Empty Rooms

What do movies do when nobody is watching? When the audience has filed out, the projector powered down, the curtains closed? When the last grainy showgirl is snuggled between celluloid sheets, the moustaches and six-shooters have all been twirled, and the monsters have shuffled back to their closets? Do movies go to sleep too? To sleep, perchance to dream?

Here I shall try to explain myself, lest I be suspected of madness or indulgence in symbolism. 


Don’t be frightened — although I myself find this short film quite scary. I assembled it from moments in Maurice Tourneur’s first talkie, the Pathe-Natan production ACCUSEE, LEVEZ-VOUS! The film is quite slow and stagey, and contains numerous exits and entrances like a play, resulting in brief moments when the scene is empty of players. These dead spots are quite damaging to the pace when watching the entire film, but I had an idea that they might be interesting on their own. One could cut them out and watch the film as it might have looked a year later, when talkies had become more fluent and fluid, but I was more interested in running them all together and making a film that’s a breath of dead air. I had to slow some of them down to make them register, but not that many. I’ve also used a couple of insert shots, edited to remove human action, and some very effective moments when Tourneur uses offscreen sound — still quite an innovation in France in 1930.

Actually, one could argue that this isn’t entirely Tourneur’s first talkie, but it is his first experience directing one. In 1927, he departed the MGM production of MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, after the studio imposed a producer on him to come on set and supervise his work. MT wasn’t having any of that so he packed his bags for Europe at once. The film was eventually finished by Benjamin Christensen, then revised for sound by Lucien Hubbard and released in 1929 in this mutilated form. The original silent material is frequently stunning, but as a narrative the film is hopelessly compromised.

Apologies to M. Tourneur for subjecting another of his films to savage editorial interference!


6 Responses to “Empty Rooms”

  1. “Temps morts” is the termyou’re looking for.

  2. NIce work!

  3. Christopher Says:

    Would make a nice end cap to a late night horror or classic film series on tv..Why can’t people get interested in these things again!?….maybe they can..maybe they are..

  4. The ones who aren’t, unfortunately, are the TV execs. There’s been constant campaigning in the UK for the return of the old horror double bills BBC2 ran in the 70s, which changed my life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: