Monday, June 27, 2011

A Hundred Years Ago: Programme 4: 1911 - In the Mood for Moods: The Longer Feature Film

Cento anni fa: Programma 4: 1911 - Donne + sentimento = lungometraggio. Programme by Mariann Lewinsky e Giovanni Lasi. Monday 27 June 2011 at 17.15 Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Presentano Mariann Lewinsky and Thomas Christensen.

Catalogue: "With 950 meters Calvario was the first feature length film produced by Pasquali, which advertised it expressly as a “modern passionate drama.” In fact, the film contains many elements of modernity that justify this promotional campaign. The drama of a virtuous woman (Lydia De Roberti) cheated on and abused by her husband (Ubaldo Maria Del Colle) is set in the frenetic, deceptive world of the modern city, implicitly identified as a place of depravity, the perfect stage for veteran gamblers, unrepentant adulterers and unscrupulous lovers. A cynical and depraved setting that the creators of Calvario shaped around the “sensational” films produced in Denmark, which were received enthusiastically by Italian audiences. Lydia De Roberti, with her intense acting sprinkled with melodramatic accents, takes the stage with great personality. The press did not fail to highlight the skill demonstrated by the actress in the film. The dramatization of gestures, the expression of the face, torment, suffering, the agony of the soul: a vocabulary dedicated to De Roberti’s performance that would become the norm a few years later in the reviews of film divas of which Calvario perhaps provides the first sneak preview." Giovanni Lasi

"In his 1911 review of the history of film production and of the «Ciné» since its beginnings around 1898, Victorin Jasset records that the first scènes sentimentales, such as La Loi du pardon (which can be seen in our Albert Capellani section this year) came out around 1906. “They were tremendously successful… they pointed the way.” Jasset goes on to talk about acting, which at that time was not of central importance: “We quickly – as quickly as possible – explained the early stages of the scene and then got on to the significant action. We could not waste time on trifles such as creating a role or conveying nuances.”"

"When we look at the longer films of 1911, they are not all long in the same way. Some have grown outwards and accommodate more action in the longer running time. This is the case in Jasset’s genre, the crime thriller. Others seem to have grown inwards: the net amount of action is no greater than in a short film, but the longer duration allows time for moods and emotions to develop, for glances and body language, for nuanced changes in facial expression, as the protagonists’ innermost feelings are conveyed to the visible surface. Ekspeditricen is a wonderful example of this new dimension of emotional atmospheres: we can see how audiences discovered a new kind of pleasure in the cinema."

"But in those days the reaction to longer entertainment features was mixed. The short film Ein Augenblick im Paradies is a real find, with vaudeville artistes really going for these longer films. In it, Lene Land parodies Nielsen in the 1911 film In dem grossen Augenblick, which had just been released, with an intertitle: «Tonbild: Der Schrei nach dem Kind» (Sound picture Cry for the Child). Another intertitle promises that the film will have a running time of an hour and a half, and in other ways too the intertitles are mocking. Audiences were not very enthusiastic either. Fritz Güttinger has collected the moans about how much better everything had been before into an anthology. When the (short) film dramas were superseded by the (long) features, people said, much of the fun went out of the cinema. It was not the same any more. It was no longer the pot-pourri–style, all-purpose programme that Georg Grosz was still lamenting in 1931. “How wonderful were these hours-long programmes… 20 items, nothing unusual, admission ten or twenty pfennigs… Strangely, I used to go the cinema far more often in the old days.” “The short film should not be the supporting programme but the programme itself… Cinema before the war was much more varied.” (Fritz Güttinger, Der Stummfilm im Zitat der Zeit, 1984, p 63)."

EIN AUGENBLICK IM PARADIES. DE 1911. D: Georg Schubert. Cast: Lene Land (Asta Nielsen), Robert Steidl (Max Linder), Saharet, Little Pich, The Five Lorrisons; P: Protoskop Film. 35 mm. 155 m. 7’ a 18 fps. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv. - AA: A comedy. A parody. A meta-film. Pretty coarse stuff about "Asta Nielsen" meeting "Max Linder". A fine print.

CALVARIO. IT 1911. D: Ubaldo Maria Del Colle. DP: Giovanni Vitrotti; Cast: Lydia De Roberti (Enrichetta Dupuis), Ubaldo Maria Del Colle (Conte Valery); P: Pasquali. 35 mm. L. or.: 950 m. 833 m. 40’ a 18 fps. B&w. Nederlandse tussentitels. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: A romantic drama. - Fine visual quality in the print, the tinting is successful. The story starts as grand tragedy in an extremist dimension, realized with style and verve. Goodbye to the dream of happiness: Enrichetta has to give up her love and to accept an arranged marriage. In a striking shot, she sees from her window how her husband comes home in a car with another woman. In the peripeteia of the story E. is furious when her daughter finds the photograph of her husband's mistress. She tears the photograph to pieces, and her husband hits her with a whip on her face. E. attempts suicide by drowning, there is a divorce process, and the daughter is ordered to the father. When the father brings his new woman to their home the daughter cries inconsolably. The mother stalks her daughter in agony and desperation. The father is a gambler, exposed for fraud, and he shoots a bullet through his brain. A new happiness begins for the original lovers whom we meet in the epilogue with the first daughter and a new little baby daughter. - There are electrifying moments in Lydia De Roberti's performance. - Mariann Lewinsky asked whether Calvario might be the earliest true Italian diva film.

EKSPEDITRICEN / [{the title of the print:} In the Prime of Life] / [{a literal translation could be:} The Shop Girl]. DK 1911. D: August Blom. SC: Lau Lauritzen Sr.; Cast: Clara Wieth (Ebba [in this version: Sophy]), Carlo Wieth (Edgar), Thorkild Roose (padre di Edgar), Ella la Cour (madre di Edgar), [Zanny Petersen (Lily (in this version: Lilly)]; P: Nordisk. 35 mm. 971 m. 47’ a 18 fps. Col. English intertitles. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: A love tragedy. - A beautiful Lumière Project print from ca 1995 with beautiful toning and colour, a beautiful definition of light. - "The same old story". The love story of a shop girl and a rich man's son. They fall in love, but father says no, and even goes to the lengths of abducting the letters of the girl and his own son, sabotaging their tender love affair. The girl is pregnant, has their baby, abandoned by everyone. Edgar and Lilly receive the baby. - One of the earliest performances of Clara Wieth / Pontoppidan, whose career continued until 1972. - August Blom has a vivid and sober touch in this tender, tragic story.

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