The Sunday Intertitle: Broadway Malady

Here’s a recently discovered experimental film from 1929, A THEATRICAL HOTEL on 46TH ST, NEW YORK also known as PENSIVE CRACKLE. It uses the particular quality of the early soundtrack, that “warm bath of audio hiss” Guy Maddin has spoken of, with its accompanying soft crackle and bump, as an atmospheric effect, and lets it gradually seep into the onscreen characters, poisoning them as surely as a diet of gunpowder and wasp venom. It starts quite funny, and slowly turns bleaker and bleaker.

There are no credits, so we don’t know who made it or why. It was apparently found in the archive of a secretive Swiss film collector after he died.

While it’s no ROSE HOBART, I do like the way its co-opting of Hollywood imagery, with music, dialogue and narrative stripped away, creates a mysterious, haunting sense of absence, of life ebbing away. And the sapphic implications make it at times reminiscent of MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Maybe it, too, contains a set of “clues” which can be used to decode its fractured storyline?

17 Responses to “The Sunday Intertitle: Broadway Malady”

  1. This is gorgeous. Whoever made it is the best.

  2. Oh, I agree absolutely.

  3. Clearly cobbled together from bits and pieces of The Broadway Melody of 1929 this suggests not only Joseph Cornell and Bruce Conner but more to the point, Ken Jacobs.

  4. And speaking of Bessie Love, did you get that copy of The Girl in the Show I sent you?

  5. OMG, did I forget to send thanks? Yes, it arrived safe and sound and it’s a charming film. The bonus movie was appreciated also!

  6. You’re more than welcome.

  7. Daniel Riccuito Says:

    Beautiful. Very much like Connor — the reveling in track noise especially. Too elegant to be Ken’s. Speaking of movies, David, sorry I keep procrastinating, but will send you that slang dictionary and DVDs soon. Promise.

  8. Poetic though it is, the alternative title loses the crowning ambiguity of the original. Is this East 46th Street? West 46th Street? Or some Platonic hellscape called “46th Street?” That’s left for you to work out.

  9. Which is closest to Broadway? Whichever it is, East or West, this is probably the other one.

  10. Christopher Says:

    Its 4 o’clock in the morning and the tv has been left on…They should bottle that hissing and crackling noise like they do waves and rain for relaxation recordings..Crackle and Hiss 1929-1932 Vol.1…with a word or 2 and a bit of make you guess which films the hissing is from…Anita Page was a lovely hunk of Lamb.

  11. More on this movie at The Chiseler, soon!

  12. kevin mummery Says:

    For some reason “Pensive Crackle” and for that matter “Rose Hobart” put me in mind of something that would have been in “Decasia”, perhaps with visual elements added by the decomposition of the film or other physical phenomena. Just something about them that I can’t put my finger on.

  13. A double feature of Rose Hobart and the film it was culled from, East of Borneo, would be delightful. EOB is a ludicrous jungle melodrama with a balls-out crazy perf from George Renavent as “Prince Hashim.” It entirely lacks the eerie, contemplative beauty of Joseph Cornell’s Rose Hobart (which of course predates Decasia by decades, even if the images in it don’t).

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