Thursday, October 10, 2019

Karl Valentin

Der neue Schreibtisch (DE 1914) with Karl Valentin.

Zu Valentins 125. Geburtstag erschien am 14. Juni 2007 in Deutschland eine 45-Cent-Sonderbriefmarke, deren gezeichnetes Motiv – Valentin sägt auf einem Stuhl sitzend am Stuhlbein – auf den Valentin-Film Der neue Schreibtisch (von 1913 oder 1914) Bezug nimmt. Text from Wikipedia.

Karl Valentin 14 June 2007 First Day Cover.

Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), Pordenone.
European Slapstick – Prog. 6: Valentin’s Day
Musical interpretation: Daan van den Hurk, Frank Bockius, Romano Todesco.
Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian by Underlight, 10 Oct 2019.



Carolus Rex (Marabou chocolate ad, 1923). Photo: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm.

CAROLUS REX [Carolus Rex] (SE, 1923)
regia/dir: ?.scen: ?.
photog: ?.
cast: ?.
prod: AB Hasse W. Tullbergs Filmindustri, per/for Marabou.
v.c./censor date: 10.4.1923.
copia/copy: 35 mm, 120 m (orig. 123? m), 5’58” (18 fps); did./titles: SWE.
fonte/source: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm.

Konstabelens drøm (Freia chocolate ad, 1922). Photo: Nasjonalbiblioteket, Mo i Rana.

KONSTABELENS DRØM [Il sogno del poliziotto/The Policeman’s Dream] (NO, 1922)regia/dir, scen, photog: Ottar Gladtvet.
cast: Harald Steen (Christian IV), Gotfred Johansen (the policeman).
prod: Gladtvet-Film, per/for Freia.
uscita/rel: ?.
copia/copy: DCP, 6’59” (da/from 35 mm, 18 fps); did./titles: NOR.
fonte/source: Nasjonalbiblioteket, Mo i Rana.

Tina Anckarman & Magnus Rosborn (GCM): "These twin films illustrate the close business relationship of the Norwegian chocolate producer Freia (founded in 1889) and its Swedish sister company Marabou, established in 1916 by the owners of Freia. The name of the Swedish branch was taken from the company logo showing a marabou stork, a symbol that was used by both companies and appears in commercial films for both Freia and Marabou."

"It is well known that the two companies collaborated on the advertising front during the silent era. The Swedish film archive holds elements preserved from a more traditional commercial film, with separate animation segments that were used to create different versions for Freia and Marabou."

"The Policeman’s Dream and Carolus Rex, however, are two completely separate films, with individual touches, even if they bear a striking conceptual and narrative resemblance; obviously they were each produced with knowledge of one another. Both are short fiction films that tell the story of a statue coming to life and getting a taste for chocolate. In The Policeman’s Dream the statue is of the Danish-Norwegian king and founder of today’s Oslo, Christian IV; in Carolus Rex the statue is that of the Swedish warrior king Karl XII."

"It is interesting how the two statue kings have distinctly different personalities: while Christian IV is cheerful and kind, using a goofy language somewhere between Danish and Norwegian, Karl XII is grand and frightening (women cower and hide, and he even wolfs down his chocolate bars with their wrappers on). The two films also differ in production values. While the Norwegian film contains some directing problems and continuity mistakes, the Swedish one gives a much more professional impression, right down to the level of detail, such as the actor’s dark make-up giving the illusion of bronze."

"About the DCP for Konstabelens drøm: The original print of this title has not survived. The only analogue footage is an acetate print cropped to sound format. The print was digitized in 2018.
About the print for Carolus Rex: A 35 mm viewing print and the duplicate negative from which it was struck were donated to the Swedish Film Institute some decades ago as part of a larger collection of historic film commercials." Tina Anckarman & Magnus Rosborn (GCM)

AA: National monuments are awakened when two great kings cannot resist the temptation of chocolate (Marabou in Stockholm, Freia in Oslo).

King Charles XII (1697‒1718) was the ruler of Sweden during the Great Northern War. The Swedish Empire was at its largest, and Charles rode to the Ottoman Empire hoping to find a new ally against Russia. Russia was ruled by Peter the Great who founded St. Petersburg, Kronstadt and Petrograd next to the border of the Swedish Empire (= Finland). Sweden lost its status, and Russia became an empire. In Stockholm the statue of Carolus Rex still points his sword towards the East. In this movie he is content with some Marabou chocolate.

Christian IV (1577‒1648) was the king of Denmark and Norway, a renaissance king, rebuilder of the city of Oslo as Christiania. His reign was the longest of any Scandinavian monarch, he achieved a lot and engaged Denmark in the Kalmar War and the Thirty Years' War. He was also avid in witch hunts, gambling, women and drink. He had 23 children. Here he showers children with Freia chocolate.


Der neue Schreibtisch (DE 1914) with Karl Valentin, photo © Filmmuseum München.

DER NEUE SCHREIBTISCH [The New Writing Desk] (DE 1914)
regia/dir: Peter Ostermayr. scen: Karl Valentin. cast: Karl Valentin. prod: Münchner Kunstfilm Peter Ostermayr. riprese/filmed: 1913. copia/copy: DCP, 11′; did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Filmmuseum München.

Stefan Drössler (GCM): "In 1912 Karl Valentin embarked on using moving images as a medium for his comedy, and began shooting movies with his stage colleagues in the open air. Using a loan from a Munich bank, he established an “artificial light studio for photographing kinematograph images” in a building behind Pfisterstrasse in Munich, employing – according to a trade ad for Valentin’s studio – “4,000 candlelight power”. However, the “Valentin on Film” business remained below expectations, regardless of the “quality and significance” of the product as highlighted in one of the ads, and regardless of the promotional value “resulting from the name Valentin alone”. Thus, Der neue Schreibtisch was produced by Peter Ostermayr, a former Pathé and Gaumont cameraman who had started his own business in 1910."

"Ostermayer believed the literary source, the “material”, to be crucial for the success of a film. Accordingly, an 1891 story by cartoonist Emil Reinecke, “Der neue Schreibtisch”, published in Münchener Bilderbogen, can be attributed as the template for this film. A clerk, sitting at a newly delivered desk which is far too high, shortens the legs of both desk and chair in alternation since they refuse to match. Eventually the legs have been shortened so much that the clerk “can barely sit anymore”. Valentin makes this situation much more anarchist and absurd. The protagonist drills holes in the floor in order to facilitate space for his legs. Using medium long shots throughout the film, it creates enough space for Valentin for his “pas de deux for a slim person and a standing desk” (per critic Hans Günther Pflaum) to show the characteristics of his comedy."

"Walter Jerven championed Valentin in the 1920s, and his observations still hold true: “When Valentin wants to master a situation, everything goes wrong, one thing follows upon another; he succumbs and resigns and is at a loss. Valentin is grotesque himself and through himself. He does not need ideas, no bluffs aimed at effect. He causes the grotesque through a simple touch with reality. He loosens men’s finest instincts. Not only does he stir us: he stirs us up.”"

"No programmes or newspaper ads, let alone reviews, can be found to confirm any screening of this film outside Munich. By the late 1920s the film was believed lost. Thanks to a want ad placed in Film-Kurier, a print was found, approved by censorship on 17 May 1929. Jerven used the film in his “Aus der Kinderstube des Films” (“When Film Was Young”) programmes in 1929." (Stefan Drössler, GCM)

AA: Karl Valentin (1882‒1948) is a startling apparition in this gag about a desk that is always too high or too low.
    Valentin was in a league of his own.
    On a wavelength unique to him.
    He is ordinary and extraordinary.
    He defies definition.
    His affinities are in Bavarian and Austrian popular traditions (Nestroy).
    He influenced Brecht and Beckett.
    Affinities are felt even in Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey interpreting Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon (a Milos Forman connection?).
    There is a profound sense of unease.
    The aim is comedy. Horror is never far.

[Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt] (DE, ca 1929). Photo: © Filmmuseum München.

[KARL VALENTIN UND LIESL KARLSTADT] [Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt] (DE c.1929)DCP, 2’
regia/dir: ?. cast: Karl Valentin, Liesl Karlstadt. copia/copy: DCP, 2′; senza didascalie/no intertitles. fonte/source: Filmmuseum München.

Stefan Drössler (GCM): "These undated takes cannot be construed as a self-contained work, thus they must be considered home movies, outtakes, or fragments from one of Valentin’s many lost film projects. In a 1923 interview, Valentin described his situation: “I am a simple musical humorist! For fifteen years I’ve been struggling, made suggestion upon suggestion to the cabaret and variety impresarios. Submitted my ideas to them. They barely listened! ‘Not for me,’ was the usual reply. Same fiasco for film. Idea upon idea I submitted to the film bigwigs, ideas where I guaranteed laughter, where even the grumpiest person would not have been able to resist laughter, so as not to die from anger about not laughing. Not a single penny could be raised; I had to film to live and make faces. That’s what they paid me for, they didn’t care about ideas.” (Karl Valentin, in conversation with Josef M. Jurinek, Neues Wiener Journal, 1.3.1923)"

"Valentin’s grimace is in the tradition of the Gähnmaul (“yawning yap”), a derisive gesture expressing mockery and ridicule. In this grimace, the mouth is broadly stretched in a most unnatural fashion. Thumbs or fingers hook into the cheek and stretch the mouth to the sides. This gesture is seen in 15th-century portrayals of the mocking of Christ, and in devil masks." (Stefan Drössler, GCM)

AA: Making faces: alarming, grotesque. See my remarks on Der neue Schreibtisch above.

Der Sonderling: See separate entry.


AA Facebook capsule:

Karl Valentin was in a league of his own. He startled Benjamin, Brecht and Beckett. He was both popular and avantgardist. He was impossible to define. And still is. A great comedian and something much stranger, there is no word for him.

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