Thursday, October 10, 2019

Filmens helte

Filmens helte (DK 1928). Patachon (Harald Madsen) and Pat (Carl Schenstrøm). Photo: Steve Massa Collection.

Filmens helte [The Film Heroes] (DK 1928) by Lau Lauritzen. Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, Copenhagen.

Pat and Patachon. Filmens helte [The Film Heroes] (DK 1928) by Lau Lauritzen. Crying at the restaurant during the premiere of their Western movie. Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, Copenhagen.

Filmens helte [The Film Heroes] (DK 1928) by Lau Lauritzen. Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, Copenhagen.

Filmens helte [The Film Heroes] (DK 1928)
regia/dir: Lau Lauritzen. scen: Alice O’Fredericks. cast: Carl Schenstrøm (Pat), Harald Madsen (Patachon). copia/copy: DCP, 67′, col. (da/from 35 mm, imbibito/tinted)*; did./titles: SWE. fonte/source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    * Not tinted but toned.
    PC: A/S Palladium.
    Fy & Bi – Filmens helte / Valkokankaan veikeät veijarit / Elokuvan sankarit / Majakka ja Perävaunu – Elokuvan sankarit / Lustiga luffare / Tjusiga tokars talanger / Pat und Patachon: Die Filmhelden.
    Danish premiere: 1 Oct 1928.
    Finnish premiere: 25 Dec 1928 Piccadilly – 2420 m – control number 15298.
    Finnish telecasts: 9 May 1965, 18 Sep 1983.
    Finnish re-release: 17 Oct 1980 Bristol 2, distributed by O.Y. Kinosto – 2290 m.
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
European Slapstick – Prog. 4: Pat & Patachon
Grand piano: Neil Brand.
Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian by Underlight, 10 Oct 2019.

Mikael Braae, Ulrich Ruedel (GCM): "Two down-on-their-luck actors get a break as part of a wager between a producer and a director. The director boldly promises that he will make stars of even the worst actors they can find. It all seems to fail, but in the end they prevail as comic stars."

"This “meta-film” – Pat and Patachon are effectively shown working in the Palladium film studio, which produced their Danish films in the late silent period – gives a very good impression of what the comedy duo “Fy og Bi” (Fyrtårnet og Bivognen / Lighthouse and Trailer) was all about, and why a large part of the European world  embraced them. Their popularity – which may seem hard to understand today – rivalled that of the great American clowns, and indeed anticipated the success of Laurel and Hardy several years later."

"This was specifically intended as an “anniversary film” to mark “Lau Lauritzen’s 25th Palladium comedy with Pat and Patachon.” (Hauke Lange-Fuchs, Pat und Patachon, 1980)."

"Apparently deemed the ideal showcase for their specific brand of comedy, it was reissued as the centrepiece of the theatrical compilation Filmens Helte as late as 1979, and similarly served as the source for the first two episodes of the German television show Pat and Patachon (1984)."
"The film has been digitized from a beautiful vintage tinted Swedish nitrate print." Mikael Braae, Ulrich Ruedel (GCM)

AA: The title of this Swedish release version is Tjusiga tokars talanger.

I have seen many Pat & Patachon films but they have all been sonorized re-release version except this and Gustaf Molander's Polis Paulus' Påskasmäll, seen in Pordenone six years ago. The difference is huge. The original versions are much more charming because they include the build-up and the post-processing of the gags. The humour is more satisfying; the films are not just mere strings of goofy bits of action.

Filmens helte, "Heroes of the Screen", fits also to Pordenone's "Films on Film" theme this year. We get an authentic, albeit humoristic, look into the functioning of an established film studio: from auditions to the shooting to the premiere of a Western film. Meant as a serious Western drama it turns into a farce – and a big hit for the film company.

Let's register the presence of funny ladies in this film: Eli Lehmann and Inger Schmidt appear as the producer's daughters. The vibrant "Josephine Baker" character with a sunny smile has not been credited – she plays the Native American princess in the film-in-the-film. There is innocent eroticism in the sequence where Bivognen tries to catch the princess with his lasso, and Fyrtaarnet swings his knife between his legs. A gun is fired. Moments of genuine anxiety are caused by Fy's knife-throwing towards Bi who is tied onto a tree.

The romantic department is mostly clumsy and embarrassing. The daughters of the producer have flirtations of their own, and there is a comedy bit about their hiding in a coalbox and needing a bath. Increasingly Bi wants to get out of the picture. Being the butt of Fy's blows is not funny anymore. The play turns to reality when he begins to strike back.

(At this point the screening was interrupted because of a medical case. It happened a few seats removed in the same row where I was sitting. The person's friends, the theatre staff and the paramedics acted fast, and our colleague got help.)

Having seen Filmens helte like this I need to reassess Fy & Bi. More proof is needed.

The visual quality: I like the charming sepia toning adopted from the Swedish nitrate source.


AA Facebook capsule:

Filmens helte I have seen quite a few Pat & Patachon / Fy & Bi / Majakka & Perävaunu silent films: they were telecast in my childhood, and as late as in the 1980s they were theatrically re-released by major distributors in Helsinki. But I always found them "poor man's Laurel & Hardy" although Fy & Bi were huge international stars long before L&H. In Pordenone I realize that I had seen truncated and boringly sonorized versions. The originals have real build-up and post-processing of gags, surprising female characters and moments of genuine pathos, sorrow and agony like Chaplin. Neil Brand electrified the show at the grand piano. Thanks: Mikael Braae and Uli Ruedel.

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