Saturday, October 05, 2013

Gilly poprvé v Praze / [Gilly in Prague for the First Time]

Anny Ondráková (Anny Ondra), Karel Lamač. Národní filmový archiv, Praha
GILLY POPRVÉ V PRAZE [Gilly a Praga per la prima volta / Gilly in Prague for the First Time] (Karel Lamač, CZ 1920). D+SC: Karel Lamač; DP: Josef Brabec; AD: Gustav Machatý; C: Václav Pražský (Gilly), Anny Ondráková (la ragazza/the girl), Karel Lamač (lo zio/her uncle); released in: 1920; 35 mm, 248 m, 11' (20 fps); print source: Národní filmový archiv, Praha. Czech intertitles. E-subtitles in English and Italian. Grand piano: Philip C. Carli. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), 5 Oct 2013.

Jiří Horníček: "The names of Karel Lamač and Anny Ondráková were linked for the first time in Czech cinema in 1919, when they both appeared in Palimpsest, directed by Joe Jenčík. Now considered a lost film, it was remade in 1921 as Setřelé písmo (The Missing Letters).  This slapstick comedy, Gilly poprvé v Praze (Gilly in Prague for the First Time) was thus only their second collaboration, which Lamač also directed  and produced. Then 23 years old, Lamač belonged to a group of young Czech filmmakers (Gustav Machatý, Jan S. Kolár, Svatopluk Innemann) who regarded  cinema as a specific creative sphere that should avoid the uncritical adoption of theatrical methods. The slapstick genre seemed to be the perfect starting-point to fulfil those views."

"The film consists of a chain of only vaguely connected crazy situations. Gilly, an eccentric young man, is charmed by a girl whom he notices mailing; a letter inviting her friend to meet her in the park. Gilly steals the letter from the post-box and sets off for the park to meet the girl. But her jealous uncle is a severe and cautious guardian. This leads to a series of elaborate  jokes, intrigues, and chases, in which  a modest version of the popular Keystone Kops appears."

"The title’s reference to Gilly being in Prague “for the first time” is most probably evidence of Lamač’s plan for this to be the first in a series of slapstick films, modelled on similar American, French, and German productions. Actually, by styling the character of Gilly after Chaplin’s tramp (note his moustache, hat, and manner of walking), Lamač openly acknowledged the source of his inspiration. The obvious paraphrase of Charlie is even more interesting if we consider that Gilly poprvé v Praze was made shortly after the Prague premiere  in January 1920 of Caught in a Cabaret (1914), the first Chaplin film released in Czechoslovakia." – Jiří Horníček (GCM Catalogue)

AA: There is, indeed, a Keystone affinity in this primitive slapstick movie with gags about a painter, roller skates, a clothesline, and being showered with water. Václav Pražský's Chaplin imitation is on the weak side. There is perhaps an Edna Purviance influence in Anny Ondra's still rather nondescript and passive performance. The print has been struck from a battered source.

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