Archive for Le Vertige

The Whit Sunday Intertitle: Crossing Delaunay

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2015 by dcairns

ptitparigot

Marvelous Mary came back from the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate, clutching the catalogue and full of enthusiasm. I was totally unable to procure the Delaunay-designed 1926 movie LE P’TIT PARIGOT, a clip of which had entranced Mary, so we settled for Marcel L’Herbier’s LE VERTIGE, costumed by Delaunay the same year, which the IMDb doesn’t even know she did (sharing screen credit with Jacques Manuel).

LE VERTIGE is pretty slow and dull dramatically, but the production design by a team including top architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and Delaunay’s husband Robert, is really striking. Sadly, there aren’t many of the striking patterns she made her name with. L’Herbier’s lover and star Jaque Catelain does turn up with a nice robe at the 105 minute mark, and there’s a Mexican stand-off at the end by two men both attired in fabulous scarves, but that’s your lot.

vlcsnap-2015-05-22-23h30m48s52

Compare with the designs for LE P’TIT PARIGOT ~

ptitparigot3

ptitparigot4

Or this stunning set of jammies modeled by architect Erno Goldfinger (whose name inspired the Bond villain) ~

goldfinger

If I owned a set of jim-jams as stylish as that, I wouldn’t think twice about detonating a nuclear device in Fort Knox either.

Still, LE VERTIGE has something else: a storyline which seems closely connected to Hitchcock’s similarly-titled 1959 necrodrama. The movie opens at the height of the Russian revolution. The jealous General Mikhail (Roger Karl) shoots his rival Jaque Catelain in full view of his straying spouse, Emmy Lynn. Then the revolutionaries burst in and bayonet the prone philanderer. So he’s dead, right? Shot in the heart and bayoneted by the entire Russian revolution, he’s dead. Rumours of his death are not only NOT exaggerated, we can say they don’t go nearly far enough.

So imagine Emmy’s surprise when Catelait turns up on the Cote D’Azur years later, alive, smirking and driving a speedboat. The same smile, the same lipstick, the same guyliner. Positively the same Catelait.

vlcsnap-2015-05-22-23h33m43s36

She now attempts to recreate this passionate affair with the doppelganger of her lost love, and it works pretty good too, from what one can gauge between passionate fadeouts, but she still has that jealous husband.

“Did Hitchcock see this?” asked Fiona. We agreed it was possible, but perhaps more likely that Boileau et Narcejac, the writing team behind the novel D’entre les Mortes, Hitchcock’s source, saw it. In VERTIGO, Both Kim Novaks are the same character. In LE VERTIGE, there are two Catelains, their resemblance coincidental. Jimmy Stewart’s vertigo is a literal acrophobia, but it’s also a spiritual terror, a fear of falling out of one’s place in time, into the past, and a desire to do so. That feeling is already present in LE VERTIGE, and accounts for all Emmy Lynn’s swooning fits, I guess.

More Sonia Delaunay to enjoy — in colour! (And with the promised intertitles.)



The Sunday Intertitle: Vertigo

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 10, 2013 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2013-02-10-11h08m16s37

Must write about LE VERTIGE (1926), and soon! Marcel L’Herbier’s little-seen, highly flash melodrama is a ripsnorting exultation of crazy sets and flaring nostrils. The intertitles, surprisingly, eschew overt design-fetishism, being plain sans serif affairs, but the movie does kick of with a dynamic logo and an unusual (for the period) superimposed title setting up the initial action in revolutionary Russia, before the film decamps to a deco dream of the Cote D’Azur…

We can see L’Herbier experimenting with camera movement, mainly to show off his elaborate settings (in the Italian manner — L’Herbier would remake THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII in 1950, suggesting an affinity with the Italian historical spectacles of the teens and twenties), and gearing up for the extremes of L’ARGENT…

vlcsnap-2013-02-10-11h08m27s154

Films without people

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by dcairns

xgentlemenotpress

GENTLEMEN OF THE PRESS (Millard Webb, 1929) Designed by William Saulter.

When the 1930s movie studio closes for the night, what do the empty sets dream of?

Designing Dreams, Modern Architecture in the Movies by Donald Albrecht reproduces some fantastic stills showing just the sets, actors long fled or not yet arrived. And when Albrecht says “modern,” you can be sure the silent “e” on the end is at least implied. These dreams are deco through and through.

xracketyrax1

The offices of McGloin Enterprises Inc, from RACKETY RAX, directed by Alfred Werker in 1932 and designed by Gordon Wiles.

One thing that’s great about the book is that it uses not only famous examples like METROPOLIS, or obscure but deserving ones like Marcel L’Herbier’s dazzling LE VERTIGE (giddy modernist decor being very much a favourite L’Herbier trope), but truly unknown Hollywood entries like these, on which spectacular elegance has been lavished even though the movies were destined for the dustbin of film history. Though who knows, they may yet be rediscovered and appreciated anew.

xmenmustfight25

This is from MEN MUST FIGHT, which I previously wrote about here. Directed by Edgar Selwyn in 1933, with Cedric Gibbons as the credited supervisory art director.

Why don’t we live in these films? Or at least in these rooms? Life would be so much more… elegant.