Archive for August 16, 2019

Plagiarism Corner

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2019 by dcairns

“However, the Golem sets are far removed from the Caligari designs. The houses with their stiff, very tall, very narrow gables recall authentic medieval buildings; the design is a barely abstract interpretation of an unsanitary and overpopulated ghetto. In addition, and this is another contrast in expressionist films, a formal correlation exists between the sets and the costumes. Here the high gables parallel the Jews’ pointed hats.”

I really love Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design by Leon Barsacq, quoted above. It’s one of the first proper film books I owened, along with Brownlow’s Hollywood: The Pioneers. I sold both books at some point, then bought replacements because I felt I needed to own them.

So I was kind of scandalized when, researching DER GOLEM for a forthcoming piece, I stumbled upon the following passage in Lotte Eisner’s earlier The Haunted Screen ~

“This explains why the sets of The Golem are far removed from those of Caligari. The original Gothic forms are still somehow latent in these houses with their steeply-pitched thatched roofs. Their angular, oblique outlines, their teetering bulk, their hollowed steps, seem the none too unreal image of a distressingly insanitary and overpopulated ghetto where people actually live. The narrow gables are somehow echoed in the pointed hats and wind-blown goatees of the Jews, the excited fluttering of their hands, their raised arms clutching at the empty yet restricted space.”

Both works are translated: Roger Greaves did Eisner’s English-language version, Barsacq (a talented production designer) was translated by Michael Bullock and his book revised and edited by Elliott Stein. I strongly suspect that if you go back to the French editions, the phrases “a barely abstract interpretation of” and “the none too unreal image of ” will come out identical, proving not only that Eisner is a better writer than Barsacq, but that her translator is better than his translator.

It was the bit about the beards that made me realize I’d read these thoughts before. It’s a bit tenous, the beard argument, not one of Lotte’s finest.

Oh well, maybe this is becoming an OCCASIONAL SERIES, since I already gave Bogdanovich crap for recycling another journalist’s interview with Leo McCarey. If I reread all my favourite film books will I find a pilfered passage in each? How disillusioned can you get?