Monday, October 05, 2009

Graziella

[The film was not released in Finland]. FR 1925. PC: Film d’Art / Vandal and Delac. D: Marcel Vandal; SC: Edmond Epardaud, Marcel Vandal, based on the story by Alphonse de Lamartine (1852), Finnish translation Italian tytär [The Daughter of Italy] by Esteri Haapanen / WSOY 1914; DP: René Moreau, René Guychard (studio), Maurice Laumann (exteriors); AD: Fernand Delattre; filmed: summer 1925 (Naples, Capri, Procida; Studios Film d’Art, Neuilly); CAST: Nina Vanna (Graziella), Jean Dehelly (Lamartine), Émile Dehelly (Lamartine, as an old man), Michel Sym (de Virieux), Raoul Chennevières (Andrea, the grandfather), Mme. Sapiani (the grandmother), Georges Chebat (Beppo), Sylviane de Castillo (Mme. de Lamartine), Antonin Artaud (Cecco), Jacques Révérand (Cecco’s father); première: 7.1.1925 (press screening); released: 23.7.1926; 1598 m /20 fps/ 79 min; print: AFF/CNC. Restored by AFF/CNC, under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture’s film preservation plan. E-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 5 Oct 2009. - From the GCM Catalogue: "The 19th-century century Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine was hardly a household name in the France of the Roaring 20s, yet his writings inspired no less than three silent film adaptations from major production firms. Léon Poirier’s 1922 film of Jocelyn, Lamartine’s 9,000-line epic poem of love and mysticism in Revolutionary France, was made for Gaumont’s “Série Pax” art-film label and became one of the company’s biggest hits. Naturally, Gaumont and Poirier tried to repeat the exploit with Geneviève (1923), from one of the poet’s idealized novels about the working and peasant classes. Superior in most respects to Jocelyn – indeed, it remains one of Poirier’s best, with La Brière – it was defeated commercially by its unrelenting pessimism. By the time Gaumont’s rival studio, Film d’Art, weighed in with Graziella, movie audiences seemed weary of Lamartine’s poetic meditations, though Jocelyn would be remade twice, in 1933 and 1951.
Produced and directed by Marcel Vandal (co-head of the venerable Film d’Art with Charles Delac since 1910), Graziella is pictorially more sumptuous and less plot-heavy than the Gaumont films. Though a conventional piece of filmmaking, it better illustrates Lamartine’s nostalgic melancholy and love of nature, which are central to Graziella, an autobiographical account of Lamartine’s travels to Italy as a young poet and his brief, platonic but tragic idyll with the granddaughter of a poor Neapolitan fisherman.
Graziella is essentially a realist film, shot on the very locations described by Lamartine, and it stands on the artistry of its cameramen. In a break from usual practice, Vandal used not two but three cameramen: René Guychard shot the studio interiors in Paris, and Maurice Laumann did the dramatic exteriors, while René Moreau, a master paysagiste captured the romantic vistas of land, sea, and sky, which have been voluptuously preserved in this tinted print. (The AFF has been devoted to tracking down and restoring Moreau’s self-produced documentary shorts, which he dubbed “visions”.)
Nina Vanna, a British actress who had a brief cosmopolitan career in the 1920s, is a poignant, fragile Graziella to Jean Dehelly’s dreamy, blond Lamartine. (The debuting Pierre Blanchar played the poet in the Gaumont films.) In a climactic cameo, Dehelly’s father, Émile Dehelly, a member of the Comédie Française, appears as the elderly Lamartine. And it would be hard to miss Antonin Artaud as the lovesick cousin who courts Graziella. – Lenny Borger." - I watched the first 40 minutes. - A fine print. - I agree with Lenny Borger, the strength of this film is its beautiful location shooting in Sorrento etc. The toned image is often wonderful. There is an intensive feeling for the landscape, for the villages on the mountains by the sea, for the wind, the sea, and the storm. The performance are not bad. Many of the intertitles have a poetic quality, maybe directly from Lamartine.

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