Archive for October 23, 2008

The (other) divine Max

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on October 23, 2008 by dcairns

The outstanding Max Linder in BE MY WIFE (1921). In order to impress his girlfriend and her unsympathetic mother, and show up his rival, Max stages a fake home invasion. What? Come on! We’ve all done something like that, haven’t we? Let he who is without splinters cast the first beam, etc.

Linder is striking not just for the fact that he inspired so many others — his elegant persona was a big influence on Chaplin, and that routine where he pretends to fight a non-existant opponent in the next room was restaged by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers — but for the fact that his stuff is still fresh and funny and admirable and appealing in its own right.

I should post AU SECOURS, perhaps. Abel Gance directing Linder. It’s not the funniest thing ever — Gance’s stylistic tropes somewhat swamp Linder’s comedy playing — though it has been known to get big laughs from student audiences I’ve screened it to. But it’s surprisingly dark and full of surprises and not like anything else. If you can laugh as Max experiences the deepest terror and distress, believing his wife to be in mortal peril, then you’ll get along fine with it. Apart from Max’s totally convincing abject misery, there’s a fabulous array of ghosts and monsters, and wacky film-play by Gance (those distorting mirror effects he first used in LA FOLIE DU DOCTEUR TUBE).

“It’s what I call an epic!”