In Black and White

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I have an article in this month’s Sight & Sound.

London’s Fashion in Film Festival are showing a series of Marcel L’Herbier films at various venues around the capital, and the BFI organ asked me to write a short piece to accompany some snazzy photographs in their collection. It was a pleasure to do so!

My only regrets are that they didn’t go with my proposed title, L’Herbier Goes Bananas, and that there’s too much space devoted to my blathering and not enough to the sensational images.

This is a very Edinburgh edition of S&S, with articles by former EIFF directors Mark Cousins and Hannah McGill. Also: Neil Jordan interview, GATSBY retrospective, and lots on Assayas.

Other news: more octopoid limericks at LimerWrecks, including this one by me, revisiting our old friend, Steve the Octopus from CITIZEN KANE.

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5 Responses to “In Black and White”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    You compare L’Herbier with Cecil B DeMille in your article. But if he reminds me of anyone, it has to be Rex Ingram. The obsessive sophistication of his visual style – allied to plots that are anything but. The preoccupation with handsome male proteges, despite a nominal marriage to the leading lady. Oddly, I’ve never seen a film by either director I haven’t liked…but I’m not sure if either ever made a complete masterpiece?

  2. To me L’Herbier is like Sternberg, Minnelli, Alain Resnais and Jacques Demy all at the same time. (With a dash of Jack Smith and Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible Part II )

    His films are all about what’s IN the frame rather than “outside” it in montage terms. D├ęcor doesn’t simply dominate — it overwhelms.

  3. One of the images in the article shows Jacque Catelain literally painted to blend in with the scenery, which seems like the ultimate expression of the L’Herbier style.

    The DeMille comparison was inevitable given the fact that we know one influenced the other (I must sit down and watch both versions of The Cheat back-to-back some time), but I agree Ingram makes an intriguing comparison.

    As a theorist-turned-filmmaker, L’Herbier bears crude comparison with Epstein, but Epstein is an outside-the-frame kind of guy.

  4. Michael Powell saw Mare Nostrum being shot and counts it as a defining event in his life. Ingram was to Powell a director in “the grand style,” and I suspect there’s a trace or two of him in Walbrook’s Lermontov in The Red Shoes.

  5. In LA, Powell would always take his hat off when he passed the car park which used to be Ingram’s studio. One thing he may have taken his cue from is Ingram’s wild humour, which appears at moments some might fine inopportune. That wildness is absent in L’Herbier, who doesn’t go in much for comedy at all (though Michel Simon’s camping it up is fun in Le Bonheur).

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