louis Mercanton, René Hervil, based on the play by Tristan Bernard [the first film based on his work], starring Sarah Bernhardt (Jeanne Doré), Raymond Bernard [his first film role and his only starring role] (her son, Jacques Doré), Cinémathèque française, restored (1984) by Renée Lichtig, ♪ Alain Baents (?), 1594 m /18 fps/ 79'. With this film, SB moved from spectacle to melodrama. Shot soon after the amputation of her right leg. The story of the long-suffering mother: her husband loses all in gambling and commits suicide, Jeanne the single mother makes a living running a little stationer's store, but it's her only son Jacques' turn to ruin his life, losing their money for another man's wife with expensive tastes; he takes the path of crime with tragic results. Raymond Bernard went on to a great future as a film director. The main interest here is to witness his film debut in such good company. Beautiful print with a fine, subtle tinting.
Mères françaises (FR 1917), PC: Eclipse, D: Louis Mercanton, René Hervil, SC: Jean Richepin, starring Sarah Bernhardt (Mme Jean d'Urbex), Jean Angelo (Robert d'Urbex), AFF / CNC (1996) from a positive print, presenta Victoria Duckett, ♪ Maud Nelissen, 1568 m /18 fps/ 76'. SB moves back to spectacle, a big patriotic production on the Great War. Beautiful colour copied from vintage elements. I watched but the beginning and end.
GERMAINE DULAC, CINEMA PUR
A cura di Tami Williams
La Cigarette (FR 1919), D: Germaine Dulac, Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique, presenta Tami Williams, ♪ Maud Nelissen, Finn Möricke, 1156 m /18 fps/ 56'. TW: Dulac's earliest surviving film announces all the elements of the Impressionist film movement she helped launch soon after: location shooting, realist acting, symbolist iconography, associative montage, musical analogy. The film features one of the most patently liberated young heroines as well as one of the most distressed and suicide-driven male heroes of her oeuvre. This unrestrained liberty in expressing progressive women's roles, visible in its purest form here, gradually eroded in the face of post-war neo-natalist moral discourse. D. soon turned to 'suggestion' in order to express certain notions of emancipation. - Somewhat boringly morbid, certainly original film, with certain fine scenes (the fight over the cigarette). The elder husband suspects his young wife to be unfaithful and plans to poison himself with a poisoned cigarette.
La Fête espagnole (FR 1920), D: Germaine Dulac, Cin. fr., ♪ Maud Nelissen, Finn Möricke, originally 1671 m, surviving fragment 170 m /18 fps/ 8'.
La Belle Dame sans merci (FR 1921), D: Germaine Dulac, NFM, ♪ Maud Nelissen, Finn Möricke, 1790 m /18 fps/ 87'. TW: D. revisits the 19th century femme fatale stereotype in order to set up a caricature of the heroine, Lola de Sandoval, which she then proceeds to deconstruct. To this end, she employs symbolist mise-en-scène, associative montage, and reflexive narrative techniques. - Theoretically interesting but actually somewhat boring, with some delectable parodic scenes with the bathing vamp examining love letters.
La souriante Madame Beudet (FR 1923), D: Germaine Dulac, NFM, ♪ Maud Nelissen, Finn Möricke, 773 m /18 fps/ 38'. TW: Considered Dulac's 'Impressionist' masterpiece. Based on an avant-garde play by André Obey, it presents the 'inner life' of a young modern woman hoping to escape an oppressive marriage. Her feminine point-of-view and her desire to explore modern life are communicated through gesture, movement, rhythm, and innovative technical effects. References to Baudelaire, Debussy, and Pre-Raphaelite painting. - A mixture of many forms of cinematic expression, from Realism till Expressionism, the young lady's agony is expressed with all visual means, the husband is a brutish nightmare figure with his games of Russian roulette. Playing with death.
Gossette (FR 1923), PC: Société des Cinéromans, P: Louis Nalpas, D: Germaine Dulac, ass. dir. Marie-Anne Malleville, based on the novel by Charles Vayre, starring Régine Bouet (Gossette), Jean-David Evremond (Robert de Tayrac), Monique Chrysès (Lucienne Dornay), Georges Charlia (Philippe de Savières), Restored (1988) Cin. fr. / Renée Lichtig from a nitrate positive, nitrate negative, and an interpositive. 18 fps
Gossette I: La Nuit tragique, 1119 m / 55', ♪ Donald Sosin
Gossette II: Le Revenant, 871 m / 43', ♪ Alain Baents
Gossette III: Face à face, 1037 m / 50', ♪ Neil Brand
Gossette IV: L'Embûche, 919 m / 45', ♪ Donald Sosin
Gossette V: Les Lettres volées, 827 m / 41', ♪ Antonio Coppola
Gossette VI: La Vengeance du mort, 691 m / 34', ♪ Maud Nelissen
The "morning serial" of the year showed Dulac's approach to popular entertainment. She injects it with all kinds of visually inventive ideas. But this is already the age of Entzauberung, the magic of the great Feuillade serials is vanishing, although in the same year the Albatros team produces the best serial of all, La Maison du mystère. The story is about a complicated murder frame-up to direct a huge fortune to the hands of the villain. The two worlds of the story are the rich elite and the circus world. Gossette the orphan girl is both the rescued and the rescuer. The screenplay is not always compelling, and the villainy of Jean-David Evremond as Robert de Tayrac gets boring with too many monotonous evil stares. The definition of light is good in this beautiful print.
Le Diable dans la ville (FR 1924), PC: Société des Cinéromans, P: Louis Nalpas, D: Germaine Dulac, ass. dir.: Marie-Anne Malleville, AD: Marco de Gastyne, Cin. fr. (1965) from a negative, ♪ Antonio Coppola, 1642 m /20 fps/ 80'. TW: This social satire, based on a script by Jean-Louis Bouquet, tells the story of a forward-thinking philosopher whose arrival in a medieval village is suspected of bringing misfortune to its inhabitants. Dulac's use of technical effects (distortions, superimpositions) to convey the subjective vision of the affected villagers creates an unreliable narration. In the end we descover not only that the madmen were never mad, but that the "visions" never existed. - This film was a little boring.
Ame d'artiste (Kun taiteilijat rakastavat, FR 1925), PC: Ciné-France-Film (Westi Consortium), D: Germaine Dulac, ass. dir.: Marie-Anne Malleville, SC: GD & Alexandre Volkoff, DP: Jules Kruger, Nicolas Toporkoff, AD: Alexandre Lochakoff, starring: Ivan Pétrovich (Herbert Campbell the poet), Nicolas Koline, Mabel Poulton (Helen Taylor), Yvette Andréyor, Henry Houry (lord Stamford), Gina Manès, Charles Vanel, Cin. fr. (1985) with NFTVA from a nitrate negative, ♪ Gabriel Thibaudeau, 2032 m /18 fps/ 100'. Beautiful print, expert cinematography by Kruger & Toporkoff in the elegant international style of the high late silent era, Dulac meets the Albatros team of Russian émigré film artists. It is a tragic love story. Lord Stamford is the financier of the theatre and the mentor of its star Helen Taylor. Helen falls in love with a poet, who perishes in heartbreak and alcohol on the very night when Helen has a triumphant premiere with his play. "La gloire en lettres de feu n'est pas synonyme de bonheur". "Les cordes de ma lyre sont brisées". In the lord's magnificent apartment there is a mummy in a sarcophagus, exactly like the one in La Cigarette. A strong prologue, a play in a play, with Charles Vanel the violent husband attacking Gina Manès as the wife. - Interesting ideas, the whole is not as inspired as one would wish.
L'Invitation au voyage (FR 1927), D: Germaine Dulac, NFM (1999), ♪ Maud Nelissen, Finn Möricke, 797 m /18 fps/ 39'. TW: Dulac called this film a "melody of images", named after a Symbolist poem by Baudelaire and a melody by Duparc, one of the best examples of the director's 'cinema of suggestion'. - Hauntingly atmospheric moments.
La Coquille et le clergyman (FR 1928), D: Germaine Dulac, SC: Antonin Artaud, NFM (2004) with Lightcone and ZDF Arte, presenta Tami Williams, ♪ Maud Nelissen, 816 m /18 fps/ 40'. A beautiful restored print, making the best sense for me ever of this film. It's Dulac's most famous film, but I love best both her purely abstract and starkly realistic films. Dulac felt uncomfortable with what I would call the male sexual fantasy aspect of Surrealism. She followed Artaud's script faithfully but not always with conviction.
Disque 957 (FR 1929), D: Germaine Dulac, Cin. fr., 6'. Inspired by Chopin's Preludes 5 and 6 but projected silent as the music does not fit the film. Excellent avantgarde film, bordering on the abstract. Print from battered source material
Etude cinégraphique sur une arabesque (FR 1929), D: Germaine Dulac, NFM, 9'. Inspired by Débussy's Arabesques 1 and 2, but projected silent as the music does not fit the film. TW: Dulac: "cinegraphic ballet" in the form of the arabesque: arcs of light, water spouts, spider webs, burgeoning trees, flowers and foliage, a woman's smile, arms stretching, a leg that rhythms a rocking chair; the most abstract of D's pure films. - An excellent kinetic film, with a fine sense of cinematic rhythm.
Thèmes et variations (FR 1929), D: Germaine Dulac, Cin.fr. (1989), 12', screened silent. A dance film, the ballerina's swirling motion juxtaposed with the movements of machines and time-lapse records of the growth of plants. Beautiful.
Celles qui s'en font (FR 1930), D: Germaine Dulac, Lobster Films, Beta (alas), 6', two startling vignettes with desolate women of the outskirts. Dulac directed six "illustrated records", but we do not know which records fit the films. Lobster's inspired choice: I Fréhel: "Toute seule", and II Germaine Lix: "A la derive". In the history of short music films, these are unique, extraordinary, and unforgettable in their desolation.
Danses espagnoles (FR 1930), D: Germaine Dulac, Lobster Films, Beta (alas), 7'. The film was produced to accompany Columbia Gramophone Records. ♪ Maud Nelissen, based on "Cordoba" and "Sevillanas" by Isaac Albeniz. Two flamenco performances by Carmencita Garcia.
Le Cinéma au service de l'histoire (FR 1935), D: Germaine Dulac, Archives Gaumont-Pathé, 51'. A valuable contribution in the history of the montage film and the compilation film, fascinating also because of its own historical production moment..
France-Actualités Gaumont (FR 1932-1935), Actualités Gaumont (FR 1932-1933), Actualités Gaumont (FR 1932-1935): fashions, toys (the yo-yo), train disasters, funerals, war memories. Her last film: Ce qu'il a dit (1939) juxtaposing the words of Adolf Hitler with his deeds.
GERMAINE DULAC'S CINEMATIC FAMILY: READING OF A DULAC LECTURE WITH FILM EXTRACTS
Sortie des usines Lumière (FR 1895)
The Cheat (US 1915) extract, Beta, alas
La Roue (FR 1922), extract
La Croissance des végétaux (FR 1930), Beta, alas
Germaine Dulac was a co-founder of CASA (Club des amis du septième art), with Ricciotto Canudo in 1921. The compilation included excerpts from three unpublished Dulac lectures from 1925-1929. Excellent, inspired show.
La Femme de l'autre côté de la caméra: Germaine Dulac (FR 2005) D: Tami M. Williams, in collaboration with Laurent Véray and Frederick Frankel. Beta, alas. 9'. A solid biography. Une élégance masculine. La luminosité d'une intelligence.
LOIE FULLER: THE FLOWER OF CINEMA
A cura di Massimo Piovesana
Summarizing Massimo Piovesana's introduction: Loïe Fuller's life and artistic work were driven by a single, consistent urge: the search to express the spirit through light. She became the Muse of the Belle Epoque. The simultaneity of the birth of cinema and the Serpentine Dance, which made Loïe Fuller famous since 1892, goes beyond the chronological. The two spectacles are based on the same fundamental essence: movement and light. There are few film documents of Fuller, herself, but the enormous popularity of the Serpentine Dance made it one of the emblematic subjects of early cinema. All principal production companies filmed their own versions of it. The cinema, through this subject, advanced in its own first steps. The alternation of the symbolic figure of the dancer, gushing forth as if by magic from the unceasing moment of veils, and the phantasmagoric spectacle described by Mallarmé, lead us to speculate on the use of light and colour in film. Early dance films were strongly influenced by Fuller's original choreography, including the Danse du papillon. - The rediscovered fragment of Fuller's surviving feature film, Le Lys de la vie (FR 1921) was interesting just as a curiosity, but the special programmes THE SERPENTINE DANCES, PAPILLONISME I, PAPILLONISME II, and HYBRIDS OR INFLUENCES were extremely interesting.
DE KRI-KRI A DANDY: RAYMOND FRAU DANS TOUT SES ETATS
A cura di Eric Le Roy in collaborazione con Davide Pozzi e Paolo Caneppele, ringraziamente a Laurent Frau
Summarizing Eric Le Roy's introduction: Of all the comedy series, that featuring Dandy is one of the least known and the least studied. It was born after WWI, when the genre was already exhausted. Altogether, Boireau, Onésime, Tommy, Caza, Max, Bébé and Bout-de-Zan, Anana and Cunégonde had made more than 2000 films with some 80 different characters 1908-1918. Coming from the circus, theatre, or music hall, these first comics were pioneers. The French burlesque of that era formed a distinctive school, which inspired American slapstick comedy. The character of Dandy, following in the path of Kri-Kri, was already exceptional in 1918, with Serpentin as his only rival. The comic series already belonged to another age; yet at Eclair, Raymond Frau (1887-1953) was able to sustain his character of Dandy until 1925.
The little man with trousers that were too long and too large, with a dazed look and a face of extraordinary mobility, conquered the public and became one of the most celebrated fantasists of the screen. He only had to appear for the laughter to explode. Perhaps he owed this to the fact that his earlier character of Kri-Kri/Patachon had been widely distributed, to his recognition as a man of the theatre, to his elastic physique, his contortions worthy of an india-rubber man, and to a subtle mix of comic destructor in the spirit of Jean Durand's troupe Les Pouittes, and a certain unflappable composure.
Beside him, Lucienne Legrand appeared in a number of films, sometimes under the name of Lulu.
Frau left the cinema in 1923 for a South American tour, and did not return until the dawn of sound, when he appeared with Jean Gabin in a number of short subjects in 1929. Dandy was active on live stage till the very end, but he made fewer films.
The Dandy films of 1919-1921 were directed by Georges Rémond.
As Kri-Kri, the comedian dreams of The Three Musketeers (Un sogno di Kri-Kri, IT 1913, NFTVA), has opium hallucinations of doubles with his early version of the comic "mirror double" gag as later in Max Linder and Marx Bros. (Kri-Kri fuma l'oppio, IT 1913, NFM+Cineteca Bologna), anticipates Charley Bowers with a miraculous egg powder with wild end results (Kri-Kri gallina, IT 1913, Cineteca del Friuli), does a wonderfully funny and passionate habanera in the best film of his of those I saw (Kri-Kri e il tango, IT 1913, NFM+Cineteca di Bologna), performs in a military farce together with his girlfriend Lea in soldier drag (Kri-Kri e Lea militari, IT 1913, NFM), and as Dandy, does a wonderful slapstick as a streetcleaner who woos a young Countess (Dandy e son rival, FR 1919, AFF+Toulouse 1999), goes into drag as a governess to help his girlfriend enter a ladies' boarding school (Dandy prend des vacances, FR 1919, AFF 2000), imitates early Chaplin in clumsy slapstick at a carpenter's shop (Dandy ébéniste, FR 1920, AFF 2006), experiences a wild farce of misunderstanding aboard a ship (Dandy navigateur, FR 1920, above average in fun, AFF 1998), is seduced and kidnapped mistaken as a garlic king (Dandy et les bandits, FR 1921, beautiful definition of light in a new print, AFF/Cin.fr. 1998, 2006), performs successful services in break-ups of relationships (Dandy briseur d'hyménées, FR 1921, AFF 2006), is mistaken for a real fireman in his movie costume (Dandy als Feuerwehrmann, AT 1923, Österreichisches Filmmuseum), has an Egyptian dream in the spirit of the fascination of the recently unveiled Pharaoh's tomb (Tutankhamen, AT 1923, AFF 1992), and consults a scientist who can detect marital infidelity with his fantastic machine (Le suis-je?, FR 1934, Lobster Films).
THE CHAPLIN PROJECT
For the first time in generations there has been a chance now to see full versions of many films of Chaplin's "prehistoric past" at Keystone Studios. The films are often primitive, based on urges of lust and violence only. Familiar films look different... but not always better, as there is more repetition of the same routines (hitting, kicking, throwing stones, knocking on the head with a fatal mallet...) that were not always funny in the first place.
In some of these films it's not only that CC is evil, but that he is boringly so. He is not even a man we'd love to hate.
But CC's character gets more profound in The Face on the Bar Room Floor and Caught in a Cabaret. We see the dawn of love.
The films were shortened in re-releases not just by wear and tear, but to make them better.
Of some films I have usually seen superior quality in definition of light, but in cropped prints (sonorized with the left side missing). In these prints, there was no longer the annoying digital intermediate look that bothered in some earlier restorations.
His Prehistoric Past (US 1914), D: Charles Chaplin, NFTVA, Cinémathèque Royale. The last Keystone film has a fitting title, summing up the whole of CC's Keystone experience. It's CC's dream with comic cavemen and Bathing Beauties in bulrush skirts. More slapdash than slapstick.
The Fatal Mallet (US 1914), D: Mack Sennett, Cineteca di Bologna / NFTVA / Lobster Films - L'Immagine Ritrovata 2006. Rudimentary knockabout goes on forever.
Caught in a Cabaret (US 1914), D: Mabel Normand, Cineteca di Bologna / NFTVA / Lobster Films - L'Immagine Ritrovata 2006. From a very worn source material, partly xerox-like high contrast (much better image quality in cropped prints), borders on the unwatchable. This print has no intertitles, I seem to remember that the re-issue print identified the CC impersonation as "Count Broko" and Mabel as "Miss Moneybags". The film has funny scenes and often a fine ambience and lively atmosphere, including the climax when the rival brings the sophisticated set to the shabby bar where "the count" is exposed as a waiter.
The Star Boarder (US 1914), D: George Nichols, NFTVA, no intertitles in this print, from "rainy" source material. There is a meta-aspect, as the mischievous son photographs the extra-marital affairs at the boarding house and projects the dias on a screen, creating scandal and mayhem.
The Face on the Bar Room Floor (US 1914), D: Charles Chaplin, Cineteca di Bologna / NFTVA / Lobster Films / SEA - L'Immagine Ritrovata 2006, part of the film looks excellent. This is one of the better CC Keystones, with a version of the "birth of the tramp" myth. Interesting to compare this with La Chienne and Scarlet Street! Jean Renoir certainly paid tribute to CC in his Michel Simon films Boudu and La Chienne.
Between Showers (US 1914), D: Henry Lehrman, NFTVA, a highly improvised touch, three men fighting over Emma Clinton and an umbrella.
The Knockout (US 1914), D: Charles Avery, NFTVA - from MoMA / NFM. It's a Fatty Arbuckle vehicle, not one of his best, but the film certainly picks up in the second act as CC appears as the zealous referee who gets most of the punches. There is a brilliantly choreographed slapstick climax, complete with Keystone Kops, icebear rugs and Minta Durfee with her long hair down. Fatty knocks out the Kops single-handedly!
A Busy Day (US 1914), D: Charles Chaplin, Cineteca di Bologna / NFTVA / Lobster Films - L'Immagine Ritrovata 2006, from battered source material, heavy slapstick with CC in drag
CENTO ANNI FA: I FILM DEL 1906 / 100 YEARS AGO: THE FILMS OF 1906
A cura di Andrea Meneghelli e Luigi Virgolin in collaborazione con Chiara Caranti e con i suggerimenti di Mariann Lewinsky
The inspired concept of "100 Years Ago", this magnificent "festival in a festival", progressed to its fourth edition (1903, 1904, 1905, now 1906). Following the introduction by Luigi Virgolin and Andea Meneghelli: Pathé dominates, Gaumont follows at a good distance, Vitagraph is blooming. Nordisk (Denmark), Lux and Eclipse are founded, and in Italy, Cines and Ambrosio are established. Films get longer, narratives become more complex, scripts undergo considerable development, special effects and tricks are used for storytelling, reconstructed actualities cede to films "from life". Ideas are recycled frequently. The first luxury theater in Paris, the Omnia, is opened.
GREAT BRITAIN: curated by Bryony Dixon, 14 shorts - including the wonderful trick films The "?" Motorist (R.W. Paul), The Cabby's Dream and Motor Pirates, early colour films by G.A. Smith (Tartans of Scottish Clans) and the inevitable Mitchell and Kenyons. An excellent industrial documentary: A Visit to Peek Frean and Co.'s Bisquit Works.
CINES, AMBROSIO, AND OTHER DEBUTS: curated by Giovanni Lasi, 9 shorts, covering the early beginnings of the companies Ambrosio, Eclipse, Cines, Urban, and Nordisk. One of the most startling ones in this programme was La Loi de lynch (FR 1907, PC: Lux), maybe inspired by The White Caps. A gorgeous fantasy item was Un viaggio in una stella (IT 1906), with Gaston Velle directing for Cines, often remaking his Pathé successes.
SOCIETE DES ETABLISSEMENTS GAUMONT: curated by Agnès Bertola, 8 shorts, including the early chronophone sound films Le vrai jiu jitsu with the singer Dranem and Questions indiscrètes with the singer Mayol, Alice Guy's 33-minute La Vie du Christ, and comedies and newsreels.
AUSTRIA: "THE GOLD-DUST FIND": curated by Nikolaus Wostry, 11 shorts, unfortunately I saw only the beginning with the beautiful Les Fleurs animées (FR 1906, D: Gaston Velle) and the funny swinging comedy Noce en goguette (FR 1906).
PATHE FRERES I: curated by Serge Bromberg, 9 shorts including the wonderful Les Roses magiques (D: Segundo de Chomón) and the tragic Pour la fête à sa mère (a little girl's fate during a hunting party). Also the French original Voyage autour d'une étoile (D: Gaston Velle)!
PATHE FRERES II: curated by Henri Bousquet, 4 shorts, with a beautiful print of Vie et passion du Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ (D: Lucien Nonguet, Ferdinand Zecca, 33'), and a fine take on the oft-filmed subject: Excursion aux chutes du Niagara (D: Léo Lefebvre).
COLECCION SAGARMINAGA (1896-1906): curated by Camille Blot-Wellens, 20 shorts, covering all early cinema from the notable collection, a veritable cross-section of the ten-year period covered, from earliest Pathé till Warwick in 1906, including a beautiful print of La Poule merveilleuse (FR 1902, D: Ferdinand Zecca).
VITAGRAPH CO. OF AMERICA: curated by Jon Gartenberg, 5 shorts, all great and revelatory: A Midwinter Night's Dream (a fairytale in the spirit of H.C. Andersen's The Little Match Girl), The Haunted Hotel (D: J. Stuart Blackton), The 100 to 1 Shot (11', eviction / race track cross-cutting thriller), Foul Play (13', a thriller about a larcenous stock broker), and The Mill Girl (11', an exposé of exploitation and oppression in a textile mill, especially the harassment of women by men). The two first films were important steps in the development of the cinematic fairy-tale, and the other three fine examples of efficient storytelling; the last two films also with highly interesting elements of social realism. Of all the fine contributions, this programme was maybe the strongest.
DOSSIER CHAPLIN: A COMEDIAN SEES THE WORLD + A KING IN NEW YORK
Curated by Cecilia Cencarelli and Michela Zegna, with Michael Chaplin as special guest, Lisa Stein, Charles Maland, and Frank Scheide presenting A Comedian Sees the World. A warm and memorable sitting in the presence of the child star of A King in New York. Special tribute was paid to Jerry Epstein, Charles Chaplin's valued contributor.
DOSSIER JORIS IVENS
Curated by André Stufkens, prints from NFM
Three almost unknown Joris Ivens films from the compilation programme Van Jeugd, Strijd en Arbeid (Of Youth, Struggle, and Labour) have been rediscovered. The films show the combined impulses of the documentary and the avantgarde even before Ivens's visit to the Soviet Union.
Jeugdag te Vierhouten / Youth Day Vierhouten (NL 1930), 12'
Spoorwegbouw Zuid-Limburg / Railway Construction South Limburg (NL 1930), 12'
Betonarbeid / Concrete Construction (NL 1930), 34'