Sunday, October 05, 2008

Le Serment d'un prince

FR 1910. PC: Pathé. D+SC+star: Max Linder (Prince Jacques de Lacerda); orig. l: 175 m.; 105 m /16 fps/ 6 min (Desmet colour, duplicating original tinting); print: Svenska Filminstitutet. Original in French with e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: [Gabriel Thibaudeau?], viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 5 October 2008. - David Robinson: "One of 44 recorded films made by Max Linder in 1910, his most productive year,(...) a surprising moment in the comedian’s film career, as a pathetic melodrama rather than a comedy. Discovered by the Swedish Film Institute, this (...) film, long believed lost, appears to lack only the opening, which might better have explained how we come to find Max, as Prince of Lacerda, in a liaison with a beautiful gypsy (?) lady living in a caravan and blessed with a little daughter. After this, the story is told with admirable clarity and a minimum of intertitles. The first surviving title, “Un riche banquier vient proposer au Prince de Lacerda l’union de leurs enfants”, introduces the Prince’s aristocratic home, where the returning Prince learns that his father, the old Prince, has arranged a marriage with the daughter of a rich banker. The Prince (with very naturalistic and touching acting) explains his situation and is spurned by his father. In the next scene, introduced with the title “Pour gagner sa vie”, the Prince, in clown uniform, is working as a street entertainer. This scene is particularly attractive, since Linder evidently shot it on location with real passers-by, who show the same mixture of puzzlement and amusement as the public at Kid Auto Races at Venice four years later. They are also required to act, turning their backs and scurrying away when the clown brings round his collecting bag.
The final scene is introduced as “Trois ans après. Grande vedette au music hall”. While the Prince, on stage, is performing some very nicely tricked acrobatics on a trapeze, the old Prince passes the theatre and sees the billboards for his son. He enters the theatre, prepared to be enraged; but after the show, meeting his son and his family on the steps of the theatre, he is enchanted by his little granddaughter (suitably matured from the opening scene), and reconciled to his son in a big concluding embrace.
Despite the missing section, and considerable damage to the perforation of the original nitrate print, the picture quality and stability of the restored version are exceptional." – David Robinson. - I agree, this film is a charming humoristic drama rather than pure comedy.

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