Archive for July 25, 2010

The Sunday Intertitle: Extraordinary

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on July 25, 2010 by dcairns

THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF SATURNINO FARANDOLA (1915) has everything you count want from a serial-style adventure, and more, EXCEPT —

Babelfish choked on this one, but I think it’s something like “The white man saves you. Here’s your horse. Goodbye!”

The intertitles are unaccountably plain. All the more disappointing in an Italian silent, where usually the title cards display spectacular design flair. Here, the most interesting element is the number plate, which is useless to the audience but presumably helpful to the editor (who can’t be expected to actually read the damned script, obviously).

Apart from this disappointment, the movie, directed by and starring Marcel Perez, heaps largesse upon us — his hero is adopted in infancy by apes (men in costumes with very visible seams, surrounded by real Capuchin monkeys to make the illusion all the more transparent), then joins a gang of adventurers, leading to encounters with sea monsters, a balloon-based gun battle, and a very modish anti-lion costume —

The resemblance to Melies is incomplete, since Melies would have had more consistent props, sets and costumes, I feel, and Melies didn’t make features. At 57 minutes, LE AVVENTURE STRAORDINARISSIME flies past, the lack of close-ups and camera movement scarcely seeming to matter (like Feuillade, Perez contents himself with a slow, uncertain pan once every hour or so). The Tarzan backstory is accompanied by all manner of racist attitudes, including a novel moment when slumbering Chinese guards are disabled by having their pigtails knotted together. Other things you won’t see elsewhere: a score of prisoners are embedded in barrels with just their heads sticking out. Saturnino rolls them to the river and drags them to safety upstream, using a rope which each man grips in his teeth; soldiers squat on top of balloons, taking pot-shots at each other, while cannons are fired from the baskets — miniatures, backdrops and full-scale live action all captured in a  single pass through the camera. Somebody show Gilliam!

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