Archive for L’Herbier

The Sunday Intertitle: L’Herbier Rides Again

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2020 by dcairns


Magnificent intertitles from L’HOMME DY LARGE, the closing film at this year’s Hippfest.


I have my tickets to all of Sunday’s screenings, now I just have to calculate which of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday films I can afford. I’m extremely tempted by FILIBUS THE AIR PIRATE with music by my chum Jane Gardner, but there’s also THE WOMAN MEN YEARN FOR and CITY GIRL… And I’ve never seen THE LOVES OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, showing on Thursday with Fay Compton in the lead (before she owned Hill House), and on the same day, Asta Nielsen as HAMLET.

Since my writing work for the fest has bagged me tickets to POIL DE CAROTTE and THE MARK OF ZORRO, it makes sense to concentrate on Friday and Saturday, since actually getting to Bo’ness and back is part of the expense.


Oh, I just can’t decide!

(Anybody with a car going through on Thurs, Fri or Sat?)

The Sunday Intertitle: We Stole a Pearl Necklace Worth Five Million

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 13, 2019 by dcairns

Dadaist cinema is not big on intertitles, so I am grateful to Fernand Leger & Dudley Murphy for including some nice abstract examples in their BALLET MECANIQUE of 1924. Leger was a great artist, Murphy was a regular Joe kind of filmmaker (THE EMPEROR JONES, with William DeMille), …ONE THIRD OF A NATION… with Sylvia Sidney), so I don’t know how they came to collaborate or even be in the same country. Their names look funny side by side, and so do their careers.

I presume Leger needed a technically minded film person to help put his fantasies on celluloid. This was the same year Leger did designs — a mad scientist’s lab for restoring life! — in L’Herbier’s L’INHUMAINE. Thereafter, he kept well clear of the movies except for contributing “drawings, objects and suggestions,” which sounds a bit rude, to DREAMS THAT MONEY CAN BUY in 1947.

BALLET MECANIQUE achieves a lot in a short time, including creating a kind of cinema concrete to compliment Georges Antheil’s synchronized score — the film is like an assemblage of objects, spliced together rhythmically, including the lips of Kiki of Montparnasse, a typewriter, a swinging silver globe, and a straw hat. It also erases the distinction between intertitle and film, as some of the images become graphic and abstract and some of the lettering and numbering and geometric shapes butt together in such a way as to suggest kinship. THIS is definitely an intertitle ~

And I love that the filmmakers confess to a crime in the midst of their experimental film, knowing nobody will take them seriously. It’s the perfect alibi!

Then the sentence is broken into pieces and repeated until it ceases to speak to us, even appearing flipped, looking-glass fashion, transformed from lucid text to mere abstract shapes.

But what about THIS? ~

Is it a text or an image? Or THIS? ~

Definitely an abstract, neither text nor image, but behaving much like an intertitle (except for the shameless way it dances at us).

Lots of different versions of this movie on YouTube, but none seems to have the handy-dandy stencil colour on its graphic shapes which my copy has, and which seems to me to greatly enhance the super-epic quality.

The movie also defies Dada convention by featuring celebrity guest stars — not just Kiki, or parts of her, but also Charlie Chaplin, in cut-out graphic animation form. Interesting to speculate what the defense would be if Charlot had sued.

The Sunday Intertitle: The Milk of Inhuman Kindness

Posted in Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Painting, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2017 by dcairns

A fantastic event at L’Institute Francaise last week — Lobster Films’ magnificent restoration of Marcel L’Herbier’s science-fiction romance L’INHUMAINE, accompanied by my colleagues from THE NORTHLEACH HORROR Jane Gardner and Roddy Long on keyboards and violin and introduced by our friend Rolland Man.

I’d seen this projected before, and of course found it visually stunning, but with sharper picture and better accompaniment, L’Herbier’s achievement becomes even more apparent, his daft story more involving. Combining his aesthetic ritziness — designs by the best architects (Robert Mallet-Stevens), production designers (Autant-Lara & Cavalcanti), fashion designers (Paul Poiret) and artists (Fernand Leger) — with the fashionable tropes of cinematic impressionism — a school founded entirely upon sequences of delirium, hysteria and drunkenness (superb) — he fashions a hysterical melodrama propounding his own perverse and peculiar ideas — anticommunist, anti-mystic, technocratic — and serves up a mad lab climax that anticipates both METROPOLIS and FRANKENSTEIN.

Leger’s intertitles weren’t very clear, and seemed weirdly SHRUNKEN in the previous copy of the film I’d accessed, so it was lovely to see them so crisp, their forms mirroring the groovy kinetic sculptures that form mysterious pieces of lab equipment, used to save heroine Georgette Leblanc from a deadly snake-bite.

Such is the dazzling power of the imagery that nobody else we spoke to spotted Mme. Leblanc’s nipple as it escaped her Grecian-style gown. Here, purely in the interests of proving Fiona & I did not imagine it, is the nip-slip.

I have been informed that my blog is BANNED at the BFI because their servers detect nudity and come down hard on it. If this is true of all our cultural bodies, I wonder how the art galleries manage to function.