Sunday, October 06, 2013

Dáma s malou nožkou / [The Lady with the Small Foot]

Gustav Machatý - Národní filmový archiv, Praha

DÁMA S MALOU NOŽKOU [La dama dal piedino / The Lady with the Small Foot] (Geem-Film, CZ 1920) D: Přemysl Pražský, Jan S. Kolár; SC: Jan S. Kolár, Gustav Machatý; DP: Svatopluk Innemann; C: Olga Augustová (la dama dal piedino/the lady with the small foot), Gustav Machatý (Tom Machata, detective), František Pelíšek (Archibald Pelich, assistente di Tom/Tom’s assistant), Přemysl Pražský (uomo di mondo/a man of the world), Svatopluk Innemann (uomo nell’auto/man in the car), Anny Ondráková (la ragazza dell’uomo di mondo/the man of the world’s girlfriend), Jan S. Kolár (uomo sul tetto/man on the roof), Máša Hermanová (assassino/murderer), Emilie Boková (vecchia spazzina/old street-sweeper), Bonda Szynglarski, František Herman; rel: 5.2.1920; 35 mm, 827 m, 40' (18 fps); print source: Národní filmový archiv, Praha. Czech intertitles. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, 6 Oct 2013

Jiří Horníček: "Dáma s malou nožkou (The Lady with the Small Foot) was the second film produced by Geem-Film, a company founded in 1919 by an 18-year-old film enthusiast, Gustav Machatý, later an internationally-known director. This was a boom period for cinema in the recently constituted Czechoslovak state, and witnessed the emergence of many new production companies, but under conditions far removed from the highly developed cinema industry in America, or other European countries."

"One of the film’s opening intertitles characterizes the story as a “comical piece about a detective, who discovered nothing, but found his true love”. Gustav Machatý plays the main character, young Tom Machata, on unemployment and daydreaming about a breakthrough in a criminal case. Exploiting the current popularity of film detective serials and their literary models, with cheap paperback heroes like Léon Clifton or Nick Carter, the film itself then oscillates between three genres – detective story, romance, and slapstick – connected by exaggeration, a quality usually associated only with comedy. In the slapstick scenes, Tom’s associate Archibald is the main character and the immediate cause for many of the film’s action sequences – a car chase, the destruction of a shoe-cleaner’s cart, and fistfights. Of the two other genres, the detective story is treated highly ironically, e.g., by emphasis on the primitive investigative methods or naïvety of Tom and Archibald’s disguises while following suspects. Similarly, the lightness of the case being developed and its being propelled by all-powerful coincidence works. The irony of the twists and turns in the love story is not as successful. But it is interesting in its timid suggestion of erotic motifs, which Gustav Machatý developed more seriously in his later melodramas."

"The importance of The Lady with the Small Foot in the history of Czech cinema also lies in introducing future film star Anny Ondráková, as the young girl having her shoes polished by Archibald disguised as a fake shoeshine-boy. Jana Machatá, Gustav Machatý’s mother, appears in another cameo, as a lady helping Tom into his overcoat."

"The surviving copy of the film is introduced by the “reconstruction” of Anny’s discovery for the silver screen. This was a promotional sequence shot in 1921 by the Kalos company, probably in connection with another Ondráková film, Otrávené světlo (The Poisoned Light, directed by Jan S. Kolár and Karel Lamač). Czech director Přemysl Pražský plays the filmmaker who discovers Anny, meeting her in a park and convincing her of the benefits of becoming a film star." Jiří Horníček

AA: I watched the prologue only. The funny and sunny personality of Anny Ondra becomes immediately apparent, unlike in the first four Czech feature films screened in Pordenone. Frustrated, I gave up and missed the best films of Pordenone's Anny Ondra series.

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