Thursday, October 29, 2009

Is / [Ice]

Jäätä / Das Eis. TVM. SE / DE / FI 1972. PC: YLE, Sveriges Radio TV2, NDR – Norddeutscher Rundfunk. P: Leif Käll. PC: Conny Jydin. D: Åke Lindman. SC: Clas Engström based on his novel (1961). DP: Kimmo Simula, Gunnar Fischer - colour. Production manager: Tuula Sid. AD: Aimo Pöyhönen. ED: Pipsa Valavaara. S: Veijo Lehti. CAST: Stephan Schwartz, Tord Pettersson (Valter), Roland Hedlund (Vilhelm), Tommy Jonsson (Karl), Eddie Axberg (Anders), Ulf Gotenstam (Martin), Stephan Gotenstam (Johannes), Ulla Blomstrand (Alma), Marianne Johansson (Karin). 110 min. In Swedish, with some German, with Finnish subtitles by Risto Säämänen. Digibeta from YLE viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 28 Oct 2009.

A stark and authentic account on mail transport on the Baltic Sea in the winter. A period film that takes place in January 1830. The winter was exceptionally hard around Gotland.

Six men transport the mail with a boat that they mostly need to haul across the ice, but they need it to cross the water when there is open sea. Two of the youngest perish, and the four survivors fight the hunger, the cold, and the wind, and they start to hallucinate.

The film gets stronger towards the end. The youngest survivor accuses the others for framing his father for a theft of nets. At the point of exhaustion they see the shore but slowly they realize that they returned to where they started. Valter stays with the mail while the others bring help. The last image is an extreme close-up of Valter's face, with a wood brick between his teeth, as his frozen leg gets amputated with a saw.

There are memory flashbacks of summer and women, including Valter's wife, who warns her husband of taking the assignment of winter mail delivery. The imagery is stark, with Gunnar Fischer, the cinematographer of Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal. There is variety in the colour scale: the blend of orange, red, and yellow on sunny days - the blue shadows - the grayness of certain days - and the black nights.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Aloha! (book launch event)


Photo: Keijo Kansonen at Dubrovnik, 15 October 2009. AA, Kari Lempinen, Peter von Bagh, Timo Tamminen doing the signing.

http://www.sahkopyora.net/aloha/AAloha/Aloha.html
http://www.sahkopyora.net/aloha/AAloha/Aloha.html#18

A book launch event of Peter von Bagh's Lajien synty (The Origin of the Genres) and Aloha! Uusi Laulu- ja Aloha! -lehtien valitut palat 1978-1986

The Shanghai Gesture

Uhkapeliä Shanghaissa / Hasard i Shanghai.US © 1941 Arnold Productions, Inc. Presenter: Arnold Pressburger; Associate P: Albert de Courville; Theo. W. Baumfeld; D: Josef von Sternberg; SC: Josef von Sternberg - collaborators: Geza Herczeg; Jules Furthman; [Kurt Vollmoeller] - based on the play The Shanghai Gesture by John Colton (New York, 1926). DP: Paul Ivano; AD: Boris Leven; ED: Sam Winston; [Interior Decorations Howard Bristol]; [Mural in Mother Gin Sling's apartment Keye Luke]; COST for Miss Munson Royer; for Miss Tierney Oleg Cassini; [Costume jewelry: Joseff]; M: Richard Hageman; S: C. A. Noyes; Wigs for Miss Munson Hazel Rodgers; Makeup Bob Stephanoff;
CAST: Gene Tierney ([Victoria Charteris, aka] Poppy Smith), Walter Huston (Sir Guy Charteris / "Mr. Dawson"), Victor Mature (Doctor Omar), Ona Munson ("Mother" Gin Sling), Phyllis Brooks (The Chorus Girl [Dixie Pomeroy]), Albert Bassermann (The Commissioner), Maria Ouspenskaya (The amah), Eric Blore (The bookkeeper [Caesar Hawkins]), Ivan Lebedeff (The gambler), Mike Mazurki (The coolie), Clyde Fillmore (The comprador), Grayce Hampton (The social leader), Rex Evans (The counselor), Mikhail Rasumni (The appraiser), Michael Delmatoff (The bartender), Marcel Dalio (The master of the spinning wheel). 99 min. A Stadkino Basel print mit deutschen Untertiteln. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 14 Oct 2009. - For the first time I saw the complete version of the film. However, the visual quality is highly variable, with a soft, duped quality, as if it were a dupe from a nitrate print which has started to degrade. - Revisited: a personal work by Sternberg after a series of assignments. - The setting is an immense casino, and the story climaxes during the Chinese New Year with a surprising settling of accounts at "Mother" Gin Sling's lavish dinner. Gin Sling knows the dark past of everybody. - The poet Omar recites verses from the Rubayat. - A vision of desolation, "cards, my fellow pilgrims", "the tower of Babel", the hall which "smells so incredibly evil", with dialogue lines such as "I have no country". - The teasing story ends with devastating tragedy: the daughter (the opium addict played by Gene Tierney) denies her mother (the brothel madam Gin Sling), who shoots her in cold blood.

Poika ja ilves

Tommy och lodjuret / Tommy and the Wildcat. FI 1998. PC: Wildcat Production Oy. P: Hannu Tuomainen. D: Raimo O Niemi, Ville Suhonen. SC: Ville Suhonen, Martin Daniel. DP: Kari Sohlberg. M: Søren Hyldgaard, Thomas Lester, Hans Sorensen. ED: Pertti Hilkamo. ED: Jukka Nykänen. S: Kristian Eidness Andersen. CAST: Konsta Hietanen (Tomi), Risto Tuorila (uncle Jouko), Jarmo Mäkinen (Haapala), Antti Virmavirta (Tomi's father Olli), Kristiina Halttu (Helena), Rauno Ahonen (Jaska), Jussi Puhakka (Oula), Markku Huhtamo (Kalle Pokka), Mikko Kivinen (director of the zoo), Aarno Sulkanen (the sheriff), Tero Jartti (a younger reindeer farmer), Ville Myllyrinne (policeman), Katariina Kaitue (Tomi's mother), the wildcat Väinö (the wildcat Leevi). 102 min. A vintage print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 14 Oct 2009. - A print with good colour and a good definition of light. - Revisited the start of a popular family film. I watched it mainly to check how good photochemical film looked in Finland just ten years ago.

Tukkijoella tapahtuu / [It Happened On Log River]

Jag är timmerflottare. FI 1950. PC: Felix-Filmi. D: Brita Wrede, Felix Forsman. DP: Felix Forsman. Assistant cameraman: Henning Carlsen. M: selections from Jean Sibelius. ED: Armas Vallasvuo. CAST: Kullervo Kalske (foreman Salonen), Leo Mikander (Paavo Härmä). 35 min. A 16mm KAVA print. 37 min. - Epic dimensions in a short story of a 14 year old boy born by a log river. His home burned in the war, an orphan, evacuated, alone in the city of Kotka, harassed by other children, he escapes to the deep forests of the north, wanted by the police. He sees the rapids, the bear cubs, the reindeer. - The lumberjack canteen's hostess sees him about to steal milk. The boy stays at the camp as a lumberjack. - In Kotka, the boys play dangerous games at the woodprocessing factory, even on the rooftop. They jump to the water.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Crime and Punishment (1935)

Rikos ja rangaistus / Brott och straff. US © 1935 Columbia Pictures Corp. A B. P. Schulberg Production. D: Josef von Sternberg; SC: S. K. Lauren; Joseph Anthony - based on the novel by F. M. Dostoevsky (1866). DP: Lucien Ballard; AD: Stephen Goosson; ED: Richard Cahoon; COST: Murray Mayer; M Director: Louis Silvers; CAST: Peter Lorre [(Roderick Raskolnikov)], Edward Arnold [(Inspector Porfiry)], Marian Marsh [(Sonya)], Tala Birrell [(Antonia "Toni" Raskolnikov)], Elisabeth Risdon [(Mrs. Raskolnikov)], Robert Allen [(Dmitri)], Douglass Dumbrille [(Grilov)], Gene Lockhart [(Mr. Lushin)]. 88 min. A print from Cinemateket / Svenska Filminstitutet. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 13 Oct 2009. - A fine and complete print. - Revisited a rare Sternberg film that I had seen only once before, in 1972 on tv. The film apparently has not been screened in Finland since. - Reputedly one of the few unpersonal Sternberg films, one of the few films he did without autonomy. - A low budget production, but the budget is not the problem. The interpretation is too simplified and obvious, but it is worth seeing now and then. - Although an opening title announces that this story can take place anywhere, certain details (newspapers with cyrillic letters etc.) show that it happens in Russia. - At the time of filming, the "superman" idea was valid in Germany.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pordenone Notes 2009

LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO 3-10 OCT 2009, PORDENONE

LE GIORNATE DEL CINEMA MUTO. Associazione Culturale "Le Giornate del Cinema Muto". Presidente: Livio Jacob. Direttore: David Robinson. Comitato direttivo: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Luciano De Giusti, Carlo Montanaro, Piera Patat.

THE CANON REVISITED. Last year, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto brought to a finish the largest ever retrospective dedicated to a single film artist: The Griffith Project. Also last year, the 30th anniversary of the Brighton Symposium gave an opportunity to reassess the whole amazing phenomenon of the rediscovery of the silent cinema. In this, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto has played a central role. With foresight, Le Giornate has been also activating new generations with a Collegium, masterclasses and Striking a New Note projects. So far, Le Giornate has been rigorous in focusing on the unknown or the forgotten. A new project called The Canon Revisited is a turning-point for many good reasons. Not only the new generations but also veteran film scholars have never seen many central works of film history on screen or at all. Apparently for instance Boris Barnet's brilliant NEP satire The House on the Trubnaya (1928) was a revelation to most. Myself, I had never before seen Mario Camerini's Rotaie (Rails, 1929), which invites comparisons with the best contemporary visions of modernity (Murnau, Hitchcock). Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923) was seen in the George Eastman House restoration complete with the Handschiegl effects. On display of Paul Wegener's Der Golem (1920) was a Lumière Project print obscured by heavy tinting. Mauritz Stiller's Gunnar Hedes saga (1923) was seen as a newly completed restoration from Cinemateket / Svenska Filminstitutet with added intertitles helping to make more sense of the film from which a lot of footage is missing. Carl Dreyer's Du skal ære din hustru (The Master of the House, 1925) is still a biting women-empowering satire in the spirit of Ibsen's The Doll's House. The most magnificent restoration feat was of Abel Gance's angry and muddled reckoning with the Great War, J'accuse (1919), from Nederlands Filmmuseum and Lobster Films, for which Stephen Horne played an inspired solo piano for three hours.

FILMS ALBATROS. The tribute to Films Albatros, established in France by Russian emigrants after the Russian Revolution, was arranged together with La Cinémathèque française. There Renée Lichtig reconstructed luminous prints with access to the original negatives in the 1980s, and now there were also fresh 2009 prints from digital intermediates and with strong tints. The series was a continuation to the great tributes to Ivan Mosjoukine, René Clair, etc., in which the most celebrated Albatros films have already been shown. La Nuit du 11 septembre (1920) was an over-the-top melodrama starting on the battlefield of the Franco-Prussian war. In Viatcheslav Tourjansky's films his wife Nathalie Kovanko gave strong performances. Their Le Chant de l'amour triomphant (1923) was a poetic erotic vision based on an untypical short story by Turgenev. In their La Dame masquée (1924) Kovanko gives an especially many-sided performance. In Jacques Feyder's ambitious Carmen (1926) the popular singer Raquel Meller gives one of the best interpretations of the immortal seductress in film history. In Jakov Protazanoff's Justice d'abord! (1921) Ivan Mosjoukine and Nathalie Lissenko remake powerfully their roles from a story they had filmed already in Russia. The best comedian of the team was Nicolas Rimsky. Ce cochon de Morin (1923) is a farce based on a short story by Maupassant. In L'heureuse mort (1924) Rimsky plays a dual role as a playwright believed dead and as his brother, a missing African explorer. In the Albatros version of the often-filmed Le Chasseur de Chez Maxim's (1927) Rimsky plays the doorman-souteneur who leads a double life as the master of a castle. – Personally, I found no immortal masterpieces in this selection, but on display was a great sense of style, cinematography, and design. The cinematographer Joseph-Louis Mundviller and his colleagues played a brilliant role as masters of their craft. And in the history of art direction the Albatros team has a secure place with talents such as Alexander Lochakov and Lazare Meerson. – As for the new prints, we are in a transitional period with a fashion for heavy tinting. Certainly the films were usually originally tinted and toned. One problem that cannot be solved, however, is related to the fact that the prints were originally struck directly from the negative on nitrate stock. We can never see luminous prints like that again, but we can try our best to pay justice to the vision of the artists. Matters of taste are inevitably involved. Personally, I would appreciate maximum luminosity, good contrast, the finest possible grayscale and attention to detail. For them, I would sacrifice colours gladly.

SHERLOCK AND BEYOND: THE BRITISH DETECTIVE IN SILENT CINEMA. Based on Laraine Porter and Bryony Dixon's British crime series at the British Silent Cinema Festival Jay Weissberg had compiled an extensive and revelatory retrospective. Eille Norwood was the definitive Sherlock Holmes in British silent films. On display were the fatal ending in the episode The Final Problem (1923) and the feature produced after it, The Sign of Four (1923, directed by Maurice ElveyI. The Danes and the Germans were the first to launch Sherlock Holmes film series. Der Hund von Baskerville (1914), was seen in a recently reconstructed version from Munich. The first work of Richard Oswald for the cinema, here as a screenwriter, was directed by Rudolf Meinert. The hilarious double disguise sequence between the villain and the sleuth was worthy of Feuillade. Films based on Sax Rohmer's Dr. Fu-Manchu stories were screened as they feature the indefatigable Nayland Smith on his mission to rescue humanity from the Yellow Peril. Stories such as the episode The Fiery Hand (1923) are not only racist but also sadistic with devices such as "the six gates of joyful wisdom". – Siegfried Kracauer found it interesting that the detectives in the several German series that were popular even during the Great War were always Englishmen and never German. The Striped Domino (Der gestreifte Domino, 1915) belongs to the Stuart Webbs series of feature-length films. – In an ambitious survey like Sherlock and Beyond it is also an important result to realize what is missing. According to Weissberg, all films belonging to the popular series featuring Sexton Blake and Bulldog Drummond have disappeared. Also almost all silent films based on the stories by Edgar Wallace have vanished. – Outside this series in Pordenone was screened, however, a Wallace film without a private detective, The Four Just Men (1921), with a disquieting storyline about terrorism in the name of righteousness.

MUSIC EVENTS. The Opening Event was a splendid musical performance to Erich von Stroheim's The Merry Widow (1925). Maud Nelissen had created a special score, half Lehár, half Nelissen. The blend was seamless in the tender and vibrant performance of Orchestra Mitteleuropea and Merima Kljucom. – Another highlight was this year's Striking a New Note performance with the children of Pordenone and Cordenons playing Béla Bartók to The Playhouse (1921) and jazz to A Night at the Show (1915). With teachers like Emanuela Gobbo and Maria Luisa Sogaro these performances, full of joy, are an inspiration to everybody. – The magnificent Carl Davis score to the Photoplay restoration of The Eagle (1925) was played back from tape. In the Valentino vehicle Alexander Pushkin's tale from the age of Catherine the Great turns into an entertaining swashbuckling parody. – A special programme in the tribute to the British Silent Festival, The Sound of British Silents, presented a full range of fascinating samples, most amazingly the first film record of Aboriginal Australians, Torres Straits (1898), complete with tribal music restored from contemporary wax cylinders. A suite of films related to Ballets Russes documented dancing at its most brilliant, with the original music selections specially reconstructed for the event by John Sweeney. The Final Event was the surrealistic Ukulelescope, with The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, produced by Hester Goodman, playing to some 25 short films, including titles such as Quicker Than Thought Movements, Jiujitsu for the Ladies and Le Pied de mouton. – Understandably producing specially prepared music for each film would be impossible for practical reasons. I was grateful that John Sweeney recognized the theme music, Gounod's Faust waltz, in his performance to Gunnar Hedes saga. – I failed to discover the idea, in the interpretation of Touve Ratovondrahety, reportedly from Ernesto Halffter's original score, to Jacques Feyder's Carmen, a film, which could surely need a boost from some passionate music... – Le Chant de l'amour triomphant and Eine versunkene Welt would deserve special attention as they are films in which the power of music is essential to the narrative. In the music to the Sherlock Holmes films I would welcome the acknowledgement of his violin-playing, music being an essential dimension of Sherlock's logical mind.

JUGOSLOVENSKA KINOTEKA AND EARLY CINEMA. Belgrade's Jugoslovenska Kinoteka / The National Film Archive of the Republic of Serbia presented a wonderful 60. anniversary programme, in which the late silent feature Sa verom u Boga (In God We Trust, 1932) deserves a presence in world film histories. It starts with bucolic scenes in the countryside, interrupted by the events following the shots of Sarajevo. Among the shorts from Belgrade were exciting samples from Luigi Maggi, Oskar Messter, Segundo de Chomón, and J. Searle Dawley. – From the Australian Corrick Collection was screened for a third time in Pordenone a selection of restored titles based on the vintage prints preserved from the collection of the Corrick family that toured with them a hundred years ago. The many-sided programmes served also as an introduction to early cinema, from non-fiction (La Métallurgie au Creusot) to the féerie (La Belle au bois dormant). The selection, the restoration and the programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis were first-rate. – A special suite of short views, starting in 1896, was restored from one of the earliest Italian pioneers, Italo Pacchioni, by the Fondazione Cineteca Italiana in Milano. – In The Screen Decades programme five seminal shorts were viewed, including a Western (Broncho Billy's Christmas Dinner, 1911), an episode from The Perils of Pauline (1914), and Winsor McKay's magisterial The Sinking of The Lusitania (1918), which could merit study by today's animators.

FURTHER PLEASURES. The most brilliant print of the Festival was Der Fürst von Pappenheim (The Masked Mannequin, 1927), the definitive Curt Bois vehicle with the legendary double-cross-dressing scene. Asta Nielsen, Pola Negri and Francesca Bertini were at the top of their game in recently restored prints and fragments of their films. The samurai story Kurotegumi Sukeroku (1929), restored from 16mm, featured a furious swordfight finale. Eine versunkene Welt (The Vanished World, 1922) turned out to be an important Alexander Korda discovery about a disillusioned "Red Prince" whose nobility of spirit is not repayed by the dancer he loves and the crew whom he submits all power. The Rose of Rhodesia (South Africa 1918) is an exciting discovery representing the white settlers' viewpoint. On Strike (1920) is an anti-trade-union animation with a brilliant matchstick-man parody "by Mutt and Jeff" who try it without Bud Fisher.

Amazingly, on a silent film festival, it is still possible to have a guest who was a star at the time. Jean Darling, the popular child star of the 1920s, was happy to attend the events. Leatrice Gilbert Fountain, the daughter of John Gilbert and Leatrice Joy, opened the screenings of The Merry Widow and The Ten Commandments, starring her parents. Maud Linder, the daughter of Max Linder, received The Jean Mitry Award.

Edith Kramer gave a memorable Jonathan Dennis lecture on programming. For the second year, there were electronic subtitles in English and Italian to all films at Teatro Verdi. They greatly help make sense of films which are often incomplete and hard to understand. The standard of the programme notes was high, and good reading was provided, among others, by David Robinson on Albatros, Jay Weissberg on Sherlock Holmes, and Leslie Anne Lewis on the Corrick Collection. The evening shows were so full that I was lucky to find a seat, often only at the pipe rack, chez les enfants de paradis.

P.S. 19 April 2011: A much better review of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (2009) was written by Michael Walker for Movie, Issue 1 of the online revival edition, published in October 2010.
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film/movie/contents/giornate.pdf

The Corrick Collection 3: Programme 2

E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

Niagara in Winter 1909
(Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1909) D: ?; 329 ft, 5'29" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #120). No intertitles.
From the GCM Catalogue: "From the earliest days of cinema, the spectacle of Niagara Falls has attracted filmmakers from around the world. Taken during the winter of 1909, this film is different from many others, notably because it captures the rare sight of the usually rushing waterfalls completely frozen over – an event that has occurred only 6 times since record-keeping began in the mid-19th century. The resulting images are surprising and breathtaking, recording views few had the opportunity to see in person. Urban’s film also includes images of the falls taken from the ice bridge, an icy formation that builds up each year as falling water and mist create a frozen sheet of varying depths that extends across the river. The opportunity to film the falls from this perspective was destined to be short-lived. Just 3 years later, officials banned walking and playing on the ice bridge after 3 tourists died when the ice shifted and stranded them on an ice floe, carrying them into the great whirlpool at the falls’ base. – Leslie Anne Lewis". - Non-fiction. In Bologna's Cento anni fa programme earlier this year Vitagraph's film of Niagara in Winter (1909) was screened. This is also excellent, with impressive compositions.

Les Débuts d'un chauffeur
(Pathé, FR 1906) D: Georges Hatot; SC: André Heuzé; DP: Segundo de Chomón, cast: André Deed; 138 ft, 2'18" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #98) No intertitles.
An inexperienced – or as a Corrick reviewer in Madras put it, “grotesquely destructive” – driver prematurely decides to go for a drive on his own. Unsurprisingly this proves to be a poor decision, threatening not only his own well-being but also that of a worker on a ladder, a mother with a baby carriage, a fruit seller, a bicyclist, and so forth – in short, anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in the reckless automobilist’s path. After years of use by the Corrick family this print is incomplete,and begins as the driver takes off in the car. This is one of 4 titles in the collection featuring actor André Deed: he also appears in Cretinetti lottatore (1909), Come Cretinetti paga i debiti (1909), and La Course à la perruque (1906). Les Débuts d’un chauffeur is one of Deed’s earliest films for Pathé, and also one of his first collaborations with director Georges Hatot and special-effects pioneer Segundo de Chomón. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Comedy. - One of the most charming prints in this year's Corrick shows. - A simple story of a reckless driver. I would not have recognized André Deed.

A Baby's Shoe
(Edison, US 1912) D: Charles J. Brabin; SC: Robert E. Coffey; cast: Walter Edwin (Forest, a Coachman), Gertrude McCoy (His Wife), Helen Coughlin (Little Girl), Robert Brower (Dr. Wilson); 989 ft, 16'29" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #5). English intertitles.
While the majority of films in the Corrick Collection date from 1905-1909, *A Baby’s Shoe is one of the few later films, acquired not long before family patriarch Albert Corrick’s death brought an end to the Corrick Family Entertainers’ touring career. Not to be confused with the 1909 Griffith film of the same title, Edison’s film depicts the unfortunate victims of technological progress. A coachman finds himself suddenly without a job when his employer, a successful doctor, replaces his cart and horse with a new automobile. Unable to secure another position in a world dominated by this new technology, the coachman and his family fall into debt. In desperation he hatches a plan which will not only solve his monetary problems, but also gain revenge on the doctor for dismissing him. Luckily, finding his little child’s shoe in his pocket prevents him from following through with his plans, and sets the stage for a happy ending. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Drama. From a source with some scratches and low contrast. There is an affinity with Biograph not only in the name but also in the storyline and in the composition.

The Short Sighted Cyclist
(Eclipse, FR 1907) D: Marcel Fabre?; cast: Marcel Fabre; 334 ft, 5'34" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #124). English intertitles.
Not surprisingly, Charles Urban’s own advertisements describe this film (produced by his French company Eclipse) in glowing terms: “For novelty of treatment, verisimilitude, and freedom from anything to offend the most fastidious, no subject hitherto published can approach ‘The Short-Sighted Cyclist.’ Misadventure after misadventure with great frequency and admirable realism. Fun, spontaneous and irresistible.” The Kinematograph and Lantern Weekly (May 1907) also noted the realism, but demonstrated a bit more concern for the safety of those involved: “‘Short Sighted Cyclist’ is presumably one of the ‘martyrs to kinematograph realism’ on whose behalf the Daily Chronicle was recently expending a great deal of tears and printer’s ink. The young gentleman taking the leading part was apparently imbued with an intense desire to make the subject realistic, and, at considerable personal inconvenience, he succeeds. … We are left wondering what premium an insurance company would require against the injury of an employee of this description.” As pondering such real-life consequences might put a damper on the entertainment value of the film – and potentially “offend the most fastidious” – perhaps it’s best to just sit back and appreciate the actor’s willingness to risk both life and limb in the service of comedy. As pondering such real-life consequences might put a damper on the entertainment value of the film – and potentially “offend the most fastidious” – perhaps it’s best to just sit back and appreciate Spanish actor Marcel Fabre’s willingness to risk both life and limb in the service of comedy. Thanks to Steve Massa for his timely identification of Fabre (well-known for his “Robinet” character in films produced by the Ambrosio company) as the heroic cyclist.– Leslie Anne Lewis. - Another simple comedy about a reckless driver, this time the short-sighted cyclist. A farce of mayhem. Print ok with a somewhat duped look.

Her First Cake
(Williamson Kinematograph Co., GB 1906) D: James Williamson; 309 ft, 5'09" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #58). English intertitles.
Her First Cake is the last of the Corricks’ Williamson Kinematograph Co. films to be screened at the Giornate, following Fire! (1901), When the Wife’s Away (1906), and The Miner’s Daughter (1907). While When the Wife’s Away took its humor from the domestic ineptitude of the man of the house, Her First Cake shifts the focus to the wife – “Mrs. Newlywed” – whose first attempt at cooking is not an unqualified (or even a qualified) success. The inedible result of her day’s labors proves difficult to dispose of – a passerby objects to it being dropped on his head, and a tramp decides he’s not that hungry – but the cake finally finds a home at a building site when it is used in the construction of a new brick wall. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Comedy: the cake is so hard that it can only be used in the construction of the stone wall. Ok, duped look.

Les petits Pifferari
(The Little Street Singers) (Pathé, FR 1909) D: ?; 405 ft, 6'45" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original stencil-colour); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #71). English intertitles.
A charming story, precisely stenciled in full, detailed color, this film blends a variety of striking rural locations with obvious studio settings. Too poor to care for her children, a woman sends her son and daughter out into the world to make a living as musicians. They soon meet up with a travelling violin player, and with the blessing of a priest they begin their journey. The trio have great success performing in fashionable cafés along the Côte d’Azur, and the children are able to return home to their mother with enough money to take care of them all. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - A drama in which the colour is so impressive that it may be the film's main attraction. A fine quality of the image in the print.

Reception on, and Inspection of, H.M.S. "Dreadnought"
(Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1907) D: Charles Urban; 275 ft, 4'35" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #27). No intertitles.
First in the series of 3 films produced by Urban documenting the visit of the colonial premiers to Portsmouth in May 1907, Reception on, and Inspection of, H.M.S. “Dreadnought” offers views of the various invited dignitaries, including renowned British Navy Admiral Sir John Fisher. In both the Urban and Corrick advertisements much was made of the fact that the filmmaker secured the exclusive right to film the events from the ship, right alongside the guests of honor. The film begins with the arrival of a special train commissioned to transport the premiers and members of both Houses of Parliament to Portsmouth, then documents their inspection of “the redoubtable Dreadnought”. The Corricks received this set of films shortly before leaving on their international tour. Together with The Day-Postle Match (also being screened at this year’s festival), this was one of the most heavily promoted films in their program, mentioned by name in the majority of the 1907 and 1908 advertisements and advance articles. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Non-fiction. Ok quality of the image.

Down on the Farm
(Edison, US 1905) D: ?, DP: Edwin S. Porter; 389 ft, 6'29" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #33) No intertitles.
As in other chase films, such as Biograph’s Personal (1904) and Edison’s own How a French Nobleman Got a Wife through the New York Herald “Personal” Column (1904), much of Down on the Farm’s humor is derived from shots showing a group of women racing gleefully, if not gracefully, across the landscape. Here they run through the woods, down the road, over a fence, and slide effortlessly up the side of a haystack (thanks to a bit of camera trickery). But unlike those hapless suitor films where women are the pursuers, here they are the pursued, running from the farmers whose orchard they’ve raided. In this example of the classic chase narrative, progress is marked when at each obstacle another farmer falls by the wayside. In the end one unlucky man is left all alone to face the women, who pelt the farmer with his own apples and drive him into a lake. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Comedy with running women. A fair pictorial quality in the image.

Le Tour du monde d'un policier
(A Detective’s Tour of the World) (Pathé, FR 1906) D: Charles Lucien Lépine; DP: Segundo de Chomón; cast: Georges Vinter; 35mm, 1029 ft, 17'09" (16 fps), col. (printed on colour stock, reproducing original stencil-colour and tinting); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #38). English intertitles.
Beautifully shot and richly stencil-colored, Le Tour du monde d’un policier is a film packed with adventure, intrigue, and humor, punctuated by scenes of far-off lands and featuring a number of exotic characters. This early detective story creatively combines the “cinema of attractions” style of film-making with the full-blown narrative format that would soon come to dominate the screen. A round-the-world manhunt begins when a crooked banker flees after embezzling from his employer, only to find a decidedly single-minded detective close on his heels. But as one Corrick reviewer described it, “Not being of the Sherlock Holmes type, the Detective always contrived to be just too late to arrest the absconding Accountant, which gave the latter further opportunities in picturesque Eastern lands.” Actor Georges Vinter stars as the detective, 4 years before taking on the role of Nick Winter, hero of Pathé’s long-running, tongue-in-cheek detective series. After missing the thief at the train station by mere seconds, the dogged detective catches up to his prey on a ship passing through the Suez Canal, only to lose him once again. This pattern repeats itself over and over as the duo make their way through Asia and across the Pacific, until an unexpected turn of events prompts a surprising twist. After the narrative is resolved the film culminates in a brilliantly colored tableau, bringing together all of the exotic characters from throughout the film – the Indian dancers, Native Americans, etc., etc. – and parading them around a massive globe.
As it’s constructed, the 10 segments of the narrative – each given only a simple title: “Festival in Calcutta”, “Yokohama”, “Fraudulent Bankruptcy”, etc. – can be broken down into 2 categories: sections primarily driven by the detective story and episodes that focus chiefly on highlighting some sort of attraction – exotic dances, camera magic, famous monuments – which are tied to the larger narrative by occasional incursions of the detective story. These sights range from colorful stage-like performances and the characters’ opium-induced hallucinations created through double-exposure, to actuality footage of exotic locations cut into the scenes and nail-biting attempts to ride an elephant. The detective story, on the other hand, provides the major narrative framework of the film and supplies the drive that moves the plot forward. In the chase films made popular in the years prior to this film (one example of which, the 1905 Edison film Down on the Farm, is also part of this program), the beginning of a shot or scene is marked by the entrance of the pursued and the end is signaled by the exit of the last pursuer. In between, the focus is kept on the progress of the chase as the characters navigate some sort of obstacle – a high fence, a steep hill, a rushing stream. Le Tour du monde d’un policier uses a similar strategy to bookend each “attraction” segment, beginning each with the entrance of the crook and concluding with the exit of the detective in hot pursuit. However, in between the flurry of entrances and exits the “attractions” interrupt the flow of the chase and take center stage, the narrative action missing or shifted to the edges of the frame.
The construction of Le Tour du monde d’un policier allowed for a good deal of freedom on the part of exhibitors, providing the opportunity to re-order scenes or shorten the story to fit the needs of a program without significant disruption of the narrative. The discrete nature of several of the “attraction” scenes also allowed exhibitors to use these elements individually or in other programs; there is evidence that the Corricks took advantage of this, pulling individual scenes out of the film to feature in their constantly changing “Trip Round the World” program. Director Charles Lucien Lépine could have limited the film’s detective story to the bare bones, a mere sketch used as an excuse to showcase the flashy performances, camera tricks, and other onscreen sights. Likewise, the “attraction” sections could have been pared down considerably or left out altogether, and the detective story would be perfectly adequate. Instead, the film proves to be far more ambitious, balancing a fleshed-out narrative and detailed sights over which the camera is permitted to linger. As each type works to appeal to different cinematic sensibilities in the viewer, together they are woven into what becomes a rather sophisticated film for this relatively early date. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Comedy, incomplete, but this is the kind of film that does not need to be complete. In many scenes the pictorial quality is fine.

Evento finale: Ukulelescope

Films and extracts:
Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra (British Sound Film Productions, GB 1929)
Two More (Publicity Films, GB 1929)
Quicker than Thought Movements (Pathé, FR 1913)
Tale of the Amplion (?, GB 1925) Drawings by W. Heath Robinson
Jiujitsu for the Ladies – Hints and Hobbies No.11 (FHC Productions, GB 1926)
Kiss in the Tunnel (G.A. Smith, GB 1899)
Ladies on Bicycles (Hepworth and Co., GB 1899)
Cycling the Channel (Topical Film Company, GB 1929)
Blackpool Promenade (?, GB, c.1924)
Dance of the Deermen (British Folk Dance and Song Society, GB 1928)
Hints on Physical Culture (?, GB, ?)
The Poetry of Motion (Pathé/Around the Town, GB 1921)
Quite Unfit for Females (Topical Film Company, GB 1921)
Ain’t She Sweet (De Forest Phonofilm, GB 1927) CAST: Dickie Henderson, Chilli Bouchier
Birth of a Flower (Kineto, GB 1910) D, DP: Percy Smith.
Trojan Cars (Debenham and Co., York, GB 1926) Sponsor: Ayrshire Motor Company
By the Side of the Zuyder Zee (Walturdaw, GB 1907)
The Witch’s Fiddle (Cambridge University Kinema Club, GB 1924) D, SC: Peter Le Neve Foster
Is London Like It Used To Be [catalogue: Old London Street Scenes] (?, GB 1903)
Competitors from Bristol (Topical Film Company, GB 1922)
How the Jam Gets into Donuts (Pathé/Around the Town, GB 1926)
Dance of the Moods (Spectrum Films, GB 1924) DP: Claude Friese Greene
medley: 
- The Talisman (Le Pied de mouton) (Pathé, FR 1907) D: Alberto Capellani
- Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra (British Sound Film Productions, GB 1929)
- The Deonzo Brothers (Paul’s Animatograph Works, GB 1901)
- Will Evans the Musical Eccentric (Warwick Trading Company, GB 1899)
- L’Homme-Orchestre (Star-Film, FR 1900) D: Georges Méliès.

DigiBeta (from 35mm originals) [ca 90 min announced] actual duration 74 min; from: BFINA
With special thanks to Bryony Dixon, Neil Brand, British Film Institute, British Silent Film Festival.

Live music by:
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (Dave Suich, Richie Williams, Hester Goodman, George Hinchcliffe, Kitty Lux, Will Grove White, Jonty Bankes)
Created and produced by: Hester Goodman
Original music: Hester Goodman, George Hinchcliffe
E-subtitles in Italian. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "Since its almost accidental formation by a group of friends in 1985, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has become a national institution – “absolutely the Best of British”, in the words of Michael Palin. At the same time, the group has won global popularity: when they appear in Japan, barricades are needed to keep back the fans, and they are soon due at the Sydney Opera House. Musically, the peak of their career so far has been their inclusion in the 2009 Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, the most prestigious event in London’s musical year. People queued all day for places, and more than 1,000 brought their own ukuleles to join in an unprecedented massed ukulele performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”.
The Orchestra can in large part take credit for the new enthusiasm for the long-scorned uke, a 19th-century Hawaiian adaptation of instruments introduced by Portuguese sailors. They have today become musicians of great virtuosity, revealing the rich and extraordinary range of sounds and colours of which the ukulele is capable. But their performance involves more than instrumental virtuosity, which is interwoven with songs, whistling, gags, irony, and beaming good humour. Their comedy never detracts from the joy and beauty of the music. In their own words, they present “a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping obituary of rock-’n’-roll and melodious light entertainment featuring only the ‘bonsai guitar’ and a menagerie of voices in a collision of post-punk performance and toe-tapping oldies. There are no drums, pianos, backing tracks or banjos, no pitch shifters or electronic trickery. Only an astonishing revelation of the rich palette of orchestration afforded by ukuleles and singing (and a bit of whistling).” Their repertory ranges from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Nirvana, Otis Redding, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. “Both the beauty and vacuity of popular and highbrow music are highlighted,” they tell us, “the pompous and the trivial, the moving and the amusing. Sometimes a foolish song can touch an audience more than high art; sometimes music which takes itself too seriously is revealed to be hilarious. You may never think about music in the same way once you’ve been exposed to the Ukes’ depraved musicology.”
The Orchestra is particularly admired by fellow musicians: Brian Eno says ambivalently, “The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain may well turn out to be one of the turning points of 21st Century Art. But then again…” For years Neil Brand has been pleading that they should work with film, and finally it happened, in January 2009, when they first presented Ukulelescope at the Bristol Slapstick Festival, using a collage of short silent films from the British Film Institute, selected with the guidance of Bryony Dixon. They handle film as they handle music, with no false reverence, but with affection or sarcasm where they are respectively due. While they are distinctly cheeky to Medvedeff’s Russian Balalaika Orchestra or pushy period commercials, they combine a 1903 London Street Scene and a music hall tune to evoke a supreme elegy for another time; and they find a singularly sympathetic friend in Méliès. They are full of surprises. – David Robinson". -

A spirited and inspired performance with fascinating discoveries (Quicker Than Thought Movements, Jiujitsu for the Ladies, Le Pied de mouton). There was a surrealistic aspect to the show, both in the music and in the collage of silent films.

Evento speciale: Alice's Wild West Show

Virginia Davis, 1918-2009
Alice's Wild West Show
US 1924. PC: Disney. D, P: Walt Disney; AN: Walt Disney, Rollin “Ham” Hamilton; CAST: Virginia Davis (Alice), Tommy Hicks; ca 850 ft, 9'30" (24 fps), (tinted); from: UCLA Film and Television Archive, Los Angeles. E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "Seventeen years ago to the day, on 10 October 1992, the Giornate presented the opening entry in its “Walt in Wonderland” retrospective: a screening of the silent films of Walt Disney. Much of that 1992 retrospective was dominated by the Alice Comedies, Disney’s first successful series of films, launched in 1923, in which his cartoon characters had interacted with “Alice” – played by an irresistible 4-year-old charmer named Virginia Davis. As an added attraction, the Giornate in 1992 brought Virginia herself to Pordenone as a special guest.
As so often happens, the festival not only celebrated history that year, but made some history of its own. Virginia Davis in person proved every bit as charming and irresistible as she had been 70 years earlier, and – after decades of neglect – was rediscovered by an international audience. Returning to her home in California after the festival, she suddenly found herself in demand for personal appearances, film screenings, and Disney conventions. A new generation of fans took Virginia, and the Alice Comedies, to their hearts. Reveling in this new attention, Virginia blossomed all over again – and, in turn, enriched the lives of all who were fortunate enough to meet her.
Virginia Davis died in August 2009, at the age of 90. Her passing is a sad occasion, but it marks the end of a full and joyful life. Her rediscovery and recognition as Walt Disney’s first star was belated, but it was sweet and gave a great boost to her spirits.
As a special tribute, tonight the Giornate presents Virginia’s own personal favorite of her Alice Comedy appearances: Alice’s Wild West Show. This film was presented at the 1992 festival, but has since been upgraded with this sparkling new restoration. Virginia commented more than once that she especially relished this film because it gave her a chance to play what she really was: a tomboy. Swaggering around in her cowboy hat and holster belt, spinning tall tales of her escapades in the Wild West, cheerfully thrashing the daylights out of the neighborhood bully, Virginia in this film is clearly having the time of her life.
And the film holds other delights as well. Alice’s Wild West Show was the fourth Alice Comedy produced in Hollywood, when the Disney studio was still a tiny organization, with only Walt himself and one other artist to handle the painstaking, time-consuming work of animation. As a result, we can see Walt’s own hand at work in the animated scenes of this film – a distinction that would disappear from Disney films after 1924.
At the same time, since screen time devoted to animation was rationed in the early Alices, Walt compensated with charming live-action framing stories. This one, featuring Virginia and other young actors, some of them simply neighborhood kids, is one of the most enjoyable. And the combination scenes, depicting Virginia in a cartoon world, demonstrate Walt’s endless fascination with technical challenges. As Virginia rides atop an animated stagecoach and tangles with animated bad guys, we’re treated to quite sophisticated effects, achieved with a bare minimum of resources.
Tonight, as we enjoy this little film, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco is welcoming its first visitors to an elaborate overview of Disney’s life and career that acknowledges Virginia as Disney’s first leading lady. Walt in Wonderland, the book published in 1992 by the Giornate to celebrate Disney’s silent films, is poised for a new revised and expanded edition. It’s exciting to contemplate these present and future developments – but it’s also a good time to pause and remember the delightful little girl who was there when it all started. – Russell Merritt, J.B. Kaufman."

A brilliant print of a wonderful film full of life and a sense of play.

Die Gezeichneten / Love One Another / [The Stigmatized]

[The film was not released in Finland] / Elsker hverandre) [Gli stigmatizzati]. DE 1922. PC: Primus-Film GmbH, Berlin. P: Otto Schmidt; D: Carl Th. Dreyer; SC: Carl Th. Dreyer, based on the novel Elsker hverandre by Aage Madelung (1912); DP: Friedrich Weinmann; AD: Jens G. Lind; COST: Leopold Verch, Willi Ernst, Karl Töpfer; CAST: Adele Reuter-Eichberg (Frau Segal), Wladimir Gaidorow (Jacow Segal), Polina Piekowska (Hanne-Liebe), Sylvia Torff (Zipe), Hugo Döblin (Abraham), Thorleiff Reiss (Sascha), Johannes Meyer (Rylowitsch), Richard Boleslawski (Fedja), J. Duwan-Torzoff (Suchowersky); orig: 2833 m; 2173 m, 95 min (20 fps); from: DFI. Restoration by Casper Tybjerg and Thomas Christensen, at Digital Filmlab, Copenhagen, for the Danish Film Institute (c) 2007. DFI / Cinémathèque de Toulouse. Danish + English intertitles. E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Neil Brand. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

Casper Tybjerg (from the GCM Catalogue): "The film takes place in Russia before and during the 1905 revolution. A prologue, now consisting largely of title cards (we do not know whether there were images to go along with them) presents the Russians as a sluggish people, but terrible once aroused; and among them, resentment festers against their Jewish neighbors. Even as a young girl, Hanne-Liebe experiences prejudice. Later, as a young woman, she is attracted to Alexander/Sascha, a student with revolutionary sympathies. The ne’er-do-well Fedja spreads false rumors, and Hanne-Liebe is expelled from school. She runs away to Moscow, where her estranged brother Jakow is a successful lawyer, having converted to Christianity. She meets Sascha again, but he is egged on by the police spy Rylowitsch to perform an act of revolutionary terrorism. All the revolutionaries are arrested, and Hanne-Liebe is forced to return to her hometown. The authorities decide to distract popular anger against the czarist government by fomenting pogroms against the Jews, and Rylowitsch, disguised as a monk, is dispatched to spread the venom of anti-Semitism. He finds an eager audience in Fedja. Jakow decides to return home when his mother falls ill. The 1905 revolution breaks out, and Sascha is pardoned. The new liberal constitution is greeted with popular joy, but Rylowitsch’s insidious influence makes itself felt, and soon the Russians turn into a murderous mob: the Jews are butchered, and their homes smashed and burned. Most of Hanne-Liebe’s family is murdered. She is saved by Sascha and departs for an uncertain future.
    Dreyer based his film on a Danish novel from 1912 by Aage Madelung, a then-popular realist writer. The film’s two very different titles both come from the novel, which was called Elsker hverandre (“Love One Another”) in Denmark, but translated into German as Die Gezeichneten (“The Stigmatized Ones”). In making the film, Dreyer strove for maximum authenticity. With his production designer Jens Lind, he traveled to Lublin in Poland, which had a very large Jewish community; the exterior sets for the film, built in Berlin, were based on the architecture they saw there. As extras, Dreyer hired Jewish refugees from Russia (there were many in Berlin at the time, some with first-hand experience of pogroms). Part of Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre troupe had ended up in Berlin after the Bolshevik seizure of power and the Russian civil war, and Dreyer was able to use several of these actors, whose naturalist style he greatly admired. Dreyer was a lifelong foe of anti-Semitism, but only dealt explicitly with it in this impressive and powerful film. Few, if any, films of the period portray the destructive potential of racial intolerance as clearly as this one, and the extraordinary violence of the pogrom at the end still retains its power to shock.
    The film was considered lost until 1960, when an original nitrate print bearing the Russian distribution title “Pogrom” was found in the archives of Gosfilmofond by the historian Vladimir Matusevitch. A dupe was made from this and presented to the Danish Film Museum, which replaced the Russian intertitles with Danish translations. This print was then circulated until the early 1980s, when a new dupe was made from it. In 2005, thanks to the help of Bernard Eisenschitz, the original nitrate was relocated at Bois d’Arcy, where it had been deposited by the Cinémathèque de Toulouse, which had received it from Gosfilmofond. The present print has been made from a 2K scan of this original nitrate print. Using Dreyer’s screenplay and an intertitle list from the Swedish censorship archive (no German censorship records appear to exist), the Danish intertitles from the film’s world premiere in Copenhagen (two weeks ahead of the Berlin premiere) have been reconstructed, adding some 40 titles to those found in the Russian print and clarifying the complex narrative considerably. In one dialogue sequence, two shots were apparently mixed up when the Russian titles were cut in; they have been put in the correct order. One other one-shot scene has been moved to the place where the corresponding intertitles indicates it should be. – Casper Tybjerg."

AA: Revisited: Dreyer's powerful account of anti-semitism. - I have seen this film a few times before, and in this reconstructed and restored version it made really sense for the first time. The added intertitles and the re-editing of the footage make the narrative consistent. The print has been made from good source material. There are variations in the pictorial quality, but very often it looks really good. - In this reconstruction one can finally state that the storyline is pretty thick in the film itself (and not only in imperfect versions of it). - The pogrom sequence is devastating. - Watching the film on the adjoining seat was Yossi Halachmi, who commented that this film was the story of his father and mother, and there were details there that were familiar to him from his family tradition: for instance a personal fight between a Jew and a Goy provoking a pogrom.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Du skal ære din Hustru

Kunnioita vaimoasi / L'angelo del focolare / The Master of the House / Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife
DK 1925. PC: Palladium Film. D, AD: Carl Th. Dreyer; SC: Carl Th. Dreyer, Svend Rindom, based on the play Tyrannens Fald [“Fall of a Tyrant”] by Svend Rindom (1919); DP: George Schnéevoigt; CAST: Johannes Meyer (Viktor Frandsen), Astrid Holm (Ida, his wife), Karin Nellemose (Karen, their daughter), Mathilde Nielsen (Mads), Clara Schønfeld (Alvida Kryger, Ida’s mother), Johannes Nielsen (doctor), Petrine Sonne (washerwoman); orig: 2430 m; 2196 m /18 fps/ 107 min
From: DFI. English intertitles. E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Donald Sosin. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "For decades, Dreyer was cinema’s great opponent of bigotry and persecution. Leaves from Satan’s Book (1920), influenced by Griffith’s Intolerance, had established this image, and the idea was cemented with La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc, Dreyer’s official masterpiece as well as a landmark in film history. With the sound films Day of Wrath (1943) and Ordet (1955), it wasn’t hard to see Dreyer’s constant theme revolved around social and religious dogmatism.
In the 1970s, a British print with the English title The Master of the House began circulating in 16mm in the US and the UK. Critics could interpret it as another instance of Dreyer’s critique of intolerance, this time domestic rather than religious. It could also be seen as a quasi-feminist film. True, the heroine never becomes as defiant as Ibsen’s Nora; Ida is reluctant to leave Victor to the tough love of Mads. But the portrayal of the unemployed husband, wandering the streets and stopping off at a bar, points up how economic conditions could foster female oppression. Victor’s wounded pride makes him a tyrant at home, and wife and children suffer the consequences. Yet the film’s overt moral, given in the original title Thou Shalt Honor Thy Wife, could hardly be considered progressive: The film, in a subdued comic vein, defends traditional marriage, and a happy ending assures us that Johannes has reformed. Du skal aere din Hustru was a prototype of the “contradictory text”, the movie that gives with one hand but takes away with the other.
As more of Dreyer’s silent films became visible, and as critics began to take a closer look at Day of Wrath, Ordet, and Gertrud, it became clear that Dreyer was fascinated by the overwhelming, almost supernatural power of love, both spiritual and erotic. Seduced by a glittering princess, the callow Michael abandons his older lover, the master painter Zoret, who records his sorrow in a brooding triptych. In The Parson’s Widow, the young minister must marry an elderly woman to get a post, while keeping his girlfriend secret. Other women become figures of awesome power – blasphemous in Day of Wrath, miraculous in Ordet. Even Gertrud in the film of that name tries to defy death by demanding eternal devotion from the imperfect men around her. In this context, Ida becomes another holy woman; Victor fails to recognize his household saint.
By screening so many films – good, bad, and indifferent – in bulk, the classic years of the Giornate allowed historians to trace the history of cinematic forms in unprecedented detail. Now we could see “the evolution of film language” in slow motion, as it were. It became clear that while older directors of the 1910s embraced a long-take, staging-based aesthetic, a younger generation, debuting between 1915 and the early 1920s, had embraced American continuity editing. Lang, Murnau, Gance, L’Herbier, Kuleshov, and many others came of age as Hollywood cinema was sweeping the world after World War I. For them the new editing style seems to have been as cutting-edge as digital visual effects were in the early 2000s.
Yet this generation didn’t take up the new style unthinkingly; many directors, such as the Soviets, pushed it in new directions. In his own quiet way, so did Dreyer. Michael shows that he had mastered the skills of assembling shots of people arrayed around a dinner table, but in Du skal aere din Hustru, he sets himself a harder problem. He must film a play set entirely within an apartment. Shooting “in the round”, he cuts, with smooth matches, to a wider variety of angles than we would typically find in the Hollywood cinema. In place of Hollywood’s axis of action, or 180-degree line, Dreyer creates an enveloping space around the characters – showing all four walls, matching figure movements to and from the camera.
Dreyer’s exploration of a circular playing space is akin to the strategy we find in Lubitsch’s masterful Lady Windermere’s Fan, with the camera inside a triangular zone marked out by three characters. Dreyer would further explore the possibilities of his “circular” staging and shooting. Jeanne d’Arc builds the space of the action out of fragments filmed from virtually any point in space, while in the more sinuous, enclosed spaces of the sound films, from Vampyr to Gertrud, tableaux are wrapped in camera movements. Considered in the history of film style, Du skal aere din Hustru stands as a powerful – perhaps by now canonical – effort to find new expressive possibilities in the editing strategies that were becoming the lingua franca of world filmmaking. – David Bordwell".

Revisited Dreyer's original and effective drama-comedy about an autocratic father and the women's counterplan to bring justice to the household. The quality of the print is acceptable, but there are reportedly in France better source materials from which a better print could be produced.

The Screen Decades Project (five films)

E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: Mie Yanashita. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
(Edison, US 1906) D: Edwin S. Porter; CAST: John P. Brown; 500 ft, [8'30" announced] actual duration 7'22" (16 fps); from: [Library of Congress announced] actually: MoMA. No intertitles.
From the GCM Catalogue: ""The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend” was a popular comic-strip series by illustrator Winsor McCay. A regular feature in the New York Telegram from 1904 until 1914, McCay’s most successful cartoon strip always began the same way: with a portly gentleman who had overindulged in a dinner of Welsh rarebit, a kind of cheese fondue over toast. The combination of grated cheese, beer, butter, and seasonings led to rarebit-induced nightmares of epic proportions. In McCay’s strip, the first frame depicts the diner getting into bed or falling asleep, and the succeeding frames are filled with remarkable dreams beautifully drawn about phobias and anxieties, ones often attendant on modern urban life featuring cityscapes, skylines, and skyscrapers. The strip ends with the dreamer awakening. The Edison Manufacturing Company film The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend, made by Edwin S. Porter and Wallace McCutcheon, emphasizes instead the illusion that inanimate objects move of their accord (e.g., the bed hops up and down, shoes move by themselves) and that the dreamer in his bed flies through the night sky.
The movie opens with a medium shot of the gentleman-diner drinking alcohol and eating rarebit. But immediately after this conventional emblematic shot, Porter begins to employ tricks. The second shot is a double exposure of the gentleman, a swinging lamppost set in an exterior cityscape, and a background of panning, blurring New York City streets. As Charles Musser has written, “It suggested the subjective sensation of the fiend’s predicament without being a point-of-view shot”. After cinematically establishing the fiend’s inebriated state, the film depicts the man’s drunken adventures in his bedroom, a studio interior. First, his shoes appear to scamper across the floor and then the furniture disappears – the result of stop-motion cinematography.
The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend took longer to produce and was a more elaborate production than most films of the time. Increased sales at Edison gave Porter and his collaborator Wallace McCutcheon (who left Edison for Biograph shortly after this film was released) the ability to work more painstakingly, using miniatures, scripts, and the unheard-of length of 2 months’ time to develop the elaborate effects in this movie. As the manufacturer’s catalogue said, “The picture is probably best described as being humorously humorous and mysteriously mysterious, and is certain to make the biggest kind of a ‘hit’ with any audience. Some of the photographic ‘stunts’ have never been seen or attempted before, and but few experts in photography will be able to understand how they are done.” The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend has generally been credited as an important American-produced antecedent of animated film. – Lauren Rabinovitz". - An early exploration in cinema as "the dream mode", literally. A fine sense of vertigo. - The print has low contrast, a duped look, and frameline situations.

The "Teddy" Bears
(Edison, US 1907). D: Edwin S. Porter; CAST: ?; 761 ft, 13 min (16 fps); from: Library of Congress, Washington, DC. No intertitles.
The story of the hunting expedition when Theodore Roosevelt had declined to shoot a bear cub after killing its mother had become so embedded in the popular imagination that it was now represented by a furry stuffed toy known as a “Teddy” bear. Teddy bears became a nationwide fad. The “Teddy” Bears, made by Wallace McCutcheon and Edwin S. Porter for Edison, was meant, according to its advertisements, to be a satire on the teddy bear craze.
The first part of the film is a recounting of the very popular fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, told in sequential scenes and in a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces, with vestiges of the temporal overlapping that characterized Porter’s early films. Originally a tale of bears eating an intrusive female fox, now changed into the story of a curious girlchild who escapes harm by jumping out the window after being discovered by the bears in their house, the story featured a heroine who comes from who-knows-where and tries out identities as she samples the porridge and the beds of Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear.
In the Goldilocks character, we might find an unconscious reflection of the immigrant who attempts to find a role in the New World and is regarded as an object of suspicion by established society. The fairy tale is ambiguous on the question of where its sympathies lie. In the film, the cruelty of the hunter who shoots the pursuing bears (clearly human beings in furry costumes) as they chase Goldilocks through the woods hands over our sympathy to the bears. In a direct reference to the Teddy Roosevelt mythology, Goldilocks pleads with the hunter to spare the life of the bear cub. He does so, and Goldilocks goes in the house to collect the toy teddy bears; the hunter then emerges with Baby Bear, a chain around its neck, an orphan and a prisoner.
The third element in this mixture of fairy tale and contemporary political life is an animated sequence showing a group of toy teddy bears of assorted sizes putting on a kind of acrobatic display. According to Charles Musser, the animated sequence took 8 days of work, moving the teddy bears between each shot. It is seen through a peephole by Goldilocks as she snoops around the house. Typically for this period, there is not a lot of narrative logic for the animation sequence, even if it does serve to underline the Goldilocks role as an outsider looking in. It is there to provide an attraction for the audience. It is a spectacle outside the narrative continuity. Porter was often drawn to the time-consuming technical work that provided wonder and entertainment. – Eileen Bowser - A fairy-tale with actors in bear suits, animated teddy bears, and live action.

Broncho Billy's Christmas Dinner
(Essanay, US 1911). D: G.M. Anderson; SC: Josephine Rector?; cast: G.M. Anderson, Arthur Mackley, Edna Fisher, Julia Mackley, Willis Elder, Brinsley Shaw, Augustus Carney, Fred Church, Josephine Rector; 239 m, 12 min (18 fps); from: NFM (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.
Released on 23 December 1911, Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner marks a turning point in the Westerns that G.M. Anderson was making for Essanay. Several years earlier, George Spoor had set up his partner with his own production unit to shoot films in the West. Favoring a peripatetic form of filmmaking, Anderson led his unit through a series of locations – in Colorado and Texas before “settling” in southern California – where he wrote, directed, and starred in popular cowboy films. In the summer of 1911 the team moved to San Rafael, north of San Francisco, where Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner was shot; then, after a short winter sojourn near San Diego, Anderson returned north and constructed a permanent studio east of San Francisco, in the small town of Niles, which he and his team would occupy for the next 4 and a half years. Although several earlier Essanay films bore the name, Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner was the first of an increasingly regular Broncho Billy series (with Anderson as the title character) that would run through 1915. In the series Anderson played a recurring character type – a “good badman” – yet in autonomous stories that rarely bore any relation to one another or suggested any change in the character from film to film. Simultaneous with this film’s release, Essanay was promoting Anderson as the “most photographed man” in the business – that is, one of the first recognized movie stars.
In Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner, a small-town sheriff is sent a poster of Broncho Billy (granting him immunity if he turns himself in) just before his daughter leaves for college on the local stagecoach. Meanwhile, in some woods, Billy waits for the stage to pass, planning to rob its passengers. The stage driver is delayed; drunken cowboys spook the horses; and the stage careens off (with the daughter), rushing wildly by the surprised Billy. Racing after the stage, he clambers aboard, grabs the loose reins, and brings the horses to a standstill. So grateful is the daughter that she invites him to join her family for Christmas dinner; before he can say no (he eyes the stage cashbox), she drags him off and home. Awkward and unfamiliar with such occasions, Billy finally confesses his identity; the sheriff quickly accepts him, grateful for his “good deed.” One reviewer found the “thrilling ride on [the] stage coach . . . as exciting and realistic as anything . . . shown in pictures,” and the surviving print, marked by some deft framing and editing, confirms this praise. Trade press stories heightened the thrill by reporting that, despite breaking an ankle during the scene’s filming, Edna Fisher (the daughter) “continued acting during three subsequent scenes without revealing the extent of her injuries”. Yet reviewers were equally impressed by the acting “in the quieter moments” near the end, as when a pensive Billy is washing up in the right foreground space of a small room, while the family and other guests cluster around a Christmas tree visible through a doorway in the background.
The Broncho Billy series was unusually popular in Europe, especially in Great Britain and Germany, where Essanay had branch offices. Anderson’s phenomenal appeal – what the English called the “irresistible charm of personality and the breezy, easy, infectious humour . . . of [this] magnetic man” – gave credence to Essanay’s own boast that Broncho Billy was the first American “world famous character-creation”. In contrast to Thomas Ince’s spectacular Indian pictures for Bison-101, Anderson developed Billy as a heroic figure along the lines worked out in Broncho Billy’s Christmas Dinner. That is, he first appeared as either an outlaw or “social bandit”, or else as a cowboy between jobs. If this characterization appealed to working-class audiences and boys, other attributes attracted a middle-class audience. For Billy usually underwent a transformation into a socially acceptable role model (Anderson himself, by contrast, underwent a different transformation, dropping his real name of Max Aaronson for a more Anglicized one). In fact, although never strictly a parent, Billy sometimes served as a surrogate father, making him an appealing figure to mothers as well as children. By incorporating Christian themes of moral uplift, self-sacrifice, and redemption, his films often (and somewhat ironically) evoked the ideals of evangelical Protestantism. In short, the Broncho Billy series became incredibly popular by hewing to traditional, middle-class ideals of morality, manhood, and character, without totally erasing the figure’s initial appearance as a stoic, isolated male. – Richard Abel. - Fascinating to notice also the connections to later John Ford westerns: the good-bad-man in Stagecoach, and the affection with the theme of the villain as a surrogate father (The Three Godfathers).

The Perils of Pauline: reissue Episode 5, The Aerial Wire [originally Episode 14]

(Eclectic Film Co. / Pathé, US 1914). D: Donald MacKenzie?; cast: Pearl White (Pauline), Crane Wilbur (Harry), Paul Panzer (Owen); 1265 ft, 19 min (18 fps); from: BFINA, a 35mm blowup from a 28mm print with reissue titles re-translated into English from French.
A genre of filmmaking often seen as symptomatic of American cinema’s “transitional” period, the action-packed serial enjoyed a terrific boom in popularity in the mid-1910s. The mold was cast by Selig’s 13-episode The Adventures of Kathlyn (which debuted in December 1913) – which made the daring exploits of an athletic “serial queen” central to the format’s appeal – and was emulated many times over in subsequent months: in Pathé’s The Perils of Pauline and The Exploits of Elaine; in Universal’s Lucille Love, the Girl of Mystery, The Trey o’ Hearts, and The Master Key; in Thanhouser’s The Million Dollar Mystery and Zudora; in Lubin’s The Beloved Adventurer; and in Kalem’s The Hazards of Helen – to name only those debuting in 1914!
Typically released in episodes of one or two reels over a period of three or more months, the serial was an economic bonanza for exhibitors unable to shift to features: the very promise “To be continued” virtually guaranteed repeat attendance, rendering the short film program viable in the face of the growing market for feature films. Not for nothing, then, did the serial also mark a watershed in film advertising: far-reaching campaigns were a sine qua non for generating the sustained public interest on which serials depended. The Adventures of Kathlyn may (again) have set the mold – establishing the full-page newspaper serialization as the centerpiece of its promotional campaign – but it was The Perils of Pauline that really upped the publicity stakes. Fueled by a co-production arrangement between Pathé and the Hearst newspaper syndicate, Perils unleashed a torrent of ballyhoo with its debut in March of 1914 – newspaper serializations, of course, but also weekly write-in competitions with cash prizes and a mammoth billboard campaign (Pathé claimed to have put up 52 billboards in New York City alone).
Nothing was more important to Pathé’s promotional efforts on Perils than the serial’s lead actress, the 25-year-old Pearl White – arguably the US cinema’s first truly international star. At a time when the motion picture star system was just coming into effect, early serial queens were paradigmatic of the extent to which fan publicity fused stars’ personal identities with their screen personas – as though there were simply no distance separating these actresses from the characters they portrayed. According to one representative profile, for instance, White was in reality a former trapeze artist, a “pretty fair swimmer”, and an “athlete” who “aeroplaned often”. For her, “leaps over cliffs, and dives off decks of ocean liners, are as prosaic and uneventful as her morning grapefruit,” one magazine reported. The huge success of The Perils of Pauline consequently enshrined White as an icon of modern womanhood, a status secured through subsequent Pathé serials, The Exploits of Elaine (1914), Pearl of the Army (1916), The Iron Claw (1916), and many others.
It is hard not to see the serial queen phenomenon as one of silent cinema’s most explicit discourses on changing ideals of womanhood in early-20th century America. Yet what is surprising watching Perils today is just how limited Pauline’s agency appears (especially in comparison with the far more assertive independence of, for example, Helen Holmes in the roughly contemporaneous The Hazards of Helen). The narrative of Pauline’s “perils” is carefully framed between two patriarchal obligations – to her guardian Mr. Marvin, whose death in Episode 1 frees Pauline to give rein to her adventurous spirit, and to her fiancé Harry, marriage to whom abruptly ends her adventures in the serial’s final (20th) installment. It is only in the period between these bonds that Pauline encounters her adventures, repeatedly fighting off the murderous designs of her guardian’s secretary, Owen, who is plotting to take control of her inheritance.
First released in early October 1914, as Episode 14 in the serial’s 20-chapter run, the installment screened at this year’s Giornate as Episode 5 in fact derives from a later 9-episode 28mm non-theatrical condensed reissue, in turn based on the 1916 European release prints. (The intertitles reflect this circuitous provenance, having been re-translated awkwardly back into English from the French.) As usual, the chapter begins with Pauline lured outside the security of domestic space (this time, by a false report of a fire), only to be returned to it at the end (as always, by being rescued by Harry). Like most early serial episodes, the action is thus relatively self-contained, lacking the “cliffhanger”-style structure that would become more common by 1915. (The print is also missing a few frames from the ending.) And yet, within the modest confines of its 2 reels, the film offers a burning building, a double kidnapping, a flooding, a rat infestation, an underwater dive, and an escape on a telegraph wire. An “old-fashioned, shake-the-house thriller” was how the Moving Picture World described it. “This is truly a real one.” – Rob King. - I have seen very few samples of the American serials, despite their great importance, so I was grateful to see this. Thrills galore with the exploding cellar and the escape over the river via an aerial wire which is cut by the villains. A duped print from a battered source.

The Sinking of the Lusitania
(Winsor McCay, US 1918). D: Winsor McCay; cast [prologue]: Winsor McCay; 217 m, 9'32" (20 fps); from: Cinémathèque Québécoise, Montréal.
Along with features and star vehicles, movie programs during the late 1910s also included short entertainment and informational films such as cartoons and newsreels. Some of these smaller films depicted the war and related topics creatively, didactically, or, in the case of Winsor McCay’s The Sinking of the Lusitania, with some of each. Released in July 1918, it has sometimes been described erroneously as the first animated propaganda cartoon, or the first one about World War I. Animated cartoons about the war had been made since at least 1915, in fact, and their production and rhetoric increased thereafter, along with that of other war-related films. In the months before the release of McCay’s film, there were such cartoons as The Peril of Prussianism (January), Me und Gott (April), and The Depth Bomb (May). Among other producers, Pat Sullivan released several animated shorts during the war, including two that apparently sought to capitalize upon the anticipation or popularity of Shoulder Arms, namely How Charlie Captured the Kaiser (September) and Over the Rhine with Charlie (December).
McCay’s film is neither the first nor last animated cartoon about events related to World War I, nor is it the first film made about the German sinking of the passenger ship Lusitania off the Irish coast in May 1915, an act that had killed over 1,000 people, including 128 Americans, and edged a reluctant nation closer to war. In addition to coverage in other media, two feature films about this event appeared before McCay’s film, both starring Rita Jolivet, an actress who actually had survived the Lusitania disaster. Little is known about Her Redemption(1916), but Lest We Forget, released in January 1918, is a drama in which the Jolivet character is captured by Germans and sentenced to death by firing squad (a likely reference to the Edith Cavell case). She escapes, only to find herself aboard the ill-fated ship, but survives its destruction. Jolivet’s real-life connection to the disaster not only provided a reason to make these films, but also helped to promote them and lend a degree of authenticity. McCay’s film may have been created partly to tap into lingering interest in this particular subject as well as ongoing concerns about a possible direct German attack on the United States. Such concerns were heightened by ongoing submarine warfare when, on 25 May 1918, U-boats made their first confirmed appearance in U.S. waters.
What makes The Sinking of the Lusitania among the more interesting, accomplished, and unique films of its time is its hybrid form as an artful document. Unlike most documentaries it is animated, and unlike most animated cartoons it is not a comedy. And unlike many propaganda films of the time, its production values are exceptional, even noteworthy as one of the earliest films to use cel animation. As with Griffith’s Hearts of the World (1918), the prologue of McCay’s film depicts the author figure preparing the film, and likewise touts him as not only a great filmmaker but also “the originator and inventor of Animated Cartoons”. While McCay certainly did not invent animation, he had already produced a number of ground-breaking works such as Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) and was an established Hearst newspaper comic strip and editorial cartoonist.
A powerful document with images drawn and edited to resemble a newsreel, McCay’s animated film simultaneously informs, horrifies, and possibly entertains audiences with its spectacle. A self-described “historical record of the crime that shocked Humanity,” the film depicts the ship being torpedoed, engulfed in flames and explosions, and sinking as passengers seek lifeboats and fall overboard to their deaths. The film culminates with a powerful scene of a mother and her baby drowning. While the film depicts the Germans as distant and dark silhouettes, the victims are portrayed with more humanity, including photographs of some prominent passengers who died, such as the millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt and “the world’s foremost theatrical manager”, Charles Frohman. Though clearly on the side of the Allies, and sometimes strident in its rhetoric, the film also makes gestures toward a more balanced journalistic tone, including its acknowledgment that there were public warnings that such an event could occur, and that these warnings had been ignored. Perhaps because it is not a feature film, there is not much of a documented popular or critical reception for The Sinking of the Lusitania, but it subsequently may be considered one of McCay’s most accomplished works. – James Latham. - A wonderful animation which could still be studied by today's animators. A nobility of approach, fine artistry and an impressive variety of means to portray the naval tragedy.

The Screen Decades Project (Introduction)

From the GCM Catalogue: "Last year the Pordenone Silent Film Festival highlighted the 30th anniversary of the Brighton conference, organized in March 1978 by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF). Eileen Bowser (archivist at the MoMA in New York at the time) and David Francis (then head of the National Film Archive in London) had the idea of putting together for the occasion a major program of 600 films produced between 1900 and 1906 scattered about in 17 film archives around the world. As is well known, the 5 days of screenings that resulted changed our vision of film history. This belated discovery of early cinema was the prime catalyst of a movement that opened the door to a whole new generation of film historians who, through their study of early cinema, have reshaped the way film history is studied.

This year the Festival is organizing something of a sequel to this tribute to Brighton, with the present program around the publication of two anthologies which are neither more nor less than an outgrowth of Brighton 1978. Not only is the first of these two volumes dedicated “To Eileen Bowser and David Francis, who made Brighton 1978 possible,” but Eileen Bowser has contributed an article to each of the two books. (For his part, David Francis planned to write a text for the first volume but in the end was obliged to withdraw.) The two books (American Cinema, 1890-1909, edited by André Gaudreault, and American Cinema of the 1910s, edited by Charlie Keil and Ben Singer, New Brunswick [N.J.]: Rutgers University Press, 2009) are part of a series of 10 volumes which form a sweeping history of American cinema of the 20th century. As the series editors Lester D. Friedman and Murray Pomerance write, “Each volume in the Screen Decades: American Culture/American Cinema series presents a group of original essays analyzing the impact of cultural issues on the cinema and the impact of the cinema in American society. Because every chapter explores a spectrum of particularly significant motion pictures and the broad range of historical events in one year, readers will gain a continuing sense of the decade as it came to be depicted on movie screens across the continent.”

The program of films shown at Pordenone, coordinated by the present author in collaboration with Lisa Pietrocatelli of the Groupe de recherche sur l’avènement et la formation des institutions cinématographique et scénique (GRAFICS) at the Université de Montréal, is just a sample of the hundred or so films given close scrutiny in the two volumes. Each volume contains 10 chapters written by specialists in early cinema in the United States, most of whom are regular visitors to the Giornate: Richard Abel, Jennifer Bean, Eileen Bowser, André Gaudreault, Lee Grieveson, Tom Gunning, Charlie Keil, Rob King, James Latham, Patrick Loughney, Leslie Midkiffe DeBauche, Charles Musser, Lauren Rabinovitz, Scott Simmon, Ben Singer, Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, Matthew Solomon, Paul C. Spehr, and Shelley Stamp. – André Gaudreault". - A

La collezione Italo Pacchioni della Cineteca Italiana

From HD digital restoration intermediates by l'Immagine Ritrovata (Bologna) copied onto 35 mm. E-subtitles in English, grand piano: Mie Yanashita, viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 10 Oct 2009.

The order of the films was completely different from the catalogue, and some films were also titled differently. The total duration was announced as 15 min but was actually 7 min.

This short but important programme was difficult to follow, and I may have misunderstood something.

From the GCM Catalogue: "Il nome di Italo Pacchioni, fotografo e pioniere della settima arte, è nello stesso tempo tra i più pronunciati e tra i meno profondamente conosciuti nell’intera storia del cinema delle origini. Modenese di Mirandola (dove era nato nel 1872) ma milanese d’adozione, Pacchioni si dedicò ancora giovanissimo alla fotografia (nel 1893 aprì uno studio in corso Genova nel capoluogo Lombardo) e, pur proseguendo tale attività fino alla morte, fu tra i primi ad affiancarle la scoperta delle immagini in movimento, dovuta ovviamente alle novità d’oltralpe quanto alla intuizione di avviare una manifattura familiare e di gestire pionieristiche sale cinematografiche nelle fiere cittadine di Porta Genova e Porta Vittoria.

Dal 2007 la Fondazione Cineteca Italiana ha intrapreso una attività di riscoperta dell’opera di Pacchioni, che ha sortito, come primo risultato, la pubblicazione di un volume di studi dedicati a quest’ultimo, a Luca Comerio e al fotografo Giuseppe Beltrami. In quella occasione, inoltre, è stato messo a punto un regesto delle opere di Pacchioni conservate presso la Cineteca medesima. Come naturale conseguenza di quelle prime sortite teoriche, giunge oggi a compimento il restauro dell’intero corpus dei film di Pacchioni alla Fondazione Cineteca Italiana. Vengono quindi presentate sia le opere di attribuzione e datazione certa, sia quelle storicamente attribuite al fotografo milanese anche in assenza di sicuri riscontri d’epoca.

Il restauro digitale in hd, poi rivesato in è stato effettuato presso il laboratorio L’immagine ritrovata di Bologna.

ATTRIBUZIONI SENZA DATA conservano intatte le doppie perforazioni circolari su entrambi i lati di ogni fotogramma caratterizzanti le pellicole di Pacchioni e appartengono a un gruppo di materiali storicamente attribuiti al pioniere milanese.

Battaglia di neve
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, 1896) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; Colore: imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato positivo (5 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
«Achille prende a palle di neve un vigile (amico loro, gentilmente prestatosi) che voleva elevargli una contravvenzione, ma interveniva una terza persona che dava una manata sul cappello del vigile in modo da coprigli gli occhi. Indi fuga generale, mentre il vigile gesticolando cercava invano di togliersi quell’incomodo impiccio dagli occhi». (Nadir Giannitrapani, Roberto Persichini, La vera origine del cinemaitaliano, «Cinema», n. 142, 25 maggio 1942, p. 277). - A charming opening scene for an Italian early cinema show, especially for a Finnish viewer.

[Comica in giardino] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, s.d.) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato positivo (1,5 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Frammento che lascia intuire un soggetto comico ambientato in un giardino. Al centro dell’inquadratura, un giardiniere in salopette tiene in mano una canna dell’acqua aperta. - Seems like footage from an Italian remake of L'Arroseur arrosé.

Il Re Umberto I visita la marina
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, 1899) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; b/n; Da: originale safety positivo (13 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Il Re, la famiglia reale e alcune alte cariche militari si incontrano, stringendosi la mano, con altri militari. Il film attesta la presenza di Pacchioni a importanti eventi di livello nazionale.

Preparazione al film “La gabbia dei matti”
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, 1896) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito giallo; Da: originale nitrato negativo (3 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Frammenti privi di didascalie e cartelli dalla Preparazione del film “La gabbia dei matti”
Corrispondono alla trama riportata da Giannitrapani e Persichini nel loro articolo: «nel disporre la scena sul balcone Italo ed Enrico cercano con mille astuzie di allontanare il cane che voleva saltare addosso al pappagallo» (Nadir Giannitrapani, Roberto Persichini, La vera origine del cinema italiano, cit., p. 276).

La gabbia dei matti footage = [Comica con cane] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, s.d.) D: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito giallo; Da: originali nitrato positivo e negativo (rispettivamente 6 e 7 mt) conservati presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Frammento di comica. Il luogo dell’azione e la presenza del pappagallo fanno supporre che si tratti di un film di Pacchioni.

[Parata militare. Sfilata di cavalli] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, s.d.) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato positivo (5 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Il film riprende una parata militare o anche una probabile esercitazione di sfilata, dal momento che non è presente la folla

[Quotidian Life in Milano?] (a title that was not listed on the Catalogue)

I funerali di Giuseppe Verdi
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, 1901) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; 60’’ (16 fps); imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato positivo (8 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Il feretro di Giuseppe Verdi sfila tra due ali di folla in una via milanese non precisabile. Il film, proiettato alla Sala Edison di Firenze il 25 marzo del 1901, venne ripresentato nel 1935 in occasione del quarantesimo anniversario della nascita del cinema, evento che costituì anche l’ultima celebrazione pubblica di Italo Pacchioni. - Soft, low contrast look, gets better towards the end

[Animated reconstruction of the Giuseppe Verdi funeral footage]

[Spettacolo di giocolieri] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, s.d.) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato positivo (4 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Il film, che sembra essere completo, mostra una coppia di giocolieri in piedi sopra a un tappeto in mezzo a una strada intenti a lanciarsi contemporaneamente dei cappelli.

Il finto storpio
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, 1896) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; 11 m; Durata: 30’’ (16 fps); imbibito, giallo;
Da: originale nitrato negativo (11 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Questo bozzetto comico girato al Castello Sforzeso è l’unico film di finzione di Pacchioni sopravvissuto quasi per intero: risale con tutta probabilità al 1896, sebbene compaia per la prima volta nel programma dell’Olympia di Roma nell’estate del 1899.

Before the following two films there was a title identifying their links with titles from the Lumière catalogue (with numbers), but the title flashed past so fast that I did not register if they are actually Lumière films or Pacchioni remakes.

[Addestramento militare. Superamento di un muro] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, Italia, s.d.) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato negativo (3,5 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Esercitazioni militari con soldati istruiti ad arrampicarsi e scavalcare un muro.

[Marcia di cammelli] (titolo attribuito)
(Italo Pacchioni, s.l., s.d.) D+DP: Italo Pacchioni; imbibito, giallo; Da: originale nitrato negativo (5,5 m) conservato presso Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, Milano
Una sola ripresa fissa mostra una strada che si perde all’orizzonte su cui sfilano lentamente dei cammelli cavalcati da beduini. 

This important programme I look forward to seeing again with corrected programme notes.

J'accuse! (1919)

FR 1919. PC: Pathé. D, SC: Abel Gance; asst: Blaise Cendrars; DP: L. H. Burel, Maurice Forster, Marc Bujard; ED: Marguerite Beaugé; CAST: Romuald Joubé (Jean Diaz), Séverin-Mars (François Laurin), Marise [Maryse] Dauvray (Edith Laurin), Maxime Desjardins (Maria Lazare), Mme Mancini (Mother Diaz), Angèle Guys (Angèle), Angèle Decori (Marie, the servant), Nader (the army cook); orig: 5250 m (4 pts.); 3550 m /16 fps/ [192 min announced] actual duration 181 min
Original tinting and toning reproduced using the Desmet method); from: NFM. Digital restoration (2K) (c) 2009 NFM / Lobster Films. E-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 9 Oct 2009.

From the GCM Catalogue: "I first viewed Abel Gance’s J’accuse 30 years ago in a public screening, without musical accompaniment, at the Cinémathèque française. The experience was by turns astonishing, baffling, and dismaying. Even if slightly reduced in length from the original version released in roughly equal parts over 4 consecutive weeks in March-April 1919, that surviving print offered clear evidence of Gance’s ambition at a time when the French film industry, like much of the country, was struggling to recover from the Great War. Yet the film also seemed strikingly uneven, marred by “faults” later critics and historians attributed to the filmmaker. Literary pretension, particularly in Jean Diaz’s poetry, illustrated by a rather simplistic “visual poem.” Highly emotive acting, especially from Séverin-Mars as François and Romauld Joubé as Jean. An overly schematic conflict that pits the brutish François against the gentle, caring Jean, who both love Edith (Maryse Dauvray), inexplicably the wife of François. Overt symbolism in the many shots of superimposed dancing skeletons, a Gallic warrior patriotically inciting the French troops at Verdun, and a “martyred” Edith, arms widespread before a “cross” of windows. And excessive length. Yet, 90 years later, one can still admire J’Accuse through the work of recovery and re-contextualization.
Much has been made of Gance’s stylistic choices, his “avant-garde” flourishes within a commercial fiction film: e.g., his experiment with relatively rapid montage in the climactic battle scenes; his camera tracks and dollies accentuating the desperate movements of Jean, Edith, and the French soldiers who rise from the dead and march to confront the villagers of Provence; his use of huge shadows on a barn wall to represent Edith’s abduction and later rape by Germans; his split-screen effects (through double exposure), as when the dead soldiers seem to march in parallel above the survivors parading through the Arc de Triomphe. Yet especially striking now is what Léon Moussinac recalled in his 1921 review of D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms: the virtuosity of the film’s lighting. In Mater Dolorosa (1917), Gance and his cameraman, L. H. Burel, already had made extensive use of side-lighting and low-key spot-lighting on faces and bodies against dark backgrounds and back-lighting that turned figures into silhouettes. In J’accuse, such lighting not only creates unusually deep interior spaces but also gives a strongly three-dimensional cast to characters, heightening their emotional expressions in close shots: e.g., scenes pairing or triangulating the characters of Jean, Edith, his mother, and her father. It also distinguishes village night scenes and produces stark silhouette effects in certain battle scenes. Equally striking is the motif of recurring close shots of hands, marking particularly poignant moments. The village men’s departure for war is conveyed in a slow montage of hands – packing a bag, clasped together, raising a last cup of wine, praying before candles, an old man’s grasping a child’s. The motif returns at midpoint for another departure, when François blesses Jean and Edith’s clasped hands, and again after the climactic battle when (with the two men hospitalized side by side) the dying François reaches out to grasp Jean’s hand, a final gesture of reconciliation.
Perhaps most important, from our position nearly a decade into another century marked by continued large-scale violence and suffering, is to re-see J’accuse in the context of the Great War’s devastation, imagining the experience of audiences in France and Britain, where it was immensely successful. The war’s later years provoked responses ranging from despair and outrage to renewed dreams and revolutionary fervor. Gance personally felt what many others must have at the time, a desperate rage at the wasteful loss of so many men, accentuated by the deadly Spanish influenza epidemic. Although in 1919 J’accuse may have seemed to promote pacifism, it hardly shares the utopian fantasies of a film like Nordisk’s Himmelskibet (1918), shown at the 2006 Giornate. Instead, intense mood swings between despair and outrage mark Gance’s film. Especially grim are the many shots in Part III of rain-filled trenches, fatigued freezing soldiers, muddy corpses, and bodies piled inside a ruined cathedral. Yet no less gripping are those of personal suffering in the domestic scenes so prominent in Part II: Jean’s return home, after being discharged for (strongly implied) shell shock, to find his mother on her deathbed (with a menorah guttering out); Edith’s return soon after in the rain to Jean’s home, where she hesitantly reveals to him and her father the child of her own violation, Angèle. The film’s outrage is perhaps most explicit in Jean’s repeated cries of “J’accuse,” echoing Émile Zola’s famous polemic 20 years before in the Dreyfus Affair. Initially aimed, however vaguely, at the blind patriotism responsible for so much devastation, his outcry eventually becomes localized, accusing his own villagers who have profited from the war, and finally evades any sense of historical causality and responsibility to blame the sun, even nature itself. The blurred Christ figure concluding the film, consequently, seems less a redeemer than an impotent observer or even a final emblem of the Great War’s human suffering. – Richard Abel".

I have seen this film twice before, and the last time was in Bologna in 2005 in a version of 2989 m /20 fps/ 131 min, with the intertitles flashing by too fast. The first time I found the film somewhat embarrassing, the second time much more impressive. - The third time impressed less, partly due to festival fatigue. But I find also that there is not enough substance in the film for three hours. Two hours works better for its central concepts (for example the silence of art: there is a connection with Ingmar Bergman's Persona). - 16 fps seemed fine for the speed, though. - The restoration is magnificent, state-of-the-art, and although it's from a digital intermediate (2K) I don't find it annoying. The sources are difficult, but especially the sequences that emulate toning are often ravishing. - The cinematography is masterful. - The film is terrible, naive, and a work of a genius. - There are embarrassing lapses of taste and over-the-top simplifications. In the next moment there are genuinely moving passages, such as "les canons sont silencieux", "the first French lesson: J'accuse", "they knew their luck would turn", the children's war games, "lettres d'un soldat". - Stephen Horne did a magnificent job at the piano, and he had strong ideas for instance when Jean goes mad. - Frankly, I was too tired to appreciate fairly this version of J'accuse.