Saturday, June 23, 2018

Daïnah la métisse (2018 restoration by Gaumont Pathé Archives)

Daïnah la métisse. Laurence Clavins as Daïnah Smith.

Director: Jean Grémillon. Year: 1932. Country: Francia
    Sog.: da un racconto di Pierre Daye. Scen: Charles Spaak. F.: Louis Page, Georges Périnal. Int.: Laurence Clavius (Dainah Smith), Charles Vanel (Il meccanico Michaux), Gabrielle Fontan (Berthe), Habib Benglia (il marito), Maryanne (Alice), Lucien Guérard (il dottore), Gaston Dubosc (il comandante). Prod.: G.F.F.A. – Gaumont-Franco Film-Aubert. DCP. D.: 55’. Bn.
    Restored in 2018 by Gaumont Pathé Archives at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory
    Introduce Bernard Eisenschitz, hosted by Gian Luca Farinelli.
    Copy from Gaumont Pathé Archives. Original version with subtitles.
    Viewed at Cinema Arlecchino, Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato (Censored, Recovered, Restored), Saturday 23/06/2018

Xavier Jamet (Il Cinema Ritrovato): "We will probably never know what the original cut of Daïnah la métisse was like. Reduced by half before its release, Jean Grémillon’s film, despite his efforts, was turned into an oddity full of gaps, which paradoxically emphasize the beauty of this hour of dark poetry."

"We distractedly watch the exotic story imagined by Charles Spaak, a detective story behind closed doors with Shakespearean elements, but quickly lose ourselves in the film’s hypnotic magic. You must board Grémillon’s film as if entering a dream and venture forward incredulous through the ocean liner’s furnishings, halls, bends and straight lines filmed with the geometric poetry of Dziga Vertov. Let yourself be pulled into a masked ball, a hallucinatory nightmare in which the lopsided portraits by Braque and Picasso seem to come to life. Blissfully admire a magician who lets his knife twirl in the air before vanishing in a cloud of smoke. And finally be enchanted and amazed by Daïnah, her white stole, her fantastic jewellery, her sensual, intense jazzy dancing, her cruise ship spleen. Daïnah is played by the mysterious Laurence Clavius, a mixed-race actress of unreal beauty. After just one film she disappeared, a fate similar to the film’s, fleeting and elusive."

"Grémillon is an illusionist himself, inviting us on an unusual trip. His travel companions are Epstein, Dulac, Cocteau and Richter, and he left behind the producers who wanted to bring him back down to earth, now lost in the obscurity of their small careers.
" Xavier Jamet

AA: A film in the dream mode. An ocean liner crosses the equator. Great parties take place during the sweltering days on the Pacific Ocean.

Daïnah Smith has been born in France of African and European parentage. She is the focus of the male attention. She is travelling with her husband, a magician. The passengers are spellbound by them: the feminine attraction of Daïnah and the incredible tricks of the magician.

They are partying like there is no tomorrow. The masked ball is supposed to be a release: "behind the mask, anything is allowed", "you can enter as your other self". A jazz orchestra is playing, everybody is dancing, and Daïnah is the dancing queen. But she feels like a stranger at these parties, physically unwell. She goes to the deck for some fresh air.

The mechanic Michaux (Charles Vanel) tries to take advantage of her, but she bites him violently and he is truly hurt. He swears revenge.

The scenes in the machine room are exciting, well photographed, often in extreme high angle.

Jean Grémillon had a strong visual approach from the start in Maldone, Gardiens de phare, and La petite Lise. The sense of nausea and vertigo and the feeling for the sea are familiar from Gardiens de phare. Louis Page and Georges Périnal know how to move the camera, they have a way with reflections, and their slow pans are full of menace.

An oneiric poem. Moments of ecstasy and desolation in the shadow of death.

From the remains of the film a very good restoration has been created.

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