Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Albert Capellani: Programme 4: Camille and Other Traviate

Albert Capellani: Programma 4: Camille e altre Traviate. Wednesday, 29 June 2011 at 11.15, Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Mie Yanashita.

Catalogue: "After his first film, Le Chemineau, made in 1905, Capellani made a series of realistic dramas of outstanding quality. How can we account for this? Was it his talent, his theatre experience? Did he have a concept about cinema? Is it the mise en scene that makes all the difference? How much did Heuzé’s scripts contribute? And Ferdinand Zecca’s production skills, and the work of the unnamed camera operators? Certainly films such as L’Age du cœur and Les deux sœurs (1907) are clearly recognisable as Capellani works. In Les Deux sœurs, in the scene where the two sisters are reunited and they travel across Paris, Capellani and his camera team capture the atmospheric, photogenic essence of the city; a moment of timeless immediacy in the compressed plotting of the short film."

"Drama does not have a wide choice of possible endings: marriage, madness or death. But who actually dies of a broken heart? In our programme, on one occasion it is the deceived husband, once the abandoned mother and, in Camille, the traviata herself. The film is a miracle of textile art direction; Dumas’s story is widely known, thanks to Verdi’s musical version, while star actress Clara Kimball Young no longer is." (ML)

Capellani and the stars: Clara Kimball Young (I)

"Can it really be true, as Paxton Hibben claimed in 1925, that a cinema in Moscow was entirely devoted to Clara Kimball Young? In later years, Young (1890 - 1960) was remembered as the first actress to have her own production company (“I was the first star to finance her own production outfit” she asserted in 1956), and the first to see her name in lights on Broadway. The first claim is certainly not true – Helen Gardner, Marion Leonard, Gene Gauntier and others came before – and the second is questionable, though the giant sign at the corner of Broadway and 46th Street was considered newsworthy in 1916. Whatever the accuracy of these statements, Young’s fame is more than a mere footnote to film history: apart from her enormous popularity throughout the mid-to-late-teens, the Clara Kimball Young Film Corporation, guided by Lewis J. Selznick, helped to deliver the death blow to block program bookings and inspired a host of other actresses to form their own companies."

"The lack of serious scholarship on Young, despite the fair number of films that survive (alas, few from her crucial period between 1916 and 1918, and only two of the six directed by Albert Capellani), is bound up with the paucity of research on the figure of the American film diva of the teens. The recent explosion of studies surrounding Francesca Bertini, Lyda Borelli, Asta Nielsen, and other European divas of the era has woefully bypassed their American counterparts. It’s not for a lack of candidates: Ethel Barrymore, Pauline Frederick, Marie Doro, Olga Petrova, Elsie Ferguson, Alice Brady fit the concept. That they all became stars first on stage and then moved to the screen is surely no coincidence – the legitimacy of the theatre guaranteeing a gravitas for Americans that Europeans didn’t feel constituted a required pedigree. Young, “the quintessence of refinement,” and Norma Talmadge, are the exceptions to this rule, as neither were stars on stage before their screen celebrity, and both alternated, at the start of their careers, between comedy and drama before becoming fixed in the public mind as examples, par excellence, of the sophisticated diva."

"Soon after World Film Corporation’s William A. Brady and Lewis J. Selznick poached Young from Vitagraph, they set out to refine her star image, choosing the high-profile vehicle Trilby (1915) and pairing Young with prestige director Maurice Tourneur. Three months later they selected Capellani as her director on Camille (1915) in an obvious move to settle an aura of continental sophistication on their star; shortly before Camille’s release, Photoplay declared Young “a veritable Bernhardt of the screen.”" Jay Weissberg.

L’AGE DU CŒUR. FR 1906 D: Albert Capellani. SC: André Heuzé. P: Pathé. 35 mm. 85 m. 5’ a 16 fps. Col. Intertitres français. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: Tragedy. Father, son, mistress. Vignette: suicide. A fine print.

LES DEUX SOEURS. FR 1907. D: Albert Capellani. P: Pathé. 35 mm. 195 m. 9’ a 18 fps. Col. Intertitres français. From: CNC-Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Drama. The daughter's letter to the mother is a fatal missive. Retour à devoir. La rencontre des deux sœurs. The one's beau flirts with the other. Loses both.

CAMILLE. US 1915. D: Albert Capellani. Based on the novel La Dame aux camélias (1848) by Alexandre Dumas (figlio); SC: Frances Marion; Cast: Clara Kimball Young (Camille), Paul Capellani (Armand Duval), Lillian Cook (Cecile), Robert Cummings (Monsieur Duval), Dan Baker (Joseph), Stanhope Wheatcroft (Robert Bousac), Frederick Truesdell (Conte di Varville), William Jefferson (Gaston), Edward Kimball (il Dottore), Louise Ducey (Madame Prudence), Beryl Morhange (Nanine); P: Shubert Film Corporation; Pri. pro.: 27 dicembre 1915. 35 mm. 1400 m. 70’ a 20 fps. B&w / col. Czech intertitles. From: Národní Filmový Archiv. - AA: Tragedy. There is a low intensity in this assured interpretation of the famous story. The early cinema style (long shots, long takes) is combined with pans.

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