Archive for Emile Zola

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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Girlfight

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2015 by dcairns

While waiting for today’s edition of The Forgotten, here’s a clip you can enjoy, if that’s the word, from René Clément’s award-winning GERVAISE (a956). A lavish and rambunctious Zola adaptation, it sets out its stall early with this savage, raucous and not-even-safe-for-work fight scene in which lead Maria Schell demonstrates her fighting spirit, which will carry her through the story and everything Zola, assisted by scenarists Aurenche and Bost, can throw at her.

The film also features Jany Holt, heroine of the resistance, and also, as Schell’s opponent here, Suzy Delair, who we cannot, sadly, credit as a heroine of the resistance. That goodwill trip to the Fatherland stills sits uncomfortably in her CV (but hey! Film is a collaborative medium!)

This scene reminded me strongly of the nasty girlfight in Paul Verhoeven’s A GIRL CALLED KATY TIPPEL, to the extent that I’m trying to recall if the films have anything else in common. Can anyone help?

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SOCIAL OPPRESSION with a Regency stripe — our director is never shy about letting the production design tell the story. I hate this kind of narrative — the catalogue of woes, strung together in loose novelistic fashion. It’s only slightly more bearable in a period movie than in  Ken Loach modern job. But the filmmaker’s skill here, and the colossal production values slathered over everything, do make it quite watchable. And the explicitness — a vomit-spattered drunk, the Delair posterior exposed above — must have been pretty shocking at the time. And that urge to shove unpleasantness in the audience’s face was bound to appeal to the young Verhoeven if he was out there.

While you’re reeling from the sight of Suzy Delair’s arse (or her stand-in’s), I’ll just hit you with a couple of links to older pieces about Clément films ~

…AND HOPE TO DIE

THE DEADLY TRAP

THE BABYSITTER

I’d forgotten that I’d written so many Forgottens on Clement.

There’s also this recent piece on LES MAUDITS and this one on THE DAY AND THE HOUR.