Saturday, October 03, 2015

Film concert Romeo und Julia im Schnee (2015 restoration Filmarchiv Austria, Bundesarchiv) (Antonio Coppola and Octuor de France)

Paul Passarge (Tübalder), Jacob Tiedtke (Capulethofer), Marga Köhler (his wife), Lotte Neumann (Julia), Gustav von Wangenheim (Romeo)
Serata inaugurale / Opening Night

[The film was not released in Finland]. Maxim-Film Ges. Ebner & Co., Berlin / Ufa – DE 1920. D: Ernst Lubitsch;  SC: Hanns  Kräly, Ernst Lubitsch; DP: Theodor Sparkuhl; AD: Kurt Richter; P: Maxim Galitzenstein, Paul Ebner; C: Jacob Tiedtke (Capulethofer), Marga Köhler (sua moglie/his wife), Lotte Neumann (Julia, loro figlia/their daughter), Ernst Rückert (Montekugerl), Josefine Dora (sua moglie/his wife), Gustav von Wangenheim (Romeo, loro figlio/their son), Julius Falkenstein (Paris, il fidanzato non voluto/Julia’s undesired fiancé), Paul Biensfeldt (giudice/village magistrate), Hermann Picha (scrivano/clerk), Paul Passarge (nipote/nephew Tübalder); riprese/filmed: Studio Maxim-Film, Berlin, locs: Schwarzwald (Foresta Nera/Black Forest); rel: 3.1920, Berlin (Mozartsaal; U.T. Kurfürstendamm); orig. l: 947 m (3 rl.); 35 mm, 948 m, 41' (20 fps), (imbibito/tinted); titles: GER; print source: Filmarchiv Austria, Wien.
    Restored 2015, Filmarchiv Austria, Wien; Bundesarchiv, Berlin.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
    Music composed and conducted by Antonio Coppola.
    Performed by Octuor de France at a strength of twelve.
    Viewed at Teatro Verdi, with e-subtitles in Italian and English, 3 Oct 2015

David Robinson (GCM catalog and website): "Romeo und Julia im Schnee has been chosen for the opening show of this year’s Giornate because this restoration by the Austrian Film Archive enables us to see Lubitsch’s brilliant jeu d’esprit exactly as it appeared to its fortunate first audiences 95 years ago. The film has been printed from the original negative, and chemically dye-tinted according to the technique of the period."

"This was the last of the score of short comedies which Lubitsch directed for Maxim-Film GmbH, for release by Union (later Union-UFA), between 1915 and 1920, when he moved on definitively to world fame with his succession of “Kolossal” costume productions. The comedies had little foreign distribution until The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Lubitsch’s own Madame Dubarry began to break down post-war embargoes on German exports, official and unofficial; and are still not adequately appreciated abroad: in 1993 Lubitsch’s American biographer could still write off Romeo und Julia im Schnee as having the feeling of “a throwaway, something Lubitsch was not fully engaged by”. Today we appreciate better how it glitters with Lubitsch’s pleasure in his total mastery of visual and character comedy."

"It was released almost simultaneously with Lubitch’s previous film, another Shakespearean jest: Kohlhiesel’s Töchter, an updating of The Taming of the Shrew, relocated in rural Bavaria. Henny Porten, in a dual role, brilliantly characterizes the two sisters, while Emil Jannings reveals an unexpected comic talent, teamed with the puckish Gustav von Wangenheim. Hanns Kräly’s script was to have a long life: Henny Porten went on to star in a sound version in 1930, and there were further remakes in 1943 and 1962."

"Romeo und Julia im Schnee is a worthy companion piece. As a Reinhardt actor, Lubitsch was all too familiar with Romeo and Juliet, a perennial favourite in the company repertoire. In Romeo und Julia im Schnee, he cheerfully updates the story to the 20th century and a snow-bound village in the Black Forest – and gives it a happy end (the would-be suicides should be a little more suspicious when the apothecary tells them they can pay him later). He also provides a “vorspiel” in which we are shown the origins of the feud between the Montekugerls and the Capulethofers in a hearing before the local magistrate, who weighs the sausages submitted as bribes by the opposed parties in the scales of justice which stand symbolically in his seedy office."

"Nothing was casual about Lubitsch’s casting: he had his favourites, but he did not rely on a repertory company. Acting was only one aspect of the career of Lotte Neumann (1896-1977), the spirited Julia, who was already established as a producer also, and was to become a prolific writer in the sound period (1935-1958). Gustav von Wangenheim (1895-1975), as in Kohlhiesel’s Töchter, reveals a charm and deft comedic skills that would not be guessed at in his better-remembered performance as Hutter in Nosferatu. His acting career ended abruptly in 1933 when his idealistic Communist faith forced him to leave Germany for the USSR, where he directed only one film, though he was to resume direction in post-war East Germany. The epicene Paris, in his hilariously unbecoming angel costume, is played by Julius Falkenstein (1879-1933), who remained one of Germany’s favourite comic actors from 1914 until his early death. All of course are working under the direction of one of the greatest comedians, who, like Chaplin, famously wanted his actors to shape their performances on his own fully realized concept of each role. Reinhardt had been a good school."

"Mise-en-scène means also mise-en-shot; and Lubitsch’s staging, choice of angle, and choice of distance in search of the perfect comic effect (whether for a costume ball or a parenthetical series of tumbles on a slippery spot in the snow) is invariably right. It is this that makes these films ageless, unblemished by time."
– David Robinson

AA: Revisited the delighful comedy by Ernst Lubitsch. We screened a tinted and toned print of Romeo und Julia im Schnee from Filmarchiv Austria in our Ernst Lubitsch retrospective in 2008. Their brilliant colour print was a revelation then, and it was delicious to see a new version of it now.

The music by Antonio Coppola played by Octuor de France is perfect for the film, adding colour, warmth, tenderness, charm, and a sense of play to the experience. Ernst Lubitsch was always music-minded, also in his silent films with many scenes of dancing and playing. Lubitsch was soon to become the first master director of the film musical with his cycle of five musicals starting with The Love Parade and culminating with his version of the operetta The Merry Widow. Antonio Coppola is well tuned to Lubitsch, and his original composition is a worthy contribution to the Lubitsch musical corpus.

William Shakespeare was dear to Lubitsch, and he adapted him often, turning tragedies to comedies (Romeo und Julia) and to the stuff of tragicomedies (To Be Or Not To Be), and once even making a comedy from a comedy (Kohlhiesels Töchter / The Taming of the Shrew).

Romeo und Julia is not shallow. It is also about the madness of a family feud which may lead the young generation to a disaster. The serious intention of Romeo and Julia is to commit suicide, but the wise pharmacist gives them sweet water instead of poison. They fake suicide all the same, and the despair of the parents is genuine.

I kept thinking about Lubitsch after the screening. Major film sages such as André Bazin and Robin Wood do not seem to count him among the greatest. The surface of Lubitsch's films has a light touch, but there is something deeper and, indeed, infinite in most of them. There is the awareness of death and the fleeting character of the happiness in life. Why those films are so alive is because in each person, also in small parts (and there are no small parts in his films) Lubitsch discovers the special joy of life of that person.

The witty intertitles were well translated.

A brilliant print.

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