Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Madame de Langeais (Les Films d'Art 1910)

Madame de Langeais (Les Films d'Art, 1910). André Calmettes (General de Meyran), Germaine Dermoz (Antoinette de Langeais). Please click on the image to see it enlarged.

The Duchesse de Langeais
FR 1910
regia/dir: André Calmettes.
scen: Paul Gavault, dal romanzo di/based on the novel by Honoré de Balzac (La Duchesse de Langeais, 1833-34).
furniture: Maison Krieger, Paris.
cast: Germaine Dermoz (Antoinette de Langeais), André Calmettes (General de Meyran), Gavary (il cappellano/the chaplain).
prod: Les Films d’Art, Pathé Frères.
uscita/rel: 2.1910.
copia/copy: 35 mm, 171 m (orig. 215 m), 8′ (18 fps); didascalie mancanti/intertitles missing.
fonte/source: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM).
    Grand piano: Günter Buchwald.
    Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (Honoré de Balzac), 10 Oct 2018

Jay Weissberg (GCM): "Antoinette, Duchesse de Langeais is one of Balzac’s most bewitching characters, the representative par excellence of a profligate nobility reasserting its power and privileges under Louis XVIII. Vain and coquettish, she toys with General Armand de Montriveau, delighting in being worshipped yet refusing to consummate the relationship – not out of prudishness on Balzac’s part, but because the duchess takes more satisfaction out of power games than carnal pleasures. Pushed beyond reason by her emotional cruelty, he has her kidnapped and threatened with branding, but returns her unharmed. The experience transforms her and she realizes she’s fallen in love, yet Armand will hear nothing of it, and Antoinette’s family, disgraced by her indiscreet behavior, has her squirreled away in a Spanish convent. Several years later, after searching for the woman he still loves, Armand finds her and attempts to forcibly liberate her from the nunnery, but he’s too late and she dies."

"Pathé’s Madame de Langeais, released in France in February 1910 (and in the U.S. as The Duchesse de Langeais in April) was adapted by popular playwright Paul Gavault, responsible as well for La Grande Bretèche, also programmed here. Gavault assembled one of the great personal libraries of the early 20th century and certainly knew his Balzac, but was well aware of the need to reduce great literature to one reel. To clarify and abbreviate the drama, he has the duchess humiliate the general, here renamed de Meyran, for not succumbing immediately to her charms. It’s after this that she discovers her feelings for him, but he rejects her and she enters the convent. The film’s ending remains more or less true to the novel, minus Balzac’s final injection of cynicism."

"As with La Grande Bretèche, the director was Pathé’s reliable André Calmettes, also appearing as General de Meyran (in 1911 he made the first version of Colonel Chabert). Actress Germaine Dermoz (1889?-1966) was already making a name for herself on stage as a protégée of the great Réjane before appearing in her first films with Éclair. Now remembered for Germaine Dulac’s La souriante Madame Beudet (1923) and as the originator of “Yvonne” in Jean Cocteau’s 1938 play Les Parents terribles, she had a fruitful, well-regarded career on stage (including in St. Petersburg on the eve of the Revolution) and in cinema; one can imagine that her unpublished memoirs, housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, might provide fascinating insight into her varied life."

"In the silent era, La Duchesse de Langeais was adapted twice in the U.S., first in 1911 by Rex (The Ultimate Sacrifice, probably directed by Edwin S. Porter) and then more famously with Norma Talmadge in 1922 as The Eternal Flame, directed by Frank Lloyd, for which an incomplete print exists at the Library of Congress. The German version Liebe (1927) is also part of our Balzac series."
Jay Weissberg (GCM)

AA: A classic novel condensed into eight minutes of vignettes in characteristic Les Films d'Art fashion. Filmed theatre with a grandiose early cinema approach (long shots, long takes). Titles are missing. There is an elementary fascination in this interpretation of the strange, unrequited love story, ending with the former Duchesse de Langeais (Germaine Dermoz) finally found as a corpse in a Spanish nunnery by the General (interpreted by the director himself, André Calmettes). A duped visual quality.

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