Saturday, October 05, 2013

Flickan i frack / [Girl in Tails] (1926) (new SFI Filmarkivet print, Desmet colour)


FLICKAN I FRACK. En sommarlätt filmhistoria [Frakkipukuinen tyttö / La ragazza col frac / Girl in Tails] (AB Biografernas Filmdepôt, SE 1926). D: Karin Swanström; SC: Hjalmar  Bergman, Ivar Johansson - based on the novel (1925) by Hjalmar Bergman; DP: Ragnar Westfelt; title des: Alva Lundin; C: Einar Axelsson (Ludwig von Battwhyl), Magda Holm (Katja Kock), Nils Arehn (il vecchio/Old Kock), Georg Blomstedt (Starck, il preside/ the headmaster), Karin Swanström (Hyltenius, la vedova del pastore/ widow of the county priest), Erik Zetterström (Curry,il fratello di Katja/Katja’s brother), Carina May (Eva Björck, la ragazza di Curry/ Curry’s girlfriend); 35 mm, 2473 m, 114' (19 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet method); print  source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm. Swedish intertitles. - Remade as Flickan i frack (Arne Mattsson, 1956, starring Maj-Britt Nilsson). - Viewed at Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italina, grand piano: Günter Buchwald, 5 Oct 2013

Jon Wengström: "Flickan i frack (literally, “The Girl in Tails”) is a comedy heavily relying on the dialogue conveyed in the intertitles, almost to the point where one could say that it works, despite being silent. The script was written by Hjalmar Bergman, a famous novelist and playwright, who first tried his luck at scriptwriting for the cinema in the late 1910s, mainly for Victor Sjöström (he even joined the director in Hollywood for a few months in 1924). Many of Bergman’s film scripts were adaptations of his own works, and they don’t always work very well for the screen, but that for Flickan i frack, based on his own novel published the previous year, is arguably his best."

"The story centres on life in a small town, where both children of an industrial inventor are graduating from college. The father takes more interest in the education of his son than his daughter, who takes matters into her own hands. The film contains one of the first instances of cross-dressing in Swedish cinema, when Katja steals the tail suit of her brother Curry in order to attend the graduation ball, where she creates further scandal by drinking brandy and smoking cigars."

"The film was directed by Karin Swanström (1873-1942), one of the few female filmmakers of the period. Flickan i frack is probably the best of the four silent films she directed (though it has to be said that of the remaining three, one is completely lost, and a second only survives as a fragment). The scene in which the daughter arrives at the ball dressed in her brother’s clothes is ingeniously and movingly staged. Swanström was also successful  as an actress in the 1920s, and has prominent parts in Gustaf Molander’s Hans engelska fru (Matrimony, 1927) and Förseglade läppar (Sealed Lips, 1927), both in this year’s Giornate. In Flickan i frack she plays the widow of the county priest, shown to be pulling all the strings in the life of the small town, and has a memorable scene with Georg Blomstedt, in which they contemplate the fact that they are both approaching the end of their lives. Swanström later became the most influential figure in Swedish cinema in her capacity as artistic head of production at the country’s major studio, AB Svensk Filmindustri, a post she held from 1933 to 1941."

"The Restoration. A tinted nitrate print with English intertitles surfaced in the early 1970s. From this nitrate element a black-and-white duplicate  negative was made, downsized to Academy ratio. When this preservation project was reopened in 2008, the original Swedish intertitles were recreated from a complete list of intertitles submitted to the censorship  board, now housed in the collections of the National Archives of Sweden. The font and design of the titles were based on eight original title cards found in the non-film collections of the Swedish Film Institute. The new intertitles were inserted into the existing  negative, and the colours were recreated with the Desmet method, using the colours in the English nitrate print as a reference. The nitrate had however deteriorated to the point where no further duplication was possible, resulting in the fact that new viewing prints are still in the Academy aspect ratio." – Jon Wengström (GCM Catalogue)

AA: Karin Swanström directs smoothly in light comedy mode Hjalmar Bergman's story set among the well-to-do youth, with satirical barbs about the young count who surprises everybody by passing the student exam. There is an element of gravity in the young Katja's ordeal. She is being terribly discriminated by her father who even makes the effort to cancel Katja's orders of a ball gown and its accessories. Remains no other alternative than to dress in her brother's dress coat. The ball sequence is remarkable. The dancing stops, and Katja's friends retreat in horror. During this year's GCM this movie invites comparison with The Freshman, with Harold Lloyd's equally shocking appearance at a ball. Hjalmar Bergman's great theme was humiliation, with a profound resonance with both Victor Sjöström (Mästerman) and Ingmar Bergman. Flickan i frack is a smart story in a lighter key. The restoration has been with loving care from the source material; I have my usual reservations about the Desmet method.

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