Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Divine Woman (fragment)

Jumalainen nainen / En gudomlig kvinna (La donna divina) (M-G-M, US 1928) (fragment) D: Victor Seastrom; P: Irving Thalberg; SC: Dorothy Farnum, based on the play Starlight (1925) by Gladys Unger; DP: Oliver T. Marsh; cast: Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson; 35 mm, 16 m, 1' (22 fps); from: Filmarkivet vid Svenska Filminstitutet / Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute, Stockholm. One Swedish introductory intertitle. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, with e-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne, 5 Oct 2011.

Jon Wengström (GCM Catalogue): "The 1928 The Divine Woman was the sole collaboration between Greta Garbo and Swedish director Victor Sjöström, and the film also featured their fellow compatriot Lars Hanson in the male lead. Of Garbo’s nine American silent films, The Divine Woman is the only one that survives merely as a fragment. When a group of Scandinavian scholars carried out research at Gosfilmofond in Moscow in 1992, they identified a 250-metre reel with Czech intertitles as being a fragment of the until-then completely lost The Divine Woman. This fragment has since been screened on many occasions in festivals [including the 1993 Giornate, where it had its world premiere] and at cinematheques all over the world, and it bears witness of what seems to have been a truly great film. The surviving 10 minutes are rich in atmosphere, beautiful lighting, and inspired acting. In 1964, the production company Svensk Filmindustri donated their entire newsreel collection to Sveriges Radio (now Sveriges Television), the Swedish national broadcasting corporation. This collection – consisting of more than 5,000 elements – was duplicated without too much consideration of quality and grading by Sveriges Radio in the following years. What most people have overlooked ever since – despite the detailed catalogue created by Sveriges Radio – is the fact that one of the newsreels, labelled Kino 3, included an item with clips from seven of Garbo’s American silent films, among them a very brief excerpt from The Divine Woman. This scene, with Garbo and Hanson kissing, is not included in the longer Moscow fragment, and thus almost no one has ever seen it."

"In the 1990s, when Sveriges Television could no longer store their nitrate holdings, the original newsreel collection was the subject of a joint rescue mission by the Cineteca del Friuli in Gemona and George Eastman House in Rochester. The collection was repatriated to Sweden in 2007, and is now with the Archival Film Collections of the Swedish Film Institute. When we realized that Kino 3 included a lost scene from The Divine Woman, we struck a new print (and an interpositive) in 2011 of just this section of the newsreel nitrate duplicate negative, so that audiences can enjoy this treasure in the best possible way. The fragment opens with a Swedish intertitle, which is not from the film itself, but from the newsreel compilation." JON WENGSTRÖM

AA: Just one minute, but with that kiss. On my inner soundtrack: Doris Troy: "Just One Look".

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