Saturday, October 28, 2023

Hämeenlinna: Film history marathon

Hämeenlinna / Tavastehus. I am giving a weekend film history marathon at the Kino Tavast film society, covering the complete story from 1894 till 2023. The lectures take place at Kumppanuustalo, Kirjastokatu 1. The house was built in 1900 as a Russian Orthodox church, the architect was Karaulzikov, and it has since Finnish independence served for instance as a library. The National Archive regional collection of Hämeenlinna is now in the upper floor.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

42 Le Giornate del Cinema Muto : Pordenone 7-14 ottobre 2023

Cover photo: Harry Piel: Sein grösster Bluff / The Big Bluff (DE 1927), starring Harry Piel (as the twins Henry Devall and Harry Devall). Photo: Filmmuseum Düsseldorf. Grafica e immagine coordinata: Giulio Calderini & Carmen Marchese. Impaginazione: Michele Federico, con la collaborazione di Ilaria Cozzutti, Caterina Vidon.

Dedicated to Russell Merritt

Soci fondatori: Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Piero Colussi, Andrea Crozzoli, Luciano De Giusti, Livio Jacob, Carlo Montanaro, Mario Quargnolo†, Piera Patat, Davide Turconi†
Presidente: Livio Jacob
Direttore emerito: David Robinson
Direttore: Jay Weissberg

Redazione: Catherine A. Surowiec, Piera Patat.
Grafica e immagine coordinata: Giulio Calderini & Carmen Marchese. Impaginazione: Michele Federico, con la collaborazione di Ilaria Cozzutti, Caterina Vidon.
Traduzioni / Translations by: Elena Beltrami, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Frank Dabell, Aurora De Leonibus, Daniela Leonardi, Piera Patat, Giuliana Puppin, Catherine A. Surowiec, Jay Weissberg, Key Congressi.
Lettura bozze italiane / Italian proofreading: Ilaria Cozzutti
Bilingual (Italian and English).
Soft cover, 335 pp.
Pordenone: Associazione culturale "Le Giornate del Cinema Muto", 2023

Presentazione / Introduction - Jay Weissberg
Premio Jean Mitry / The Jean Mitry Award - Natalia Noussinova & Heide Schlüpmann
The Jonathan Dennis Memorial Lecture - Mindy Johnson
L’arte dei costumi / The Art of Costume Design - Beth Werling
Collegium 2023
The 2023 Pordenone Masterclasses - Andrea Goretti, Timothy Rumsey
Eventi speciali / Special Events
    Poker Faces
    La Divine Croisière
    A colpi di note
    9 1⁄ 2
    Hindle Wakes
    The Pilgrim
    Sherlock Holmes Baffled
    Sherlock Jr.
Ruritania - 2 - Amy Sargeant, Jay Weissberg
Harry Piel - Andreas Thein
Origini dello slapstick / Origins of Slapstick - Ulrich Rüdel and Steve Massa
Harry Carey - Richard Abel 
Sonia Delaunay - Hilde D'hayere, Steven Jacobs
Pierre Loti - Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi 
Hans Berge Travelogues - Tina Anckarman
Il canone rivisitato / The Canon Revisited - Paolo Cherchi Usai
    Hell’s Heroes
    Ma l’amor mio non muore!
    Die Straße
Cinema delle origini / Early Cinema
    Early British Films from the Filmoteca de Catalunya - Bryony Dixon
    Ten Early Dance Films by Peter Elfelt - Thomas Christensen
Riscoperte e restauri / Rediscoveries and Restorations
    Amazonas, maior rio do Mundo
    Der Berg des Schicksals
    Circe the Enchantress
    Conrad in Quest of His Youth
    Harlem Sketches
    The Love that Lives
    La madre
    Italia Vitaliani bezoekt regisseur Giuseppe Sterni
    The Oath of the Sword
    La tournée del Genoa Cricket and Football Club
    Vent debout
    La vita e la morte
The Haghefilm Digitaal-Selznick School Fellowship - Alma Macbride
Feminist Archives in Fragments - Maggie Hennefeld, Enrique Moreno Ceballos

AA: This year I started to return to something resembling normality in my film festival attendance. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything in March 2019, including four editions of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022). The pandemic is not over. I still wear a face mask in public transportation and selectively in cinema screenings. The international world of film culture is still in an existential crisis. But the worst may be over.

The corona years were the hardest in my working life as a film archive programmer. The world of film business, film culture and film transport landed in chaos and crisis. Even the most reliable contacts became unreliable. Those years were full of chain reactions of delays, trouble and headache. During festivals, most of the time I spent in my hotel room remote working. I missed most screenings and had no time to blog.

However, that was compensated by a refound joy in the cinema experience itself. I wrote about that in my Pordenone remarks in 2021. That joy is nowhere greater than in Pordenone. Why?

The joy of the cinephilic community is equally great in Midnight Sun Festival (Sodankylä, Lapland), but the impact in Pordenone is enhanced by the fact that there is only one venue: Teatro Verdi. The catchphrase in the opening speeches of Jay Weissberg, relayed from David Robinson, "Welcome home", is accurate.

A sense of a tight knit, happy community  is made possible by the commitment and hospitality of the festival staff. It elevates everything and puts all films, including the tiniest bits and pieces, in an ideal context.

In Pordenone, there is an emphasis on beauty and elegance in design. Many films are rare, and refinement of display of their stills and posters is part of the experience. It is not possible to see everything, and it is not possible to remember everything. The stylish layout, the graphic design and the loving care of presentation enhance and prolong the memory of the films.


The schedule and the program were published online on Thursday, 28 September 2023, nine days before the festival, and I got my copy of the catalog on Tuesday, 10 October 2023, four days after the start. I made my viewing plan based on the schedule only. Having finished reading the catalog on Thursday, 19 October, the programme made full sense to me and I knew what I had been missing. (The catalog appeared online on 7 October, but I preferred to wait for the hard copy).

The introductions and program notes are of the highest level. They are not only well written, they present original insights. The Pordenone and Bologna catalogues are major contributions to a collective project of re-thinking cinema history. 

There was a retrospective called "Origins of Slapstick". For me the title was misleading, because for me slapstick is the least interesting aspect of the Golden Age of Film Comedy. I missed much because I did not know what to expect. Most films in the series were only marginally slapstick, as I found out from the catalogue. I have been thinking a lot about the silent decades of comedy and would like to pursue the hypothesis that it was not only a golden age of film comedy but comedy in general, of all times. Just think about the Serata finale at Teatro Verdi with the inspired double bill of The Pilgrim and Sherlock Jr., Chaplin and Keaton at their greatest and their strangest.

"Ruritania". Masterpieces by Stroheim and Lubitsch have been set in Ruritania, following traditions in operetta and opera, also in Shakespeare and Enlightenment authors who evaded censorship by setting their tales in exotic or imaginary lands. A similar concept is also behind Gulliver's Travels. Fables by Aesop and Krylov are related, as are fairy-tales of many kinds ("Emperor's New Clothes"). In all, "de te fabula narratur" (Horace). But because I read the catalogue post festum, I missed these films. I have not made up my mind whether Ruritania is an interesting theme or mostly an ingenious "Troyan" narrative device.

Harry Carey is a long-term favourite of mine. He was a true presence since his start with D. W. Griffith and John Ford, and until his last appearances in films like Air Force, Duel in the Sun and Red River. Remarkably, he was always the same, but with a complexity in his seemingly simple persona. He could be a saddle tramp and a bum, yet with a fundamental dignity inside. The Outcasts of Poker Flat and Marked Men belong to the films I would most like to see, but they seem to be missing believed lost. Perhaps The Trail of '98 could find its way to the programme one day?

"Canon Revisited" has become a backbone of the festival. It was launched when it turned out that many of us had never seen some of the supposedly familiar masterpieces. Besides, a classic is by definition a work that should be revisited. Plus of course restoration changes reception, sometimes markedly. A philosophical question: does not a digital transfer by definition mean a fundamental change to the film work? I would welcome a "Canon Revisited" selection every day, and that actually was the case this year, albeit not always under that rubric.

Early Cinema is an essential focus point. This year I was happy to see for the first time a series of films by Peter Elfelt, the pioneer of Danish cinema, albeit only as opening shorts. Of the curated short film programs, the Pierre Loti theme show was my favourite of all the films at the festival. On the highest level was also Early British Films from the Filmoteca de Catalunya. I would have welcomed more curated early cinema shows. They are the most indispensable offerings at silent film festivals.

"The Morning Serial" continues to be a delightful feature. Was it first established in Bologna, with Les Aventures de Robert Macaire in 2001? This year in Pordenone every morning started with an episode of Le P'tit Parigot in the Sonia Delaunay tribute.

The Sonia Delaunay series is an example of the festival's commitment to costumes and design. The Harry Piel retrospective was a major rediscovery of a great film star. Many German film legacies suffered because the artists were banned and exiled from the Third Reich. Harry Piel caused embarrassment after WWII because he was a Nazi and ein förderndes Mitglied der SS. Almost all his silent film negatives were destroyed in an air attack, and it was a mighty achievement from Andreas Thein and Filmmuseum Düsseldorf to have mounted this tribute. Harry Piel belongs to the greatest acrobat stars of the cinema, but in comparison with Douglas Fairbanks, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, his talent is limited. Perhaps the closest cinematic point of comparison might be Harry Houdini.

Of films I had seen before I skipped this time Hell Bent, Hell's Heroes, Ma l'amor mio non muore! and Conrad in Quest of His Youth.

Of the films and programmes I saw my favourites include in the order of screening:

Pierre Loti compilation - my number one favourite show



The musical contributions keep getting better and stronger. There is "musique non stop" live from nine a.m. until close to midnight. I still remember (but try to forget) how it was in the 1980s. The musical contributions have completely changed to the better.

I come from Finland, a land with a distinguished musical culture, and also a country with top female composers and conductors. The male bias of Pordenone strikes me as odd, and I would welcome more female presence in the screenings.

Teatro Verdi is an opera house with fantastic acoustics and a grand piano. This year for the first time I heard a rumour that the piano might have been amplified. Also for the first time I heard that people are considering earplugs.



This year, Le Giornate took a step back to substance. In the high pandemic years I had the feeling that it was basking in the bliss of Hygge, atmosphere, camaraderie, style and elegance.

I have visited Le Giornate since 1988, and a hallmark of the festival has been a commitment to the philosophy of history, reflected since the 1980s in themes such as The Path to Hollywood, Silent Witnesses (Russian cinema before the revolution) and Before Caligari, continuing until the pandemic for instance in memorials to WWI (still pursued this year in Vendémiaire). In any case, there has been a commitment to substance.

Meanwhile, the silent programme at Il Cinema Ritrovato has fortified into a full-grown festival inside the festival, without compromises during the pandemic. I am a Bologna regular, but because of its overwhelming "too much" approach, Draconian selection is necessary, and my selection criteria includes: no silents. That might become a problem if Le Giornate should decide to pursue a "Pordenone lite" variation focusing on style more than substance.

I am not a silent film expert, on the contrary. I see films from the 1890s through the 1920s in the context of cinema, culture, and world history in general. I am not a specialist, but hope to grow into a universalist, and I see the grandeur of cinema's silent era from that perspective. 

This year I was not sure whether I wanted to return to Pordenone, and because I don't visit Bologna's silent programmes either, that might have meant a break to my commitment to silents. There is a time and place for everything, and it has been a privilege to participate in the resurrection of silent cinema. 

I had misgivings before this year's Le Giornate. But I'm glad I went and plan to do so next year, too.



Kari Glödstaf: Mykkäelokuvasivusto. A GCM 2023 summary and blog posts on selected films:
    Walter Forde: Would You Believe It?
    Robert Z. Leonard: Circe the Enchantress
    Jack Conway: The Only Thing
    Charles Reisner: Oh! What a Nurse
    Stuart Paton: Man to Man
    Robert G. Vignola: The Love That Lives
I saw none of these selections and regret each.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Film concert Sherlock Jr. (2023 score by Daan van den Hurk, perf. Orchestra da Camera di Pordenone, cond. Ben Palmer)

Buster Keaton: Sherlock Jr. (US 1924) starring Buster Keaton and his double. Photo: IMDb.

GCM Serata finale 2023 III

(Calma, signori miei) (US 1924) regia/dir: Buster Keaton. scen: Clyde Bruckman, Jean Havez, Joe [Joseph] Mitchell. photog: Elgin Lessley, Byron Houck. scg/des: Fred Gabourie. electrician: Denver Harmon. cost: Clare West.
    cast: Buster Keaton (il proiezionista/Projectionist; Sherlock, Jr.), Kathryn McGuire (la ragazza/The Girl), Joe Keaton (suo padre/The Girl’s Father; uomo sullo schermo/man in film), Ward Crane (il dongiovanni locale/The Local Sheik; The Villain), Jane Connelly [la madre/The Mother], Erwin Connelly (il bracciante/The Hired Man; il maggiordomo/The Butler), Ford West [il direttore del cinema/Theatre Manager; Gillette], Doris Deane [la ragazza che ha perso un dollaro/Girl Who Loses Dollar], Christine Francis [commessa/Candy Store Girl], George Davis [cospiratore/Conspirator], Horace (“Kewpie”) Morgan [cospiratore/Conspirator], John Patrick [cospiratore/Conspirator], Steve Murphy [cospiratore/Conspirator], Betsy Ann Hisle [ragazzina/Little Girl], Ruth Holly [la ragazza sullo schermo/Girl in Film Sequence].
    prod: Buster Keaton, Buster Keaton Productions, presented by Joseph M. Schenck. dist: Metro Pictures Corporation. copyright: 22.4.1924. uscita/rel: 21.4.1924 (Hollywood previews), 27.4.1924 (Loew’s State, Los Angeles), 25.5.1924 (Rialto, New York). copia/copy: DCP, 47'24" (da/from 35 mm, orig. l: 4,065 ft); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    Helsinki premiere: 22 Feb 1925 Piccadilly, Aktiebolaget Royal Film Osakeyhtiö (Kovaa kyytiä ja kaunokaisia / Fart, flickor och faror)
    Finnish telepremiere: 26 Nov 1972 (Sherlock Jr.)

    Score: Daan van den Hurk (2023), perf. Orchestra da Camera di Pordenone, cond. Ben Palmer.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Serata finale III, 14 Oct 2023.

David Robinson (GCM 2023): " Sherlock Jr., Keaton’s third feature production, is close to its centenary, but even now challenges the 21st century viewer with questions of “How was it done?” The reason is that it was done virtually without special effects, but rather relying simply on Keaton’s phenomenal physical skills, acquired and developed from his vaudeville infancy, and in 1924 at their summit. With perfect confidence he will ride seated on the handlebars of a speeding motorcycle, ostensibly unaware that the actual driver has fallen off. He could at will develop new skills: for a scene in which the villains have planted a bomb in a billiard ball, he required and thereupon achieved a breathtaking mastery of the billiard cue. There are few special effects, but where there are (the instantaneous costume changes effected by simply jumping through a hoop), they are perfectly devised and executed. "

" To justify the elaboration of the action, Keaton (who never wanted his plots to be “too ridiculous”) conceived it as the dream of a lovelorn movie-house projectionist and eager amateur detective, who falls asleep at his projector and hallucinates that he has wandered down the aisle and entered the screen, to be discomfited by the effects of rapid, post-Griffith cutting that startlingly and suddenly relocate him, and by falling foul of the dastardly gang who are threatening the heroine, who happens to be the projectionist’s real-life fiancée, coveted by a villainous lounge lizard…. "

" There is an odd, unexpected tribute hidden in the film. Sherlock Junior’s faithful assistant is the only character in the film given a name. The name is “Gillette” – evidently a nod to the great American actor William Gillette, who had co-scripted the first stage adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in collaboration with Sherlock’s creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. By chance, in 1905 the 16-year-old Charles Chaplin had won the role of Sherlock’s page, Billy, in Gillette’s own London revival of the play. " – David Robinson

The music 

Daan van den Hurk (GCM 2023): " Composing the score for Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. in 2023, I think I wrote at least twice as much music as needed, if not more. This film is so very rich in its subtleties, humor layered with sincerity and empathy, and filled with so many well-choreographed sequences which almost gave the feeling as if I were writing for a ballet. Every other time I watched a scene I saw it differently, which made me doubt my decisions constantly, making me want to start all over. Which I kept doing, even with the deadline approaching. I kept asking myself, is it sincere enough? Is it funny enough? Is there enough suspense? Or too much? I strongly believe that music for proper action, and the love and despair should sound real. But I also gave a lot of attention to the crazy funny music, which is accorded as much care as the film itself. For me this was my most challenging score yet. Is it my definitive version? Maybe not, but I gave it all I had. " – Daan van den Hurk 

The Sherlock-Arbuckle Mystery

Steve Massa (GCM 2023): " The rumored participation of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in a directorial capacity during the making of Sherlock Jr. has become part of cinema lore, and has long been a matter of keen discussion among Keaton scholars and researchers. Thanks to the recollections of people involved (including Keaton), observers, and items in the contemporary press and trade magazines, we know that Arbuckle probably worked on the film early in its production. Due to his 1921 scandal and trials (he was eventually acquitted, with a formal apology by the jury), Arbuckle’s starring film career had come to a halt. Things started to pick up when he signed a contract with the Pantages Circuit for an extensive year-long vaudeville tour, and also began anonymously producing and directing a series of comedy two-reelers featuring Poodles Hanneford and Al St. John. These were shot on the Keaton lot (Sherlock Jr.’s movie theatre interior turns up in the Al St. John comedy Never Again). " 

" Almost a century later one would need Holmes himself to piece together the clues. Sherlock Jr. was in production at the beginning of 1924, but Arbuckle was certainly busy with other projects, although he may have contributed gags from time to time. Arbuckle reportedly left the film because things weren’t working out – stories include him being temperamental on the set, not getting along with leading lady Kathryn McGuire, and matriarch Peg Talmadge (Keaton’s mother-in-law) making a fuss about him being there in the first place. The earlier scenes in Sherlock Jr. do have an Arbuckle feel, such as the shy courting of Buster and Kathryn McGuire, and Keaton’s frantic sweeping in front of the theatre. The cast also includes numerous regulars from Arbuckle’s shorts, such as Doris Deane (soon to be the second Mrs. Arbuckle) describing the dollar bill she’s lost, Walter C. Reed as the pawnbroker who identifies Ward Crane to McGuire, and Christine Francis as the girl in the candy shop. For more on Arbuckle’s career, see my book, Rediscovering Roscoe: The Films of “Fatty” Arbuckle (2019). " – Steve Massa

" More details about the making of Sherlock Jr. and the story of Arbuckle’s role in its production, including interviews with Keaton and a contemporary report by French historian Robert Florey from Hollywood in 1924, can be found in a groundbreaking article by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill, published in Griffithiana 29/30 in September 1987 in Italian (“Il caso Sherlock Junior”), and now available for the first time in the original English (“The ‘ Sherlock Junior’ Question”), recently posted on the Cineteca del Friuli’s website in the publications/griffithiana section. "

AA: Revisited Sherlock Jr. which I last viewed in our Buster Keaton retrospective at Kino Regina, Helsinki, in 2019. It is still one of the essential meta-films, comparable with Man with a Movie Camera.

It is an inspired coup of programming to screen in the final gala as a double bill The Pilgrim and Sherlock Jr. They represent Chaplin and Keaton at their best. Both are also unique in the respective oeuvres of both masters of comedy and in the history of comedy in general.

I still remember when I first saw Sherlock Jr. in November 1971 in the first Buster Keaton retrospective I saw. Raymond Rohauer brought his collection to Finland, and the film archive screenings were packed. I had never laughed so much, nor had I ever heard such a thunderstorm of laughter from the audience. I almost fell on the floor, especially in Steamboat Bill Jr. and Sherlock Jr.

The combination of subtle psychology and jaw-droppingly deft stunt comedy was incredible. It still is.

Sherlock Holmes Baffled

Arthur Marvin: Sherlock Holmes Baffled (US 1900). Identified by Robert Byrne as the first Sherlock Holmes movie. From Wikipedia, see the whole Mutoscope.

GCM Serata finale 2023 II

(Sherlock Baffled) (USA, 1900). regia/dir, photog: Arthur Marvin. prod: American Mutoscope and Biograph Company (prod. 1900; copyright 1903). copia/copy: DCP, 40" (da/from 35 mm paper print depositato presso/deposited at Library of Congress, 750 fotogrammi/frames, 20 fps). fonte/source, restauro/restoration: San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
    Grand piano: Daan van den Hurk.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM), 14 Sat 2023

Robert Byrne (GCM 2023): " Sherlock Holmes Baffled is the first film in which a character identified as the great detective appears. The film was directed and photographed by Arthur Weed Marvin, one of the four founders of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, who completed more than 418 films between 1897 and 1911. Originally created in 1900 to be viewed in Mutoscope arcade machines, the film was deposited for copyright in 1903 in the form of a 35 mm paper print which survives as the only remaining original material, hence the annoyingly apparent rough texture of the cheap paper on which the film was printed. The concept of restoring the film originated with Russell Merritt and the project was completed and dedicated to his memory by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. " – Robert Byrne
AA: The master detective is outwitted by a foe armed with movie magic. Sherlock Holmes is baffled, and so are we, in this stop trick film of the vanishing burglar. 

Film concert The Pilgrim (GCM 2023, score Charles Chaplin, arr. Timothy Brock, Orchestra da Camera di Pordenone cond. Ben Palmer)

Charles Chaplin: The Pilgrim (US 1923). The Finnish title of the movie in translation: "A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing". Charlie is the escaped convict who dons a priest's habit. Forced to give a sermon, he selects David and Goliath as the topic.

GCM Serata finale / Closing Night I
Il pellegrino / Susi lammasten vaatteissa / Pyhiinvaeltaja / Ulv i fårakläder .
    US 1923. regia/dir, scen: Charles Chaplin. photog: Rollie [Roland] Totheroh. assoc. dir: Chuck [Charles F.] Reisner.
    cast: Charles Chaplin (l’evaso/Escaped convict), Edna Purviance (la ragazza/The Girl), Kitty Bradbury (sua madre, la padrona di casa di Charlot/Her mother, Charlie’s landlady), Mack Swain (diacono / Deacon), Loyal Underwood (anziano/Elder), Chuck [Charles] Reisner (ladro/Thief), Dinky Dean [Dean Reisner] (bambino terribile/Horrid child), Sydney Chaplin (suo padre/His father), May Wells (sua madre/His mother), Henry Bergman (sceriffo sul treno/Sheriff on train), Tom Murray (sceriffo locale/Local sheriff), Monta Bell (poliziotto/Policeman), Jack Wilson (pastore rimasto senz’abito / Clergyman who loses clothes), Frank Antunez, Joe Van Meter (banditi/Bandits), Raymond Lee (ragazzo in chiesa/Boy in congregation), Marion Davies (componente della congregazione / Member of congregation).
    prod: Charles Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin Film Co. dist: Associated First National Pictures.  riprese/filmed: 1.4.-15.7.1922. première: 26.2.1923 (Strand Theatre, New York). copia/copy: DCP, 46'; did. / titles: ENG. fonte/source: Roy Export SAS, Paris.
    Finnish premiere: 14 Oct 1929, re-release 25 Dec 1959 (The Chaplin Revue),  re-release 2 Nov 1979
Partitura/Score: Charles Chaplin; arrangiamento/arranged by: Timothy Brock; esecuzione dal vivo/performed live: Orchestra da Camera di Pordenone; direttore/conductor: Ben Palmer.

Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Eventi speciali: Serata finale, 14 Sat 2023.
David Robinson (GCM 2023): " To Chaplin’s relief The Pilgrim concluded his contract with First National distributors, with whom relations had become strained with their attempts to seize more than their contractual share of the phenomenal profits of The Kid. It was also to be his last short – although its three reels, like The Kid itself, already practically constitutes a short feature. "
" Until now Chaplin’s shorts had evolved on the set, without a scenario, in the course of shooting. The Pilgrim had more preplanning and production notes than any previous film, perhaps resulting from the arrival at the studio of Monta Bell, the former journalist who had assisted Chaplin on his book My Trip Abroad. From the start the essential storyline was established: an escaped convict switches his prison garb for the clothing of a clergyman who has disrobed to take a dip in the sea. Arriving thus clad in a little township which is awaiting the arrival of its new spiritual leader, the mistake is inevitable, and Charlie is obliged to adapt to his new role and invent his own idiosyncratic but stimulating ways of bringing Christian inspiration to his new flock. "

" During production, the story underwent revisions. At first the township was to have been a wild western place in Hell’s Hinges style, which the new reverend succeeds in reforming. Subsequently it evolved into a civilized little community, with no worse calamities than parochial tea parties with misbehaving children (involving the normally very civilized Master Dinky Dean, the charming son of Chaplin’s frequent collaborator, Charles Reisner). Charlie dutifully exerts his eccentric influence to bring his parishioners nearer to God. The perfect final payoff, on the Mexican border, when the U.S. law catches up with the former escapee, appears to have been an early decision. "

" The Pilgrim attracted considerable hostility from various elements of the Evangelical Church, not least the Daniel Morgan Klan of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who protested that it “held the Protestant Ministry up to ridicule”. Happily The Pilgrim survived such fierce hostility, and the risks of lynching. "

" Sadly, this was the last film in which Chaplin appeared with his long-time love and leading lady Edna Purviance (1896-1958). "

" In 1959, Chaplin reissued The Pilgrim, together with A Dog’s Life, Shoulder Arms, and How to Make Movies, with a new orchestral score of his own composition, under the collective title of The Chaplin Revue. At this Giornate serata, the score will be performed live. " – David Robinson

AA: Revisited The Pilgrim, Charles Chaplin's last short film. I saw it for the second time in a film concert, having also visited the premiere of Timothy Brock's arrangement at Teatro Comunale, Bologna, 5 July 2000.

The Pilgrim belongs to a special current in Chaplin's oeuvre, with affinities with the black comedy of Monsieur Verdoux. The theme of the criminal posing as a man of God also evokes The Night of the Hunter and The Left Hand of God (both from 1955).

The dark and violent side always existed in Chaplin's persona, since his film debut in the cruel farces of Keystone. But in The Pilgrim, there is a unique existential charge, expressed in the stark graphic vision of the fake minister in black against the desert landscape of Devil's Gulch, Texas.


Still the most profound comment on The Pilgrim is the final chapter, "Un homme hors du sacré", in André Bazin's essay "Introduction à une symbolique de Charlot" (published in D. O. C., 1948 and republished in Qu'est-ce que le cinéma? I. Ontologie et Langage, 1958). I would call Bazin's approach Durkheimian.

" Religieux ou non, le sacré est toujours présent dans la vie sociale, pas seulement dans le magistrat, le policeman, le prêtre, mais dans le rituel de la nourriture, des rapports professionnels, des transports en commun. C'est par lui que la société maintient sa cohérence comme par un champ magnetique. Inconsiemment, à chaque minute, nous nous alignons sur ses lignes de force. Mais Charlot est d'un autre métal. Non seulement il échappe à son emprise, mais la catégorie même du sacré n'existe pas pour lui, elle lui est inconcevable que la rose géranium à un aveugle de naissance. "

Vent debout / [The Headwind] (2022 digital transfer La Cinémathèque française)

René Leprince: Vent debout / [The Headwind] (FR 1923). Photo: La Cinémathèque française, Paris.

(FR 1923) regia/dir: René Leprince. scen: René Leprince, dal romanzo di/based on the novel by “Midship” (Jean d’Agraives [Frédéric Causse]; Paris, Editions J. Ferenczi, 1922). photog: Julien Ringel. 
    cast: Léon Mathot (Jacques Averil), Madeleine Renaud (Marie Richard), Camille Bert (Menzi), Robert Tourneur (Formal), André Daven (Harvier), Maurice Touzé (the cabin boy), Maud Tiller (Chaad), Adrienne Duriez (la nonna/the grandmother), Madyne Coquelet (Janik), Bardès (Rheingold), Kalmès (Oscar), Jacques Vandenne (Richard).
    prod, dist: Pathé Consortium Cinéma. trade show: 10.1.1923. uscita/rel: 8.6.1923. copia/copy: DCP, 93' (da/from 35 mm, orig. l: 1935 m); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: La Cinémathèque française, Paris
    4K in 2022.
    Grand piano: Meg Morley.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Rediscoveries, 14 Oct 2023.

Mehdi Taïbi (GCM 2023): " Jacques Averil (Léon Mathot) leads an idle life, bored to the point of falling into weary melancholy. One evening he learns by telegram of the suicide of his banker father, ruined by murky speculation in Icelandic ore mining, and then decides to take himself in hand. An old shipowner friend of his father gives him the chance to earn his living as a sailor. Life on a trawler is ruled by the law of the strongest, even of the most savage. In this exclusively male environment, the violence Jacques had contained abruptly comes to the surface; by dint of his own muscles, he imposes himself as the only master on board, despite the traps set for him. Appalled by the accidental death of his young comrade Guillot (Maurice Touzé), he drowns his sorrows by going on a binge in Paris. This leads to debauchery and drunkenness, richly described during a sequence far rougher than the ocean scenes. While emerging from an alcoholic stupor, he sees Marie Richard (Madeleine Renaud) and immediately falls in love with her. Jacques finds an alter ego in Marie, faced by the same loneliness of orphans, yet he will have to handle the sharks of the finance world before sighting the slightest anchorage promised by their idyll. "

" In the wake of other maritime adventures, Vent debout stands out in many respects for the attention given to turbulent seascapes conducive to a dramatic narration, paired with long earthbound sequences in which the characters are in another sense adrift and led to troubled waters. "

" An eminently immersive setting, the ocean is captured with fervour by director René Leprince. His meditative shots are a paean to the Breton coast around Paimpol, and as the camera gazes out to sea it glimpses sailing ships gliding along the horizon. Elsewhere, panning shots on board the trawler describe the approach to or departure from port, while the rigging partly out of frame contributes masterfully to perspective in motion. There are splendid documentary-like exteriors that fit into the fictional narrative and contribute to the film as spectacle, and even an authentic tuna fishing scene taken from archive footage. Somewhere between imagination and the mundane, distant Iceland lies on the map for both speculators and fishermen, prompting the most basic desires for earning a living as well as for fulfilling a dream. "

" René Leprince subtly reminds us that Vent debout is an adaptation of a novel by Frédéric Causse, and thus a picture of a piece of literature. The film thus begins with a shot of a man in an oilskin raincoat moving along a rocky point on the seacoast and standing against gusts of wind, symbolizing the title in both image and gesture: the text has now become an image. The exercise of lending visual quality to the literary form continues with the wealth of design in the intertitles, where horizons and seabed become part of an inventive backdrop. "

" The source material is a novel first published in 1922 under the name “Midship”, which was a pseudonym for Frédéric Causse before he chose another nom de plume, Jean d’Agraives. Given the story’s setting, it’s unsurprising that reviews of the novel pointed out similarities to Pierre Loti, making it especially fortuitous that the Giornate is screening both Vent debout and Pêcheur d’Islande this year. "

" René Leprince was among the most prolific directors at Pathé during the 1910s, making more than thirty films in ten years, half of which were co-directed with Ferdinand Zecca. After Face à l’océan (1920) and Jean d’Agrève (1922), Vent debout was his third marine experience. (Another Leprince film from the 1920s, Titi 1er, roi des gosses, is screening in the Ruritania programme at this year’s Giornate.) In 1923, when Vent debout was released, its protagonist Léon Mathot was at the height of a glorious career; he had already been directed by the greatest filmmakers of the period, including Alfred Machin, Abel Gance, Henri Pouctal, and Henri Andréani. In this film, Mathot embodies a new personality among the characters who contributed to his fame: Jacques, torn between violence and tenderness, gnawed at by two incompatible life choices, and at once vulnerable and strong-willed. More a novice in terms of experience, but nevertheless showing a startling maturity in her acting, Madeleine Renaud, here soundly plays her first role for the cinema just after she had joined the Comédie Française. " – Mehdi Taïbi

AA: After screenings of Julien Duvivier's La divine croisière and Jacques de Baroncelli's Pierre Loti adaptation Pêcheur d'Islande, Vent debout completes the "French sea trio" of the 2023 edition of Le Giornate. All start from Brittany, and like the Pierre Loti tragedy, Vent debout reaches out to Iceland.

René Leprince was a veteran director since the age of early cinema. Having started at Pathé, he had become one of the trusted directors of Max Linder. He brings a solid grip to the tragedy on land and sea, expressing psychological turmoil via landscapes and seascapes.

Léon Mathot, cast in the male leading role, was another veteran from early cinema days. He had played Edmond Dantès in Henri Pouctal's Monte Cristo serial in 15 episodes and starred in Jean Epstein's films. There is a center of inner calm in his presence that helps make the psychological turbulence of his character more complex and disturbing.

Making her cinema debut as Marie Richard is Madeleine Renaud, one of the great actresses of the 20th century stage and screen, already unique and original, externally fragile yet projecting inner strength, in a role as tragic as that of Sandra Milowanoff in Pêcheur d'Islande.

A tale of cruel twists of fate. Jacques, the no good son of a banker father shapes up and becomes a sailor after his father commits suicide having gone bankrupt. Bullied on the ship, Jacques not only discovers his fighting spirit, but becomes a vicious bully himself.

The brutal rule of the captain evokes Herman Melville's Moby-Dick and even more Jack London's The Sea Wolf with its simplified lessons from Nietzsche. "He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

But the story of Jacques is different. The death of his dear friend, the cabin boy Guillot, throws him off balance. Having hit the bottom of his degradation in Paris, Jacques meets his soulmate Marie Richard who fathoms his potential to transcend his appetite for destruction and vindictiveness.

With an atmospheric sense of the milieux, magnificent inserts of tuna fishing, startling dimensions of tragedy, refined sepia toning mixed with passages with tinting, and appealing art intertitles, Vent debout is a rewarding discovery of a film that seems little known.

Orfeus og Eurydike (1906)

Peter Elfelt: Orfeus og Eurydike (DK 1906). "Danza degli spiriti beati" performed by Valborg Guldbrandsen, Ellen Price, Elisabeth Beck, and Anna Marie Agerholm. Photo: EFG European Film Gateway. 

[Orfeo ed Euridice / Orpheus and Eurydice] (DK 1906) regia/dir: Peter Elfelt. cast: Valborg Guldbrandsen, Ellen Price, Elisabeth Beck, Anna Marie Aggerholm. copia/copy: 4K DCP, 2'30" (da/from 35 mm, 16 fps); senza did./no titles. fonte/source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    Grand piano: Meg Morley.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Early Cinema: Dance Films, 14 Oct 2023.

Thomas C. Christensen (GCM 2023): " A dance from the 1762 Italian opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787); choreography by Hans Beck, 1896. Performed by Valborg Guldbrandsen (later Borchsenius), Ellen Price, Elisabeth Beck (1865-1946), and Anna Marie Agerholm (1875-1929). "

AA: A bewitching dance number. Meg Morley played the "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" on the grand piano. Peter Elfelt's film is a straight record of four ballerinas performing to the choreography by Hans Beck.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Eine Frau von Format / Madame l'Ambassadeur (2018 DCP Bundesarchiv)

Fritz Wendhausen: Eine Frau von Format (Madame l’Ambassadeur) (DE 1928). Peter C. Leska (Count Géza von Tököly, ambassador from Illyria), Mady Christians (Dschilly Zileh Bey, ambassador from Türkisien). Photo: La Cinémathèque française, Paris.

L’ambasciatrice dell’amore / Rakkauden diplomatia
    (DE 1928) regia/dir: Fritz Wendhausen. scen: Fritz Wendhausen, Heinz Goldberg, dall’operetta di/based on the operetta by Rudolf Schanzer & Ernst Welisch, mus. Michael Krasznay-Krausz (première: Berlin, Theater des Westens, 14.12.1927). photog: Arpad Viragh. scg/des: Hans Jacoby. cost: Theatrekunst Kaufmann. unit mgr: Hermann Grund.
    cast: Mady Christians (Dschilly Zileh Bey, ambassador from Türkisien/Turquisie), Diana Karenne (Princess Petra of Silistria), Peter C. Leska (Count Géza von Tököly, ambassador from Illyria), Hedwig Wangel (Mavre, the princess’ confidante), Hans Thimig (Count Géza’s orderly), Emil Heyse (Negruzzi, the Chancellor of Silistria), Robert Garrison (hotelier).
    prod: Terra-Film AG. v.c./censor date: 4.9.1928. première: 12.9.1928 (Terra Lichtspiele Mozartsaal, Berlin). copia/copy: DCP (2K), 98' (da/from 35 mm pos., 2227 m [orig. l: 2711 m], imbibito/tinted); did./ titles: FRA. fonte/source: Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin
    Helsinki premiere: 9 Dec 1928.
    Grand piano: Meg Morley.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Ruritania 2, 13 Oct 2023

Amy Sargeant, Jay Weissberg (GCM 2023): " When played as light comedy, Ruritania on film occupies similar aesthetic territory as light opera, a genre that specialized in mining mythical Balkan milieux. This affinity is nominally acknowledged in Géza von Bolvary’s 1929 The Vagabond Queen (shown at the Giornate in 2002), which itself was a nod towards the hugely popular Rudolf Friml-Brian Hooker 1925 collaboration The Vagabond King; in both scenarios, a commoner is made “ruler for a day,” no doubt playing into audience fantasies that they too could wear a crown or tiara, no matter how unlikely. Eine Frau von Format, as both operetta and film, doesn’t pretend that those without blue blood can assume a throne, but it allows us to delight in the charms of a soignée Balkan princess, while tossing in some welcome female solidarity. "

" Ruritanian content clearly appealed to librettist Ernst Welisch, whose Der liebe Augustin (1912, Princess Caprice in Britain), a revised version of his unsuccessful 1905 operetta Der Rebell, both scored by Leo Fall, contains many of the classic tropes of the genre: ministers exasperated by royal expenditure; mistaken identity eventually confirmed by the recognition of a birthmark; and a vaguely Balkan location. Welisch revisited some of these themes when he collaborated with Rudolf Schanzer on Eine Frau von Format, which premiered in December 1927 at Berlin’s Theater des Westens with music by Michael Krasznay-Krausz and a starry cast headed by Fritzi Massary and Max Hansen. In less than a year the operetta would become a film. The stage operetta’s premiere was reviewed in Variety as A Lady of Quality; U.S. trade papers mention the film under that title, as well as A Woman of Distinction, but neither was a distribution title. "

" Director Fritz Wendhausen began the production for Terra-Film in Berlin, moving in mid-June 1928 to the Dalmatian coast, where exteriors were shot in Dubrovnik and the nearby island of Lokrum. His greatest strength was his cast: Mady Christians and Diana Karenne, neither strangers to Ruritanian-style subjects. Sadly the 1916 and 1920 adaptations of Anthony Hope’s Sophy of Kravonia, both starring Karenne, are presumed lost, though Giornate audiences had the chance to see Christians last year in Anthony Asquith’s The Runaway Princess (1929). "

"At the beginning of Eine Frau von Format, a hand-drawn map locates the action in the principality of Silistria, to the east of Illyria and to the west of Türkisia. A brief travelogue sequence then itemizes the usual array of attractions via pans and irises, conveying the narrow proportions of the capital’s “grand boulevards” and limited capacity of the country’s army and navy, which seem more than tangentially influenced by newsreels of Montenegro’s royal locales. "

" To the disapproval of her Chancellor, the extravagant Princess Petra proposes to cover her debts by the sale of the picturesque island of Petrasia to either of Silistria’s adjoining states. The Illyrian ambassador Count Géza arrives by train, while the Türkisian ambassadress Dschilly Zileh Bey has to hail a mule cart to tow her over the border when her car breaks down. A soirée held at the Princess’s residence in honor of the visiting dignitaries provides folkloric costuming and dancing and girl flunkeys in lace cravats with satin cummerbunds and breeches. There is further delightful travesty to come, when the diplomats proceed to undermine each other by means fair and foul in order to win the island for their respective country. Max Frankel, writing in Le Matin (17.05.1929), underlined the film’s comedy of the sexes: “The accession of women in various countries to the Bar, Parliament, Medicine, and a Career is increasingly inspiring novelists, playwrights, and screenwriters. There is certainly a wealth of new and comic subjects to be found here. Do women’s charm, seduction, and beauty count for nothing in these serious functions? ... In diplomacy, in particular, their native finesse and subtlety can come into play. So what happens to the poor men who don’t have the resources to please? ... Eve’s daughter hands him the apple, and the idiot eats it!” "

" German critics clearly were tired of the genre, with many complaining that the film lacked originality, and some revealing their prejudices, such as “F. S.” in Der Abend (13.9.1928), who dismissed its Balkan setting with the problematic description “Schweineidyllen” (“swine idylls”). In a similar vein, the reviewer for the Hamburger Echo (8.12.1928) lamented, “It’s set in Illyria and Türkisia, which we’re now as fed up with as Vienna and Heidelberg – or even more fed up.” The critic “m.a.” in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (13.9.1928) was less harsh, but needed help with his memory, as he claimed the story was the same as Ernst Lubitsch’s Forbidden Paradise (they have little in common). "

" Happily, the French reviews one year later were far more positive, charmed especially by the two leads, but also the lighthearted escapism: “Everything picturesque about the Balkan countries, their customs and mores, are evoked with talent … [a] delightful adventure, with a charm and character rarely achieved,” announced Le Petit Parisien (2.8.1929), while La Dépêche (2.8.1930) declared, “It’s a lively, graceful work, with all the color of Viennese operetta and in a thoroughly modern vein. It takes place in the midst of enchanting locales, on a marvelous island that bears a strong resemblance to those of Lake Maggiore, and the perfume of the Borromean Islands wafts ceaselessly in the luminous air.” " 

" The Bundesarchiv’s copy derives from a 35 mm French release print housed at the Cinémathèque de Toulouse. The original German censorship cards have not been found, so the archive has retained the French distribution intertitles. Italian-born German silent film composer Giuseppe Becce (1877-1973), famous for his Kinothek of film themes, head of Ufa’s music department, and music director of several major Berlin cinemas, including the Mozartsaal, wrote a score for the Berlin premiere, but it’s not known if this survives. " – Amy Sargeant, Jay Weissberg

AA: A film adaptation of an operetta about diplomatic intrigue and women's powers of seduction. Brilliantly cast with Mady Christians vs. Diana Karenne, two talented artists with extraordinary careers. I have never paused to reflect on Fritz Wendhausen, the director, but maybe I should. This is a film full of style, wit and humour. Perhaps the special secret of this film is the undercurrent of emotion between the leading female characters.

Beautifully shot on location in Dalmatia.

This digital edition has been produced with tender care. The sepia toning is lovely.

Les Fiançailles du Roi Alexandre de Yougoslavie avec la Princesse Marie de Roumania célébrées à Bucarest

[Les Fiançailles du Roi Alexandre de Yougoslavie avec la Princesse Marie de Roumania célébrées à Bucarest] (FR 1922). Queen Marie of Romania, Princess Ileana of Romania. Photo: Gaumont-Pathé Archives, Saint-Ouen, Paris. Please click to enlarge the photo to the max!

[The Celebration of the Engagement of King Alexander of Yugoslavia with Princess Marie of Romania in Bucharest] (FR 1922) prod: Gaumont. copia/copy: DCP, 1'30"; did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Gaumont-Pathé Archives, Saint-Ouen, Paris.
    Grand piano: Meg Morley.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Ruritania 2, 13 Oct 2023.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2023): " The engagement of Princess Marie of Romania to King Alexander of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was announced on 10 January 1922 at a gala dinner in Romania’s fanciful Peleș Castle. As a dynastic alliance it made sense and was seen by many as cementing the Little Entente, a treaty created between 1920 and 1921 as a mutual protection pact between Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (as the country was called before being officially named Yugoslavia); it’s safe to say that like most royal pairings, it was not a love match. "

" The Westminster Gazette (7.1.1922) reported on rumors even before the announcement, leading the journalist to write, “Diplomatic marriages have played their part in Balkan affairs in the past, but their stabilising influence has not been very marked… A strong bond uniting Serbia and Roumania would be something for which we might all be thankful; and if only Bulgaria were in some way concerned it would be a godsend.”

" This newsreel’s opening intertitle declares that it’s shot in Bucharest, so this scene must have taken place once the royals returned to the capital. It opens with King Ferdinand of Romania and his son-in-law-to-be King Alexander stepping into an open carriage, followed by Queen Marie of Romania, draped in winter furs, entering a second carriage with her daughter Princess Marie and son Prince Carol, the disastrous future king of Romania. The marriage took place in Belgrade in June, when the Romanian royals sailed along the Danube to Belgrade in stately fashion, which was also well-covered by the newsreel cameramen. After the wedding, Vogue (15.9.1922) wrote optimistically, “In accordance with an old Roumanian custom, the future queen wears in her bridal coiffure a web of gold, an ornament which symbolizes the many joyful hours spun for her by the Fates.” For more information on this peculiar couple, see last year’s Giornate catalogue. " – Jay Weissberg

AA: Beautiful visual quality in this newsreel about the royal wedding.

Modern Love (1929 starring Charley Chase)

Arch Heath: Modern Love (US 1929) with Dorothy Coburn, Anita Garvin, Charley Chase (John Jones), Edward Martindale (Weston), Jean Hersholt (Renault), Kathryn Crawford (Patricia Brown, secretly married with John Jones). Photo: AMPAS – Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles.

(US 1929) regia/dir: Arch Heath, Jack Foley. sogg./story, scen: Beatrice Van. dial/titles: Albert De Mond. photog: Jerry Ash. cast: Charley Chase (John Jones), Kathryn Crawford (Patricia Brown), Jean Hersholt (Renault), Edward Martindel (Weston), Anita Garvin (la mora/a brunette), Dorothy Coburn (Half and Half), Betty Montgomery (bionda/blonde), Jack Chefe (vestiarista/dresser), Virginia Sale (dipendente gelosa / jealous employee), Chester A. Bachman (poliziotto/cop). prod: Carl Laemmle, Universal Pictures (Universal-Jewel). uscita/rel: 21.7.1929. copia/copy: 35 mm, 1496 m, 54'32" (24 fps), pt. sd.; did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: NBCUniversal, Los Angeles.
    Unreleased in Finland.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Slapstick Prog. 5 Marriage Rows, 13 Oct 2023

Steve Massa (GCM 2023): " At the end of the 1920s, Charley Chase was a well-established star of short comedies. By that time he’d had a long film career. Fresh out of vaudeville in 1914 as Charles Parrott, he traveled through an invaluable training ground at Nestor and Keystone, through a period as a crack comedy director for Fox, King Bee, Bulls Eye, Arrow, and Paramount, to the Hal Roach Studio – where he spent time as the director-general of the lot and eventually became one of its most popular performers. Two-reelers on the order of His Wooden Wedding (1925), Mighty Like a Moose, and Dog Shy (both 1926), made him a solid fan favorite, and in 1929 he got the chance to star in his own comedy feature. "

" This opportunity didn’t come from his home base of the Hal Roach Studio, but from Universal Pictures. Having had great success starring Reginald Denny and Edward Everett Horton in features with situational plots that used slapstick as seasoning, “Big U” reasoned that this formula would work for Chase as well. Charley is still the put-upon everyman of his shorts. This time it starts with him wedding his sweetheart, but they must keep their marriage a secret so she can remain at her well-paying position with an exclusive dressmaking company. Charley is old-fashioned and would rather she’d stay at home, but against his better judgment he agrees to the secrecy and maintenance of separate apartments. Complications ensue. "

" This plot gives Chase ample opportunity for the comedy of embarrassment that had become his stock in trade, and although not at his home studio, it looks like he was given a free hand to develop the material and gags in his usual way. Helping with this is the presence of three Hal Roach regulars in support – Anita Garvin and Dorothy Coburn as guests at the big dinner party, and perennial policeman Chester Bachman, who specialized in giving Chase a hard time and does so here as well. "

" Director Arch Heath had just helmed The Melody of Love (1928), Universal’s first 100% talking picture. His directorial career had included serials like The Masked Menace (1927) and the Max Davidson shorts Came the Dawn and That Night (both 1928), but didn’t last past 1931. He also worked as a dialogue director and writer before his career ended in 1941. According to contemporary exhibitor ads and information, the picture was co-directed by Jack Foley, who was a writer at Universal on Glenn Tryon features such as Hot Heels (1927), The Gate Crasher (1928), and The Kid’s Clever (1929). His other directing credits were Universal shorts with Benny Rubin and Pat Rooney, but Foley became a pioneer of sound effects, recording different sounds to match the screen actions. While he never received screen credit, he did this into the early 1960s, and the people who do this work today are still called Foley Artists. "

" Chase’s co-stars are Kathryn Crawford and Jean Hersholt. Crawford had made a splash in the Los Angeles run of Hit the Deck, and was signed by Universal, where she became a leading lady for Hoot Gibson and Glenn Tryon. Despite good sound films like Red Hot Rhythm (1929) and Flying High (1931), her career cooled and ended in 1941. Jean Hersholt is remembered today for the humanitarian award that bears his name, but the Danish-born actor was in pictures for many years. Having made films in his native Denmark, he moved to Hollywood in 1914 and started as an extra. He quickly became a busy character player, with Greed (1924), Stella Dallas (1925), Grand Hotel (1932), and The Country Doctor (1936) among his best-known pictures. "

" This being 1929, Modern Love was released in two versions – one totally silent, the other a sound hybrid. This is what has been preserved, and is mostly silent, but has a score as well as a few dialogue and musical sequences. Since both Chase and Crawford had musical stage backgrounds, they each have songs. Charley’s song “You Can’t Buy Love” was written by himself and assistant musical director Bert Fiske. This was the working title of the film (which originally started out as Sex Appeal). "

" Although generally well-received on release, Modern Love was quickly forgotten and disappeared. All that was available for many years was a chunk of the silent cut, but in 2008 Universal restored this sound version. Charley Chase’s career followed a similar path. After this feature he returned to the Roach lot and his output of two-reelers. Although not as inventive as his silent shorts, he continued to make quality comedies for Roach and then Columbia Pictures, until his premature death in 1940. Largely forgotten by the 1950s and 1960s, in the 1970s his silent work was rediscovered, giving him a place alongside the other great creators of silent comedy. " – Steve Massa

AA: Charley Chase was one of the very greatest during the Golden Age of Comedy. It's a thrill to see him star in a feature-length comedy. Modern Love is a situation comedy, a comedy of misunderstandings and a comedy of embarrassment. The chemistry is great between Charley Chase and Kathryn Crawford, and Jean Hersholt is fine even though perhaps overdoing his "French" mannerisms. Perfectly entertaining, and it is good to hear Charley Chase sing a song of his own, "You Can't Buy Love". 

Charley Chase's best films are pure diamonds. Modern Love is good enough.

About the Charley Chase mystery: William K. Everson thought that Charley Chase resembled too much Harold Lloyd, Raymond Griffith and Reginald Denny and failed to achieve greater stardom therefore.

Karl Valentins Hochzeit / [Karl Valentin's Wedding]

Ansfelder: Karl Valentins Hochzeit / [Karl Valentin's Wedding] (DE 1912?/1913?).  With Georg Rückert (bride) and Karl Valentin (groom). Photo: Valentin-Karlstadt-Museum, München.

[Le nozze di Karl Valentin] (DE 1912?/1913?) regia/dir: Ansfelder. scen: Karl Valentin?. photog: Pallatz. cast: Karl Valentin (sposo/bridegroom), Georg Rückert (sposa/bride), Liesl Karlstadt (ospite di nozze/wedding guest, serva/maidservant), Karl Flemisch, Otto Wenninger, Therese Wach. prod: Martin Kopp, Kopp-Film, München. copia/copy: DCP, 12'; did./titles: GER. fonte/source: Filmmuseum München.
    Grand piano: Philip Carli.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Slapstick Prog. 5 Marriage Rows, 13 Oct 2023.

Ulrich Rüdel (GCM 2023): " An eager “media craftsman” throughout his career, Karl Valentin (Valentin Ludwig Fey, 1882-1948) embraced stage, film, records, radio, book publications of his stage work, and even his own cabinet of curiosities as a means of artistic and comic expression. His love affair with cinema, however, remained largely unrequited, regardless of his considerable efforts: the 618-page Filme und Filmprojekte (1995) compendium is the most massive book in the nine-volume critical edition of the comic’s texts, and his spotty film career has been subject to considerable film archaeology for decades. "

" “Inventive Munich comic Karl Valentin has been captured on film. Are you aware of the popularity of Karl Valentin’s Munich appearances? That mass popularity is mostly based on the pointed pantomime Valentin so expertly masters. A pantomime forcing a laugh even from the most grumpy stickler will give you the opportunity to open up unexpected perspectives for your business.” (Quoted in Klaus Gronenborn, Karl Valentin. Filmpionier und Medienhandwerker, Kinematograph Nr. 23, 2007) Thus, Valentin himself announced his imminent film career in 1912, commencing with what is now his oldest surviving short, Karl Valentins Hochzeit, where Valentin’s response to a lonely hearts ad quickly leads to a forced marriage, culminating in a fight finale ending with the comic’s demise. It also commenced his Filmpech, or movie misfortune, an ongoing career aspect Valentin, looking backwards, ironically lamented in an early 1940s comic song. According to a 1929 article by Walter Jerven, the first print of Karl Valentins Hochzeit was underexposed, necessitating a 1913 re-shoot. However it succeeded, and indeed provided a film comedy artistically equal to the ubiquitous French and Italian equivalents, but with a fresh, German comic talent: “Karl Valentin successfully transferred his stage role as ‘living caricature’ into his new platform. Makeup and costume present him as a ridiculous caricature of the elegant dandy represented by Max Linder in early French film comedy of the teens. His portrayal was the opposite of Chaplin’s role model, Linder. He was not a gallant lover [...]. Valentin presented himself like a scantily masked petit bourgeois full of misogynistic fears. He did not need an arsenal of collapsing buildings, no hordes of policemen gone wild like the era’s American slapstick films. The domestic coffee table was sufficient to produce comic effects with minimal means.” (Klaus Gronenborn, Karl Valentin. Filmpionier und Medienhandwerker, Kinematograph Nr. 23, 2007) "

" Opposite Valentin and contrasting with his skinny physique down to the film’s fatal body-crushing coda, the bride is played by portly comic Georg Rückert in drag. Not only prints, but also thorough historical details on Valentin’s early film career remain elusive. The quality of this new digital reconstruction from Filmmuseum München finally allows us to confirm the presence of Liesl Karlstadt, appearing both as a comic maid and as a wedding guest. Valentin’s stage (and at times life) partner Karlstadt was a comic genius in her own right, and ironically played some of her roles with Valentin in cross-dress mode as males also, such as an authoritarian conductor-nemesis of orchestra musician Valentin or as intoxicated father Valentin’s young son at his conformation, in a series of 1930s talkie shorts based on the team’s best known stage skits."  – Ulrich Rüdel

AA: Karl Valentin's first movie, startling in its austerity. In early cinema mode, in long shot and long takes. Although offered as a comedy, it makes the marriage infernos of August Strindberg look tame. Karl Valentin is a thin, skinny man, who weds a juggernaut bride. She tosses him around like a rag doll. The physical imbalance is extreme, and when Valentin collapses at the end of the final chase, he has to be carried away in a wheelbarrow. This movie belongs with the theatre of the absurd and existentialism.

En Sølvbryllupsdag / Their Silver Wedding

Lau Lauritzen: En Sølvbryllupsdag / Their Silver Wedding (DK 1920). Oscar Stribolt (Mr. Gommersen), Olga Svendsen (Mrs. Ludovica Gommersen). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

[Nozze d’argento] (DK 1920) regia/dir: Lau Lauritzen Sr. scen: Aage Brodersen. photog: Hugo J. Fischer. cast: Oscar Stribolt (Mr. Gommesen), Olga Svendsen (Mrs. Ludovica Gommesen), Lauritz Olsen (avvocato/Lawyer Vinkel), Aage Bendixen (suonatore di triplo corno/triple-horn player). prod: Nordisk Films Kompagni. dist: Fotorama. uscita/rel: 20.4.1920 (Palads, København). copia/copy: DCP, 17' (da/from 35 mm,18 fps; orig. l. 374 m); did./titles: SWE. fonte/source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    Grand piano: Philip Carli.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Slapstick Prog. 5 Marriage Rows, 13 Oct 2023.

Ulrich Rüdel (GCM 2023): " An actor and theater director, Lau Lauritzen Sr. (1878-1938) first worked in cinema in 1911, but it was his attachment to Nordisk in 1914 that initiated an extremely prolific career in silent comedy. After directing more than 200 comedy shorts at Nordisk he moved on to Palladium, where he established and directed the comedy team of Pat and Patachon through dozens of feature-film successes from 1921 onwards. Lau’s short Nordisk comedies benefit from a number of comic talents, such as stars Frederik Buch and Carl Alstrup, as well as supporting actors like Carl Schenstrøm, soon to find true fame as the tall partner in the “Pat and Patachon” series as Fy, short for Fyrtårnet (literally, “The Lighthouse”), in Scandinavia, and “Pat” internationally. "

" In En Sølvbryllupsdag, the comedy is carried by the wonderful, too-obvious-not-to-team duo of portly Oscar Stribolt (probably best known as the memorable monk in Benjamin Christensen’s Häxan, 1922) with the equally rotund and brimmingly delightful comedienne Olga Svendsen, who were already paired in popular stage revues starting in 1914. In the story’s charming opener, the two Gommesens wake up in marital happiness, but when an argument ensues, Mrs. Gommesen storms out of the building. In true marital farce fashion (foreshadowing Seven Chances), the lawyer Vinkler enters the scene with a check for 25,000 kroner from an uncle in Chicago, which can be cashed only upon condition of a proven, peaceful, happy marriage. A nicely staged and photographed chase through Copenhagen and an increasingly inebriated lawyer enter the mix as Mr. Gommesen frantically tries to find his wife and put things right. Also seen in the cast as one of the musicians come to serenade the couple, playing the triple French horn, is diminutive Aage Bendixen, whom Lauritzen would team with Schenstrøm in two 1919 Nordisk shorts, and subsequently two 1921/22 Palladium films, in his first attempt to create the team later known as “Pat and Patachon.” En Sølvbryllupsdag had some success abroad, including in Britain, where it was released by Wardour Films in June 1922 as Their Silver Wedding. "

" Comedies such as this suggest that through his comedy assembly line, Lauritzen provided the Nordic equivalent of the charming, slapstick-infused comedies starring John Bunny and Flora Finch or Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew enjoyed by contemporary American audiences. At the same time, these were forerunners of the popular Danish comedies, or folkekomedie, of the 1930s to 1950s. Arguably, this kind of story also provided the narrative framework creatively and successfully employed for the “Pat and Patachon” slapstick concept to carry entire feature films, basically an inversion of what was to detrimentally water down, for example, the Marx Brothers’ antics at M-G-M. A romantic plot, here in the shape of a light comedy, provides enough solid narrative structure and emotional engagement to sustain a feature-length film, while two slapstick comics entangled in and merely supporting the story effectively become the main attraction. A case in point is Lauritzen’s Sol, Sommer og Studiner [Sun, Summer, and Studies] from 1921 – intended and released as a Stribolt feature, it made supporting comics Pat and Patachon, played by Schenstrøm and Madsen, brand-new film stars, and eventually the hit export of 1920s Danish silent cinema. " – Ulrich Rüdel

AA: "A lean accord is better than a fat quarrel" (a Finnish proverb in verbatim translation). The silver bride does the Nora thing and bangs the door of the doll house for good, we are led to believe. But a cash reward from a rich American uncle is available for a lasting solid marriage through thick and thin, till death do us part. A frantic chase through Copenhagen is needed until things can be put right again. Yes, Lau Lauritzen is a good director of comedy, with talent in directing actors, too.

Le Torchon brûle ou Une querelle de ménage / [The Rag Is Burning / A Domestic Dispute / Marital Strife]

Roméo Bosetti: Le Torchon brûle ou Une querelle de ménage (FR 1911) starring Sarah Duhamel. Photo from Paul Cuff's blog The Realm of Silence with an excellent photo carousel from this movie.

(Echtelijke Twist) (FR 1911) regia/dir: Roméo Bosetti. prod: Pathé Frères. cast: Sarah Duhamel (moglie/wife). copia/copy: DCP, 5'21"; titolo di testa/main title: NLD; senza did./no intertitles. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (Desmet Collection).
    Grand piano: Philip Carli.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Slapstick Prog. 5 Marriage Rows, 13 Oct 2023.

Steve Massa (GCM 2023): " Domestic battles and mass destruction were frequent subjects for early slapstick comedies, but rarely were they combined or presented as extremely as in this film. It starts with a couple at home fighting over dinner, but it soon spirals wildly and spreads all over town – through the city streets, up steep staircases, and even down the sewers – with a prodigious amount of crockery and furniture destroyed along the way. The Dutch title on the print, Echtelijke Twist, translates as “Marital Strife” – certainly an understatement here! Director Roméo Bosetti was the Renaissance man of the first generation of European comedy – not only did he direct, write, and produce an amazing output of shorts for other people, but also had his own “Roméo” series for Pathé. Coming from music hall and circuses, he joined Pathé in 1906, and soon moved over to Gaumont, only to return to Pathé. With his own Pathé unit, Comica, he turned out shorts with Little Moritz, Léontine, and Rosalie. "

" Other studios he worked for include Lux, Éclair, and Éclipse, where actors such as Paul Bertho, Lucien Bataille, and Clément Mégé essayed a list of characters of the likes of Bombino, Zoé, Casimir, Gavroche, Moustache, Purtin, Bigorno, and Calino. He even found the time to work as a producer, most notably on Feuillade’s Fantômas, and although his film career ended in 1916, said to have been due to injuries he suffered during World War I, he lived to 1948. "

" Often in comedies of this period when a woman was going to be involved in intense physical knockabout, the role would be played by a man in drag. Not so with Sarah Duhamel, who along with later practitioners like Alice Howell and Polly Moran, took and handed out more physical punishment than any other woman in the history of cinema. Although she’s sadly overlooked today, her contribution to early film comedy was immense. Gifted with an amazingly expressive face that was mounted on a roly-poly body, she was sweet-natured but always excitable, and refused to suffer fools gladly (meaning most of the men in her films). "

" Having been a child actress on the stage from the age of three, she almost literally burst on the screen in 1911. Incredibly prolific, she starred in her own “Rosalie” series, and was frequently partnered with Little Moritz and Casimir, and later headlined as Pétronille for Éclair. After marrying actor Édouard Louis Schmitt she retired from f ilms in 1916, but continued working on stage. She made one last appearance in Les Mystères de Paris (1922) before her death in 1926. " Steve Massa

AA: Steve Massa states above that the Dutch title of this movie translates as "Marital Strife” – certainly an understatement here!" Le Torchon brûle belongs to the disaster current of early film comedy. Never in the history of comedy there has been so much appetite for destruction.

She "refused to suffer fools gladly" says Steve about the characters portrayed by Sarah Duhamel. Certainly another understatement here!

The battle of the sexes starts as ein Kammerspiel but quickly escalates into a vicious spiral threatening an entire city.

Roméo Bosetti keeps the hyperbole mode and the escalation structure well in hand.

De er Splittergale / [They Are Completely Crazy]

Lau Lauritzen: De er Splittergale [They Are Completely Crazy] (DK 1919). With Agnes Andersen, Frederik Buch, Rasmus Christiansen. Credit: Det Danske Filminstitut, København

[Sono completamente folli] (DK 1919) regia/dir: Lau Lauritzen Sr. scen: Valdemar Hansen. photog: Hugo J. Fischer. cast: Rasmus Christiansen (pittore/painter Klat [Ras Rubbelkopf ]), Frederik Buch (Professor Nolle [Knoppchen]), Agnes Andersen (modella/model Stella Spang [Junona Lieblich]), Olga Svendsen (nurse Ludovica Rask [Huldine Augentrost]). prod: Nordisk Films Kompagni. uscita/rel: 1.5.1919 (Kosmorama, København). copia/copy: DCP, 12'16" (da/from 35 mm, 20 fps; orig. l: 279 m); did./titles: GER, subt. ENG. fonte/source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    Grand piano: Philip Carli.
    Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Slapstick Prog. 5 Marriage Rows, 13 Oct 2023

Ulrich Rüdel (GCM 2023): " Comedienne Olga Svendsen (1883-1942) debuted on the Copenhagen theater scene in 1904 and eventually teamed up with another notable bulky comic, with whom she would costar in films as well, Oscar Stribolt. “Both were ‘comedians’ of corpus and character, but again and again they showed that they could feel and shape a situation – a long way from the fat man comedian,” wrote critic/composer Axel Kjerulf in his Politiken obituary for Svendsen (23.10.1942). Upon commencing her film career, she soon became part of the stock company of director Lau Lauritzen, who produced a host of comedy shorts starring the likes of Carl Alstrup or the above-mentioned Oscar Stribolt, before changing to Palladium, where he would create the internationally successful team of Pat and Patachon. Svendsen (like Stribolt) would continue to work with Lauritzen, appearing in several of the Pat and Patachon features between 1921 and 1933, and enjoying a separate feature-film career, including supporting parts in films such as 1928’s Jokeren, well into the talkie era. Playing resolute ladies with a heart as robust as her physique, she anticipated later prominent actresses like DutchGerman Adele Sandrock, American Margaret Dumont, or British Margaret Rutherford, and is worthy of rediscovery recognition as a major funny lady of the silent and early sound era; Mack Sennett, who tried to bring her over to Hollywood according to some 1930s newspaper clippings as well as a 1942 obituary, would surely have agreed. "

" De er Splittergale (literally, “They are completely crazy”) is essentially a “Lau” ensemble piece, a slightly risqué comedy of errors, about shenanigans triggered by a mix-up between two advertisements, one for an artist’s model, the other seeking a housemaid for an old professor (Buch). As often in Lauritzen’s films, Carl Schenstrøm is briefly spotted here in a supporting part; indeed, he’s to blame for the emergence of the “misprint gremlin,” as the titles call it, that triggers the farcical proceedings to begin with. "

" The German-language print seen here largely appears to follow the Danish original texts (preserved at the DFI in script form), but changes the comic characters’ names. Buch’s is his common German moniker, Knoppchen. Meanwhile, Svendsen’s Ludovica Rask becomes Huldine Augentrost, which roughly translates as Huldine Eyebright. The new DCP’s English subtitles follow these modifications in the extant print, which include references to contemporary German cultural phenomena such as the era’s German Aufklärungsfilme (enlightenment films) and nudist culture. " Ulrich Rüdel

AA: A comedy of misunderstandings. Victims of a typo, two sets of characters are bewildered when an advertisement of an artist's nude model is mixed with one for a maid for an old professor. The characters are vivid, the cast is appealing, and Lau Lauritzen sustains a fun atmosphere throughout.

Sonia Delaunay’s L’Élélégance: Colorful Fashion and Avant-Garde Circles (2023 GCM curated by Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs)

Marcel Duchamp: Anémic cinémA (FR 1926). Photo: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien. From: GCM 2023 Catalog.

Grand piano: Masterclass student Andrea Goretti.
Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (GCM): Sonia Delaunay, 13 Oct 2023

Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs (GCM 2023): " Taking Sonia Delaunay’s 1926 fashion film L’Élélégance as its nexus, this program combines fashion films in color with experimental films of the 1920s French avant-garde. Delaunay’s unusual approach to filming fashion and fabric designs in L’Élélégance becomes clear when compared to another fashion film from the same year, Colorful Fashions from Paris Displayed by Hope Hampton, in which the Hollywood actress wears modern dresses designed by cutting-edge Parisian couturiers. The striking color wheel in L’Élélégance not only echoes the ubiquitous circles and discs of Sonia and Robert Delaunay’s paintings, it also resonates with the omnipresent circles and rotations in Germaine Dulac’s Disque 957 and Marcel Duchamp’s Anémic Cinéma. Circles and other geometric shapes also mark Ballet mécanique (1924) by Fernand Léger, a close friend and dinner guest of the Delaunays. The program closes with some surviving scenes of Parce que je t’aime, a now-lost film for which Sonia Delaunay designed set furniture. "

DISQUE 957 (FR 1928) regia/dir: Germaine Dulac. copia/copy: 35 mm, 97 m, c.5'25" (24 fps); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Light Cone, Paris.
    " Disque 957 (often titled Disque 927) is a film made by French filmmaker, film theorist, and critic Germaine Dulac (1882-1942). While she directed several narrative feature films, she is now mostly recognized as one of the leading filmmakers of the 1920s French avant-garde, combining Impressionist and Surrealist elements in films like La souriante Madame Beudet (1922) and La Coquille et le clergyman (1927). Disque 957 (1928) is conceived as a playful exploration of cinema’s purest building blocks: form, motion, and rhythm, which create a form of abstraction, not with nonreferential animation but with “cinégraphic images” of the natural world. Subtitled “Impressions visuelles,” Disque 957 emphasizes its status as “visual music” with an intertitle stating “En écoutant les Préludes 5 et 6 de Frédéric Chopin.” A perfect example of the cinéma pur of the French avant-garde, Disque 957 opens with shots of a rotating gramophone disc reflecting light, followed by multiple exposures showing radiating light effects, as well as close-ups of a pianist’s hands, mechanical clockworks, and shots of natural landscapes. As Tami Williams noted in her 2014 book on Dulac, “the circular motif, introduced by the light on the disque, and visually echoed in the patterns created by the rain, draws on the semi-narrative pretext found in Chopin’s Prélude 6.” ! " Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: Revisited Disque 957 which I saw in Bologna's 2006 Germaine Dulac retrospective curated by Tami Williams. Despite the intertitle "En écoutant les Préludes 5 et 6 de Frédéric Chopin", those pieces of music do not fit and are not heard in the film which was meant to be shown silent. The rotating movements of the shellac disc on the turntable aspire to the condition of abstraction, glimmering, shimmering, spinning. The fingers on the keyboard merge with sensuous images of raindrops, blurring vision. The waterline is rising.

Marcel Duchamp: Anémic cinémA (FR 1926). Photo: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien. From: GCM 2023 Catalog.

ANÉMIC CINÉMA (FR 1926) regia/dir: Marcel Duchamp. photog: Man Ray, Marc Allégret. uscita/rel: 30.8.1926. copia/copy: 35 mm, 155 m, 8' (18 fps); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Österreichisches Filmmuseum, Wien.
    " Turning discs are the sole motif in Anémic cinémA by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). With his infamous ready-mades, Duchamp not only is one of the key artists of the 20th century, he also created his own kind of “uncinematic” films with Anémic cinéma, a film made in collaboration with Man Ray and signed with his alter ego Rrose Sélavy. Anémic cinéma, with its anagram title, references cinema’s omnipresent circular loops and rotary motions. The film consists of shots of rotating discs filmed frontally with a static camera. The discs can be considered an extension of his so-called roto-reliefs, optical toys in the shape of cardboard discs set in motion with the help of a gramophone player. On the discs’ surfaces spirals (or rather, asymmetrical circles) are drawn, their rotation creating a three-dimensional effect that is almost hypnotic. Some spirals contain inscriptions full of witty alliterations and puns, entirely in line with his oeuvre, which is marked by tensions between stasis and motion, uncanny combinations between organic and mechanical forms, and a conflation between verbal and visual expressions. " – Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: Revisited Anémic cinémA, in which Marcel Duchamp collaborated with Man Ray. It is a Dadaist visual poem, mixing hypnotic spiral forms with lines of Dada poetry. Rapid circulations shift to slow gyrations. A tight twist opens up slowly. An atavistic symbolism can be imagined (cf. L'Étoile de mer). There is an affinity with the graphic concept of the opening credit sequence of Vertigo (designed by Saul Bass, computer graphics executed by John Whitney).
Fernand Léger: Ballet mécanique (FR 1924). Source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam. Photos: Olivia Kristina Stutz. From: GCM 2023 Catalogue.

BALLET MÉCANIQUE (FR 1924) regia/dir: Fernand Léger, Dudley Murphy. scen: Fernand Léger. photog: Dudley Murphy, Man Ray. mus: George Antheil. cast: Kiki de Montparnasse, Katherine Murphy, Dudley Murphy. copia/copy: 35 mm, 311 m, 15' (18 fps); did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Eye Filmmuseum, Amsterdam.
    " A member of the Delaunays’ inner circle in the years 1907-1914, the painter Fernand Léger (1881-1955) developed his own colorful variant of Cubism, which is comparable with the paintings of Sonia Delaunay. His flat, geometric style appeared to be an appropriate vehicle for representing the modern world of machines and urban modernity. In 1924, together with American filmmaker Dudley Murphy, Léger made Ballet mécanique, a key work of Cubist cinema, created in a Dada spirit. Marked by rhythmic editing and combining animation sequences with hand-colored geometric shapes, with footage of domestic utensils and urban scenery, Ballet mécanique refers to the environment of the industrial metropolis, which is also evoked in Léger’s paintings. The preference for discs, circles, zeros, and convex shapes is striking, emphasized by the shot of a swaying convex mirror (reflecting the filmmakers) or the striking loop effect of a woman climbing a staircase, which turns human motion into a kind of mechanical rotation – not unlike Léger’s paintings depicting figures turned into mechanical puppets. Given this perspective, it is no coincidence that the film opens and closes with a Cubist-style paper puppet of Charlot [Charlie Chaplin], whose jerky movements seem to embody the rhythms of the cinematic apparatus. " – Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: Ballet mécanique revisited. Mechanical ballets had been cultivated in the cinema since the machine world started to be conveyed via montage by Griffith, Gance et al. Their machine gun montages also evoked the horror of the Great War. From their ultra rapid edits there was but a step to abstraction. With Dudley Murphy and the ubiquitous Man Ray, Fernand Léger created a Cubist interpretation of the mechanical ballet. Of lasting value, here seen in a colour print. Like Gance, Léger also evokes Sisyphos. Screened without the Georges Antheil score (tbc).

COLORFUL FASHIONS FROM PARIS DISPLAYED BY HOPE HAMPTON (US 1926) regia/dir: Jules Brulatour. cast: Hope Hampton. prod: McCall’s (series: McCall Color Fashion News). dist: Educational Pictures (Educational Film Exchanges, Inc.). copia/copy: DCP, 8'28" (da/from 35 mm, 719 ft, 22 fps, two-color Kodachrome, Desmet process); did./titles: ENG. fonte/source: George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY.
    " In February 1926, the American fashion magazine McCall’s released one of a series of short pictures called McCall’s Color Fashion News. Filmed in the two-color Kodachrome process, the short shows Hollywood actress Hope Hampton modeling more than twenty creations by Parisian couturiers whose names still resonate today, such as Madeleine Vionnet, Lucien Lelong, Jeanne Lanvin, and Paul Poiret. The intertwining of color, beauty, and vanity is set up in the opening image, in which a peacock fans its tail feathers in a glorious display of colors. What follows is a repetitive display of richly elaborated dress designs and accessories, featuring the classical tropes of fashion shows: holding skirts in semi-circles of fabulous fabric, turning a full spin to display the cut and movement of a gown, removing a top garment to show the dress or lining underneath, and striking a pose topped by a look directly at the camera. A remarkable moment comes when Hope Hampton, with a cheeky smile, lifts the front panel of a Drecoll coat to reveal what appears to be a pair of trousers worn underneath. Hugely contributing to this “festival of beauty, fashion and color” is the Kodachrome color that renders Hampton’s hair a vibrant red. Also notable in the context of this selection of shorts are the title-card designs with the designers’ names adorned with geometrical decorations in red-orange and blue-green, the composing colors of the two-color Kodachrome process. " Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: A straight documentary record of Hope Hampton's modeling session. A valuable showcase of two-color Kodachrome.

L’ÉLÉLÉGANCE (FR 1926) regia/dir: Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay. photog: Henri Chevereau. copia/copy: DCP, 3'36", col.; did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: CNC – Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée, Bois d’Arcy.
    " Late in 1926, Sonia Delaunay and her husband Robert collaborated with camera operator Henri Chevereau to produce a fashion reel filmed in the Keller-Dorian color process – the first application of this experimental process in the artificial light conditions of a studio shoot. The reel was projected during a lecture Sonia was invited to give in January 1927 at the Sorbonne in Paris, on the evolution of modern painting and its influence on contemporary fashion. As a painter who had expanded her practice to costume and fashion design, she was very well placed to draw such a comparison. Applying the color theories she and her husband had developed, each scene in this color reel demonstrates a specific point on the combinations of colors and patterns, applied to dress designs. A striking vignette shows a woman wearing an orange-and-black dress who rotates a large grayscale circle – not unlike the human-scale clock operated in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). This fascinating footage demonstrates the changing perception of color contrast when two hues are placed side by side in varying tones. Another instance incorporates the Delaunays’ ideas on Simultaneous colors into the design of a double-layered dress filmed against a split-colored background: removing panels of the initially orange dress set against a gray background, the model gradually reveals the gray dress underneath, eventually posing against the orange half of the background. The final scene features Sonia Delaunay herself, wrapped up to her neck in a multitude of brightly colored and boldly patterned hangings. The Keller-Dorian color process was developed by Albert Keller-Dorian and Rodolphe Berthon; it was patented in 1908. It is an additive, three-color process using lenticular film, imprinting the three color-separated images onto a single strip of embossed film material. "
    " The film’s title is indeed L’Élélégance; it is not a typographical error. See also the introductory paragraph to this programme. " Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: A valuable record of the Keller-Dorian colour process. A refined and original colour palette.

[DELAUNAY KELLER-DORIAN COLOR TEST] (FR, c.1928) regia/dir: Sonia Delaunay. prod: La Société du Film en Couleurs Keller-Dorian. copia/copy: DCP, 24", col. fonte/source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    " The context of this very short scene is unclear; probably it is part of a Keller-Dorian color test made around 1928. Sharing the warm hues and the flat setup of planes of the fashion reel shots, it shows a figure wrapped head to toe in contrasting textiles with solid colors. Seated in front of a makeshift backdrop of hanging fabrics, the person leans on a circular prop painted in the same colors. The figure most probably is Roland Berthon, son of Keller-Dorian’s developer Rodolphe Berthon, who was a painter and a friend of the Delaunays. " Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs

PARCE QUE JE T’AIME (FR 1929) [frammento/fragment] regia/dir: Hewitt Claypoole Grantham-Hayes. asst dir: Robert Bibal. scen: dalla pièce di/based on the play by Charles Lafaurie. photog: A.O. [Adolf Otto] Weitzenberg, Samy Brill. scg/des: Lucien Aguettand; Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay (furniture). mus: François de Breteuil. cast: Diana Hart (Liliane Darty), Nicolas Rimsky (Claude Marchal), René Ferté (Serge Morange), Elsa Tamary (Jacqueline Marchal), François Viguier (Raillard de Massonneau), Emile Saint-Ober (Williamson), Madeleine Saint-Gal (donna americana/the American woman), Kees Van Dongen, Foujita. prod: Integral Films. uscita/rel: 15.11.1929. copia/copy: DCP, incomp., 4'; did./titles: FRA. fonte/source: Lobster Films, Paris.
    " In 1929, Sonia Delaunay designed set furniture and textiles for Parce que je t’aime by Hewitt Claypoole Grantham-Hayes, who is also known for Lady Harrington (1926), L’Emprise (1929), and Nos maîtres les domestiques (1930). Unfortunately, Parce que je t’aime seems to be lost; the sole surviving fragment appears to be this montage showing “quelques scènes du film”. This four-minute “teaser,” with its shots of swanky nightclubs and restaurants, Deco hotel lobbies, and stylish apartments with upholstery in geometric patterns, resonates entirely with the universe of modernity evoked by Delaunay’s fabric and fashion designs in Le Vertige and Le P’tit Parigot. After a conventional introduction of the actors, the footage continues with a rapidly rotating shot of characters moving in front of a glittering backlight, resulting in a refracted whirlpool reminiscent of some Delaunay paintings, like Prismes électriques (Electric Prisms, 1913). Flat studio sets are made more sophisticated with layered compositions of shadowplay and shiny beading. One of the last sequences shows a multipurpose environment with French signposts saying “restaurant” and “piscine” (swimming pool), as well as “renseignements” (information), echoing the upper-class soirées in Le Vertige and Le P’tit Parigot. Modernist geometric architecture with flights of stairs are used as a catwalk for a parade of numerous evening gowns with accessories. " Hilde D’haeyere, Steven Jacobs
    AA: Sonia Delaunay moments in short pieces of surviving footage.

AA: Three avantgarde landmarks by Germaine Dulac, Marcel Duchamp and Fernand Léger, with Man Ray and Kiki de Montparnasse among the collaborators, brought together because of the Sonia Delaunay connection covered also by her own L'Élélégance colour experiments and straight records of fashion sessions. Cinema in the heartbeat of modern art: futurism, cubism, abstraction, etc.