|L’Île enchantée. Click to enlarge the image below.|
The duration of this screening was 101 min.
Viewed at Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato) (The Velle Connection 1900-1930. Gaston, Maurice and Mary Murillo), earphone translation in Italian and English, Gabriel Thibaudeau at the grand piano, introduced by Mariann Lewinsky, 3 July 2015.
Lenny Borger (Il Cinema Ritrovato, catalogue and website): "L’Île enchantée is unlike anything else Roussel ever did, and is perhaps his best film. Having passed the innovative Jules Kruger on to Gance, Roussel renewed his collaboration with Maurice Velle, an older, now-forgotten but superb cameraman whom Roussel may have met during his acting-directing débuts at Éclair. Most atypically, it is a very physical film, a Corsican Western of sorts, full of pursuits and cliff-hanging incident, all directed with vigor. Roussel’s hero is a Corsican outlaw wanted by local gendarmes for a vendetta killing. He is also pitted against an industrialist who has built a steelworks in the region and wants to raze the outlaw’s ruined ancestral castle. The protagonist then falls in love with the industrialist’s daughter, who tragically thinks she can bring both men to see reason, but only succeeds in provoking more tragedy and permanently alienating the outlaw from society."
"Roussel shot much of the film on location in Corsica, whose wild, beautiful mountainscapes, canyons, and villages contribute to the theme of Progress vs. Tradition. Best of all, Roussel cast faultlessly: Rolla Norman, who had a second-rank film career, is like a romantic, virile figure out of Mérimée’s Colomba or Dumas."
"Jacqueline Forzane, whose career was sadly brief, is touching as a modern, idealistic professional woman confused by love and filial devotion. There is also a poignant supporting performance by Paul Jorge, who was the saintly Archbishop Myriel in Henri Fescourt’s Les Misérables (1925) and would shortly play a compassionate priest in Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc - here he is the outlaw’s grandfather, who clings proudly to the ancestral hearth." (Lenny Borger)
AA: There is really nothing to add to Lenny Borger's program notes above.
L’Île enchantée is an image-driven film. It is a tragic love story between a man of the wilderness and a woman boss of the factory. The Machine vs. Nature imagery is magnificently caught in the cinematography of Maurice Velle and Paul Portier. The powerful tonings and tintings (sepias, oranges, browns, blues, reds) have been impressively reproduced on this AFF Bois d'Arcy print. The might of the foundry is contrasted with the sublime of Corsican nature. Rolla Norman cuts an impressive figure as the rebel Francesco Della Rocca. The man of the wilderness has a function similar to the man of the West. He saves the woman of civilization, Gisèle Rault (the distinguished Jacqueline Forzane) from a literally cliffhanging situation (see the poster above). He later saves a child on its deathbed. Yet, no matter, his family is doomed, their castle is exploded, and to make matters worse, Francesco shoots old man Rault in revenge.
There are affinities in the imagery with the Nordic lumberjack genre (the man of the wilderness, the wild nature, the might of the waterfalls).
The poetic touch is appropriately enchanting, and the quotations from Hugo and Lamartine distil the tone of the tale. Yet in the overall approach in directing, storytelling, and performances there is something mediocre. Individual dimensions and aspects of the movie are stronger than the sum of the parts.
A beautiful print.