Archive for Dreyer

The Sunday Intertitle: Who’s Storing the Mind?

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2019 by dcairns

On the ruins, The Future was being built.

To Bo’ness Hippodrome, and enough intertitles to last a month of Sundays!

By the time I rocked up in that sleepy townlet, I’d already missed a lot of high-quality stuff, including Lois Weber’s THE BLOT and Harold Lloyd’s THE FRESHMAN, and lunch at the beloved Ivy, but my first film on Saturday was a beaut — Julien Duvivier’s updated Zola adaptation AU BONHEUR DES DAMES (later done by The Beeb as The Paradise, relocated from Paris to the more glamorous locale of Durham).

Pamela Hutchinson of Silent London remarked, “If you wanted to show someone what silent cinema could be like, you could just show them that, because it’s got everything!” A late silent — 1930 — maybe France’s last? (Bernard Natan produced the first French talkie the same year) — you can see the studio it was shot in being demolished in the film — it heaps up radical techniques around you, from German expressionistic angles to Russian montage to French impressionist delirium — slow motion, split screen, multiple exposures… plus powerful use of more traditional bits of film language like close-ups:

Dita Parlo (a name surely made for the talkies) is our guileless ingenue, and Nadia Sibirskaïa (MENILMONTANT) provides haunting support, with the Galleries Lafayette in a major starring role also. The film contrasts the plight of the small shop with the booming, all-consuming department store — nominally, we’re meant to sympathise with the small business, but the film values photogenics, and can’t help being seduced by the glamour of large-scale retail.

The ending is a bit of a problem — though sort of faithful to the novel’s outcome, it plays like “How many of our themes can we betray in four minutes?” One can’t imagine it ever having felt satisfying to anyone, even the makers — did Duvivier have more than the usual amount of trouble with endings? (See also LA BELLE EQUIPE… but my beloved LA FIN DU JOUR is perfection.)

Particularly fine accompaniment by Stephen Horne & Frank Bockius, on a day that also included John Sweeney & Bockius scoring Chinese martial arts romp THE RED HEROINE, Sweeney again on Dreyer’s THE PARSON’S WIDOW (magnificent, more on that later) and Günter Buchwald & Bockius adding creepshow atmospherics to THE CAT AND THE CANARY, to which I provided sleeve notes.

HippFest has been going since last Saturday but this was my first day, and a damned good one. Back today (Sunday) with Fiona for Laurel & Hardy, MOULIN ROUGE, Lawrence Napper lecturing on working women in silent film, and the grand gala finale of HINDLE WAKES.

 

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The Parcel

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2018 by dcairns

A box arrived. I was excited. Masters of Cinema had been trying for some weeks to send me copies of the latest Blu-Rays to which I had contributed video essays. They kept going astray. The box that eventually arrived had been violently smashed in, but it contained copies of Dreyer’s MICHAEL, Obayashi’s HOUSE and King Hu’s LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN, mercifully undamaged. My theory is that a disgruntled postal worker ripped the package open, discovered it contained arthouse movies he’d already stolen for his vast collection, and so grudgingly allowed the delivery to continue.

I did my first ever animated main title for HOUSE (not counting the astounding cartooning Danny Carr did for my SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS piece) — I felt the movie deserved something funky, so I traced the title of my piece a bunch of times, then customized them with coloured dots and dashes, then scanned the results. Editor Stephen Horne flipped the scans into negative and did various colouring tricks to create an even wider variety of looks, and the results play out stroboscopically at the start of my piece, to an accompaniment of girlish screams and the music of Godiego.

All three pieces have had some nice reviews online — nobody else has the trouble I do with postal delivery, it seems — though one critic points out that I can’t pronounce wuxia correctly. Of course, I was using the SCOTTISH pronunciation.

LEGEND OF THE MOUNTAIN [Masters of Cinema] Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD)

House (HAUSU) [Masters of Cinema] Blu-ray

Michael [Masters of Cinema] Blu-ray

The Sunday Intertitle: The Mute Todd

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on March 11, 2018 by dcairns

Delighted to be writing screening notes for this year’s Hippodrome Festival of Silent Film — this time, I’m covering a horror double feature of Lon Chaney in Wallace Worsley’s crime-shocker THE PENALTY and Thelma Todd in Benjamin Christensen’s surreal nightmare comedy SEVEN FOOTPRINTS TO SATAN, at last visible in a pristine restoration. It’s revealed as a very beautiful piece of work, raising the cinema of sensation to gloriously absurd heights. (The version I’ve quote from here is much sharper than the YouTube source, but it’s not the new cleaned-up print.)

I’m guilty of something of a misstatement in the video essay for Dreyer’s MICHAEL I just completed. I say that Benjamin Christensen’s Hollywood films lack the weirdness of HAXAN. Not true in this case!

I’ll republish my notes here after the show if that’s OK with the Hippodrome.