Wednesday, October 08, 2008


[not released in Finland] FR 1928. PC: Franco-Film. D: Gaston Ravel; SC: Gaston Ravel, Tony Lekain - based on the plays Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro, La Mère coupable, by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais; cin: Émile Pierre, Albert Duverger; AD: Tony Lekain; cost: Georges K. Benda; filmed: Château de Rochefort-en-Yvelines; Rambouillet; Studios Film d’Art, Neuilly; Rue de Réservoir, Joinville; cast: Ernest van Duren (Figaro), Marie Bell (Suzanne), Tony d’Algy (Conte/Count Almaviva), Arlette Marchal (Rosine), Léon Belières (Bartholo), José Davert (Basile), Jean Weber (Chérubin), Odette Talazac (Marceline), Genica Missirio (Bégearss), Roland Caillaux (Grippe-Soleil); 2460 m /20 fps/ 108 min; print: Archives Gaumont-Pathé, original in French, with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 8 October 2008. - Lenny Borger: "Even in the heyday of the Film d’Art and SCAGL companies, the French art film showed little interest in classic French drama. Interestingly, there were barely more than a handful of primitive Molière adaptations (...)
Beaumarchais, France’s great 18th-century comic dramatist, fared better. In 1928, he got the red-carpet treatment with Figaro, a bustling theatrical feature of his “Spanish” comedies, The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro – which featured the wily Seville barber-turned-valet Figaro, who must sort out the lives of his wayward masters, Count and Countess Almaviva, and his own besieged marriage to the chambermaid Suzanne. As if this were not enough, the film would also include major scenes from La Mère coupable (The Guilty Mother), the rarely staged melodramatic sequel to the first two plays.
Gaston Ravel, the prolific veteran who had chaperoned Jacques Feyder at Gaumont, wrote and directed Figaro for Franco-Film, a new mini-major which had recently produced its first heritage film (...) It had been more of a name-dropping waxworks display than a film-going experience, but it was a critical success, and restored Ravel to the A-list of commercial directors.
Fortunately, Beaumarchais inspired Ravel more (...) though he did not overcome all the formal problems raised by the trilogy structure and its shifting modes: The Barber of Seville is a commedia dell’arte-style comedy which segues into the tragicomedy of The Marriage of Figaro, then plunges into the melodrama of guilt and atonement of the final play. More than being a question of style, it was a matter of accommodating too many narrative developments.
Ravel’s Figaro has charm and verve (not to mention some of the director’s signature preciosity), and remains one of the most visually stunning French super-productions of the late 1920s, with sprawling sets by Tony Lekain, Ravel’s long-time assistant and designer, gorgeous costumes by then-debuting Georges K. Benda, and lush photography by Émile Pierre and Albert Duverger.
Best of all, its main cast was young and beautiful. The 27-year-old Comédie Française star Marie Bell, then beginning a brilliant stage and screen career (...), was the piquant Suzanne, and she was perfectly paired off with the insolent, light-footed Figaro of Ernest Van Duren, a popular music-hall dancer who had only recently made his screen debut (he would commit suicide 2 years later). Former beauty contest winner Arlette Marchal was a melancholy countess Almaviva, and the Portuguese-born Tony d’Algy the proud but vulnerable husband.
But Figaro was condemned by it abiding problem: its length. Almost inevitably, Franco-Film began to make cuts, notably in the second, more dramatic half, which highlighted the illicit romance between the Countess and the lovesick page, Chérubin (played by another rising Comédie Française player, Jean Weber). Figaro finally limped into theatres in the final weeks of 1929, by which time the talkies had delivered the final blow.
We will be showing the condensed version of Figaro in its Cinémathèque française/Gaumont restoration. However, a near-complete print (containing nearly 1,000 more metres of footage) has been preserved at the Czech film archives." – Lenny Borger. - AA: A fine print, this version reconstitué par la Cinémathèque française in 1984. A handsome look in the film of which is saw the start only.

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