Friday, July 08, 2005

J'accuse! (1919)

Minä syytän! I-II. FR 1919. PC: Pathé. D+SC: Abel Gance. DP: Marc Bujard, Léonce-Henri Burel. Starring: Romuald Joubé (Jean Diaz), Séverin-Mars (François Laurin), Maryse Dauvray (Edith Laurin), Maxime Desjardins (Maria Lazare), Mme Mancini (mother of Jean). 2989 m /20 fps/ 131' [the intertitles change too fast at this speed]. Cin. fr. con il permesso di Nelly Kaplan. ♪ Alain Baents. Friday 8 July 2005, Cinéma Lumière 1, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna ("La messa in scena della guerra – La Grande Guerra"). Seen again after some 20 years, the film looks more impressive as I keep ignoring its weaknesses and focusing on the strengths. It's a personal film, an essay film in a French tradition, speaking in an individual voice about matters of great importance. Formally, it is fascinating, not taking the easy way out, starting with the interesting opening credit metamorphoses. It is an important film in the history of montage, experimenting with intellectual montage, conceptualizing with images. It takes steps beyond the Griffith school, beyond Intolerance, an obvious inspiration. The story: two young Frenchmen and a young Frenchwoman, whom they find with a baby after the war, the result of being raped by a German. Edith suffers fourfold. The film is a blend of drama (the triangle drama), non-fiction (authentic war documentary), allegory, and pacifistic propaganda. Some battle scenes are still very powerful. Memorable image in the hospital: the death of François, his hand gripping Jean's. Jean goes mad, calls himself "J'accuse", and in the final vision he is the commander of the Battalion of the Dead, in a (clumsy) superimposition, which marches in a (clumsy) double image above the victory parade by the Arch of Triumph.. The march of the ghosts is the best-remembered idea. Before the war, Jean was a poet, author of Le Hymne au soleil. The poet has lost himself, he is looking for himself, calling himself by name. He tears up his notebook of poetry and dies. – There can be no poetry after this war, is Gance's conclusion.

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