Archive for April 8, 2012

The Sunday Intertitle: Missing In Action

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 8, 2012 by dcairns

Louis Delluc’s FIEVRE has no intertitles — not, as with Kirsanoff’s majestic MENILMONTANT, because it was designed that way, but because they’ve all been lost. Maybe during the film’s travels around the world, when it was common to cut out the French  titles and splice in new ones in the language of wherever the film was playing.

A number of movies which suffered this fate have since had their titles restored, using the censor’s records. The censors, you see, ARE good for something. A famous example is Feuillade’s serials, admired by the surrealists for their freeform irrationality. They were slightly less irrational when they had titles (as they once more do) — but only slightly.

Delluc got off lightly, for his film has such a slight plot, and wallows so exquisitely in the emotions produced by said plot, that it’s easy to imagine text adding an unwelcome literal quality. Who knows?

What’s left is certainly a delirious evocation of emotional turmoil augmented by drink… note all the ads for Dewars, a nice Scottish element. Note also the reassuring presence of Gaston Modot, France’s most psychotronic actor. Modot seemed to move casually from modest roles in mainstream fair like LA MERVEILLEUSE VIE DE JEANNE D’ARC to leading roles in the likes of L’AGE D’OR (if that film can be said to have a “like”). Seeing this familiar supporting player gaze passionately at a statue’s toes or kicking a blind man must have had a strange and blasphemous feeling for contemporaneous audiences. To get the same effect, we’d have to mentally sub in Greg Kinnear or something.