Sunday, October 06, 2013

Polis Paulus' påskasmäll / [Constable Paulus's Easter Crackers] (a new print from SFI Filmarkivet with Desmet colour)


POLIS PAULUS’ PÅSKASMÄLL / Poliisi Paavalin pääsiäispamaus (The Smugglers) [Lo scherzo pasquale del poliziotto Paulus / Constable Paulus’ Easter Crackers] (AB Svensk Filmindustri, SE 1925) D: Gustaf Molander; SC: Tre herrar vid en grogg = “Three gentlemen having a drink” [Gustaf Molander, Oscar Hemberg, Paul Merzbach]; DP: Axel Lindblom; C: Carl Schenstrøm (Lunken), Harald Madsen (Paulus Storm, il capo della polizia/chief of police), Gucken Cederborg (Klara Storm, la proprietaria dell’albergo/ hotel proprietress), Stina Berg (Miss Dina Björnbom), Vilhelm Bryde (Baron von Lanck, il contrabbandiere/ smuggler); 35 mm, 2104 m, 103' (18 fps); col. (tinted, Desmet method); print source: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm. Swedish intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: Philip C. Carli, 6 Oct 2013

Jon Wengström: "This film stars the two Danish comedians Carl Schenstrøm and Harald Madsen, who were among the most celebrated comedy acts of their time under the name “Fyrtornet and Bivognen”, or “Pat and Patachon”, as they were known internationally. In fact, the duo’s original name, “Fyrtornet og Bivognen”, which literally means “the lighthouse and the little trailer”, has become an expression in Scandinavian languages to label any imbalanced pairing of someone very tall and someone very short. Many people still know this expression without any inkling of its origins, or having seen any of their films, which is an indication of just how popular they once were."

"As Pat and Patachon, Schenstrøm and Madsen made around 50 films between 1921 and 1940. During the silent era they mainly worked in their home country Denmark, but after the transition to sound they also appeared in German and Austrian films. They also participated in three Swedish films, two of them silent, the first being Polis Paulus’ Påskasmäll (The Smugglers), shot and released in the first half of 1925. Many of their films have aged pretty badly, and at times it is now difficult to understand why they were so extremely popular in their day. But unlike most “Pat and Patachon” films, Polis Paulus’ Påskasmäll was made by a skilful director, Gustaf Molander (in fact, this was the first time the comic duo was not directed by their compatriot Lau Lauritzen), and their pranks are well integrated into the action of the film, which explains why it is still so enjoyable today. Molander cast them slightly out of character, as here they are both on the side of law enforcement, but he still used their plastic qualities to their full extent, not least Schenstrøm’s quirky body moves, which are ingeniously employed for comic effect, as in the night-time slapstick sequence at the hotel of the winter resort where the action takes place."

"In the opening credits of the film the script is attributed to “Three gentlemen having a drink”. According to Molander, the men in question were himself, producer Oscar Hemberg, and the Austrian-born director/scriptwriter Paul Merzbach, who later in the 1920s would write a number of scripts for AB Svensk Filmindustri, including Molander’s films Hans engelska fru (Matrimony, 1927), Förseglade läppar (Sealed Lips, 1927), and Synd (Sin, 1928), all included in this year’s edition of the Giornate."

"The Restoration. The film was preserved in 2009, from a tinted nitrate print with German intertitles held by Filmarchiv Austria in Vienna and a black-and-white safety interpositive without intertitles in the collections of the Danish Film Institute in Copenhagen. Neither of these two elements was complete, but fortunately they overlapped, resulting in a full-length duplicate negative. A complete set of the original title cards existed in the library collections of the Swedish Film Institute. These title cards were scanned, and then recorded onto film and inserted into the new negative. The colours were recreated with the Desmet method, using the colours in the Austrian print as reference." – Jon Wengström (The GCM Catalogue)

AA: A wintry Pat and Patachon comedy. In Finland they are called Majakka and Perävaunu, a direct translation of the Danish names of the popular comedy duo. The titles of their films often had three words with an alliteration, a formula also followed in the Finnish-language release titles. I saw their films every now and then as a child on tv, but never was a huge fan. Polis Paulus' påskasmäll might be the best Pat and Patachon film I have seen, and at least one of the best.

Harald Madsen (the short one) is now a chief of police, Paulus, and Carl Schenstrøm (the tall one) a bum, Lunken, often found in jail, arrested for drunkenness. The reason for drinking: once they were rivals, and it was Paulus who won the heart of the sweet waitress of the café, now turned into a harridan.

A third hero is the police dog Spej, who keeps a strict discipline on Paulus but who is also very clever with retrieving keys at a crucial moment. This is a funny dog comedy movie.

Pat and Patachon crack the smugglers' ring, and there is a romantic story which proceeds after serious misunderstandings have been solved. In the conclusion Patachon, now a hero, is elevated into the police force, too. "You look adorable in uniform": so there will be romance for him, too.

The best laughs: the lazy horse, the alert dog, the tango charmer, the winter sport antics, Lunken's sneaking around in the pension, the "bear" coming alive, the chase on the ice, the antics around the ice hole.

Expert restoration with beautiful winter scenery and forest landscapes. I have my usual reservations about Desmet colour and would prefer it as subtle as possible.

Carl Schenstrøm, Harald Madsen (”Pat & Patachon”) - Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm © 1925 AB Svensk Filmindustri. All rights reserved.

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