Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Nebuvalyi pokhid / [An Unprecedented Campaign] (2015 digital transfer from Kyiv), film concert, score by Anton Baibakov, performed by Anton Baibakov Collective


Плакат до фільму «Небувалий похід». Кордиш Юхим Хізерович (1905—1973), Літинський Ібрагім Мойсейович (1908—1958) — художники, автори плакату - http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/arts-culture-news/av-festival-2016-socialism-under-10729385. Перегляд ліцензії: File: Небувалий похід Необыкновенный поход (Кордыш, Литинский)) 0912HR.jpg. Створено 1931 (видано). Українська Вікіпедія.

Nebuvalyi pokhid (Ukraine-SU 1931), D: Mikhail Kaufman. Online images of this poster are cropped.

Небувалий похід / Небывалый поход (Незабываемый поход) / [Una campagna senza precedenti], Mikhail Kaufman (UkrSSR, 1931), dir, photog: Mikhail Kaufman, asst: O. Pobadalenko, asst. photog: N. Bykov, asst. ed: A. Levadarova, prod: Ukrainfilm: Kyiv Studio, DCP (from 35 mm, 2049.5 m), 70 min (transferred at 25 fps); titles: RUS, source: Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre, Kyiv.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Rediscoveries.
    Score by Anton Baibakov (2016), performed by Anton Baibakov Collective.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017

Ivan Kozlenko, David Robinson (GCM 2017): "In the course of their collaboration, relations between the brothers began to sour. Vertov seems to have resented a degree of independence in what Kaufman chose to film. He seems also to have been annoyed when Kaufman made use in his own films of material shot for Vertov but not used. Thus scenes of  “cleaning” Uspensky Cathedral and Kyiv skyscrapers, which were filmed for Man with a Movie Camera but rejected, subsequently appeared in In Spring. In an article on The Eleventh in Novyi LEF (New Left Front of Arts) in Spring 1928, Osip Brik complained that Vertov’s neglect to provide a treatment meant that “Kaufman did not know for what scene he was shooting.” Kaufman pointedly ignored Vertov’s demand to repudiate Brik’s assertion."

"VUFKU, exceptionally, published a brochure dedicated to The Eleventh – perhaps a gesture in a distribution trade conflict with Moscow. As well as an exposition of Vertov’s Kino-Eye theory, not yet well known or loved in Ukraine, the publication included Kaufman’s Expedition Notes, which clearly demonstrate that he had considerable independence in choosing what to shoot. He mentions Vertov in describing the filming of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station and the Kamianske metallurgical plant in the Dnipro region. He does not however refer at all to his brother when discussing scenes that were filmed in the Donbas mines (in Rutchenkove) and during military exercises in Odessa. Two years later, An Unprecedented Campaign was to begin and end with scenes that Kaufman describes in detail in Expedition Notes, but were not included by Vertov in the final version of The Eleventh."

"At its premiere, The Eleventh was still Vertov’s film for the Ukrainian critics, with Kaufman glimpsed only as his shadow, but after In Spring the brothers’ collaborative works were reconsidered, to perceive Kaufman as the equal co-author of The Eleventh and Man with a Movie Camera. Critics remarked how in their collaborations, Kaufman’s lyricism was evidently at odds with Vertov’s mechanistic fascination: in his 1922 manifesto Vertov had declared frankly, “We temporarily exclude a human being as a filming object…” In their contributions to Man with a Movie Camera Vertov was more interested in the camera, Kaufman in the human being."

"Kaufman’s joy in people, his fascination with a live individual captured unawares in a particular psychological state, is the overwhelming characteristic of An Unprecedented Campaign. In principle, it is a dutiful celebration of the first Five Year Plan (1928-1932), chronicling the triumphs of industry, of agriculture, and of social care and literacy. What makes it distinctive from conventional agit-prop is Kaufman’s gift of capturing a personality in a single shot. The film is crowded with vividly real people, beaming (too optimistically, as we know too well) with enthusiasm and hope. Here too are Kaufman’s favourite portraits of children, animals (especially newly born), and frames of ripe watermelons and apples, duly borrowed from Dovzhenko. It is hardly surprising that In Spring and An Unprecedented Campaign exposed Kaufman, like Dovzhenko, to criticism for “biologism”."

"Kaufman shot more than 14,000 metres of film, and 14 months went by before An Unprecedented Campaign was released, in June-July 1931. Kaufman had reasons not to hurry. In late 1929 the Soviet government adopted a decree urging production of agitational-propaganda films extolling industrialization, agricultural collectivization (dekulakization), and eradication of illiteracy. In November 1930 VUFKU fell under the control of the new USSR organization Soyuzkino and could no longer protect Ukraininan film artists from Moscow interference. Recent films that did not meet the new requirements, like Dovzhenko’s Earth (Zemlya, 1930) and Mykola Shpykovskyi’s Bread (Khlib, 1930), were withdrawn. The year 1931 saw a catastrophic decline in Ukrainian film production: ongoing productions were halted and films were banned. Kaufman’s caution was understandable."

"He filmed the scenes of collectivization and the new rural social organization near Odessa, and probably included material originally shot for Nursery (1928). The daring mechanization scenes were filmed in “Gigant”, one of the biggest grain kolkhozes in the Kuban region, and a major attraction for foreign tourists. In the autumn of 1931 he was able to film the first Soviet tractor coming out of the factory in Stalingrad: hitherto the collectives had relied on American and British agricultural machinery, whose signs – Clayton & Shuttleworth, Caterpillar, Holt, Case, McCormick-Deering — are very visible in the film."

"Yet this beautifully crafted and oddly persuasive image of a failed or false utopia ends with a moment of horror: a final title (is it Kaufman’s, or a Moscow interpolation?) calls quite simply for “The liquidation of the Kulaks as a class”. We know that to a considerable and horrible extent this persecution of the class of small farmers who tried to resist collectivization was soon to be accomplished – “an unprecedented campaign” indeed. This is just one of the aspects that make Kaufman’s images of rich harvests, happy villagers, dedicated workers, and silent children now seem so tragic, when we remember that the generous summer of 1931 was the last before the great catastrophe of the Holodomor, the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 artificially engineered as punishment by the Bolsheviks, and which resulted in still uncalculated millions of deaths and reduced thousands to cannibalism. Kaufman was not without foresight. Even while filming the striking and lofty pictures of social transformation he was shrewd enough to record in his diary the other side of collectivization: jerry-built urban apartments without water, life in tents in the middle of the fields in rural areas. It all feels like a presentiment of catastrophe."

"It is the Holodomor, as it might have been predicted by Kaufman in An Unprecedented Campaign, that has provided the key for the Ukrainian composer Anton Baibakov’s musical accompaniment, created in 2016."

"Forgotten for eight decades, An Unprecedented Campaign was first shown by the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Film Centre in Kyiv in December 2015. The 35 mm negative of the film had been transferred to Gosfilmofond of Russia in 1950, but in 1981 a positive print from this was given to the Pshenychnyi Central State CinePhotoPhono Archive of Ukraine in Kyiv, where it remains, to provide the source of the material screened at the Giornate." Ivan Kozlenko, David Robinson

AA: As Ivan Kozlenko and David Robinson indicate in their remarks above, there is a harrowing context to this Unprecedented Campaign, a film which belongs to the context of key Soviet masterworks shot in Ukraine (Battleship Potemkin, Man with a Movie Camera, Earth), soon followed by one of the cruellest and most callous genocidal operations in history, the Holodomor, in which millions died of hunger in prosperous Ukraine.

On the other side this film is an important piece in the saga of the Kaufman brothers. While Boris Kaufman was busy working with Jean Vigo, and Dziga Vertov was making Enthusiasm, Michael Kaufman, the man with the movie camera, directed An Unprecedented Campaign.

There is a hard-line Stalinistic propagandistic approach in this work of industrial poetry with eloquent compositions, fast edits, and striking framings. Blast furnaces, coke ovens, Bessemer steel. Rapid agricultural reconstruction is the aim. "Let's give rural areas high quality grain". "Life itself tends towards collective farming". "Small farms will never escape poverty". We visit farms where tractors are seen for the first time. Expressive close-ups emerge at last. The kulaks (kurkuls) are claimed to sabotage collectivization. Planned economy leads to prosperity on a large scale. Cutting edge machinery is at our disposal. Women become equal workers. Everybody goes to school, There is no way back to the primitive village. The joy of the children is genuine. Women are radiant on fields. The combined harvester is introduced. Only for members of collective farms are they available.  A competitive spirit catches the agricultural sector. Record grain crops are harvested. Montages on melons, grapes, sunflowers and bees remind us of Dovzhenko. Cotton, soybean, and corn are harvested and stocked in bunker silos. Livestock farming is covered: cowsheds, pigsties, henhouses. The long fight with the kulaks who let bread rot. Those who witnessed serfdom have seen the great change of communities. Stalingrad tractors are introduced. Shock workers emerge in the city and the rural areas. "Working masses of the world salute you". Workers relax and restore their physical health at sanatories. We witness a huge kitchen. The navy is included in the final montage about an industrial liquidation of the kulaks. "Towards Socialism".

An Unprecedented Campaign is a chilling document of its time.

The Anton Baibakov Collective at the strength of five players created a musical experience which helped make emotional sense of the disturbing and complex film.

The visual quality tends to a low contrast in the beginning but gets better, although black levels seem to be missing.

Carmen (Ernst Lubitsch 1918), film concert of a score by Gabriel Thibaudeau, played by Gabriel Thibaudeau and Cristina Nadal


Carmen (1918), poster by Josef Fenneker. From Rocaille, a blog curated by Annalisa P. Cignitti.

Carmen (DE 1918) with Pola Negri (Carmen) and Harry Liedtke (Don José). Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

(Carmen / Gypsy Blood). D: Ernst Lubitsch (DE 1918), scen: Hanns Kräly, based on the novella by Prosper Mérimée (1847), photog: Alfred Hansen, des: Kurt Richter; asst: Karl Machus, cost: Ali Hubert, cast: Pola Negri (Carmen), Harry Liedtke (Don José), Leopold von Ledebur (Escamillo, a bullfighter), Grete Diercks (Dolores), Wilhelm Diegelmann (prison guard), Heinrich Peer (English officer), Paul Biensfeldt (Garcia, smuggler), Margarete Kupfer (innkeeper), Sophie Pagay (mother of Don José), Paul Conradi (Don Cairo, smuggler), Max Kronert (Remendato, smuggler), Magnus Stifter (Lieutenant Esteban), Victor Janson, Albert Venohr, prod: Paul Davidson, Projektions-AG “Union” (PAGU), Berlin, for Universum-Film AG (Ufa), Berlin [Union-Film der Ufa], filmed: Ufa-Union-Atelier Berlin-Tempelhof; Rüdersdorf (limestone quarry & mountains), censor date: 11.1918 (BZ.42598, 2133 m), 30.4.1921 (B.02105, 1784 m, première: 20.12.1918 (U.T. Kurfürstendamm, Berlin), 35 mm, 1802 m, 88′ (18 fps); titles: GER, source: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Pola Negri.
    Score composed by Gabriel Thibaudeau.
    Played by Gabriel Thibaudeau and Cristina Nadal.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017

Stefan Drössler (GCM 2017): "Ernst Lubitsch’s career as a filmmaker blossomed just as the First World War was drawing to a close. A bit player in Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater, he began to act in comedy films from 1913. By 1915 he was also directing them. Supported by producer and theatre owner Paul Davidson, Lubitsch realized increasingly ambitious film projects, in which he frequently cast fellow actors from the Deutsches Theater like Emil Jannings and Pola Negri. His exotic adventure film Die Augen der Mumie Ma (The Eyes of the Mummy), shot in the summer of 1918, was still awaiting release when Lubitsch began shooting an even bigger and longer historical film: “It was going to be Carmen. A costume drama! With ‘masses’ (as they were then called). And – the German film industry considered us crazy – with authentic sets in Tempelhof! We quietly worked away. Wild ‘sierras’ were created in the limestone quarries of Rüdersdorf, a Spanish marketplace in Tempelhof. Davidson had faith in the film and invested sums considered inconceivable at the time. Today you would easily spend such money in a single day. The ‘crowd scene’ was invented. When our company of several hundred paraded around Tempelhof dressed as Spaniards, they ushered in a new era for film extras.” (Ernst Lubitsch, Lichtbild-Bühne, Deluxe Issue 1924/25)"

"As Pola Negri recalled in her autobiography Memoirs of a Star, published in 1970: “In those early UFA days, even though the world around us was falling to pieces, Lubitsch and I shared many antic moments on the set. Perhaps we could only have flowered so successfully in the Berlin of that period. The tragicomedy of life was our métier and was echoed in the films we made. Even our jokes had an edge of fatality to them.” Following a press screening that took place at the beginning of November 1918 in the grip of post-war revolutionary turmoil in Berlin, the film premiered just before Christmas 1918 at the U.T. Lichtspiele on Kurfürstendamm. Contemporary reviewers unanimously praised Negri for her portrayal of the title character: “Ever since her star started to shine in Ufa’s sky, its light has grown increasingly bright and dazzling. Until just recently one had to endure her in unpleasant kitsch, but now Negri, with an unbroken string of serious works, has been making every effort, if not to completely dethrone the reigning queens of the cinema, then to at least well and truly totter them. She truly has all the capabilities, both in her outward appearance as well as her expressions and gestures, for creating a Carmen following Mérimée’s formula. One is led to believe that one should be careful when she is in love; that she defies heaven, iron, and fire, and that blood rages through her veins. She dances with charm and grace; flirts with her pearly white smile and suggests with her eye movements that she enjoys it. One is instantly reminded of the song lyric [from Carl Millöcker’s operetta Der Bettelstudent]: ‘Die Polin hat von allen Reizen’ [“The Polish woman has all the charms”]. Pola Negri subtly transforms the love-crazed Spaniard into a fiery Pole.” (Egon Jacobsohn, Der Kinematograph, No. 628, 15 January 1919)"

"Pola Negri truly dominates the film, which seems unconcerned with plumbing the psychological depths of Mérimée’s original novella. The supporting characters are remarkably weak. The Spanish setting meanwhile bears unmistakably Teutonic features: “Pola Negri as Carmen has a broad, Slavic face, two spit curls, and an aggressive air of somewhat heavy-handedly applied femininity. Don José (Harry Liedtke), in make-up and wigs borrowed from Joseph Schmidt and Richard Tauber, resembles a paunchy allotment holder plagued by the memory of his front lawn adorned with sunflowers and the virginal Dolores (Grete Diercks) with pigtail plaits. Escamillo (Leopold von Ledebur), a friendly man with a grim face, proud, with a beer gut, wins the battle with an invisible Prussian cow. Indifferent, as all the other characters in this film are, he abandons Carmen and Don José to their sad fate. Don Cairo and his dangerous band of border hunters are a wild, messy bunch. At no point do they attain the crystal clear structure of the Bizet-like smuggler quintet, in which Carmen and the bandits are allowed to display their own sensuous identity.” (Werner Schroeter, 1988)"

"After the unexpected success of Madame Dubarry (released as Passion in December 1919), Carmen was re-edited for an American release in 1921, as Gypsy Blood. In the American version the framing story was hand-coloured and Lubitsch’s name was left off the credits. Adolph Zukor brought Pola Negri to Hollywood in the summer of 1922, but was not interested in Lubitsch, who had also hoped to get a contract with Paramount." Stefan Droessler (Translated by Oliver Hanley)

The music

"For several years I’ve been searching for a film that would meld the warmth of the cello and the sparkling rhythms of the piano. Lubitsch’s silent Carmen seems to me like the dream medium for this. This new score (composed in Spring 2016, with no reference to Bizet’s celebrated music) contains a constant ballet that mingles several tangos and jazz-flavoured interludes, creating a bridge between the almost century-old patina of a great silent film and the public of today. I wanted to use the cello to embody the voice and sensuality of Pola Negri, with the piano maintaining the movie’s rhythm and action." Gabriel Thibaudeau

AA: Revisited (my previous viewing: Carmen at Cinema Orion, January 2008) Ernst Lubitsch's European breakthrough film from the post-war years when he also found his true voice as a creator of original fantastic German comedies. Ossi Oswalda and Pola Negri were among his favourite stars, and they inspired each other.

Lubitsch does not yet have a full grip on the tempo and the dynamic current of the narrative. The rough, relaxed and carefree approach of his Carmen is at the same time sympathetic. The mise-en-scène is lively, and there are unforgettable images such as Carmen seducing the jailer.

A wonderful original score by Gabriel Thibaudeau on the piano and Cristina Nadal at the cello. No Bizet.

The print is probably the best there is, with occasional high contrast and obviously duped passages. It was fascinating to watch this within days from another PAGU-Pola Negri vehicle, Der gelbe Schein, also from 1918.

Cinématographe Lumière: 20 recently discovered films preserved in 2017 by The Haghefilm Digitaal - Selznick School Fellowship


24e chasseurs alpins : sauts d’obstacles. Vue N° 172. Les chasseurs alpins sautent les obstacles en prenant soin de décomposer leurs mouvements. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: [février 1897] - [7 mars 1897]. Lieu: France, Villefranche-sur-Mer. Projections: Programmée le 21 mars 1897 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 21 mars 1897). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 3 copies Lumière. Pays: France. Ville: Villefranche-sur-Mer. Lieu: caserne. Genre: militaire. Sujet: soldat. Séries: Les 24e et 27e bataillons de chasseurs alpins en garnison, Les chasseurs alpins. Photo and info: Catalogue Lumière.

All films 35 mm; no intertitles; source: George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY.  Total running time: 19′.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Haghefilm-Selznick School.
    Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz.
    Teatro Verdi, no intertitles, 4 Oct 2017.

"The Haghefilm Fellowship was established in 1997 to provide additional professional training to outstanding graduates of The L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. The Fellowship recipient is invited to Amsterdam for one month to work alongside Haghefilm Digitaal lab professionals to preserve short films from the George Eastman Museum collection, completing each stage of the preservation project."

"The recipient of the 2017 Haghefilm Digitaal Fellowship is Samuel B. Lane, from New Mexico. Sam graduated in the certificate program of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation in June 2017. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film and Media Studies from the University of Rochester. Sam has worked as a film projectionist in New Mexico and at the Dryden Theatre in Rochester, NY, and he interned at the George Eastman Museum for two years. He is now completing his Master’s Degree at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and the University of Rochester, and working at the George Eastman Museum as Film Conservation Specialist.
"

Cinématographe Lumière, ca. 1896-1903

"A collection of twenty 35 mm rolls of Lumière films dated around 1896-1903 was recently found (in their original containers) and acquired by the George Eastman Museum. A preliminary examination of the materials has revealed that the collection consists of 11 positive and 9 negative rolls, all in almost pristine condition (one roll contains a brief extra segment, listed below as a separate entry). As this catalogue goes to press, identification of the films is under way; the attribution of original titles will be greatly facilitated once the elements have been preserved and ready for projection, which will necessarily happen only a few days before the festival (for this reason, the order in which the films will be screened may be different from the title sequence below). Once identified, the films will be listed with their exact titles in the Giornate Database of all the films screened at the festival from 1982 to the present. The database is accessible for free at http://www.cinetecadelfriuli.org/gcm/ed_precedenti/screenings_db.html."

Our thanks to Clara Auclair for the filmographic research on this important collection.

All film notes by Samuel Lane and Clara Auclair. The texts dealing with identified films have been adapted from descriptions in the Lumière Catalogue.

24e CHASSEURS ALPINS: SAUTS D’OBSTACLES (Sauts d’obstacles – chasseurs alpins) / [24. Alpine Hunters: Show Jumping] (FR 1897) Lumière cat. no. 172. 48 ft / 15 m [771 frames], 48″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    Soldiers of the mountain infantry jump in formation over obstacles, taking care not to break their groupings. Filmed in Villefranche-sur-Mer. The title on the print is handwritten in ink on a single blank frame.
    AA: I remember Bertrand Tavernier's remark quoted by Thierry Frémaux in his Lumière film (2017) regarding these French military films: having seen them it is not a surprise that France lost wars. Visual quality ok.

Danse au bivouac. Vue N° 266. Des soldats, seuls ou en couple, dansent une jota. Opérateur: Alexandre Promio. Date: [12 juin 1896] - 30 juin 1896. Lieu: Espagne, Madrid, [camp de Vicálvaro]. Projections: Programmée le 30 juin 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Danse d'un bivouac espagnol (Lyon républicain, 30 juin 1896). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 2 copies Lumière. Pays: Espagne. Ville: Madrid. Lieu: campagne, champ de manœuvres. Genre: distraction, militaire. Sujet: soldat. Séries: Alexandre Promio à Madrid (1896), Les militaires de Madrid. Photo and data: Catalogue Lumière.

DANSE AU BIVOUAC / [Camp Dance] (FR 1896), Lumière cat. no. 266. photog: Alexandre Promio. 47 ft /14 m [746 frames], 46″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    Soldiers at a camp in Madrid, Spain, dance a jota, alone and in pairs. Filmed in June 1896.
    AA: Everybody dancing in his way. Visual quality darkish, with a scratch.

Fête au village. Vue N° 312. “Ces quatre dernières vues [cf. n° 1368 à 1371] ont été prises à Genève, lors de l’exposition de 1896.”Une ronde d’hommes et de femmes en costume folklorique tourne joyeusement parmi la foule des visiteurs de l’exposition. Opérateur:[Alexandre Promio]. Date: 7 mai 1896 - [12 juin 1896]. Lieu: Suisse, Genève, Exposition nationale, Village suisse. Personnes: François-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke, en redingote grise et chapeau blanc, participe à l'animation. Projections: Programmée le 29 août 1896 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Fête au village suisse (Lyon républicain, 29 août 1897). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Suisse. Ville: Genève. Personnes identifiées: François-Henri Lavanchy-Clarke. Événement: danse, exposition. Genre: distraction. Sujet: animal. Séries: Alexandre Promio à Genève (1896), Le village Suisse de l'Exposition de Genève. Image and data: Catalogue Lumière.

FÊTE AU VILLAGE (Fête dans un village suisse) / [Village Feast] (FR 1896), Lumière cat. no. 312. photog: [Alexandre Promio], 42 ft / 13 m [669 frames], 41″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    A scene filmed at the Swiss Village, the star attraction at the 1896 National Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland. A group of men and women in traditional costume perform a circle dance among a crowd of visitors to the exhibition. The title on the print is handwritten in ink on a single blank frame.
    AA: Lively and wonderful. Visual quality borders on a high contrast.

Pompiers : alerte. Vue N° 723. “Les pompes traînées par des chevaux, sortent à toute vitesse du poste de pompiers.” Opérateur: [Alexandre Promio]. Date: [21 juin 1897] - [21 octobre 1897]. Lieu: Irlande (aujourd'hui Irlande du Nord), Belfast. Projections: Projection de l'Alerte de pompiers le 21 octobre 1897 au Gatti's à Londres (Grande-Bretagne) (The Era, 23 octobre 1897).Programmée le 30 janvier 1898 à Lyon (France) sous le titre Irlande : sortie des pompiers de Belfast (Lyon républicain, 30 janvier 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: Irlande (du Nord). Ville: Belfast. Lieu: rue, ville. Genre: militaire. Sujet: acrobate et équilibriste, clown. Objet: machine et outil. Séries: Les vues pour le Triograph (1897). Photo and data: Catalogue Lumière.

POMPIERS: ALERTE / [Firemen: Alarm] (FR 1897), Lumière cat. no. 723. photog: [Alexandre Promio], 50 ft / 15 m [792 frames], 49″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    Steam fire-engines drawn by horses dash at full speed out of a fire station, followed down the street by onlookers. Filmed in Belfast, in northern Ireland.
    AA: A dynamic mise-en-scène. Might the speed be on the slow side even at 16 fps.   

Salut dans les vergues. Vue N° 837. Les matelots grimpent dans la mâture, se décoiffent et saluent. Opérateur: Alexandre Promio. Date: 28 ou 29 avril 1898. Lieu: Autriche-Hongrie (aujourd'hui Croatie), Sibenik, Dalmatie. Projections: Programmée le 3 juillet 1898 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Lyon républicain, 3 juillet 1898). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière - 1 contretype Lumière - 1 copie Lumière - 2 copies Edison. Pays: Croatie. Ville: Sibenik. Lieu: mer. Genre: militaire. Sujet: marin. Objet: bateau. Séries: Manœuvres de la marine autrichienne. Photo and data: Catalogue Lumière.

SALUT DANS LES VERGUES / [Salute at the Yards] (FR 1898), Lumière cat. no. 837. photog: Alexandre Promio, 46 ft / 14 m [739 frames], 46″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    Sailors climb aloft, display flags from the rigging, and wave their hats to people on shore. Filmed in the port of Šibenik, Dalmatia, on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, in April 1898. This is a print of second generation in the collection, poorly duplicated from its source. Layers of the various elements can be seen around the edges of the frame and the frames constantly shift around, creating stability problems in the image. The print also has several shifts in exposure.
    AA: An exciting subject but the print is on the poor side (duped, soft look).

The image is not from the film screened but from a film from the same event. Un tournoi. Vue N° 1012. “Les six vues suivantes [cf. n° 634, 641, 642, 644 à 646] représentent des scènes prises à Paris lors d’une fête des artistes donnée en 1899.Cette vue représente la reconstitution d’un tournoi du Moyen-Âge ; deux chevaliers luttent ensemble.” Erreur du résumé dans le Catalogue des vues pour Cinématographe : la vue n° 642 ne fait pas partie de la fête des Artistes donnée le 12 juin 1899 à Paris. Opérateur: inconnu. Date: 13 juin 1899. Lieu: France, Paris, jardin du Palais-Royal. Personnes: À l'arrière-plan, le restaurant le Grand Véfour. Projections: Programmée le 20 août 1899 à Lyon (France) sous son titre (Le Progrès, 21 août 1899). Eléments filmiques: négatif Lumière. Pays: France. Ville: Paris. Lieu: parc. Événement: affrontement, fête. Sujet: animal. Objet: costumes. Séries: Les fêtes de Paris en 1899. Photo and data: Catalogue Lumière.

[FÊTE DU PALAIS-ROYAL #1] (FR 1899), Variant of Un tournoi, 1899; Lumière cat. no. 1012, 61 ft /19 m [972 frames], 1′ (16 fps); from: camera negative.
    This re-enactment of a jousting tournament is probably an untitled entry of the “Fête du Palais-Royal” series, which was filmed in Paris on 13 June 1899.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Record of a performance. 30 years before Jean Renoir, the Lumières produced their Un tournoi.

[FÊTE DU PALAIS-ROYAL #2] (FR 1899), 22 ft /7 m [359 frames], 22″ (16 fps); from: camera negative.
    This is most likely another untitled entry of the “Fête du Palais-Royal” series, which was filmed in Paris on 13 June 1899. It is a re-enactment of a king in a royal court knighting a man. The knight is probably the winner of the tournament seen in [Fête du Palais-Royal #1].
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Record of a performance. A royal ceremony.

[FÊTE DU PALAIS-ROYAL #3: RE-ENACTMENT OF SCENES FROM “NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS”] (FR 1899), 172 ft /52 m [2,759 frames], 2’52” (16 fps); from: camera negative (2 reels) and nitrate positive.
    This, like the two previous films, is probably an untitled entry of the “Fête du Palais-Royal” series, which was filmed in Paris on 13 June 1899. It features scenes from Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris (1831). The first scene depicts Esmeralda dancing near her goat Djali when the hunchback Quasimodo, sent by Frollo, tries to kidnap her. She is saved, and Quasimodo escapes by climbing a small church (which represents the cathedral of Notre-Dame). In the final scenes Esmeralda and her lover are betrothed, and the wedding procession heads into the church. This film (of unusual length for the period) was found in the form of two camera negatives and a projection print with a single splice.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Scenes from The Hunchback of Notre Dame - the first film adaptation of Notre-Dame de Paris, preceding Albert Capellani's film by 12 years, and the first Victor Hugo film adaptation. Visual quality is partially soft and duped.

[PANORAMIC PAINTING OF A BATTLEFIELD] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 47 ft /14 m [753 frames], 47″ (16 fps); from: camera negative.
    This is a 360-degree view of a panoramic painting (it may be called an early film about pre-cinema). As this catalogue goes to press, the painting is yet to be definitively identified. It could possibly be the Reichshoffen Panorama (1881) by Théophile Poilpot and Stephen Jacob, depicting a battle in Alsace during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Fascinating as a record of a parallel visual spectacle, comprehensively examined by Erkki Huhtamo in his magnum opus Illusions in Motion (MIT 2013).

[MILITARY PARADE AT THE COUR D’HONNEUR IN VERSAILLES] (FR, ca 1903?), 43 ft /13 m [690 frames], 43″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    This scene depicts a parade of cuirassiers and carriages during a state visit in the Cour d’Honneur in Versailles. French President Émile Loubet is in the first carriage, quickly followed by the crowd. The event appears to have attracted much media coverage, as a second camera can be briefly seen passing in front of the cameraman’s lens.
    As this catalogue goes to press, the film and the event documented have yet to be positively identified. It could possibly be Départ de Sa Majesté le roi et de M. le président de Versailles (Lumière cat. no. 1392), filmed in October 1903, which depicts King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy visiting France. The lower image quality was likely caused by mistakes in the processing of the film.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. If this is indeed Départ de Sa Majesté le roi et de M. le président de Versailles, Vue N° 1392, then one of the very rare missing Lumière Catalogue films has been found and preserved. There is no image of this movie in the Catalogue Lumière, classified as "vue non retrouvée". There are dots on the image.

[PANORAMA ON THE CREUSE RIVER #1] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 50 ft /15 m [794 frames], 49″ (16 fps); from: camera negative and nitrate positive.
    This film, taken from a boat travelling on a river, prominently features a large building with a sign reading “Papeterie de la Haye-Descartes”. This was a well-known French factory of the 19th and early 20th century on the Creuse River that specialized in the manufacture of high-quality paper.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. A tracking shot from a boat.

[DAM ON THE CREUSE RIVER] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 50 ft /15 m [802 frames], 50″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    Men walk across the footbridge of a weir in single file, carrying large boxes, while men in boats are fishing. The location is likely near that of [Panorama on the Creuse River #1 and #2], as the dam can be seen briefly in both of those films.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. An interesting many-layered composition with many fields of action in depth. There is a dam, a falls, and a bridge, and porters cross the bridge.

[PANORAMA ON THE CREUSE RIVER #2] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 35 ft /11 m. [558 frames], 35″ (16 fps); from: camera negative and nitrate positive.
    In this second panorama on the Creuse River, the camera travels past many of the same buildings seen in [Panorama on the Creuse River #1]. Due to the unsteadiness of the image, there is reason to believe that the camera was handheld.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. The constantly rolling movement of the camera brings to mind the recent penchant to the handheld camera in mainstream cinema.

[PAPER MANUFACTURE] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 15 ft /5 m [242 frames], 15″ (16 fps); from: camera negative and nitrate positive.
    This brief segment was found on the same roll of film as [Panorama on the Creuse River #2], with no splice in between. The original was severely underexposed. Large rolls of paper can be seen on the right side of the image. In the background is an only partially visible sign, which could possibly read “Glaçage du papier” – the process of adding a glossy coating to paper. If so, this footage was probably shot within the factory Papeterie de la Haye-Descartes, seen in [Panorama on the Creuse River #1].
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Industrial documentary. Visual quality on the dark side.

[JOURNALISTS AND TYPOGRAPHERS IN EDITORIAL OFFICE] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 46 ft /14 m [728 frames], 45″ (16 fps); from: camera negative.
    Two printers in workclothes set a frame of type and take it away to be printed, while a group of men in suits examine and read printed pages.
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Industrial documentary.

[MEN UNLOADING A TRAIN] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 51 ft /16 m [814 frames], 50″ (16 fps); from: camera negative.
    This film depicts men unloading large sacks and rolls of paper and other supplies from the car of a freight train pulled by horses. A canvas sign hangs from the second car which reads “Papeterie de la Haye-Descartes”. The scene was probably filmed near the same location seen in [Panorama on the Creuse River #1 and #2].
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. Dynamic action as the cars are pulled by horses, and the cargo is unloaded.

[TRAIN PULLING INTO A FACTORY] (FR, ca 1896-1899), 53 ft /16 m [846 frames], 52″ (16 fps); from: nitrate positive.
    The camera takes the perspective of a train as it travels down a track and into a factory. The location needs further confirmation (there is a wagon with the inscription “Chocolat Menier”), but the architecture and the chimneys resemble those of the “Papeterie de la Haye-Descartes” paper factory seen in [Panorama on the Creuse River #1 and #2], [Paper Manufacture], and [Men Unloading a Train].
    AA: Hors catalogue, to be identified. A phantom ride: the arrival of the train to the factory has been shot from the engine. The movement is smooth.

Petite Simone / [Little Simone] (2014 preservation EYE / Haghefilm)

Julien Clément? (FR 1918), cast: Julien Clément (Jean Balincourt), Simone Genevois (Simone), ? (Suzanna), ? (Yvonne Fougères), prod: Jycé?, dist: Ciné-Location Éclipse?, 35 mm, 772 m, 37′ (18 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet process); titles: NLD., source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Van Rossum Collection), Preserved from nitrate in 2014 at Haghefilm.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "Petite Simone could be part of the Desmet “For a Better Vision” programme just as easily as “The Effects of War,” since it’s the story of a soldier who returns home after being blinded in battle. In his case, the cause was a bomb, but for many others, it was gas that left them either temporarily or permanently blinded. The problem was already serious enough in 1915 for special hospitals to be set up in London and Florence, among other places; that same year in France, André Dreux published Nos soldats aveugles, a treatise on the physical and psychological treatment of blinded soldiers. Representations of blind soldiers became ubiquitous throughout the period, even before John Singer Sargent’s 1919 masterpiece Gassed; less difficult to digest than images of mutilated bodies yet still potent in their ability to generate compassion, they also became ripe with metaphor, conveying the notion of young men being blindly led to the slaughter."

"In the film, shot in Nice, wealthy Jean Balincourt (Julien Clément) is engaged to Yvonne Fougères, though judging by the fright she takes when looking out on a promontory over the Mediterranean, it’s clear she has a weak character. Just before Jean joins his regiment, Suzanna, a young widow, and her five-year-old daughter Simone (Simone Genevois, overly precious for modern viewers) arrive at his father’s villa with a letter of introduction and a request for employment. She’s hired as a housekeeper and Jean goes off to war, but returns home blind. Yvonne’s father writes a letter saying it’s best the couple not marry, whereupon a despairing Jean heads to the cliffs to kill himself (statistics for soldier suicides are impossible to accurately compile, but the numbers had to have been legion). Little Simone intervenes, and Suzanna’s adoration ensures that Jean will find love, notwithstanding his handicap."

"In the 1 July 1918 issue of Le Film, the distribution company Ciné-Location Éclipse placed a full-page advertisement announcing the first film of Simone Genevois (1912-1995). In truth she’d been acting on screen since at least the year before, but it’s likely Éclipse was heralding a series with “la petite,” of which Petite Simone is probably the first, followed by La Tisane, released at the end of July, and Le Rêve de Simone, in cinemas in early September. These latter two titles were produced by Jycé, a company we know nothing about, but Julien Clément is said to have directed and performed in La Tisane, which suggests he may also have acted in both capacities here. Aside from film work and an association with the Odéon theatre in Paris, Clément was the author in 1916 of a 32-page booklet, Poèmes de Guerre, consisting of verses he wrote and read to hospitalized soldiers.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: So comprehensively discussed by Jay Weissberg above that there is little to add. The presence of the little child (Simone Genevois) brings joy to the family after Jean (Julien Clément) has been blinded on the battlefield. In fact Simone becomes the center of the attention with her adventures with an escaped rabbit. Simone also becomes the walking companion of the depressed Jean, and (like the little son in The Crowd) she draws the desperate man from the point of suicide. "Life has no meaning for me anymore". "In the dark night the child was the sunshine". This is the earliest film of Simone Genevois whom I know from some of the greatest French classics of all time such as La Maison de mystère and Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, and most of all from her leading role in La merveilleuse vie de Jeanne d'Arc, fille de Lorraine, shot simultaneously with Carl Th. Dreyer's movie, in a completely different approach. A good visual quality in a tinted and toned print.

Rééducation des mutilés: aux champs / [Rehabilitation of Invalids: at Farms]


Image not from the movie. Exposition 14-18 » La rééducation des mutilés. 1914/1918 Médecine au champ d'honneur - Université de Montpellier. Le mutilé était laissé libre de choisir la prothèse qu'il désirait en tenant compte toutefois des conseils du chef du centre appareillage.

(FR 1917-18), photog: Louis Chaix, Alphonse Gibory, prod: Service Cinématographique de l’Armée (SCA); Service Photographique et Cinématographique de l’Armée (SPCA), 35 mm, 294 m, 18’21” (14 fps); titles: FRA, source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "There are many films from World War I showing former combatants with severe war injuries being fitted with prosthetic devices and trained for occupations that will make them as independent as possible. None of this footage is easy to watch. I’ve often wondered if audiences of the time were so used to seeing men with amputations in their daily lives that the elements that disturb us today were less distressing then. Some of these films were screened in regular cinemas, such as Rééducation des mutilés de guerre belges in May 1917, praised by Hebdo-Film for showing rehabilitation efforts by the Belgian government for men who had “gloriously lost” their limbs during the fighting. The feature following this sobering actuality was Youth’s Endearing Charms, starring Mary Miles Minter; check your irony at the door."

"The number of French soldiers with amputated limbs due to war injuries is impossible to calculate, with figures ranging from 70,000 to one million. They formed such a significant segment of former fighters that at least as early as 1916, newspapers and magazines appeared geared to these men and their concerns: Journal des Mutilés, Réformés et Blessés de la Guerre (1916-1944; with various title changes, including Blessés to Victimes); Le Mutilé de l’Algérie (1916-1938); Le Mutilé de la Vienne (1920-1922); La France Mutilée (1920-26); etc. Articles were filled with policy questions, health issues, discussions of prosthetics, even book reviews, with much space devoted to re-training. In the last year of the war, it was estimated that 60% of the wounded were from the agricultural sector (Journal des Mutilés, Réformés et Victimes de la Guerre, 9 February 1918), which put an enormous strain on the nation’s already decimated food resources. Fitting these ex-soldiers with artificial limbs and teaching them how to cultivate the land again was therefore of vital interest to the government."

"Rééducation des mutilés: aux champs shows men being given new prosthetics and engaging in farm activities (as well as apiculture) in the area around Lyon. Worth noting is the presence of a field worker and his embroiderer wife, clearly chosen to convey the idea of a happy and productive family life notwithstanding amputated limbs (the couple appear in other compilations). Filmed by Louis Chaix (later a frequent collaborator of Jacques de Baroncelli) and Alphonse Gibory (who worked on La Femme française pendant la guerre), the footage was created to encourage wounded farmers and their families that life could be “normal,” and discourage them from abandoning agriculture precisely when it was most needed. An extraordinary article in the Journal des Mutilés, Réformés et Victimes de la Guerre (28 September 1918) by R. Freytag, director of the journal Ciné-Commercial, details his frustration that his lobbying for the use of film to reassure and educate wounded farmers had yet to be acted upon. This idea was reinforced two months later in Le Film (19 November 1918): “viewing such films would do much towards returning to the fields many of our glorious wounded comrades.”
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Non-fiction. While women joined the workforce in high spirits, men mutilated on the battleground were equipped with prosthetic limbs in order to continue their work. This film documents in detail how to use the saw and the rake, how to make hay, harness a horse, carry water, and give water to a bull when you have lost your limbs. And even more elementally, how to eat, how to drink. The wife helps to shave. But even harvesters can be operated with prosthetic limbs, and fields plown with bulls, and also beekeeping is possible. A good visual quality in the print.

[Frauenarbeit im ersten Weltkrieg] / [Women's Work in the First World War]


Image not from the movie. Women producing soap (1917). Photo: Süddeutsche Zeitung.

[Il lavoro femminile durante la prima guerra mondiale], ? (DE 1917), photog: ?, prod: ?. DCP, 15′; no intertitles, source: Landesfilmsammlung Baden-Württemberg.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, no intertitles, 4 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "There’s a surprising degree of visual whimsy in the footage retrospectively titled Frauenarbeit im Ersten Weltkrieg, far more than in La Femme française pendant la guerre. The opening shot plays like comedy, as three women carrying ladders walk towards the camera, their gait more reminiscent of slapstick than propaganda. Their uniforms identify them as employees of the gas company, and they’re cleaning and servicing lamp posts. Many of the women in this strictly urban compilation film have a delightfully self-conscious manner as they set about their tasks before the camera, whether washing down train cars or cleaning windows. Also seen are women train engineers, telegram messengers, and, unusually, women shoveling coal. The range of employment is heterogenous and the tone upbeat."

"In truth the presence of women in the German workforce was less stable than in France or, especially, Great Britain. Employment opportunities expanded in areas where the war effort demanded extra bodies, and decreased in sectors where women had traditionally found work, such as textile factories. Although farms were largely now worked by women throughout the year, rotating groups of soldiers were granted leave during harvest time, and the government encouraged the use of prisoners of war and foreign nationals on occupied territory over female laborers. Things changed somewhat in January 1917, when the Prussian Ministry of War appointed Marie-Elisabeth Lüders as the head of the newly instituted Frauenarbeitszentrale (Women’s Central Work Office), tasked with the mission of increasing the number of women in the workforce, especially in industry. By 1918, 600,000 women were working in munitions, and the total number of women employed by mid-sized to large factories increased by over 700,000 between 1913 and the Armistice. Nursing, traditionally thought of as a female occupation, also expanded, with approximately 1.1 million nurses registered by the war’s end. Layoffs when peace was declared were swift, and the role of women in the upheavals during the German Revolution of 1918-19 can be unquestionably linked to the haphazard taste of independence of the war years, combined with the significant privations they suffered.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Non-fiction. There is little to add to Jay Weissberg's remarks above. The great spirit of the women is a notable feature. Visually, there is a special atmosphere as the Gasgesellschaft women seem to be working in a thick fog.

Comment j'ai mangé du pain K.K. / [How I Ate K.K. Bread] (2014 Gaumont digital transfer in 2K)


Comment j'ai mangé du pain K.K. (FR 1915). Photo: Gaumont Pathé Archives.

?, (FR 1915), cast: Marie Dorly, Édouard Grisollet, prod: Gaumont, DCP, 15’20”; titles: FRA, source: Gaumont Pathé Archives, Saint-Ouen, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017

Pierre Philippe (GCM 2017): "It’s considered a basic truth that the seismic events of August 1914 were a sort of death blow for French film production. However, the facts are more nuanced. While it is true that the departure for the front of studio staff, filmmakers, technicians, and actors put a stop to the copious ongoing production of films for several weeks, the needs of the public and the desire to affirm the nation’s vitality and disseminate government propaganda very soon gave renewed life to popular spectacle, which was, and remains, the cinema."

"The images of this patriotic cinema sought to be reassuring and designed for everyone. The reality of the War was generally treated as a backdrop for updating some tried and true recipes that had already proven successful. The romances of yesteryear remained in the forefront, even if they now blossomed between gravely injured men and winsome nurses."

"Most wartime productions consisted of dramas highlighting the solidarity between various social classes equally afflicted by the harsh realities of the period, but hard times only put a slight dent in the production of farces that the public still clamoured for. Admittedly, Jean Durand’s famous comedy company at Gaumont, “Les Pouics”, found themselves enlisted, but movie theatres continued to require a steady supply of such entertainment."

"Comment j’ai mangé du pain K.K. is an archetypal example of anti-German propaganda, and stands on its own as pure comedy. Opening his morning newspaper, a middle-class Parisian reads the recipe for K.K. bread, the German Kartoffelkriegsbrot made from potato flour, whose sound and substance – when pronounced, K.K. is the equivalent of “caca,” or “poop” – would have horrified any self-respecting Frenchman. Convinced of its nutritional values, the man asks his baker to make him a loaf. Though sceptical, the artisan complies and delivers the bread, whereupon our bold gourmet is struck down by atrocious stomach pains. To console him, the baker brings him a loaf of good French bread that very evening."

"Far more effectively than other ostensibly serious titles, a film such as this functions as an appealing record, and is often more illuminating than pure documentary actualities, which in any event were generally pieced together.
" Pierre Philippe

AA: Comedy, war propaganda of the nicest kind: make them laugh. German wartime bread such as "Kriegs-Kartoffel-Brot": quelle horreur.

Sammelt Knochen! / [Collect Bones!]


Sammelt Knochen! (DE 1918). Photo: Lobster Films, Paris.

[Raccogliete le ossa!], ? (DE 1918), prod: Bild- und Filmamt (BUFA), Berlin, DCP, 405 m, 12′ (16 fps), tinted; titles: GER., subt. FRA, source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: Neil Brand.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 4 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "Convincing the German and Austrian public that processed bone scraps were a palatable source of margarine must have been an uphill battle, but one that the German Supreme Army Command’s cinema propaganda wing, the Bild- und Filmamt, undertook with humor and verve. No doubt it was the only way. Sammelt Knochen!, roughly translated as “Collect Bones!,” opens with a fictional scenario in a well-to-do home. The maid is about to throw out the family’s leftover bones from their substantial meal (they truly must have been wealthy to afford such a repast in 1918), but the cook stops her and explains that the scraps must be saved for the bone collector. A young man arrives in the kitchen, picks up the offerings, and then the documentary element begins, as we’re told about all the wonderful things ROHAG – Chemische Rohproduktion-HandelsgmbH – can do with the bones."

"The number of by-products are both impressive and stomach-churning. After being sorted and ground down into either bone meal or fat, the substances are turned into everything from glycerin for softening feminine hands to animal feed, machine grease, candles and, most disturbingly, margarine. Over 11,000 substitute foodstuffs were approved in the war years, leading English-born Evelyn, Princess Blücher, to write in her 1916 Berlin diary, “I don’t believe that Germany will ever be starved out, but she will be poisoned out first with these substitutes!”"

"The princess was optimistic – food riots had already begun in the autumn of 1915, and rationing had become a deeply unsatisfying and poorly organized part of life for all but the most privileged. Agricultural production had fallen precipitously with so many men at the front, and even the labor of hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war couldn’t ensure that the land yielded sufficient amounts. It’s estimated that 763,000 people died in Germany during the War from malnutrition and its effects, which puts the bone-collecting idea into proper perspective. The government-run operation was instituted in spring 1917 and was also in place in Austria-Hungary by that summer, as testified by a poster in the Wienbibliothek. Though the practice ended when the guns went quiet, collecting bones to be recycled into various by-products returned in Germany during World War II."

"The print was discovered in 2002 in an old cinema in Buffalo, New York, whose owner during the 1910s was of German origin. He also owned a mining plant in town, whose workers were largely German nationals; unfortunately we don’t know how or when he obtained the film.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Non-fiction. An amazing and revealing wartime public information bulletin on the dozens of uses of bones. Inventively made with animation inserts.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Luca Comerio 3 - Prog. 1


Sixième bataille de l'Isonzo (IT 1916), D: Luca Comerio. Photo: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.
    Grand piano: Mauro Colombis.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 3 Oct 2017.

Sergio M. Grmek Germani (GCM 2017):
Never Praise the Day before Night: Wars and the Post-War Period in the Work of Luca Comerio

"In the 1940 LUCE newsreel item about the death of Luca Comerio, shown at the Giornate last year in the second part of our three-year programme devoted to the film-maker, the pompous but never sincerely moved voice of the commentator describes him as a “humble but courageous cameraman” – an apparent tribute which nevertheless displays all the belittling to which Comerio has been subjected. He was certainly a great cameraman (and before that a photographer of still pictures which already suggested movement), but he was also and always a film-maker, a total director. It was not until Mario Bava (a comparison by no means unjustified if we consider Bava’s documentary work) that there appeared in Italian cinema a similar ability to translate the role of a cameraman into that of a director, even before he officially declared himself to be one."

"Yet those four words uttered by the LUCE newsreel’s voiceover commentary reflect many other misconceptions about Comerio. They fix him in the universe (which is by contrast a fluid one) of the documentary, of films of the real, whereas a present-day viewing of his fictional work – not only comic – reveals a strong mise-en-scène, able to augment documentaries with reconstructed scenes. These add the truth of fiction to the (always suspect) truth of documented reality, and at the same time endow his fiction films with a transparency, with their flagrant presences, which make them among the most original and free in Italian silent cinema."

"In those words, “humble but courageous”, also lurks a double falsehood. Comerio was certainly capable of real modesty (it is no coincidence that he was not celebrated as a film-maker either by the critics or officialdom), but certainly not in the sense, as the words would imply, that he was at the service of the powers-that-be (as a royal photographer, or a sole chronicler of colonial wars and the Great War…), and so he was called “courageous” not because of any real risks entailed by his work shooting with a camera, but in the sense of a campaign medal awarded to a soldier who must accept his destiny even though he has no love for war or death."

"Cinema teaches us, however, that from every falsehood the truth will out. This is shown in a seminal book by Milanese journalist Paolo Valera (1850-1926) on the Milan uprising put down in 1898 by General Bava-Beccaris, who ordered troops to fire on civilians, for which he was disgracefully rewarded by the King of Italy, provoking oaths of anarchist vendetta. For Comerio – then a photographer, not yet a film-maker – this revolt was his first “set”. It was an episode fiercely denounced at the time by Valera, along with Anna Kulischov and other socialists and anarchists (which rightly caused leading Italian Communist Amadeo Bordiga to say that before fascism Francesco Crispi and Bava-Beccaris had not been any less brutal), and also later in the two editions of Valera’s book (La sanguinosa settimana del Maggio ’98 [The Bloody Week of May ’98], 1907, and Le terribili giornate del maggio ’98 [The Terrible Days of May ’98], 1913). No film historian who has written about Comerio has mentioned this book, and its revealing chapter “The Photographer of the Barricades”, in which an intransigent Valera reproached Comerio for placing himself at the service of the authorities, but also pointed out that, talking about how he took his pictures of civil war, risking his own personal safety, Comerio admitted quite frankly: “I was always cap-in-hand, and the only language I used was that of the servant, even when I had Bava-Beccaris’s safe-conduct pass in my pocket.” The same was true of his documenting of the colonial wars in Africa and the war in Europe that became the First World War. Comerio could accept a safe-conduct pass from Luigi Cadorna [Chief of Staff of the Italian Army] or any other commander, but he knew he also had to be a servant in a deeper sense – seeking glimmers of truth in the scenes he had to film."

"The aim of the third part of our tribute is to complete the presentation of this great director. In the first year we concentrated on some of his masterful footage from the First World War. In the second we attempted to reconstruct his artistic development by emphasizing the presence of various “pre-wars” presaging the full-scale conflict to come. This year, besides some necessary additions of footage of the Italo-Turkish War (1912) and the First World War, we focus on the post-war period, a particularly difficult time for Comerio, the inter-war years between the end of the First World War and the beginning of the Second, which he did not live to see. While his film chronicles of D’Annunzio’s exploits in Fiume are currently not available for projection, there is abundant, as well as original, evidence of the attention he devoted to the rise of Fascism, and its exploitation of the myth of the fighting man and the rhetoric of death, stemming from the Great War."

"In this year’s two-part programme, however, our aim is to confirm Comerio’s merits as a total film-maker, so each programme opens with a visually inventive film outside the realm of political history. Il baco da seta (The Silkworm; 1909), anticipates the subject matter of Roberto Omegna, and Jean Painlevé in France, while Il carnevale di Nizza (1913) is a prelude to the great Jean Vigo’s À propos de Nice (1930). Each programme concludes with a comic film from 1914, just before Italy entered the First World War, featuring characters created by Edoardo Ferravilla (1846-1915), a widely loved although regional comic actor and playwright of Milanese dialect theatre. The remarkable thing about these comedy films, precious records of one of the greatest theatres Italy has ever produced, is that they are not confined to “filmed theatre”, but liberally underscore Comerio’s rapport with history and the characters of politics. In La class di asen a portrait of the King of Italy dominating the background acts as an extension within the scene of a figure that features in his other films. In Tecoppa & C. the parody of spiritualism becomes a mocking summoning back to life of all the dead in the historical events characterized in the war footage shot by Comerio."

"Comerio’s films are striking in their profound piety; be they records of the 1909 Messina earthquake (shown last year) or the battlefields of war, their dead – even when the propagandists who commissioned them wished to play down the number of “our” dead or celebrate the number of enemy casualties – are for Comerio above all ordinary victims of tragic events. It was hardly coincidental that in 1962 when Cecilia Mangini, Lino Del Fra, and Lino Miccichè made All’armi siam fascisti! they found in Comerio’s films the most hard-eyed representation of Italian colonialism: the tracking shot of hanged Libyans they edited into their picture goes beyond any servile role of a film-maker towards the commissioners of a film – it serves only the freedom of the gaze, and thus becomes a true document, one of the most revealing in what was a radically anti-Fascist film."

"To this day, among the repertoire of sequences documenting the First World War, some of Comerio’s footage retains a supreme iconic force. This year we are finally able to screen La sixième bataille de l’Isonzo, a film we wanted to show two years ago, but which was wrongly labelled in the archives as Les Annales de la guerre no. 8 and has now been correctly identified. This film about the capture of Gorizia contains some images which would encapsulate any war, such as soldiers entering a town and coming across a funeral procession, with an intersection of movement that makes the sequence a masterpiece, confirming what critic Roberto Turigliatto said last year when he saw Comerio’s film on the Messina earthquake: “here every shot becomes a masterpiece”. This comment astutely expresses the idea of how in Comerio’s work, photography is always the source of mise-en-scène, a concentration of thought, image, and feeling that is among the highest in cinema."

"Last year we borrowed the title of one of Comerio’s films, Dalla pietà all’amore/Compassion and Love, to describe the entire programme. It indicates movement, as do some of his other titles: Dal Polo all’Equatore (rediscovered and remade by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi in 1987) and Dal Grappa al mare, whose digital restoration by Rome’s Cineteca Nazionale has reinstated its proper title (it had been mistakenly catalogued as Cimiteri degli eroi). From some of these examples it is clear that work on Comerio’s cinema is still in its early stages, even though when the Cineteca Italiana was founded in Milan a discovery made by Luigi Comencini revealed the splendour of a film we screened last year, L’avventura galante di un provinciale (1908), and now the same archive has found and is restoring Piero Mazzarella’s collection of films featuring Edoardo Ferravilla. The Cineteca Italiana also holds the great comedy film that we presented last year under its German title, Man soll den Tag nicht vor Abend loben. We have now identified it under its original 1912 Italian title, which we are using as the title of this year’s programme, because it seems to sum up the uncertainty with which historical events can presage new wars: Non si deve mai lodare il giorno prima della notte / Never Praise the Day before Night."

"We are particularly happy that our three Comerio programmes have contained contributions and restorations from all of Italy’s FIAF archives: Rome, Milan, Bologna (with its precious work on Kinemacolor), Gemona, and Turin (source of the reconstruction of Captain F.E. Kleinschmidt’s Arctic Hunt – which Comerio did not direct, but acquired and edited footage from it into his Dal Polo all’Equatore), as well as the archives of LUCE, the AIRSC, the Associazione Hommelette, and the Fondazione dei Caduti di Rovereto. The scope of contributions to our programmes has been further broadened by items found in foreign archives and collections – evidence of how Comerio stood as one of Italian cinema’s greatest international representatives, effectively exploding the nationalistic myths which led Italy into the First World War."

"Several excellent studies on Comerio exist, notably Aldo Bernardini’s filmographies; the pioneering Luca Comerio fotografo e cineasta, published by Electa in 1979; Moltiplicare l’istante, published by Il Castoro in 2007; Luca Comerio. Milanese. Fotografo, pioniere e padre del cinema italiano, the homage by Paolo Pillitteri and Davide Mengacci published by Spirali in 2011; and the recent researches by Maria Assunta Pimpinelli, all of which open Comerio’s universe to numerous philological and aesthetic questions, to which we have attempted to make a contribution in this three-year review, pursuing some insights which bear further examination."

"This third part of our journey (which we could call “From Comerio to Comerio”, with the same planetary perspective as his Dal Polo all’Equatore [From the Pole to the Equator]) also encounters what we might call the most “losing” moment of Comerio’s film career: when the Fascist regime consolidated its grip on power by centralizing the records of various military archives and documentary production in LUCE, it mistreated Comerio, rejecting his attempts to place himself “at its service”. Out of this emerged feature-length pieces such as Dal Grappa al mare, containing beautiful images easily attributable to this supreme film-maker (e.g., the country cemetery with two old women, one kneeling, the other approaching the wooden crosses, while a disturbing little girl passes across the background, obviously discovering here the rituals of death), but submerged in a construction that deprived Comerio of his own signature intertitles, substituting instead rhetorical lines from Carducci on Trieste, D’Annunzio on Fiume, and Giuseppe Ellero on Gorizia, Caporetto, and Udine, “the capital of the war”. In short, we are closer here to  LUCE’s pompous Gloria by Omegna, than the collective Gloria. Apoteosi del soldato ignoto, an “apotheosis of the unknown soldier” in which the ferocity of death is removed from propaganda, or the pioneer female director Elvira Giallanella’s fable Umanità (1920) and the writer Chino Ermacora’s “piccola patria” (“little country”). In 1940, the year of Comerio’s death, another great director, Ferdinando Maria Poggioli, made a new version of Addio giovinezza! (whose title can also be read as Addio, “Giovinezza” – Farewell, “Youth”), a reference to the Italian Fascist national hymn, which was also the title of a fine film Comerio made in 1922, and included in this programme, about a rally with Mussolini in Milan. Though one of his most “servile” films, its gaze is free; perhaps indeed it is the only film in which Mussolini, the man who makes history, even if with the determination to force himself upon others, appears to us a perplexed and mysterious enigma.
" Sergio M. Grmek Germani

IL BACO DA SETA (Der Seidenwurm) / [The Silk Worm] (IT 1909), 35 mm, 151 m, 8′ (16 fps); titles: GER, source: BFI National Archive, London.
    AA: A sober nature documentary, a scientific record on the silk worm. Bad visual quality in high contrast.

LA GUERRA ITALO-TURCA / [The Italian-Turkish War] (IT 1912) Fragment of an episode from the series, 35 mm, 61 m, 3′ (16 fps); titles: ITA, source: Fondazione CSC – Cineteca Nazionale, Roma.
    AA: Non-fiction. Epic footage of big guns and cavalry charges.

La gloriosa battaglia del 12 marzo (IT 1912), Luca Comerio. Photo: Fondazione CSC – Cineteca Nazionale, Roma.

LA GLORIOSA BATTAGLIA DEL 12 MARZO: A BENGASI NELL’OASI DELLE DUE PALME / [The Glorious Battle of March the 12th: Benghazi in the Oasis of Two Palms] (IT 1912), followed by a fragment [Costruzione delle trincee / The Construction of Trenches] (IT 1912), DCP (restored from 35 mm), 11′; titles: ITA, source: Fondazione CSC – Cineteca Nazionale, Roma.
    AA: Non-fiction shot in the Benghazi Redoubt with a palm as a look-out point. Good visual quality with impressive long shots, partly damaged. The fragment Costruzione delle trincee: 2017 restoration. Trenches levelled to the ground, preparation of mines, views from the trenches to the shores of Tripoli, with Ain-Zara minaret, a mediocre visual quality.

THE VICTORIOUS BATTLE FOR THE CONQUEST OF MERGHEB, AFRICA (IT 1912), DCP (from 16 mm), 4′; titles: ENG, source: La Cineteca del Friuli, Gemona.
    AA: The Red Cross tends to the wounded. The return of the cavalry to the conquered position. A zeppelin and a pile of corpses. A cavalry charge, the fleeing enemy, the stronghold of Mergheb, Eritrian ascars. Visual quality: from 16 mm.

LA VITA DEI NOSTRI: ASCARI ERITREI IN LIBIA (IT 1912), DCP (restored from 35 mm, Kinemacolor), 9′; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca di Bologna.
    AA: Restored in 2017 in 4K in Kinecolor. Men at work, walls are erected, a mobile camera, soldiers at sport exercises. Visual quality weak but intriguing.

Plotoni nuotatori della 3ª divisione cavalleria comandata da S.A.R. il conte di Torino (IT 1912), Luca Comerio. Photo: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna.

Plotoni nuotatori della 3ª divisione cavalleria comandata da S.A.R. il conte di Torino (IT 1912), Luca Comerio. Photo: Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna.

PLOTONI NUOTATORI DELLA 3ª DIVISIONE CAVALLERIA COMANDATA DA S.A.R. IL CONTE DI TORINO (IT 1912), DCP (restored from 35 mm, Kinemacolor), 9′; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca di Bologna.
    AA: Restored in 2016 in 4K in Kinemacolor. Horses haul pontoons.

Sixième bataille de l'Isonzo (IT 1916), Luca Comerio. Photo: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy.

Sixième bataille de l'Isonzo (IT 1916), Luca Comerio. Photo: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy.

Sixième bataille de l'Isonzo (IT 1916), Luca Comerio. Photo: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy.

SIXIÈME BATAILLE DE L’ISONZO (IT 1916), French version of La battaglia di Gorizia (IT 1916), 35 mm, 170 m, 9′ (18 fps); titles: FRA, source: Archives françaises du film du CNC, Bois d’Arcy.
    AA: Title on screen: La Guerre de la montagne. Establishing shots on mountain bridges and ruins after battles. Shells are inserted, shooting angles set to the infernal valley. A response to the enemy artillery. The images are often much less informative than the intertitles. A pan on the Isonzo. The troops attack Gorizia. City war. The cavalry enters the city. The count of Turin guards the city. Bread and blankets to the prisoners. Good visual quality.

Resistere! (IT 1918), Luca Comerio. Photo: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.

RESISTERE! (IT 1918), DCP, 9′; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.
    AA: The cavalry enters the city. A tank rolls over trenches. A flag is waving. A propaganda montage. Superimposed visions. Marching troops. Defending the borders God gave us. Enlist! Resist! Air force. Eugenio Chiesa. A film de montage. A huge cannon. A cavalry charge. A mountain range. Impressive footage on war at sea. Impressive tinting and toning.

"Giovinezza, giovinezza, primavera di bellezza!" L'adunata dei fascisti Lombardi a Milano (marzo 1922) (IT 1922), Luca Comerio. In the center: Benito Mussolini. Photo: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.

“GIOVINEZZA, GIOVINEZZA, PRIMAVERA DI BELLEZZA!” L’ADUNATA DEI FASCISTI LOMBARDI A MILANO (MARZO 1922) / ["Youth, Youth, Springtime of Beauty!" The Assembly of Lombardian Fascists in Milano (March 1922)] (IT 1922), DCP, 13′; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.
    AA: Fascinating documentary footage on Benito Mussolini in the year 1922 when he became Prime Minister of Italy. The march of the black shirts. A noi! Youth, youth, springtime of beauty! A Fascist parade movie. Even children make Fascist greetings. Fascio Milanese. Mussolini gives a speech from a balcony. A big parade. The visual quality is good in the beginning, often not so good.

VISITA DI S.M. IL RE VITTORIO EMANUELE III ALLO STABILIMENTO PIRELLI ALLA BICOCCA. 20 GIUGNO 1927 (IT 1927), DCP, 17′; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.
    AA: The King of Italy visits the Pirelli factory at Bicocca. A high angle shot of the magnificent industrial area. The Pirellis welcome the King who arrives by car. The purification of rubber. The production of tyres, electric power cord and telephone wires. Huge cable reels. Electricity tests. Electronic conductiors. Submarine cables. The Bicocca Castle. Medals of merit to 12 workers. A huge crowd.

La class di Asen (IT 1914), Luca Comerio. Photo: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.

LA CLASS DI ASEN (IT 1914), DCP (restored from 35 mm), 16′; titles: ITA. source: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.
    AA: Fiction, poem intertitles in dialect, a school farce that takes place during the final exams. A bit wearisome.

Pamir, krisha mira / Pamir, Roof of the World


Pamir, krisha mira (SU 1927), D: Vladimir Yerofeyev. Photo: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.

Памир, крыша мира / [Pamir, il tetto del mondo]. SU 1927, dir, ed: Vladimir Yerofeyev, photog: Vasilii Beliayev, prod: Sovkino. DCP (from 35 mm, 2008 m), 71′; titles: RUS. Source: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.
    Grand piano and violin: Günter Buchwald.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 3 Oct 2017.

Oksana Sarkisova (GCM 2017): "Film-maker Vladimir Yerofeyev (1898-1940) was a pioneer of expedition cinema in the Soviet Union, advocating for increased attention and investment in edifying non-fiction films made to win the interest of broad audiences. Pamir. Roof of the World, 1927, is his second feature film, and the first resulting from an expedition (his debut that same year, Za poliarnym krugom [Beyond the Arctic Circle] was a co-edited compilation film). In summer 1927, a trek to the mountainous Pamir region, known as the “Roof of the World”, in present-day Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, was organized by the Sovkino studio in co-operation with the Geological Committee. Yerofeyev worked with prominent geologist Dmitrii Nalivkin and ethnographer Mikhail Andreyev; both scholars had extensively researched the area and contributed to the planning for the crew’s journey."

"The film opens with an animated map presenting the itinerary. Starting off in Moscow, the symbolic center of the new empire, it leads through Samara and Orenburg to Tashkent, Osh, and further on to the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia. Following a tracking shot from the moving train, the crew is shown arriving in Osh, in present-day Kyrgyzstan, the expedition’s base, where where the camera records fragments of town life: a picturesque bazaar, veiled women in the streets, and the expedition’s crew, horses, and camels, along with their heavy loads. After leaving Osh, the crew crosses the Taldyk Pass, and makes its first stop in the Alay Valley. Subsequent segments feature different elements of the trek, including crossing mountain rivers, traversing snowy passes, and descending into valleys in bloom, emphasizing the expedition’s progress. In the Alay Valley the camera records the practices of the Kyrgyz nomads – constructing a tent, keeping goats, sheep, and horses, making dairy products, and working a traditional one-shuttle weaver’s loom. The community is presented as traditional and self-sufficient. The film avoids picturing the Kyrgyz nomads as “dependent” or “primitive”, but shows them as masters of their space and a community connected to the outside world."

"Further on towards the border with India, the crew and the audience observe spectacular mountain panoramas. Leaving the plateau, the group enters a Tajik village at the foot of the Pamirs. Compressing different elements of community life into a single episode, the film introduces summer herding practices, when the women take the cattle up to summer pastures while the men stay behind to look after the household. Yerofeyev also zooms in on religious customs: the Tajiks of Western Pamir belong to the Ismailian sect and worship a “living god”, the Aga Khan, whom we see in a photo wearing a fancy European-style suit. The film’s matter-of-fact attitude to presenting religious beliefs stands in contrast to the mainstream Soviet pattern of straightforward derogatory representations of religion. The scenes of religious practices are tendentiously followed by images of unconscious opium-smokers. The narrative contrasts the “prejudices” with the “new shoots” of the time – pioneers marching with a drum, women without veils, a new school where a teacher holds a lesson, and indeed a low-angle shot of a bust of Lenin. Overcoming the snowy paths by driving their horses to the tune of a local guide’s flute, the crew finally enters Dushanbe, the capital of Soviet Tajikistan, after having covered 2,000 kilometres."

"The observations of city life include men in robes, donkeys on the streets, and local craftsmen in the bazaar. The crew boards the plane to return to Moscow, where the record of their journey across a rich region is pieced together. The final result demonstrates the interaction of various cultures not yet fully streamlined to the requirements of the uniformed all-Soviet world."

"Breaking the established convention of the invisibility of the traveller, Yerofeyev himself makes a cameo appearance towards the end of the film, energetically shaking hands with a local merchant. For all its brevity, the appearance of the director encapsulates the ambiguity of the relationship between the film-maker and his subjects.
" Oksana Sarkisova

AA: A documentary record of a stunning expedition, Pamir is also a distinguished mountain film: the Pamir mountains are among the highest in the world, to the northwest from the Himalayas, to the north from the Karakoram and Hindu Kush. The itinerary is illustrated as animation.

Via the Caspian Sea, the Aral Sea, and Tashkent we reach the ancient city of Osh in the Ferghana Valley. The expedition is big. Horses carry heavy loads. The trek proceeds higher and higher. We enter the Taldyk Pass.

We meet Kirghiz nomads. A dairy farm is the basis of their existence. Cheese is produced from sheep milk. Kumis is being produced and consumed. Fur is processed, carpets are rolled, weaving is going on. There is a mobile medical center. Trachoma and syphilis are among the diseases treated. Children's eyes are cured.

Magnificent snow-capped mountain tops are sighted. The caravan reaches the Alay valley. Kyzylart is the last stand before the route to "the top of the world". There is a sacred site above. We are near the border to Afghanistan, India (today Pakistan), and China. Pamir is "the knot of the worlds", the greatest mountain range to the north of Hindu Kush. (Hindu Kush in our times ominously known as the hideaway of the Taliban and Al Qaeda).

We observe immense glaciers and moraines. An incessant strong wind grows into a whirlwind. Over the centuries, the wind has created whimsical shapes in the rock. The caravan proceeds in the barren landscape. There are snow fields that have not melted in decades. (I wonder how it is today). We observe firns.

We reach Karakul Lake (Black Lake), 4100 meters above the sea level. We observe ancient remains. There is 1000 year old ice. (Again, I wonder how it fares today). We enter the Zor-Tash-Kul Ridge. Faces need to be covered with vaselin. Extremes of temperature are met. A Sovkino tent is being erected. There is a "film on film" element. Hazards of film-making include the fact that liquids turn to ice at night. In the thin air water boils at a lower temperature. Geological research is being conducted. Iron ore is detected. There are flowers on the Pamir. A kitchen is set up. The camp is covered with snow. The dog catches marmots. One must wear masks and glasses for protection.

There are people living on the Pamir. We visit a village (aul) and observe a yak (kutas), a source of food, with a broad chest and thick fur. The yak is also a means of transportation. A yurta is smoky, cold and cirty. There are many children in the village, few elderly. All chores are done by women. Men prefer to do nothing. Occasionally they go hunting. The muftuk rifles are antediluvian, made in China. It takes at least ten minutes to prepare the rifle for use. A mountain goat is shot. Blood is smeared on the rifle. Ancestors are honoured. The graveyard is the richest place in the village.

Murghab is the center of commerce with China. There is a Kashgarian restaurant and a health resort with boiling sulphuric springs and hot springs spas.

The caravan's journey continues towards Hindu Kush, the Indian (today Pakistanian) border, in Western Pamir. From perennial snow we come to wild rivers. Liangar is the first Tajik village. Yarn is being wound, music is being played. We come to Pyandzh (today Dusti), to ancient Tajik villages. The Tajik have cleverly cultivated every piece of land. They bring soil from the river bank and spread it over stones. There is an irrigation system. Before spring the Tajik feed on grass. Later, there is mulberry season. Dried berries are ground into flour. Women work at summer pastures up in the mountains. Butter is churned. Men stay at villages doing women's chores. Carpets (palas) are woven. Prospectors look for gold in ravines. Gold is being panned off through sieves with sheepskin. When men come together their hands never stop moving for a minute.

There is a sect worshipping Aga Khan as a living god, his representation the Ishan. There is a prayer at the holy place, Mazora.

Opium is smuggled from Afghanistan. There is an open air school. The children already know Lenin. There is a statue of Lenin.

The Panj River (here the Pyandzh River) is magnificent. Villagers navigate it with gupsare: sheepskin boats inflated with air. It is always very dangerous to cross the river. The caravan continues along the bank of the Panj River. The waterfalls are wild. There are ancient drawings on the rocks. The Slepus fortress is legendary. Footpaths are made of wicker. The mountain paths are perilous. The suspension bridges are shaky. Liangar. The harvest is already ripe. With special handcarts outsized bales are carried, to be ground with a bunch of brushwood. Hay on sleighs. Tambourines (dafi) at the harvest feast. Children are at play, a fashionable lady, a game of marmut is played, men wrestle. There is a partridge fight, a traditional game of chui, and a dance of boys to the music of traditional instruments, also a dance of horse and rider, a comical dance of an old man and a young girl (both interpreted by men). The old man is passionate, the young girl is disinterested. In the end the young girl gives in. There is even a dance of a fox and a marmot, and a hunting dance with a simulated rifle.

Getting down from the Pamir is no less difficult than climbing it. Footpaths are flooded. There is no road. Camels save the day after reloading. There is a strong current in the river. It is negotiated on a raft. Step ladders are perilous. Horses swim. In the district the scourge is the goitre, caused by the river, its water is dangerous for health. Again difficult passages are ahead: Odudi Pass is breathtaking. The landscapes are astounding. The descent is extremely steep. The expedition lands under a waterfall. The pass can only be crossed on foot. The flute is played to time the movement. The peak of the pass is 4,2 kilometers above sea level. There are huge snow plains. We see a glacier in an extreme long shot. We pass through the gorge.

We reach Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, after a voyage of 2000 kilometers. Melons and grapes are ripe at the market. A horse is suffering from skin damage and vermin.

At the airport we board a Junkers air plane.

There are issues of low contrast in the DCP of this film shot in extremely demanding circumstances.