Friday, October 09, 2009

L'heureuse mort

[The film was not released in Finland]. FR 1924. PC: Films Albatros. D: Serge Nadejdine; SC: Nicolas Rimsky, from the comedy by La Comtesse de Baillehache; intertitles: Jean Faivre; DP: Fédote Bourgassoff, Gaston Chelles, [Nicolas Roudakoff]; filmed: Étretat, Honfleur, Le Havre, Studio Montreuil; CAST: Suzanne Bianchetti (Lucie Larue), Nicolas Rimsky (Théodore Larue / Anselme Larue), Pierre Labry (Capitaine Mouche), René Maupré (Fayot), Léon Salem (theatre manager); 1731 m /18 fps/ 83 min; from: La Cinémathèque française. Reconstituée en 1985 par Renée Lichtig. E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano and violin: Günter Buchwald, clarinets: Lee Mottram. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 8 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "The elusive Serge Nadejdine’s brief, brilliant career in films lasted less than two years. Born in Moscow in 1880, until the Revolution he was apparently a director and maître de ballet at the Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. Press reports during his period in France state that he had directed films in Tsarist Russia and in the interim period before nationalization of the cinema: but the very comprehensive records of the Russian cinema of those years provide no evidence to support these claims. After emigration he seems to have lingered in Constantinople to work in theatre and ballet, but eventually arrived in Paris, where he was recruited to Albatros. His first work was as assistant to Volkov on Kean and Les Ombres qui passent (1924). That same year he directed his own first film, Le Chiffonnier de Paris, starring Nicolas Koline, which proved a major success. In his two succeeding films for Albatros he was closely associated with Nicolas Rimsky, who collaborated on the scenario of La Cible (1924) as well as acting alongside Koline. Then came L’Heureuse mort. Some sources also credit Nadejdine as co-director on Rimsky’s Le Nègre blanc. He left Albatros to take over direction of Naples au baiser du feufrom Jacques Robert, for Films Legrand.
In 1928 Nadejdin (now adopting an Anglo-Saxon transliteration of his name) reappears as director of an ambitious but short-lived production, Ballet Moderne, at the Gallo Opera House (today Studio 54) on West 54th St., New York City. In 1932 he was invited to take over the Russian Imperial Ballet School in Cleveland, Ohio, to succeed its founding director, Nikolai Semenov, who had thrown himself over Niagara Falls in protest against the ugliness of modern dance. Under Nadejdin, the school produced some excellent artists, and provided a rehearsal centre for visiting ballet companies. Nadejdin, who took American nationality in 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, directed the school practically until his death in 1958, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
L’Heureuse mort reveals an exceptional gift for comedy. The source, credited on the film as “from the comedy by the Comtesse de Baillehache” and elsewhere “from the libretto …”, remains untraced, but it provides a fine comic premise. Théodore Larue is a Parisian dramatist whose latest premiere is a disaster. His reputation gone, he is persuaded to take a sea voyage, in the course of which, in the throes of acute mal de mer, he is swept overboard and lost. The press and the literary world react with an abrupt revaluation of his work, elevating him to the stature of France’s greatest dramatist. His widow finds herself in possession of a hugely valuable literary property… At which point, Larue, not drowned at all, inopportunely returns home. But, dramatist above all, he decides to masquerade as his colonialist brother Anselme, while industriously turning out posthumous works by Théodore. But then the real Anselme turns up with his Senegalese wife…
The sharply distinguished dual roles of Théodore and Anselme afford Rimsky’s finest comic performance. Cinémagazine (12 December 1924) noted that “his reactions of stupefaction enrapture audiences. His gifts of characterization are truly astonishing. He is able, with scarcely perceptible physical changes, to transform himself completely”. Rimsky is admirably partnered by the enchanting Suzanne Bianchetti (1889-1936), who, in the words of Cinémagazine again, “this time abandons the roles of empresses [to become] the most gracious in the world, the pretty and witty Lucie Larue”.
Particularly in the scenes of the “fatal” storm, as dramatically recalled by Lucie for the benefit of the French literary élite, Nadejdine seizes upon the current directorial mannerisms of the avant-garde, to use them with witty irony. Exceptionally for a French film, the intertitle writer, Jean Faivre, is specifically listed in the credit titles. A further oddity of the film is the interpolation of a somewhat redundant sequence of a duel between Larue and an opportunist literary agent, entirely done in rather elementary animation. The most likely explanation of this is that it was inserted in post-production to build up the running time of an otherwise admirably economical film.
The film was restored in 1986, from an original nitrate negative for French distribution deposited with the Cinémathèque Française in 1949 by the producer Alexandre Kamenka. The copy shown was made in 1986 on black-and-white stock. – David Robinson".

I watched the beginning. There is a satirical look into the theatrical life of Paris and the fiasco that sends the protagoist to recuperate to the seaside for months. There we see comic scenes of gardening and relaxation on the beach. - There is a beauty of light in this print which I prefer to heavy tinting.

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