Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Jugoslovenska Kinoteka 60

Presented by Aleksandar Erdeljanovic. E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau, viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 6 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "The Jugoslovenska Kinoteka (today the National Film Archive of the Republic of Serbia) was founded in 1949 in Belgrade. It began with a few hundred film prints surviving from the pre-war period and the Nazi occupation. Today, with around 95,000 films in its archive, the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka not only represents the largest film archive in southeastern Europe, but is one of the most important on the Continent as well. Apart from film prints, its cinema treasures include 15,000 posters, 500,000 photos and stills, and 10,000 scripts. It also holds an extraordinary collection of 650 objects pertaining to pre-cinema and cinema history, as well as a library of 22,000 books. Around 85% of the films in the collection are foreign, which makes our archive particularly interesting for international researchers and archivists. In the last couple of years, more than 20 rare (and sometimes unique) films belonging to cinema’s classic period have been found in our archive.
This year’s celebratory programme is a combination of historic Serbian films and rare prints of foreign films held in our archive. The domestic films are In God We Trust (1932), made by Mihajlo Al. Popovic, the most important Yugoslav feature film from the inter-war period, and Belgrade in Winter (1914), produced by Svetozar Botoric. The international segment of the programme contains some real "pearls", such as Akt-Skulpturen. Studienfilm für bildende künstler, filmed by Oskar Messter in 1903; Luigi Maggi’s L’ostaggio, from 1909; the American film Hansel and Gretel, directed by J. Searle Dawley in 1909; and a beautiful Pathé stencil-colour print of Barcelone, principale ville de la Catalogne, made by Segundo de Chomón in 1912, as well as a homage to the legendary Henri Langlois filmed in 1954 during his visit to the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka. The special curiosity items are two unidentified 1920s cartoon films featuring "The King", Charlie Chaplin, and a selection of pornographic silent "classics" made in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s.
The completion of our new building with several cinema theatres, the opening of a new vault for the storage of colour films, and the reconstruction of the old storage facility for black-and-white films, as well as the introduction of a new department for digital restoration of image and sound, have all provided much better conditions for the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka to treasure and preserve its outstandingly rich film collections. Aleksandar Erdeljanovic."

Sa verom u boga [In God We Trust] (M.A.P. Film, Serbia, 1932). D, P, SC, DP, AD, ED: Mihajlo Al. Popovic; CAST: Ljubisa Jungovic-Kosmajac (Ivan), Desanka Janojlic (Smilja, Ivan’s wife), Jelisaveta Dimitrijevic (Ivan’s mother); 1117 m /24 fps/ 42 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Serbian intertitles (Cyrillic). From the GCM Catalogue: "The film starts as a village idyll, which is ended by the outbreak of World War I. From that point on, two parallel stories develop: one follows a young soldier, fighting far from his homeland, while the other deals with his family’s life under occupation. When the soldier finally returns home, he finds only his son, who doesn’t remember him... - In God We Trust, made in 1932, is considered the most successful feature film produced in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Inspired by reading “The Deserted House”, a story written by Branislav Nusic, and a chance encounter with a war hero begging for money, Mihajlo Al. Popovic conceived this film about a Serbian peasant who becomes a soldier, is away at war for 4 years, and returns home an invalid. The entire film was shot in the village of Kumodraz, near Belgrade. Apart from the leading lady, Desanka Janojlic, a professional actress, all the other participants were amateurs with no film experience. Made when sound was already dominant, In God We Trust was filmed silent due to the shortage of funds, and a soundtrack was post-dubbed using music from phonograph records. Both lyrical and cruel, full of patriarchal values and cinematic modernism, In God We Trust is the most sincere expression of the suffering and salvation of the Serbian people in the Great War. The closing scene, in which the father, crippled in war, calmly explains to his son, “When you grow up, you will understand,” nobly expresses the sense of tragedy, without hatred, linked with a strong desire for a new beginning. - Using preserved footage, and with the assistance of its author, Mihajlo Al. Popovic, the film was restored in 1988, when it was first screened at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. Occasional storyline gaps are the result of missing footage. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". -The film starts with a beautiful pastoral sequence of waking up on a farm. It has a warm, bucolic, humoristic and sensual feeling. Then the shots of Sarajevo change everything.

Beograd po zimi [Belgrade in Winter] (Svetozar Botoric, Serbia, 1914). D: ?; P: Svetozar Botoric; DP: ?; 418 m, (18 fps) [15 min announced], actual duration 23 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Serbian intertitles (Cyrillic). From the GCM Catalogue: "The first film dedicated to Serbia’s capital Belgrade was discovered in 2007 in the Ignaz Reinthaler collection at Filmarchiv Austria in Vienna. Unusually long for its period, the film had not appeared in any of the existing Serbian filmographies. This poetic film mural immortalizes many of the city’s most attractive streets and squares, important institutions, and favourite picnic sites, some of which have changed little to the present day. It also depicts Serbia’s first permanent cinema theatre, the "Paris", opened in 1908 within the luxurious "Grand Hotel", by Svetozar Botoric, the first Serbian film producer. Botoric’s signature can be spotted in the intertitles, confiming the film’s origin. The most impressive sequence is surely the scene of ice floating down the Danube, shot in February 1914 during an extremely cold and heavy winter, and depicted by Botoric’s anonymous cameraman in a "Flaherty manner". - The new copy was made this year at the "Synchro" film laboratory in Vienna, from the nitrate positive print. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - A wonderful tour of Belgrade in long pans, sometimes shaky, but always revealing interesting sights. A duped look in the print.

L'ostaggio / Jemstvo / [The Hostage] (S.A. Ambrosio, IT 1909). D: Luigi Maggi; P: Arturo Ambrosio; based on the ballad Die Bürgschaft (1798) by Friedrich Schiller; DP: Giovanni Vitrotti; CAST: Mirra Principi, Mario Voller Buzzi, Vitale De Stefano, Serafino Vite, Alberto A. Capozzi, Ernesto Vaser, Ercole Vaser, Oreste Grandi; 35mm length: 253 m; Beta SP (alas) (transferred at 18 fps) [9 min announced] actual duration 12 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Serbian intertitles (Cyrillic). *No 35mm print of this film is currently available for screening. - From the GCM Catalogue: "A young man sentenced to death manages to postpone his execution because of the impending wedding of his poor sister, who is to be married off. His best friend vouches for his return. After taking care of his sister, the young man hurries back, but is delayed by numerous unexpected obstacles. Nevertheless, he continues the journey, determined to join his now-presumably dead friend. Impressed by such nobility, the tyrant pardons them both, beseeching their friendship. - The Italian film pioneer Luigi Maggi is today being discovered by critics as the first authentic cinematographer of the Appenines. As a master of spectacle (he directed Gli ultimi giorni di Pompei, 1908, the first international Italian film success), he introduced numerous innovations, e.g., the flashback. Recently identified in the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka’s archive, L’ostaggio and La fucina – both from 1909, and inspired by the works of Friedrich Schiller – demonstrate Maggi’s exceptional dramatic and visual talent. These films represent an important discovery, since the greater part of Maggi’s oeuvre is now considered lost. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - A handsome production that takes place in the classical antiquity. The ballad of Schiller is used as the intertitles. The rush of the protagonist, overcoming obstacles such as the broken bridge and the attack of the robbers.

Akt-Skulpturen. Studienfilm für bildende Künstler. (Messter’s Projection GmbH, Berlin, DE 1903). D: ?; P: Oskar Messter; 87 m, (16 fps) [3 min announced] actual duration: 6 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. - From the GCM Catalogue: "Item No. 1 in Gerhard Lamprecht’s famous filmography of German silent cinema, Deutsche Stummfilme, 1903-1930, is a short film made by cinema pioneer Oskar Messter, entitled Akt-Skulpturen (wittily translated into Serbian as "The Ballet in Eve’s Costume"). According to Lamprecht’s description, the film had 7 intertitles, corresponding to 7 scenes (tableaux). Messter engaged a couple of the most prominent artist’s models of the time from Berlin, who performed nude on a rotating stage, presenting various scenes from mythology, history, and literature. The two naked, well-formed human bodies symbolized the “cult of human body and beauty”, which was so very characteristically German. On the other hand, Messter’s commercial motivation was also obvious – these erotic scenes were intended to draw as many viewers as possible to a newly-born attraction: cinema theatres. - The print owned by the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka is considerably longer than the one mentioned in filmographies. Instead of 7 scenes, it contains as many as 14 (the final one, "The Parting", has not been preserved). - The newly restored print was made at Haghefilm in Amsterdam, from the nitrate positive, which is kept on deposit for the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka at Filmarchiv Austria. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - Simple and elegant: a female nude and a male nude against a black background on a revolving platform. Each pose is recorded in a 360 grade movement of the platform. The motifs include Adam and Eve, Paradise Lost and the Abduction of the Sabines. - The nude models are beautiful in a classical fashion.

Barcelone, principale ville de la Catalogne (Barcelona, Hauptstadt von Katalonien) (Iberico Film, for Pathé, FR 1912). D, DP: Segundo de Chomón; 62 m, (16 fps) [2 min announced] actual duration 4 min, col. (pochoir); [35mm announced] actually screened on video; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Deutsche Zwischentitel. - From the GCM Catalogue: ""The city extends in a semicircle along the sea coast, rising gently towards the hills of Montjuich and the Montañas malas. The downtown is intersected by arteries – wide streets bordered by beautiful houses and broad avenues lined with trees. The city is full of life, with busy traffic, especially along La Rambla, with hotels, restaurants, and theatres splendidly lit up in the evening." (Henri Bousquet, Catalogue Pathé des années 1896 a 1914, p. 592)
A beautiful Pathé stencil-colour film, with colours which are as vivid today as they were a century ago. In the Pathé studio at Vincennes near Paris, more than 400 women worked with colour templates (matrices), which were used for mechanical colouring. Here Segundo de Chomón, another forgotten genius, an immediate successor to the magic of Méliès, and inventor of the first "travelling" shots, in Pastrone’s Cabiria, immortalizes Barcelona, together with what was yet to become its trademark – the architecture of Gaudí. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - A wonderfully beautiful colour vision of Barcelona by Segundo de Chomón.

Izlozba Francuske Kinoteke [Exhibition of la Cinémathèque française] (Filmske novosti, YU 1954). D: Olivera Gajic; DP: Mihailo Ciga Jovanovic; ED: Milica Petrovic; CAST: Henri Langlois; 37 m, 1'30" (24 fps), sonoro/sound; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. - From the GCM Catalogue: "In April 1954, the legendary Henri Langlois visited the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka for the presentation of his exhibition "Fifty Years of French Cinema". Visitors were introduced to the very beginnings of cinematography, from "Chinese shadows" (Ombres chinoises) to various animation devices and optical toys designed to depict the illusion of movement, including Émile Reynaud’s Praxinoscope. The recreation of the world’s first projected film show to paying customers, at the Grand Café in Paris in 1895, was a sensation, and the actual poster of Louis Lumière’s famous L’Arroseur arrosé was displayed. In an interesting silent film programme, the audience saw Sarah Bernhardt in La Dame aux camélias, as well as the first cartoon films of Émile Cohl, the forerunner of Walt Disney. This huge cinema event attracted numerous film-lovers, as well as the camera operators of the state-owned company "Filmske novosti", who filmed a newsreel story about it. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - A charming news subject that documents the inspiration of Langlois.

Hansel and Gretel / Jovica i Marica (Edison, US 1909). D: J. Searle Dawley; P: Edwin S. Porter; DP: Carl Gregory; cast: Cecil Spooner, Mary Fuller, Ethel Browning; 191 m, (16 fps) [7 min announced] actual duration 12 min; [35mm announced], actually screened on video; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Serbian intertitles (Cyrillic). - From the GCM Catalogue: "Tired of waiting for the return of their father, who sells brooms to provide food, Hansel and Gretel wander off into the woods, where they come upon a house made of sweets, but they also meet a horrible witch. However, Gretel manages to free Hansel and other captive children, while their father brings home plenty of food. - One of the earliest movie adaptations of this well-known fable by the Brothers Grimm, this 1909 film demonstrates the extraordinary professional skill of director James Searle Dawley, who was among the first to use the technique of double exposure. - Dawley here tells a classic story in a simple but effective manner, thus predicting his masterpiece, which was to be filmed less than a year later – the first version of Frankenstein (1910). The print of Hansel and Gretel was discovered and identified in the archive of the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka in 1995. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - An important discovery. This film was not included in the 4-dvd Edison The Invention of the Movies box set (2005). An American féerie in charming colour.

[Kralj Zidara] [Il re dei muratori/The King of Masons] (?, c.1920-25) D: ?; AN: ?; 147 m, (16 fps) [5 min announced] actual duration 9 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Title in Serbian; no intertitles.
[Kralj Sanja] [The King Is Dreaming](?, c.1920-25) D: ?; AN: ?; 148 m, (16 fps) [5 min announced] actual duration 9 min; from: Jugoslovenska Kinoteka, Beograd. Title in Serbian; no intertitles. - From the GCM Catalogue: "The greatest hero in film history, the unequalled Tramp, who lives a light-hearted and vagrant life, was the ideal inspiration for the as-yet-unidentified creators of these short animated comedies. Building a tower of bricks, a dramatic duel with the Sun, the rescue of an innocent girl from villains – these charming scenes from The King of Masons seem worthy of Chaplin himself.
The King Is Dreaming is an equally interesting work by the same authors, depicting the adventures of our Tramp in an enchanted castle.
In spite of imperfect and inflexible animation, these charming pearls from the film archive of the Jugoslovenska Kinoteka will surely please animation and Chaplin fans alike. We hope their screening at this festival may also be an opportunity for these films to be fully identified. – Aleksandar Erdeljanovic". - Inventive Chaplin animation, maybe British; the hand becomes visible and writes the word Zip. In the first one, Chaplin lays with bricks a chimney so tall that it blocks the movement of the moon. In the second one, Chaplin falls asleep in front of a castle on a hill and sees a wild dream full of transformations.