Archive for Lars Hanson

The Monday Intertitle: I Have Synd

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , on October 14, 2013 by dcairns

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One of the Pordenone Silent Film Fest’s highlights this year was a season of neglected Swedish silent cinema. Most serious silent film lovers will be familiar with Sjostrom and Stiller’s work, but the movies screened here shone light on less celebrated directors such as Gustaf Molander, whose EXTREMELY long career (1920-1967) took in collaborations with both Bergmans, Ingmar and Ingrid, which not many people can say.

SYND (1928) brings considerable star power to bear on a story adapted from Strindberg (whose play was called Crime and Crime — not one of your snappier titles, August). Lars Hanson, in fuil-on eccentric artist mode and apparently channeling William Powell or something, is a struggling playwright and the radiant Elissa Landi is his devoted wife. When Hanson sells a play he is immediately tempted by the lead actress (French import Gina Manés). thereby graphically illustrating the marital advice given me by Michael Fitzgerald in Telluride (“Getting married is easy, but staying married when you become successful…”)

Very slick filmmaking — Molander’s favourite move is to push in at the end of scenes, which maybe he does too often, but it never fails to add a frisson. During a police investigation scene, witnesses describe events which are seen in noirish chiaroscuro to match the melodramatic slant these excitable members of the public put on things, then the same events are shown again with normal lighting as the hero supplies his innocent explanation.

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Landi is too much of a doormat, albeit a fragrant one, and Manés, while exuding woman-of-the-world vampishness, isn’t appealing enough to explain why Hanson would ditch his loyal, gorgeous and dementedly submissive wife — and consider murdering his child. I choose to quote Landi’s intertitle from the film’s climax, when Hanson slinks home and tries to win her back. She’s starting to weaken, but can’t think of a way to turn the conversation around to “I forgive you for considering the murder of our adorable child.” This is what she comes up with ~

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“But Maurice, maybe you haven’t eaten?”

The Sunday Nontertitle: Three Finger Salute

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by dcairns

So, according to my calendar, one week after the vernal equinox announced the coming of Spring, we have the start of British Summertime (a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one). I never knew Spring was only a week long, but now that I do, it kind of makes sense.

To celebrate a Summer that isn’t a Summer, we have an intertitle that isn’t an intertitle. For Arthur Robison’s WARNING SHADOWS is title-free, apart from the opening credits. Above, we see how they signify the start of Act III. Now, a silent without intertitles is like a day without sunshine to me — even THE LAST LAUGH has one. But, on the other hand, the fewer the titles, the more effective the cinematic storytelling — or the simpler the story.

An overwrought Fritz Kortner smashes his mirror, an action Robison liked so much he gave it to Anton Walbrook in THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE — who repeated it in THE RED SHOES..

WARNING SHADOWS actually has a rather sophisticated narrative, disguised as a straightforward one. The “nocturnal hallucination” structure goes well beyond the usual “it-was-all-a-dream” bookends in terms of ambiguity, resonance and meta-narrative allusiveness. The sinister shadow-puppeteer, at once Hoffmannesque and reminiscent of the creepy cobbler in THE RED SHOES, is an obvious stand-in for the filmmaker himself, presenting a cautionary fable with such artistry that we all mistake it for reality.

The film is subtitled “A NOCTURNAL HALLUCINATION” — and they don’t mean this bit!

Robison seems an interesting guy — an American who became an archetypal German expressionist filmmaker, with both this and the sound version of THE STUDENT OF PRAGUE starring Anton Walbrook. Also a British version of THE INFORMER with Lars Hanson an unlikely Irishman. Further study is warranted. Here, he has the services of designer Albin Grau and cinematographer Fritz Arno Wagner, both from NOSFERATU.

In WARNING SHADOWS, a tousled Fritz Kortner is tormented by homicidal jealousy regarding his wife, with her Grecian costume and strange, funnel-shaped hairdo. The arrival of a grimacing shadow-puppeteer leads to an extended revenge phantasie, making this the German expressionist version of UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (itself a screwball Othello). Fritz Rasp (the newly-restored Thin Man of METROPOLIS) plays a snide footman, his centre-parting extending right down to the back of his neck, a striking look in a film marked by tonsorial eccentricity from the off.

We also get Rudolph Klein-Rogge, and Alexander Granach (Knock, the Renfield character from NOSFER) is “the Shadowplayer” — a unique performance attained mainly by thrusting his arse out in an insolent fashion. I may have to make him my avatar.

The cast is frozen in time in this Last Supper pose/composition, so that Granach can project an instructive shadowplay inside their dreaming minds — a metaphor for the cinema itself?

Verdict: grotesque beauty. Not a horror movie, really, so Denis Gifford’s featuring two stills from it in his Pictorial History of Horror Movies is sheer perversity, of the kind we love him for. This may have been the last GOOD film in his book left for me to see…

Buy Kino’s DVD and rescue me from penury: Warning Shadows – A Nocturnal Hallucination

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