Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Suffering Men (2013 Pordenone compilation by Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi from the Desmet Collection of EYE Filmmuseum)

Collection EYE

Uomini che soffrono / Suffering Men. Teatro Verdi (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone), with e-titles in English and Italian, grand piano: John Sweeney, 9 Oct 2013

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "The prevailing impression of early silent cinema is that women are “the weaker sex”, most often doomed to suffer. The idea of this compilation programme, “Suffering Men”, came about by the fascination of discovering so many early films in which men are presented as sensitive and vulnerable, to the point of being weak, desperate, and even ultimately suicidal. The situations and stories that expose the vulnerability of the male characters are familiar and recognizable. The initial inspiration of the programme was dramatic characters in melodrama – however, it then became intriguing to discover how many “suffering men” were portrayed in very different genres, particularly comedy. The causes of their suffering vary. Some suffer from the real social hardships of the times they live in, such as unemployment (Le Pain quotidien), while others suffer from universal traumas, like the sudden irretrievable loss of a loved one (Le Marchand des poupées) or professional error or humiliation (The Chemist’s Mistake). Some more ordinary physical sufferings invite instant identification, like agonizing toothache (Kri Kri ha male ai denti), or shopping with a wife in thrall to the latest fashions (Patouillard a une femme qui veut suivre la mode), while other sufferers are victims of mental disorder, like Patouillard’s annoying Gratitude obsédante – only one of innumerable obsessions (superstition, jealousy, greed) that were the stuff of comedy and melodrama alike. There is no escaping that the cause of much if not most male suffering is depicted as the opposite sex – whether from unrequited love or ladies’ extreme jealousy, affection, and possessiveness. Perhaps we’ll turn the tables in a future compilation, and explore the realm of “Suffering Women”." Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

LE PENDU / [The Man Who Hanged Himself] / (Een Jongmensch heeft zich opgehangen) (Pathé Frères, FR 1906) D: Louis J. Gasnier (?); C: Max Linder; 35 mm, 137 m, 7' (18 fps); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Main title in Dutch, no intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "Although made very early in Max Linder’s career, this is already a skilfully assembled film, including at one point an elegant camera pan. The macabre theme acquires a particular chill from our knowledge that Linder was to take his own life 19 years later, at the age of 43. When his sweetheart’s parents forbid his courtship, the heart-broken Max mimes the alternative methods of suicide available to him, and settles on hanging himself from a tree. He is discovered, but is left suspended and choking while officialdom takes its leisurely course. Help finally comes, apparently too late, but at the last moment the young man is finally revived thanks to a bicycle pump and reconciliation with his fiancée and her penitent parents."

"The film was distributed in Holland by Desmet, but also by his competitors Albert Frères, who apparently “adapted” the film for Dutch audiences by calling it Een Jongmensch heeft zich opgehangen aan een boom in ‘T Muiderwoud, implying that the action was taking place in the Netherlands, even advertising the film with a four-line verse in the Leeuwarder Courant of 4.3.1907: “In the Muiden Woods / a young man is hanging from a tree, / because of a pale-cheeked maid / whose husband he wished to be.”" – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

AA: A macabre black comedy about an entire village who fumbles around Max who has tried to hang himself. A low contrast black and white print.

POLIDOR VUOL SUICIDARSI / Polidor Wants to Commit Suicide / (Polidor wil zelfmoord plegen) (Pasquali, IT 1912) D: Ferdinand Guillaume (?); C: Ferdinand Guillaume (Polidor); 35 mm, 145 m, 7' (18 fps); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Steve Massa: "Polidor, hounded by creditors, decides that suicide is the only way out. He fails miserably both with pistols and a rope, so takes advantage of an enormous ladder which will give him the chance to hurl himself from the top of a high building. His ascent, with various hazards and dramatic glimpses through windows en route, looks forward to Harold Lloyd and Safety Last! (there is even a very effective reverse shot of the street below). When he reaches the top floor, Polidor is rescued – or rather seized – by a rotund, plain, and instantly possessive lady. At first he tries to extricate himself, but is reconciled to his fate when he discovers that she is rich."

"Ferdinand Guillaume came from a circus family and joined the Cines company in 1909, achieving great popularity as the comic character Tontolini. Moving to Pasquali and changing his character name did not dent his career or popularity. Though the last Polidor film appeared in 1918, Guillaume returned to films in the 1940s, and later played small roles in Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria, 1957), La dolce vita (1960), and 8 1/2 (1963)." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Steve Massa

AA: Polidor is "ridiculous even in adversity" trying every possible location to hang himself. Finding a huge but rich fiancée solves all his problems. A slightly duped look in the print.

LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN / The Daily Struggle / (De Strijd om het bestaan) (Gaumont, FR 1911). D: Louis Feuillade (?); C: Alice Tissot (?), Henri Duval (?); 35 mm, c.215 m, 10'30" (18 fps), col. (tinted); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "This short Gaumont drama offers a startling glimpse of views on women’s emancipation and employment at a time when they were invading the office world as stenographers and typists. The melancholy hero, Lademan, an office clerk, has a sick wife, two children, and bills that he cannot pay. In vain he asks his boss for a pay raise. Instead the boss hires a young woman in his place: she is glad to come cheaper. In a final attempt to get his job back, Lademan overcomes his pride and goes to see Dora Wagner, the stenotypist taking his place, at her home. Upon seeing his shivering and hungry children, she takes pity on him and writes a letter of resignation. The film does not inquire how she will deal with the problem of unemployment." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

AA: The man is fired and replaced by a lower paid woman, but when the woman sees the little children shivering with cold they receive hot soup and the man gets his job back with less pay.  A beautifully toned print.

KRI KRI HA MALE AI DENTI / Kri Kri has Toothache / (Bloemer heeft kiespijn) (Cines, IT 1914) D: ?; C: Raymond Frau (Bloemer [Kri Kri]), Lea Giunchi; 35 mm, 112 m, 5' (18 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet method); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). © 1914 Cines, © 2003 RIPLEY’S FILM Srl. Tutti i diritti riservati./All rights reserved. Su gentile autorizzazione della/With the kind authorization of RIPLEY’S FILM Srl, Roma. Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "Kri Kri – an assistant in a hat shop – is suffering from a terrible toothache. He goes to the dentist, but the tooth resists all the dentist’s efforts. Kri Kri then decides to take the matter into his own hands and tries all kinds of things to pull out the painful molar, leaving a trail of escalating havoc. Lea Giunchi is believed to be playing two roles in this film – as one of the dentist’s patients and as the rich lady in the car." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

Steve Massa: "Kri Kri was the Senegal-born Raymond Frau, a circus clown and acrobat who began his career in French vaudeville and cafés-chantants. Frau settled in at the Cines studio in 1912 and headlined in his own series as Kri Kri, whose name was changed to “Bloomer” in England and “Patachon” in Holland and France. (He is called “Bloemer” on this Dutch print.) After Kri Kri, Frau returned to France and later played the character of “Dandy” for Éclair." – Steve Massa

AA: A catastrophe comedy based on the theme of trying to pull the aching teeth by all means necessary.

LE MARCHAND DES POUPÉES / The Doll Merchant (De Poppenkoopman) (Gaumont, FR 1913) D: ?; C: ?; 35 mm, 274 m, 14'40" (18 fps), col. (tinted, via internegative); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "This curious little drama is evidently inspired by Edmond Audran’s popular 1896 comic opera La Poupée (audiences at the 2012 Giornate saw and heard Mariette Sully in her original role, as an episode in the programme “Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre”). Here though we have the darker side of the notion of a girl who takes the place of a broken doll, and the consequences when the “doll” comes to life."

"A doll merchant is mourning the death of his little daughter, and has created a life-size doll in her image, in the process neglecting his son. When the boy brings his little girl-friend, a street peddler, to see his father’s work by night, the doll is accidentally broken, and the little girl takes its place – resulting in a somewhat unbelievable dénouement. The children play charmingly, and tinting is used to striking dramatic effect." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

AA: When the kids break the life-size doll the real orphan girl stands in for the doll. Shades of E. T. A. Hoffmann and Der Sandmann here. The merchant finally adopts the little orphan girl. A beautifully toned print in warm hues.

GRATITUDE OBSÉDANTE / Eternal Gratitude / (Overdreven dankbaarheid) (Lux, FR 1912) D: ?; C: Paul Bertho (Flippie [Patouillard]); 35 mm, 146 m, 7'45" (18 fps), col. (tinted, Desmet method); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "Driven to despair by a terrific downpour, Patouillard – renamed “Flippie” in this Dutch release version – decides to commit suicide, but is rescued by a kind passer-by who lends him his umbrella and even gives him his wallet. Flippie is so thankful and obsessed with showing his gratitude that he starts stalking his benefactor. In response, the once-kind saviour becomes so desperate to rid himself of Flippie that he tries to kill him in various ways." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

Steve Massa: "The French company Lux was formed in 1907. Its principal director-screenwriter was Gérard Bourgeois. He was assisted by the young caricaturist and journalist Jean Durand, who became one of the most prolific comedy creators of the silent period, ending his career in 1929. During its heyday the studio’s foreign distribution extended from North and South America to the farthest reaches of Russia. Its most popular titles were comedies, such as the “Cunégonde” and “Patouillard” series which starred Paul Bertho, but the company also turned out contemporary melodramas and Westerns featuring a character named Arizona Bill. Sadly, today few examples of Lux’s productions survive." – Steve Massa

AA: "Leaving behind a valley of tears" the clown Patouillard, helped by a benefactor on the brink of suicide, becomes such a nuisance, pest and harasser that the benefactor turns into his mortal enemy, cutting his legs, etc. There is a frenetic, lively pace in this farce. There are many colours in the print.

PATOUILLARD A UNE FEMME QUI VEUT SUIVRE LA MODE / Patouillard Has a Wife Who Wants to Follow Fashion (Patouillard heeft een vrouw die met de mode wil meedoen) (Lux, FR 1912) D: Roméo Bosetti; C: Paul Bertho (Patouillard); 35 mm, 110 m, 6' (18 fps), col. (tinted, via internegative); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection). Dutch intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Steve Massa: "The stout Madame Patouillard is a victim of fashion. A wild shopping spree leads to successive battles with a hobble skirt and harem pants (both recently popularized by the Paris designer Paul Poiret, as well as turbans with tall feathers like that sported by Mme. Patouillard), until finally her exasperated husband covers her with a sack. The film was shot in Nice, and the unit were unembarrassed by passers-by and spectators, who gathered uninhibited to enjoy the foolery."

"Paul Bertho had been a comic opera singer and music hall comedian before signing with Pathé to substitute briefly for André Deed in a continuation of the “Boireau” series. In 1910 Lux hired him to create a weekly comedy series, and “Patouillard” was born. Later, for Éclair, he assumed the name and character of Gavroche, an ambitious and inept goof in a trademark loud plaid coat and a bowler hat." Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, Steve Massa

AA: There is a fine sense of exaggeration and going over the top in this farce based on the chase concept. The male impersonation is quite original and impressive. There was a belly laughter when the film came to the close. The quality of the image is ok, and the colour via the internegative is pleasant.

(THE CHEMIST’S MISTAKE) (Lux, FR 1910) D: ?; C: ?; 35 mm, 79 m, 4' (18 fps); print source: EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Archive Film Agency Collection). No intertitles.

Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi: "The theatrically wigged chemist of the title suffers with histrionic splendour. Distracted, he has given poison to a little girl, sent to get medicine for her sick mother. When he notices his mistake, it is already too late – the child has already disappeared with the bottle. Realizing he has failed professionally, and taking responsibility for this fatal mistake, the apothecary is at the point of shooting himself… but a happy accident saves the day."

"Practically nothing is known about this film, which very effectively tells its story without the need for a single intertitle. The French title is so far unknown: the AFI catalogue lists it only under the title of its English release version, which is also the title on this print." – Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi

AA: A drama, bordering on the tragic: the chemist realizes he has given poison to a poor family. Fortunately the little child breaks the poison bottle, and the chemist brings the right medicine on time. An ok print with a slightly duped look.

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