Friday, October 09, 2009

Le Chasseur de Chez Maxim's (1927)

Maximin ovenvartija / Eräs yö Maximissa
FR 1927. PC: Films Albatros. P: Alexandre Kamenka; D: Nicolas Rimsky, Roger Lion; SC: Nicolas Rimsky, Roger Lion, based on the play by Yves Mirande and Gustave Quinson (1920); intertitles: Raoul Ploquin; DP: Maurice Desfassiaux, Paul Guichard, [Nicolas Roudakoff]; AD: Lazare Meerson,Constantin Bruni; filmed: Marseille, Studio Montreuil, Studio Gaumont; CAST: Nicolas Rimsky (Julien Pauphilat), Pepa Bonafé (Totoche), Simone Vaudry (Mimi), Valeska Rimsky (Aunt Clara), Olga Barry (Cricri), Lou Davy, Eric Barclay (La Guérinière), Émile Royol (Candebec), Max Lerel (Octave), Yvonneck (Florent Carambagnac), Alexis Bondireff (the man with the packages),Guy Ferrant (Nioky Hagagayana), Léon Courtois (a majordomo); 2613 m /18 fps/ 127 min
From: La Cinémathèque française. Restored in 1987. E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 9 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "The 1920 stage comedy by Yves Mirande (1875-1954) and Gustave Quinson (1863-1943) has proved a durable war-horse of French cinema: since the silent Albatros version of 1927, there have been four screen adaptations, in 1933, 1939, 1953, and 1976 (when the belles of Maxim’s included Sabine Azéma and Marie-Hélène Breillat, sister of Cathérine). Albatros in fact took over the property after the death of Max Linder, who had planned to direct himself in the role of Julien Pauphilat. Some modern sources credit Linder, as well as the Russian humorous writer Michel Linsky, with the scenario, but neither name appears on the original credit titles of the film.
The doorman of Maxim’s is the antithesis of Emil Jannings’ humiliated doorman in The Last Laugh. Julien, after 40 years in the job, is a skilled fixer and shameless procurer. He has invested the fortune he has acquired in tips in a château and estate, where he keeps his family in style and in ignorance of his true occupation. But when his daughter meets and falls in love with the fastest roué in Maxim’s, trouble begins…
The role of Julien marks the final stage in Nicolas Rimsky’s self re-creation as comedian after a long career of dramatic roles. His first essay was Ce Cochon de Morin. In L’Heureuse mort he has developed into a more versatile and subtle comic actor. But between that and Le Chasseur de chez Maxim’s, it is clear that he has diligently studied the American comedians, particularly Keaton, Lloyd, and Chaplin, from whom he has learned much about reaction, eccentric walks, and the comic potential of the rear view.
This time Rimsky directs himself; and as with his other films as director (Le Nègre blanc, Paris en quinze jours, Jim la Houlette, and Pas sur la bouche) he works with a co-director, in this case Roger Lion. Contemporary critics commented that the film gained greatly from the direction à l’américain. Rimsky is unable, however, to restrain his enthusiasm for his new comic discoveries, and the film is undeniably too long – longer by half an hour than any of the subsequent sound versions. A 15-minute drunk sequence, for instance, is in itself a fine virtuoso show, but virtually an unrelated 2-reeler, superfluously interpolated.
Despite such shortcomings, the film still demonstrates Albatros’ particular skill in emancipating adapted vaudeville pieces from their stage origins. A contemporary, Edmond Epardaud, commented shrewdly on this achievement in Cinéa-Ciné pour tous (No. 88, 1 July 1927): "Crushed under the flattest vulgarities and smelling of bad theatre – theatre is always bad on the screen – the ‘vaudevillesque’ film succeeds only in Hollywood, where it is treated as cinema in a really distinguished way. But here Albatros – once again outstanding – totally rehabilitates a worn-out genre … Mirande and Quinson’s vaudeville is treated with imaginative detail, humour in the style of Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, perfect technique and photography, actors who play without grimacing or gesticulating, décors not necessarily inspired by pre-war concierges’ lodges …. Le Chasseur de chez Maxim’s is a very nice film, light, amusing, elegant where appropriate (why not?). It is played seriously (comedy demands more seriousness than the serious genre). Every scene – well-staged, well-timed, well-managed in ensemble and in detail – counts." Epardaud could have numbered among the excellences he lists Lazare Meerson’s design, and in particular the labyrinthine studio set for Maxim’s itself (much larger than the real Maxim’s).
The film was restored in 1987 from an original nitrate black-and-white print acquired by the Cinémathèque Française in 1958. – David Robinson".

The best sophisticated comedies of Hollywood in the 1920s were often set in Paris, but they did such comedies in Paris, as well. - This film does seem like a virtuoso show, full of movement, but perhaps lacking in profundity (in the sense of even the lightest Lubitsch films having a sense of gravity underneath)? I cannot judge, as I saw the beginning only of this film.

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