Archive for Otto Rippert

The Sunday Intertitle: Die, Pest!

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by dcairns

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DIE PESTE IN FLORENZ — the plague in Florence — is a 1919 German epic scripted by Fritz Lang in his usual cheery style — the Florentine’s throw off the shackles of religious repression, and life becomes one non-stop orgy, at which point a plague descends and kills everyone. Lang’s grim sensibility is remarkable in the sense that it was commercially successful despite being so unremittingly bleak — look at DIE NIBELUNGEN, in which everybody is morally compromised and everybody dies. Can this really have been the Nazis’ favourite film? If they saw themselves in it, it’s prophetic, and also suggests a self-destructive drive at the root of their movement. I have my doubts. I’m not sure they had that level of insight.

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A slightly wishy-washy reconstructed intertitle, but we can make up for that with an ecstatic gallery — The Triumph of Death!

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Heavily inspired by Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, I assume, this movie ends with the Plague Personified (Juliette Brandt, the best actor in it) fiddling among the splayed corpses of the city, descending stairs towards us like Norma Desmond, though alas director Otto Rippert doesn’t have her fill the lens with a grotesque soft-focus close-up. But I like that she’s so chirpy, skipping and grinning away, reminiscent a little of the bandaged apparition of Simone Choule in Polanski’s THE TENANT. It’s a happy ending, for Death.

In other news — am contemplating staying up all night with friends, watching the Oscars, in which case I shall probably live-blog it. Since the event doesn’t really have much to do with movies, I guess I’ll just be ranking the frocks and political speeches and noting how few, if any, of these films I’ve seen… If I go for it, watch out for an ever-expanding blog post here. If I feel too sleepy, watch out for nothing.

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The Sunday Intertitle: A Not-So-Modern Prometheus

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2015 by dcairns

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The once-lost German serial HOMUNCULUS (1916) is slowly becoming less lost — an authentic full restoration may never be possible, but we’re promised we’re going to be able to see the whole story in approximately the right order, one day.

I’ve been looking at the surviving fragments. Otto Rippert directed — I never saw anything else from his prolific silent career. But the writer is Robert Reinert, later director of the hysterical, psychotronic OPIUM and NERVEN, so that cued me to expect drama at a fairly high pitch, and I was not disappointed.

Hanns Heinz Ewers had already published his perverse novel of artificial life, Alraune (later filmed thrice) at this point, and of course there was Frankenstein as a role model. I was immediately struck, though, by an odd, and most certainly coincidental connection with THE OMEN.

The truncated episode one begins with two births, one natural and one unnatural. Scientists place a glass sphere inside a special curvy cabinet, and after an undetermined period of gestation, pull out a wriggling baby. That’s the unnatural birth. I presume I don’t have to explain the processes involved in kickstarting the natural one.

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Death! Dead the baby of love, while the science one lives. My Italian is excellent. Self-taught.

There’s a fuddy-duddy scientist who gesticulates a lot — since this section of the film is available only with Italian intertitles, this seems kind of appropriate. This guy strongly disapproves of artificial babies. But then the child born to his household dies in its cot, and he abandons his scruples, switching the corpslet with the thriving-but-unnatural kid from down the block. The stage is set for tragedy — and for Gregory Peck to do something similar in Rome, sixty years later. Obviously, this isn’t going to end well. Or soon. (the full serial is six hours.)

The creation of life is notably undramatic compared to similar operations in METROPOLIS and FRANKENSTEIN (even the Edison version of 1910), but the weird equipment is impressive, and since it has no moving parts and no recognized scientific principle seems to be involved, it hasn’t dated at all. I believe it.

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Carl Hoffmann’s cinematography is astounding. We’re still in tableaux mode, largely, but the lighting! Hoffmann’s later career includes major collaborations with Murnau and Lang, but he’s clearly a great artist already.