Archive for Masters of Cinema

Two

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2022 by dcairns

From Criterion, Terry Gilliam’s THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN, from Masters of Cinema THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI in 4K.

For Criterion, I got together with ace editor Chase Barthel to make a video essay charting the long and one would have to say STORIED history of Baron Von Munchhausen from real-life figure to literary character, illustration subject, movie star and even radio dialect comedian. Huge fun to do, allowing me to mess about with Mssrs. Méliès, Cohl, Zeman and Von Baky, as well as Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Gustave Doré.

CALIGARI is an upgrade from the earlier Blu-ray and ports over my earlier video essay edited by Timo Langer.

Another, smaller (but choice) Criterion announcement to follow soon.

The Actual Sunday Intertitle: The Midnight Call

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2022 by dcairns

To the Cameo to see Murnau’s NOSFERATU, maybe the only film we’ll see at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. The only other retro screening is THE LAST WALTZ. The modern films may be excellent but I don’t know anything about them. I think not having a retrospective is a mistake.

NOSFERATU may be one hundred years old but he’s fresh as a daisy. The screening used the original score as supplied by Eureka! Masters of Cinema. No live accompaniment. I think that score is good but too bombastic. I felt a disconnect — Murnau’s film seems stately and creepy, and Hans Erdmann’s judgement of when the big moments are doesn’t align with mine. But it certainly has atmosphere — it’s reminiscent of Wojciech Kilar’s work on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA.

I’d forgotten about the hyena, a bit of geographically astray fauna that anticipates Tod Browning’s famed armadillos and opossums. An intertitle indicates that we’re supposed to interpret this mournful-looking rather than laughing fellow as a “werewolf.”

A few interesting things I’d forgotten or else hadn’t noticed before, apparent on this very crisp big-screen presentation. When Hutter, terrified by Orlok’s nocturnal appearance, rushes to the window, Murnau provides his POV of a chasm and cataract, making it clear that there’s no escape via that route. But the POV shot appears to be UPSIDE-DOWN. The water trickling from the cliffs rains upwards. This seems to make it more dramatically vertiginous.

Quite possibly cameraman Fritz Arno Wagner is hanging by his feet to get this shot, so possibly the unusual angle was unintentional. They could have flipped it in the edit if they’d wanted to.

On my very first short I had a guy hang by his ankles to get a cliff shot. I was reluctant to let him, but he was very keen. (He was lying on a slope with the camera off the cliff — he wasn’t literally hanging but it was necessary to hold his ankles so he didn’t slide downhill…) My shot turned out rubbish.

Always intrigued by the psychic linkages. The art of editing spatially unrelated scenes together invites “spooky action at a distance” — the suggestion of mental links that cross gulfs of space. Ellen is psychically hooked into Hutter. Hutter, on the other hand, is oblivious to his distant wife, and indeed to everything else. Graf Orlok seems to wiretap Ellen’s psychic connection and reacts to her sleepwalking as he’s about to bite Hutter.

Knock, the Renfield character, becomes hooked in to Orlok’s plans. Seeing a ship arrive, he knows it’s his master’s, and he senses the death scene at the end. One of the barriers to fully accepting telepathy as a thing is that we don’t yet know the medium it would operate in. But in movies, it’s definitely found its medium. As in THE SHINING, montage = telepathy.

May mourning

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 29, 2022 by dcairns

After a slight delay, our copy of THE INDIAN TOMB finally arrived from Masters of Cinema. The Watson-Cairns video essay on this one expanded to a whopping 45 mins, as our mission, which initially seemed not too exciting, became more and more fascinating and emotional the more we learned about director Joe May in our research, and the more interested we got in weaving his history together with those of collaborators Fritz Lang, Thea Von Harbou and Conrad Veidt.

One interesting discovery was the “Stuart Webbs” series of detective dramas which helped establish May (and Lang). We were unable to see even a single partial example of this series, but the posters are sure pretty.

Our essay is also available on the US release of the TOMB from Kino.