Archive for June 18, 2017

The Father’s Day Intertitle: Strike!

Posted in FILM with tags , , on June 18, 2017 by dcairns

I am actually looking at Eisenstein’s STRIKE, but this is from the considerably less well-known French short by Etienne Arnaud, LA GREVE DES APACHES. The apaches of Paris — who are like thugs, but more charmant — take industrial action. It’s not quite clear what their demands are. But their downing tools (handing their pistols in to the gendarme) puts the entire legal profession out of a job.

“AT THE COURT. The Judge has no work. The tx collector forces the president, the secretary and the attorney to hand in their robes.”

This 1907 film adheres to the standard practice of the day — the intertitles tell you all you need to know, while the shots merely illustrate what you’ve just read. But the visual storytelling is arguably not lucid enough to get by on its own. Perhaps opening a scene with an inexplicable image, then inserting a title midway to explain, then returning to the image which can now be appreciated in the light of the added context, would be a better system. And that’s kind of what happens in the next few years. Better, we get a kind of relay, where the images and text each carry those parts of the necessary plot information to which they are best suited.

Meanwhile, the prolific Artaud (no relation to the Theatre of Cruelty guy, so far as I can gather) does have a lot of fun imagining what crooks, judges and policemen would get up to if they didn’t have any work.

The apaches revert to infancy.

The cops knit, do needlepoint, play with their kids.

Highly dubious conclusion: the judges try to tempt the strikers back into crime by offering themselves up as tempting targets for mugging — a weird masochistic flirtation. But the apaches have become too nice, it seems. So the judges’ wives take over, dragging up as low-life floozies and approaching the men with dangling cigarettes and winking eyes. Reverting to form, the apaches immediately fall on them, kicking the crap out of the society dames. The last scene shows normality restored and the criminals being prosecuted, but their new posh gigolettes are showering them with gifts, as they are apparently now addicted to this rough treatment.

Hey, I didn’t make this thing! (Maybe this Artaud WAS related to the Theatre of Cruelty guy.)