Sunday, September 28, 1997

Germinal (1913)

004819 / G / FR / 1913 / Capellani, Albert / historical drama

Germinal / Germinal eller den stora grufkatastrofen. PC: Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et Gens de Lettre (SCAGL). A Pathé release. D+SC: Albert Capellani - from the novel by Emile Zola. DP: Louis Forestier. CAST: Henry Krauss (Etienne Lantier), Sylvie (Catherine), Jacquinet (Chaval). B&w, silent. A brilliant print of the 1986 restoration from La Cinémathèque Francaise by Renée Lichtig. 3017 m /18 fps/ 146’, projected at /24 fps/ 110’. Somnambulistic piano accompaniment by Jasse Varpama. Well rehearsed Finnish earphone translation by Leena Talvio. Viewed at SEA, Cinema Orion, Helsinki, Sunday, 28 September 1997. ** It was a joy to see an exquisite print do justice to the archaic long-take, deep-space tableaux of Germinal. The furious depiction of the war between labour and capital invites comparison to Griffith’s Intolerance: here, too, finally, armed forces crush the rebels. In Germinal, seeing the carnage, the commander bursts into tears. In contrast to Griffith the camera is static, there are no close-ups, and there is no montage. The intertitles give away the action in advance. On the other hand, the composition is impeccable, the movement of the masses dynamically conveyed, and Germinal has documentary fascination as a portrait of a primitive phase of the industrial society. Interestingly, the actors are relatively subdued, and the sadness at the death of both of the leading ladies is moving.

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