Wednesday, October 06, 2010

La Folie des vaillants (cinema concert)

[The Madness of the Valiants] (Cinégraphistes Français, FR 1926) D, SC: Germaine Dulac; based on the short story “Makar Tchoudra” by Maxim Gorki; DP: Paul Parguel, Maurice Forster; cast: Raphaël Liévin (Loïko Sodar), Lia Loo (Radda), Castelluci (Lenka); filmed: Autumn 1925; press screening: 17.12.1925; première: 2.4.1926 (Théâtre du Colisée, Paris); dist. orig: Mappemonde Film; orig. l: 1250 m.; incomplete, 35 mm, 844 m, 41 min (18 fps), col. (tinted); from: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy. Sous-titres français.

Restored in 1989 by the Archives françaises du film (CNC), under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture’s film preservation plan.

Musical accompaniment by Maud Nelissen, performed live by Lucio Degani (violino), Francesco Ferrarini (cello), Maud Nelissen (piano).

Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in English and Italian, 6 Oct 2010.

Tami M. Williams in the GCM Catalogue: "This captivating symbolist portrait of a passionate love between two gypsies is one of the most unique and overlooked masterworks of feminist, socialist, and 1920s French avant-garde film pioneer Germaine Dulac (1882-1942). Throughout her film career (1915-1942), Dulac directed more than 30 fiction films (1915-1930), many marking new cinematic tendencies, from impressionist to abstract. Our knowledge of Dulac’s oeuvre was long limited to two or three of these, notably La Fête espagnole (1919), La Souriante Madame Beudet (1923), and La Coquille et le Clergyman (1928), respectively considered the first impressionist, feminist, and surrealist films. Thanks to the restoration of so many of her films by the AFF in particular, as well as a proliferation of international retrospectives, Dulac’s rich and diverse filmography – of which La Folie des vaillants is a dazzling gem – is now benefitting from a legitimate rediscovery. According to her longtime companion Marie-Anne Malleville, Dulac considered La Folie des vaillants to be her film roi (“king film”). For Dulac, who officially joined the S.F.I.O. (French Socialist Party) in 1925, the year she made this film – and for whom social equality had always been fundamental – Gorki’s tale of two gypsies (ideal socialists, rebellious, hence naturally radical and anti-capitalist) provided an apt framework in which to consider an alternative construction of gender roles.
By reversing the terms of contemporary marital power relationships, La Folie des vaillants would have had special resonance for those with feminist ideals in France of the mid-1920s. In 1925, feminists had launched a proposal to revise the Napoleonic Code, which severely curbed women’s access to their own finances, institutionalized spousal inequality, and restricted parental authority. Dulac’s film cast into sharp relief the injustice of those provisions which so constrained women’s freedoms.
Despite the film’s shoestring budget, a contract clause granted Dulac “complete artistic freedom.” Still, she was forced to negotiate the issue of moral conservativism and “public taste” for the sake of commercial distribution. With customary artistic audacity and commercial prowess, she prepared multiple endings, the more radical ending here, and another, more commercial one which theater owners could order on demand.
Above all, Dulac saw in this film an unprecedented opportunity to realize her conception of cinema as a “visual symphony,” made of “life,” “movement,” and “rhythm.” By maximizing the rhythmic association between the images and by minimizing the importance of acting, photography, plot, and décor, for Dulac and her feminist “cinema of suggestion,” La Folie des vaillants was “one step towards habituating the public to the visual symphony, where so-called ‘theatrical’ action would be nothing, and sensibility… everything.” TAMI M. WILLIAMS."

Maud Nelissen in the GCM Catalogue: "The music (premiere for piano trio) La Folie des vaillants is one of Germaine Dulac’s lesser-known films, but it’s a true artistic “jewel” in itself. The film reveals the director’s great artistry and musicality. Being a “visual symphony”, I tried to listen, and listen only with my eyes (“On entend avec les yeux…” – Germaine Dulac). The music is inspired by, and partly based upon, a theme of the Spanish composer Federico Mompou. – MAUD NELISSEN".

A mostly beautiful print of the AFF/CNC restoration of a Germaine Dulac film that I had never seen before, although I saw most of Dulac's films in Il Cinema Ritrovato's Germaine Dulac retrospective in 2006. This is a rebellious Romantic Romani story in the heart of which is Loiko's tale of the snake and the eagle. "The blood of the eagles is the blood of the valiants". Radda falls in love with Loiko, but more than any man she loves freedom. The story is Maxim Gorky's answer to Prosper Mérimée's Carmen, equally tragic, and completely original. Among the other film interpretations there is Emil Lotianu's Tabor uhodit v nebo (1976) shot in Moldavia and starring Svetlana Toma. Germaine Dulac's interpretation is stronger. It starts with the director's signature, includes lyrical montage passages and conveys the tragedy undiluted. "There is not a horse on which you can escape yourself".

No comments: