Sunday, June 30, 2002

La Maison du mystère I–X (1923)

LA MAISON DU MYSTERE (Kauhujen talo) ***½
    Serial in ten episodes
    FR 1923, PC: Albatros, D: Alexandre Volkoff, DP: Joseph-Louis Mundviller, Fédote Bourgassoff, Nicolas Toporkoff, AD: Ivan Lochakoff, Edouard Gosch,
    starring Ivan Mosjoukine (Julien Villandrit), Charles Vanel (Henri Corradin), Hélène Darly (Régine Villandrit [de Bettigny]), Simone Genevois (Christiane as a child), Nicolas Koline (Rudeberg).
    Beautifully restored in 1990 by Cinémathèque française / Renée Lichtig from the original negative, partly toned (episode III-), total 476’ = 7 hours 56 min. (In Finland the film was released in 1923 condensed in two parts, total 3200 m /16 fps/ 174 min.)
    Introduced by Casper Tybjerg, who suggested this selection for the Festival.
    Bologna, Cinema Fulgor, 30 June – 6 July, 2002.

The discovery of the Festival, the morning screenings of this serial caused a stir at the start of each day. Full of visual splendour and excitement, nuanced acting, and witty editing. A tour de force of the magnificent Albatros team, one of the all-time best serials.

The visual inventiveness parallels Abel Gance’s Napoleon, in which the Albatros team collaborated.
    The wedding sequence shown as a silhouette in Episode I.
    The climactic fight reflected in the objective of Rudeberg’s camera in Episode II.
    Rudeberg’s hands clutched on the chair after the arson and murder attempt in Episode III.
    The long shot of policemen emerging from the meadow to arrest Julien; the subtle gestures of longing between Mosjoukine and Darly during the trial in Episode IV (the best one).
    The prisoners’ escape via train and along “the living bridge” in Episode V.
    The little daughter (Genevois) recognizes her long-lost father; the Great War montage 1914-1919 in Episode VI.
    Julien’s return disguised as a clown in Episode VII.
    The Julien-Corradin fight on the cliffs of the Riviera in Episode VIII.
    Corradin stalks Rudeberg in the ruins at night in Episode IX.
    Rudeberg’s suicide, Corradin’s lynch mob, and Julien’s empty paper trick in Episode X.

Volkoff made on the one hand films that are grand but empty, and on the other truly fine ones, like the adaptation of Tolstoy’s Chechen tale, Der weisse Teufel, with Mozzhuhin as Hadzhi-Murat. I look forward to a Volkoff retrospective.

La Maison du Mystère I: L’Ami félon (FR 1923) 66’, 30 June 2002

La Maison du Mystère II: Le Secret de l’étang (FR 1923) 37’, 1 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère III: L’Ambition au service de la haine (FR 1923) 43’, 1 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère IV: L’implacable verdict (FR 1923) 52’, 2 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère V: Le Pont vivant (FR 1923) 39’, 3 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère VI: La Voix du sang (FR 1923) 30’, 3 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère VII: Les Caprices du destin (FR 1923) 57’, 4 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère VIII: Champ clos (FR 1923) 54’, 5 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère IX: Les Angoisses de Corradin (FR 1923) 45’, 5 July 2002

La Maison du Mystère X: La Triomphe de l’amour (FR 1923) 55’, 6 July 2002

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