Archive for Paul Leni

Out of the Blu

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on November 28, 2020 by dcairns

Slow news day today as I’m frantically trying to finish my first ever commentary track. Perhaps foolishly, I’m trying to reinvent the form, because, let’s face it, commentaries are not usually very interesting. I may have found a way to make them dazzling, or else irritating, we’ll see.

But, out of the blue, a care package from Masters of Cinema. Very excited about the Honda films, which I’ve never seen. Nervous about THE PAINTED BIRD (having read the book). And thrilled of course about WAXWORKS. Will try to write more about these next week, when I’ve finished commentarying.

The Sunday Intertitle: Wax, Lyrical

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on August 30, 2020 by dcairns

The new restoration of WAXWORKS, out soon from Flicker Alley (US) and Masters of Cinema (UK), was screened in the online Il Cinema Ritrovato and looks amazing. You could step onto Paul Leni’s sets (and get promptly ejected) or stroke Ivan the Terrible’s beard (hard to say how he’d react, but you’d be taking you life in your hands). Fiona plonked herself ten-year-old fashion on the floorboards smack in front of our TV to soak up the expressionism at close range. You’ll ruin your eyes!

As a “Case Study” discussion hosted at the fest made clear, the German negative is lost, the original intertitles along with it, and the censor’s file, which usually contains records of what every title card says, came up empty. Drafts of the script survive, but differ significantly from the movie so don’t serve as a reliable guide. So we’re still dealing with the English-language intertitles in which, for what I suspect are censorship reasons, Jack the Ripper is incorrectly described as Spring-Heeled Jack. The Ripper murders were within living memory, and very unpleasant: SHJ seems not to have done any serious harm, just scared the crap out of people, and although he had been reported active as late as 1904, by 1924 there was probably less belief in him. His MO resembles that of the Men in Black in that it consists of unaccountable behaviour designed mainly, it would seem, to make an impression. He definitely DESERVES a waxwork, but Werner Krauss isn’t it.

We also learned from the discussion about the mysterious fourth figure: Rinaldo Rinaldi (third from the left — the figures are arranged in order of intended appearance). To my amazement he’s apparently played by the film’s leading man, William Dieterle, the Iron Stove himself, who acts as protag in each of the film’s embedded narratives. RR was a celebrated Italian bandit, and his story was to have been about him rescuing a kidnapped girl (hearts of gold, those bandits). But the money could not be raised and the sequence was never shot. A shortage of cash (post-WWI German mega-inflation) may also be the reasons Krauss’s Ripper sequence wound up so short. Though the version screened at the premiere seems to have been a good bit longer, the cuts don’t seem to have come from this section.

But as I say, though the vicissitudes of history prevent this original version from being reconstructed, what we get from the Deutsche Kinemathek and Cineteca di Bologna restoration is a far sharper and shinier vision, layers of accrued muck swept away so the movie greet us with startling immediacy.

Laughter in the Dark

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2020 by dcairns

We received our copies of THE MAN WHO LAUGHS and BUSTER KEATON 3 FILMS (VOL 3) from Masters of Cinema.

Fiona and I wrote a video essay for the former, and I did the latter with an excellent assist from Miranda Gower-Qian. Stephen C. Horne edited both, brilliantly — since we were on full lockdown, this had to be done remotely but with a little back-and-forth of uploaded edits, this was managed smoothly.

MAN WHO was a particularly ambitious job — we enlisted actor friends Steven McNicoll and Fran Dymond to perform extracts from the Victor Hugo source novel and interviews with the principal filmmakers — Conrad Veidt, Mary Philbin, Olga Baclanova, Paul Leni…

Both pieces are around half an hour rather than the usual twenty minutes we’re generally paid for — ideally, we want to make video essays that are proper little films… it’s been a slow process of chiseling at the outlines of the video essay, expanding it outwards…

Buy them at the links below, support Shadowplay!

The Man Who Laughs (Masters of Cinema) Blu-ray [2020]
Buster Keaton: 3 Films (Volume 3) (Our Hospitality, Go West, College) (Masters of Cinema) Limited Edition Blu-ray Boxed Set [2020]