Sunday, October 02, 2016

Janko-muzykant [Janko the Musician]


Janko-muzykant (PL 1930), Witold Conti as Janko, playing his toy violin, photo: Filmoteca Narodowa, Warszawa.

Ryszard Ordyński filming Janko-muzykant (PL 1930), photo: Filmoteka Narodowa, Warszawa.

Janko-muzykant (PL 1930), Witold Conti as Janko ,photo: Filmoteca Narodowa, Warszawa.

Janko muzykant / Janko-muzykant [title on screen]. PL 1930. PC: Blok-Muzafilm. D: Ryszard Ordyński. Based on a story by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1897). 2561 m /18 fps/ 93 min
    35 mm print with English subtitles from: Filmoteka Narodowa, Warszawa.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto: Polonia.
    Music themes in the live performance included some three themes from the Fritz Kreisler repertory, the seventh Humoresque by Anton Dvořák, and the main tune: "Salut d'amour" by Edward Elgar.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, music performance: Günter A. Buchwald (piano, violin, flute), Romano Todesco, alla batteria: Frank Bockius.

AA: Janko as a little boy is "good for nothing". As a shepherd he neglects the cattle and focuses on playing his pathetic toy violin which he has built himself. When the violin is taken away from him he plays a self-made flute. He is excited to observe professional musicians at a dance and to witness Zaruba serenading on his violin at the nearby manor. At night Janko sneaks to the manor in order to at least once in his lifetime be able to touch a real violin. As he fumbles in the dark a valuable jar is broken. The callous masters of the manor appear. "A thief". Janko gets a long prison sentence. In prison he learns to become a carpenter and builds a violin for himself, much better than the previous ones. He participates in a prison break and becomes an outlaw, a violinist tramp in a group called Trzy trubadury. People are deeply moved by his playing, including a talented young cabaret singer, Ewa, and the young ones feel a mutual attraction, protected by the genial music professor Artur Horski. But Janko is exposed by Zaruba yet again: Zaruba is now Janko's rival for Ewa's attentions. At the trial, however, everybody's good testimony of Janko's character saves him. There is a happy reunion with mother, too, who has been forced to abandon the humble family home.

Before meeting Ewa Janko's only friend has been a pet blackbird.

Sienkiewicz's grim story was adapted to the "happy end" formula of entertainment film, which is maybe how it should be. We sense how things would develop in real life, but in a film it is a good thing to end on a note of hope. Beyond formulae there are aspects of gravity, poetry, and generosity in Ryszard Ordyński's film. The most memorable sequence is that of Janko's playing at the occasion where the music professor hears him for the first time. The impact of the music in this silent version is conveyed via reaction shots of people. They are moved. They quiet down. They get serious. They cry. They are shocked. The professor is deeply grateful.

Janko-muzykant is a melodrama on class society. The abyss between the classes seems insurmountable. That abyss can only be overcome via a special talent or even genius.

The performances of Witold Conti (Janko), Maria Malicka (Ewa Korecka, singer), and Wiesław Gawlikowski (Artur Horski, the music professor) are attractive. There are expressive close-ups of all.

The work of the cinematographer Zbigniew Gniazdowski is handsome also in lyrical shots of nature, but the print on display is not always luminous. It has been in heavy use and is at times quite scratchy.

This performance was distinguished by the live performance of the trio Günter A. Buchwald, Romano Todesco and Frank Bockius. Buchwald performed the violin parts with selections from Kreisler,  Dvořák, and a main theme from Elgar, "Salut d'amour".

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