Archive for Jose Maria Serralde Ruiz

Teacher Training

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2021 by dcairns

Bombed back to the silent age? Something I learned thanks to this year’s Pordenone Festival of Silent Film — as a result of WWII and the Japanese occupation, sound production ceased in the benighted country, and even sound projectors were scarce, but cinema refused to die out altogether. So a fresh batch of silent movies was produced, relying on what the Koreans call a Byeonsa, equivalent to the Japanese Benshi, a live, in-person film-describer storyteller.

Many of the films from Korea’s second silent age are now lost, but we were treated to THE TEACHER AND THE PROSECUTOR (1948), with a recorded Byeonsa narration by Sin Chul. The film survives, gleaming through a patina of scratches and with a subaquatic ripple effect caused by the warping of the celluloid. It begins with quick cuts of the main characters, so the narrator can introduce them — shots clearly filched from elsewhere in the film, as in a movie trailer. Making me wonder if this was originally a sound film repurposed as silent due to the problems of exhibition. I unfortunately dropped off before I could form a firm theory about this.

The narration was certainly interesting. Sin Chul has a throaty, sing-song delivery, his voice at times degenerating into a gasping gargle, but always passionate, like one anxious to convey something with his last breath or death rattle. Delivered against dead silence — did Korean cinemas, or Japanese ones come to that, not employ musicians? — this made for eerie listening. It was quite interesting to experience, until weariness got the better of me.

Education, education, education, as Tony Blair is always saying. (“Why does he keep saying that?” is the best line in IRIS.) Teaching also played a role in PHIL-FOR-SHORT (1919), a charming story of love and self-determination, almost we might say feminism, directed by C.B. DeMille’s former directing partner Oscar Apfel. As co-director of maybe the first surviving Hollywood feature, Apfel’s decline to extra work or bit part acting is a sad story, especially when we see him here at his height, getting terrific performances esp. from the delightful Evelyn Greeley as the titular tomboy, managing the story very smoothly, and serving up live-action intertitles on a Grecian theme — the titles are actually superimposed over moving images. All this and a nubile Edward Arnold in an early perf.

The script is by Clara Berenger & Forrest Halsey, and makes a passionate argument for non-conformity and vivacity against prudishness and hypocrisy. Hugh Thompson is an amusingly unlikely leading man — I’d forgotten that I’d previously seen him in THE GRUB STAKE with director/star Nell Shipman, making him a bit of a feminist icon, possibly.

The whole movie had attractive columns of nitrate decomposition shimmering like flames up both sides, what I call an added attraction.

Oh, and the feature was preceded by LE MÉNAGE DRANEM, themed around the notion of cross-dressing and role reversal, but this Pathé short was a pretty unpleasant affair, though in spectacularly good nick. Dranem is henpecked by his trousered termagant of a wife, before turning the tables with a vicious display of entirely uncomedic domestic violence. There should have been a warning. It did end with a smile of sorts, as accompanist José Marìa Serralde Ruiz played a kind of death march over the family outing, mother, perambulator and numerous sprogs parading down a Parisian street, a witty critique of the patriarchal assumptions, and then the last kid in line is so intent on picking his nose that Dranem has to steer the little bastard through frame and away from the traffic.

Dranem seemed an unappealing lout. He was a boulevardier and he does appear in one of the funniest and most horrible short comedies ever, which Paul Duane and I were reduced to unexpected hysteria by on a visit to the Cinematheque Francais — Dranem plays a country bumpkin who mistakes a phone booth for a public lavatory. Explicit facial expressions of grunting and straining as he performs the act of physical evacuation before the unflinching gaze of the cinematograph, trousers round ankles, buttocks occluded by some merciful bit of scenery. He departs, relieved, and the next customer gets a nasty surprise.

I can’t remember what this film was called, probably something like DRANEM SHITS IN A PHONE BOOTH.

Here’s one of the man’s songs: