Archive for The Golem

The Sunday Intertitle: A Collaborative Medium

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2019 by dcairns

Rabbi Loewe is a collaborative medium, summoning the demon Astaroth in DER GOLEM.

Masters of Cinema is releasing Paul Wegener’s epic about a great man with feet of clay, and I’ve done a video essay with Fiona for it, our first real collaboration of this kind. She read the narration of my DIARY OF A LOST GIRL piece but this time she’s co-writer and we read the VO in turn. Her researches turned up a crucial, forgotten female collaborator on the film.

Incidentally, the film is restored from the long-lost negative, and looks much, MUCH better than the YouTubey frame-grabs I’ve been forced to use here.

The movie is also going to be playing UK cinemas around Halloween, so don’t be surprised if it gets another Sunday Intertitle during Project Fear, our Euro-horror blogathon. The Blu-ray streets on November 18.

This was actually my second collaboration of this kind: Masters of Cinema are also releasing King Hu’s taut and exciting THE FATE OF LEE KHAN, and I co-wrote a video essay with the sublime Anne Billson for that one. Released on October 21st and available for pre-order.

Just a week later, on October 28th, FOX AT FULLER hits the shops, again with a video essay by me. This time I got Samantha Fuller to read her father’s words, which she does magnificently, so I seem to be sharing VO duties a lot recently. I’m reminded of the late Leonard Cohen’s observation on the effect of a female backing singer accompanying his voice: “Some dismal quality is neutralised.”

Jon Robertson produced all three discs, Stephen Horne video edited the essays on THE GOLEM and THE FATE OF LEE KHAN, and Timo Langer edited FULLER AT FOX.


The Sunday Intertitle: The Life-Awakening Word

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on August 18, 2019 by dcairns

The answer: Eureka! Masters of Cinema can.

These Gothic script English-language intertitles will soon be replaced by the original German jobs when we get to see the 4K restoration from the film’s rediscovered negative. This will also give us better camera placement — it’s basically a different film from the the English-language edition that’s been available all these years. Two cameras recorded the action, one for the German release and one for foreign territories, with the German one naturally taking priority for the prime viewing position.

I’m curious as to whether we’ll now get to see any of the missing camera movement or special effects which co-director Carl Boese recalled in his interview with Lotte Eisner. I suspect a lot of that is just faulty memory, but maybe not?

The phase “Thessalonian sorceror” would make a pretty good shibboleth.

Plagiarism Corner

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on August 16, 2019 by dcairns

“However, the Golem sets are far removed from the Caligari designs. The houses with their stiff, very tall, very narrow gables recall authentic medieval buildings; the design is a barely abstract interpretation of an unsanitary and overpopulated ghetto. In addition, and this is another contrast in expressionist films, a formal correlation exists between the sets and the costumes. Here the high gables parallel the Jews’ pointed hats.”

I really love Caligari’s Cabinet and Other Grand Illusions: A History of Film Design by Leon Barsacq, quoted above. It’s one of the first proper film books I owened, along with Brownlow’s Hollywood: The Pioneers. I sold both books at some point, then bought replacements because I felt I needed to own them.

So I was kind of scandalized when, researching DER GOLEM for a forthcoming piece, I stumbled upon the following passage in Lotte Eisner’s earlier The Haunted Screen ~

“This explains why the sets of The Golem are far removed from those of Caligari. The original Gothic forms are still somehow latent in these houses with their steeply-pitched thatched roofs. Their angular, oblique outlines, their teetering bulk, their hollowed steps, seem the none too unreal image of a distressingly insanitary and overpopulated ghetto where people actually live. The narrow gables are somehow echoed in the pointed hats and wind-blown goatees of the Jews, the excited fluttering of their hands, their raised arms clutching at the empty yet restricted space.”

Both works are translated: Roger Greaves did Eisner’s English-language version, Barsacq (a talented production designer) was translated by Michael Bullock and his book revised and edited by Elliott Stein. I strongly suspect that if you go back to the French editions, the phrases “a barely abstract interpretation of” and “the none too unreal image of ” will come out identical, proving not only that Eisner is a better writer than Barsacq, but that her translator is better than his translator.

It was the bit about the beards that made me realize I’d read these thoughts before. It’s a bit tenous, the beard argument, not one of Lotte’s finest.

Oh well, maybe this is becoming an OCCASIONAL SERIES, since I already gave Bogdanovich crap for recycling another journalist’s interview with Leo McCarey. If I reread all my favourite film books will I find a pilfered passage in each? How disillusioned can you get?