Saturday, October 07, 2017

Film concert The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg, score by Carl Davis, played by Orchestra San Marco, conducted by Mark Fitz-Gerald


The Student Prince (1927). Ramon Novarro, Norma Shearer. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). Ernst Lubitsch, Marion Davies, Ramon Novarro, Mary Pickford, ?, Bebe Daniels, Jean Hersholt on set. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). Ernst Lubitsch directs Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The Student Prince (1927). The film set. Photo: Photoplay Productions, London.

Vanha Heidelberg / Gamla Heidelberg / Old Heidelberg / GB: The Student Prince / Il principe studente. US 1927. D: Ernst Lubitsch, exec prod: Irving Thalberg, scen: Hans Kraly [Hanns Kräly], photog: John Mescall, des: Cedric Gibbons, Richard Day, [+ Hans Dreier?], cost: Ali Hubert, Eric Locke, ed: Andrew Marton, titles: Marian Ainslee, Ruth Cummings, asst dir: George Hippard, script clerks: Andrew Marton, Joseph Newman, cast: Ramon Novarro (Prince Karl Heinrich), Norma Shearer (Kathi), Jean Hersholt (Dr. Juttner), Gustav von Seyffertitz (King Karl VII), Philippe de Lacy (young Karl Heinrich), Edgar Norton (Lutz), Bobby Mack (Kellerman), Edward Connelly (Marshal of the Court), Otis Harlan (Old Ruder), John S. Peters, George K. Arthur (students), Edythe Chapman, Lionel Belmore, Lincoln Steadman, Ruby Lafayette, prod: M-G-M, 35 mm, 9299 ft, 105 min (23–24 fps; brief sections 22 fps), tinted – 2 sections only; titles: ENG, source: Photoplay Productions, London.
    Score: Carl Davis (Thames Television; Faber Music Ltd.)
    Performed live by: Orchestra San Marco, Pordenone. Some 50 players.
    Conductor: Mark Fitz-Gerald.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Closing Gala.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Kevin Brownlow, Caroline M. Buck (GCM 2017): "Even when the Great War was over, anti-German films like The Four Horsemen and Mare Nostrum were banned both by Germany and Austria. The Central European market had to be won back. In showing sympathetic characters in German uniforms, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg followed the path set by Flesh and the Devil a year earlier."

"The source novel, Karl Heinrich, about the impossible love between a crown prince and an innkeeper’s daughter, was written in 1899 by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster, who made it into a play in 1901, Alt-Heidelberg, which opened in New York in 1903 as Old Heidelberg. In 1915, John Emerson filmed the novel with Wallace Reid and Dorothy Gish, the role of Lutz the valet being played by Erich von Stroheim. (Since Emerson used the title of the play, a lawsuit promptly ensued.) In Germany in 1923, Hans Behrendt adapted the play for the screen, starring Paul Hartmann and Eva May. An operetta, The Student Prince, by Dorothy Donnelly and composer Sigmund Romberg, opened in New York in 1924 and ran for several years."

"At M-G-M, William Wellman was promised the film as a reward for doing retakes on a Sternberg picture. Then he was fired, made Wings for Paramount, and became a star director. The Student Prince was offered to Erich von Stroheim. But his memories of being fired by Irving Thalberg on the 1925 Merry Widow were still painful. So Stroheim went away and made The Wedding March: a film about the impossible love between a prince and a shopkeeper’s daughter."

"In 1926, still under contract to Warner Bros., Ernst Lubitsch was negotiating with Paramount. M-G-M hoped to borrow him, then win him away for good. Warners offered to raise his salary, but Lubitsch signed with Paramount. (And thus missed making a film he had had his eye on, The Jazz Singer.) A compromise was reached. Both Paramount and M-G-M would pay compensation to Warners. Lubitsch would make Old Heidelberg for M-G-M, then join Paramount."

"Lavish sets and large crowd scenes made his new project M-G-M’s second most expensive silent film after Ben-Hur (it cost $1.2 million). But while the story department had reportedly been in touch with Meyer-Förster in 1925, it seems they ended up buying the rights to the operetta, and had to change the title of their film, first announced as Old Heidelberg (the title on this print)."

"Having secured Hans Kraly, Lubitsch’s scenarist, M-G-M – apparently against the wishes of the director – chose two of their best-known stars for the principal roles. For the Crown Prince, Ramon Novarro, who had played the lead in Ben-Hur. For the role of Kathi, May McAvoy, Marceline Day, and Fay Wray had been considered (Fay Wray did The Wedding March instead). Norma Shearer got the part, but proved troublesome, even though she was the fiancée of Irving Thalberg."

"According to Sam Marx, story editor at M-G-M, Lubitsch felt she was playing the waitress in too grand a manner. Lubitsch, usually mild-mannered, lost his patience. “‘Mein Gott!’ he shouted. ‘I can get a waitress from the commissary who will do better than you.’” Shearer asked for Thalberg to be brought to the set. “Lubitsch sat down calmly in his director’s chair, pulling on his unlit cigar, while everyone within earshot waited to see what would happen. What happened was that Thalberg listened to his bride, kissed her lightly, and said, ‘Darling, I’m sure we can all learn a lot from Mr. Lubitsch.’”"

"“The vast backlot at Culver City now resembles a corner of romantic Germany,” wrote Arnold Höllriegel, a German journalist visiting the set. To achieve authenticity, 32 trunkloads of uniforms and equipment had been brought over by Lubitsch’s costumier. Editor Andrew Marton said they used the biggest stage at M-G-M, with Heidelberg Castle as a false-perspective set. Outdoor scenes were shot in Laurel Canyon, whose oak trees were reminiscent of Heidelberg. Winter was simulated by having cast and crew pick off the leaves."

"Still Lubitsch was dissatisfied. During a trip to Europe he filmed exteriors of Heidelberg Castle. By the time the German footage arrived the picture was practically finished, and none of it was used. With M-G-M notorious for its retakes, contemporary sources have John M. Stahl reshooting a crucial love scene during Lubitsch’s absence. Not according to Marton, Lubitsch’s editor, and, as script clerk, present on the set: he has Lubitsch, unhappy with the scene (the flowers in particular seem to have incurred his displeasure), reshooting it himself."

"Beyond the witty, sophisticated style for which he was renowned, Lubitsch brings a darker tone to this film. (Though Marton notes that all allusions to Heidelberg’s “fencing fraternities” had been eliminated as alien.) The love story of a Prince and a peasant girl becomes something more universal than simply sacrifice in the face of duty: a reminder that past rapture can rarely be recaptured. A trade paper forecast that the picture would become “one of America’s greatest peacetime diplomats, soothing the cruel hurts inflicted by the World War”. When the film was released in England in 1929 (as The Student Prince) it was voted the best picture of the year."

"There’s one more thing: a rumour that during World War II, the USAAF general in command of the relevant sector so loved the film that he prevented Heidelberg being bombed. It’s as well no one told him that not a frame of the final print was actually shot there.
" Kevin Brownlow, Caroline M. Buck

AA: Revisited a high profile Ernst Lubitsch production which does not stand out in a retrospective but benefits enormously screened as a single special event. For certain guests The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg was the favourite film of the festival.

It is one of Lubitsch's most purely romantic films, a story of young love, and at the same time an impossible love. It has not the same quota of "Lubitsch touches" as almost all of his other 1920s films. Ramon Novarro and Norma Shearer are a bit distant in their roles as the Prince and Käthi. The unique Lubitsch mixture of irony and tenderness is milder than usually.

"It must be wonderful to be a prince" is the film's ironic refrain. Yes, it is, but a prince's life is also one of sadness and solitude, a life of etiquette, obligation, duty and formality.

The funniest moment is when the Prince chases Käthi at night, and the camera is tracking them on the other side of pillars. Until they no longer emerge from behind a pillar. A dog walking towards it does an abrupt U turn.

The bliss of love is condensed in a shot of Käthi and the Prince on a field of flowers in the Biergarten at night. It is a magic night with a shooting star. But they both know and understand.

The Prince is called back to take over as the King is falling ill. In the autumn he returns, but all is changed. "I may never see you again but I'll never forget". We cut to Karl Heinrich's wedding carriage. We never see the queen's face. "It must be wonderful to be a king".

I heard for the first time Carl Davis's exhilarating score to this film. Davis does not use Sigmund Romberg's operetta score, and neither did Lubitsch in the 1920s.

A brilliant Photoplay print.

Le Rosier miraculeux / The Wonderful Rose Tree (2017 restoration by Lobster Films)


Le Rosier miraculeux. FR 1904. Georges Méliès. Lobster Films, Paris.

FR 1904, D: Georges Méliès, prod: Star Films (Catalogue no. 634636), DCP (from 35 mm, orig. 52.30 m), 2'31", (transferred at 18 fps); no main title or intertitles. Source: The Brinton Collection – University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City; Library of Congress Packard Center for Audio-Visual Conservation, Culpeper, VA; Lobster Films, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone.
    Grand piano: Stephen Horne.
    Teatro Verdi, no titles, 7 Oct 2017.

Serge Bromberg (GCM 2017): "A new Méliès discovery, presented for the first time in Pordenone. The Brahmin, Iftikar, who enjoys a great reputation in India, has determined to create something miraculous which will place the seal upon his renown. He sows some seeds upon a carpet, prostrates himself, and in the course of his invocations, in less than an instant, the grains germinate. A small rosebush grows and produces beautiful roses. Aided by his servant, the Brahmin makes of them a magnificent bouquet, which is changed into a single enormous rose. The flower spreads out its petals and from its centre there darts forth a lovely young woman, whom the Brahmin strives to embrace. But she eludes him and dances a fascinating serpentine dance. She disappears, and the rosebush takes her place. Iftikar destroys the rosebush, and he confesses himself vanquished, for he has been able to create, but not to preserve."

"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Brinton Entertainment Company of Washington, Iowa, would travel throughout the Midwest bringing films, magic lantern slides, and other forms of entertainment to people who, in many cases, had never before seen such sights. Frank Brinton’s film collection – indeed, his entire life history – was on the verge of ending up in a dumpster in 1981. But local historian Michael Zahs stepped in and helped ensure its survival. Thanks to the American Film Institute, the Brinton prints were sent to the Library of Congress for preservation, where they survive today. These films include Pathé, Lumière, Edison, and many other productions, including a few unidentified titles. Two of these were lost films by Georges Méliès, Le Bouquet d’illusions (which was shown at the Bologna Cinema Ritrovato in 2016) and this one, Le Rosier miraculeux, or The Wonderful Rose Tree. The original print has long decomposed, and though the end is slightly incomplete, the film’s discovery is a miracle!"

"Frank Brinton and Michael Zahs are the stars of a new documentary dedicated to this treasure trove, Saving Brinton, directed by Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne.
" Serge Bromberg

AA: There is nothing to add to Serge Bromberg's account above. A perfect Georges Méliès féerie, a film of magic transformations and fantastic metamorphoses, even including a serpentine dance. A film about the pursuit of beauty and happiness, even about the elusive meaning of life perhaps.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (1959 print DFI)


Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København. Please click to enlarge the images.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). The triangle. Swein (Sigurd Langberg), Thora (Karina Bell), and Vasil (Emanuel Gregers). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Swein (Sigurd Langberg) and his father Gudmund (Charles Wilken). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). Thora (Karina Bell) and Vasil (Emanuel Gregers). Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Morænen / The House of Shadows (DK 1924). The finale: Thora (Karina Bell) plays the fatal tune. Photo: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.

Taivaan kosto / Himmelens hämnd / [La morena] / [The Moraine]. DK 1924. D: A. W. Sandberg, scen: Laurids Skands, photog: Louis Larsen, Chresten Jørgensen, des: Carlo Jacobsen, cast: Peter Nielsen (Thor Brekanæs, high sheriff), Karen Caspersen (Gunhild, his wife), Emanuel Gregers (Vasil Brekanæs), Peter Malberg (Aslak Brekanæs), Karina Bell (Thora, Thor’s god-daughter), Charles Wilken (Gudmund, tenant farmer), Sigurd Langberg (Swein Gudmundsson, his son), prod: Nordisk Films Kompagni, rel: 25.2.1924, 35 mm, 2346 m, 103 min (20 fps); titles: DAN, source: Det Danske Filminstitut, København.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: The Swedish Challenge.
    Music: Stephen Horne, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg (GCM 2017): "In a dark and desolate part of northern Norway, the all-powerful local magnate is the harsh and unforgiving Thor Brekanæs. In a prologue, he learns that his wife has sought solace in the arms of another and that her son Vasil is not his, unlike the child she now bears. As soon as this child is born, he throws her out and urges her to kill herself, which she does. Twenty-five years later, Brekanæs still broods over his shame. The second son, Aslak, is an imbecile, cared for by Brekanæs’s young god-daughter Thora. Brekanæs has ordered her engagement to his protégé Swein, the son of a poor tenant farmer whom he has taken under his wing."

"Vasil returns, having dropped out of law school to become a poet. He and Thora have long been attracted to each other, and Vasil calls off the engagement. Brekanæs is enraged at the defiance of the bastard he has never accepted or cared for, but before he can act against Vasil, the old man is murdered, his head crushed with a rock in the desolate moraine valley where he goes to scream his rage. Vasil is immediately suspected of having slain the unforgiving patriarch."

"Among the films made in the early 1920s by the Nordisk company in Denmark, only a small number emphasized their “Nordicness”. The wild, mountainous setting of Morænen (British title: The House of Shadows) makes it an important exception, but it is of course set in northern Norway, not Denmark, and thus lacks the national frame found in films from the other Nordic countries. Although it deals with inheritance and intergenerational conflict, a common theme of Nordic rural dramas, it is also different because it does not have any literary prestige attached; it is an original screenplay, written by the prolific Laurids Skands (1885
1934), who was a professional writer of film scripts rather than an established novelist or playwright. Skands had collaborated with the director A. W. Sandberg (18871938) on a number of films, including the first three of Nordisk’s four Dickens films. Sandberg was very proud of his work on Morænen, which was hailed by the Danish press as one of the pinnacles of Danish film art (an estimation which now seems excessive), but the director’s promotion of his own efforts appears to have been the cause of a permanent rupture with Skands, his long-time collaborator."

"Comparable films from the neighbouring countries, where the Nordic landscape plays an important role, tend to present it with pride – infused with grandeur, vitality, and national character; but Morænen presents it as a bleak, dismal wasteland that oppresses the souls of its inhabitants. Only in “the lands of the sun” – Italy, presumably – can love, art, and the human spirit flourish. The intertitles repeatedly invoke the joyless and stony character of the sunless northern lands where the film is set, and the mise-en-scène supports this. Although Sandberg and his crew travelled to Norway to shoot the exteriors on location, much of the film takes place indoors, the dark timbers and small, often off-screen windows contributing to the claustrophobic atmosphere. Contemporary publicity claimed that the Brekanæs home was based on a real Norwegian house, carefully measured and copied by Nordisk’s brilliant set designer Carlo Jacobsen; but the house we see in the film, particularly the large central hall with its grand, steep staircase rising into the gloom, seems remarkably gothic in comparison with the low-ceilinged dwellings in other Nordic films. With its patriarchal oppression and murder-mystery plot, Morænen has a strongly melodramatic feel to it, and a piece of music does play a central role: it calms a madman, brings back redemptive memories of a long-lost mother, and resolves the plot. The piece is not specified in the film, but a list of the musical selections accompanying the film at the première survives, and it is likely that the piece used was the “Berceuse” (1904) of the Finnish composer Armas Järnefelt, who wrote the original score for Mauritz Stiller’s masterpiece Sången om den eldröda blomman / Song of the Scarlet Flower (1919)."

"The print was made by the Danish Film Museum in 1959 from the original negative, with new titles following the original title lists from Nordisk.
" Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg

AA: A dark and gloomy tragedy about a magnificent house in the far north of Norway where summers are short and winters are long.

In the prologue Gunhild gives birth to Aslak while her husband Thor is unforgiven and raging because he is not the father of their first son Vasil. Gunhild's only consolation is music, playing her beloved harp. After the birth of Aslak Gunhild commits suicide by throwing herself to the river.

25 years later it turns out that Aslak is mentally retarded and the bright Vasil is giving up his law studies, instead seeking a career as a writer, to his father's endless disappointment. In both sons, Thor sees Gunhild's posthumous revenge. Thor has also adopted a daughter, Thora, and taken into his protection Swein, the son of a poor tenant farmer. Thor wants to see Thora married to Swein before he dies. But Thora rejects Swein's abrupt proposal. "I'll never love you".

Vasil returns home although his father is not willing to meet him. "Such a flower in a place like this" says Vasil to Thora. "No one has ever spoken to me like that". Vasil confronts Swein about Thora. "I won't allow Thora to be buried alive with you". The engagement ring falls to the ground.

Thora would love to play Gunhild's harp, but Thor has strictly forbidden it. The curse of the Brekanæs is expressed by weird screams and groans at night at the nearby moraine. It is Thor yelling out loud there.

When Thora plays Gunhild's favourite tune Thor breaks the instrument. "As I smash this harp I will smash you". Swein is having second thoughts: "I'm not going to make her unhappy". "Is this how you thank me of dragging you of the gutter?" Thor takes off to the moraine to scream. Aslak hears Vasil saying he would wish father dead.

Soon it turns out that Thor lies murdered at the moraine. Vasil is arrested but when Swein confesses that Thor was already dead when he saw him at the moraine he is himself taken to prison.

By the stream Thora hears Aslak confess: "I have sent father to sleep, just as the voices told me". Thora knows that there is one melody that makes Aslak almost normal again: "Now I can see myself for what I am. It seems mother came to me, as a dark shadow in the air", "The deep tones, they hurt me so".

A church visit is arranged for Aslak. Thora prays: "Will you speak to him through the sacred song?" Aslak relives the scene at the moraine. "Daddy, did the stone hit you? You are bleeding. Father, I have killed you". The voice from the fiord was mother's. "Father and mother smiling at me. Farewell, dear Thora. I'm so tired" says Aslak and dies.

Watching this movie I was not thinking about John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men but a little about Hans Alfredson's Den enfaldige mördaren (1980) and most importantly great Vatermord tragedies such as F. M. Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in which all the brothers have the opportunity and the motivation to kill their father. Certainly Thor is an almost mythical specimen of the atavistic, monstrous tyrant father figure against which sons must fight.

In certain ways The House of Shadows borders on horror, especially in the expressionistic use of the landscape. The house of gloom, the farm of the dark shadows is located in a valley in the middle of nowhere. The desolate moraine is a scene of anxiety, and the wild stream carries complex meanings of freedom and release: freedom of escape (for the young), but also a release from life itself (for Gunhild).

Based on a clue in the original playlist of Stephen Horne (grand piano, accordeon) and Elizabeth-Jane Baldry (harp) played "Berceuse" by Armas Järnefelt (1867–1958) as the theme tune, heard during the prologue, in harp-playing sequences, and in the scene of the revelation. They did so with such passion and conviction that there was a standing ovation after the screening.

This print of this dark film looks stuffy and heavily duped.

Noël de guerre / [War Christmas] (2014 restoration in 4K Gaumont Pathé Archives)


Léon Bernard (18771935). Portrait de Léon Bernard, de la Comédie Française, tableau peint par Georges A. L. Boisselier, reproduit par A. Noyer, éditeur à Paris — carte postale du salon des artistes français de 1910 à Paris. Wikipédia.

FR 1916, ?, story: Félicien Champsaur, cast: Le petit [Jean] Fleury (André), Léon Bernard (the postman), Marguerite Balza (André’s mother), Angèle Lerida (the postman’s wife), prod: Films Georges Lordier, dist: Agence Générale Cinématographique, rel: 12.1916. DCP, 15 min; titles: FRA, source: Gaumont Pathé Archives, Saint-Ouen, Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "By the time the Battle of Verdun finally ended in December 1916, after eleven carnage-filled months, the French army had suffered more than 350,000 casualties. That’s the background to Noël de Guerre, an extraordinarily tender film released around Christmastime that year, about André, a young boy whose father is away at the front, and whose mother is struggling to get by on the meager earnings she makes with her sewing machine. A kindly postman in mourning for the death of his own young child reads the boy’s letter to Santa, asking for some toys; deeply moved, he and his wife gather their son’s playthings and give them to André."

"Although the reconstructed intertitles make it ambiguous as to whether André’s father has been killed – we’re told he’s at the front – I’d argue that audiences at the time would have assumed he was dead, not just by his mother’s melancholy air but by the presence of her sewing machine. Already by April 1916, charities were collecting money to provide sewing machines to war widows with children, so they could earn a living. “This isn’t about charity; the machine would not be donated, but sold. However, monthly payments required of the recipients would be proportional to expected gains” (Le Figaro, 22 April 1916), thereby allowing these women a sense of dignity. Soon after the War, in mid-1919, the State itself stepped in, providing sewing machines to war widows who had at least three children younger than 16. It’s estimated the war turned 700,000 French wives into widows by the time it was over."

"The astonishing quality of the direction makes it especially frustrating that we can’t identify the filmmaker. Exteriors in Paris are shot with a true sense of realism, and interiors are lit with an eye to artistically defining people and spaces in ways that enhance the film’s emotional tenor. It’s been suggested that the producer, Georges Lordier (ca 1883–1922), was also the director, though it’s impossible to be certain. Lordier was the co-founder of the film magazine L’Echo du Cinéma (merging shortly thereafter with Le Cinéma), and in the busy year of Noël de Guerre, he was president of the Syndicat de la Presse Cinématographique as well as proprietor of the Cinéma des Folies-Dramatiques on the Boulevard Saint-Martin. Today he is best known for “Les Chansons filmées,” conceived in late 1917 as a way of promoting the French cause in allied and neutral countries via filmed enactments of popular French songs. By the time he died in January 1922, he had made over 300 such shorts.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: There is little to add to Jay Weissberg's remarks.

The narrative unfolds as a parallel montage on soirées de tristesse in two families. The little André is fretting about his toys which are in terrible shape while mother is sewing to make ends meet. "Nous sommes tous pauvres pour le moment". After the evening prayer mother kisses a locket with her husband's image while André writes a letter to cher petit Jésus.

At the Cimetière de Montparnasse the postman and his wife are at the grave of their child. At the post office André's letter is laughed at and thrown into the garbage bin. But the post official who has lost his child retrieves the letter and shows it to his wife. They decide to give to André the toys of their late son.

La Nuit de Noël: André expects to find his shoes filled with gifts but is deeply disappointed until the postman knocks at their door.

There is genuine tenderness in this short film, and a beautiful definition of light in the cinematography.

The digital restoration is glossy and polished.

La Femme française pendant la guerre / [The French Woman During the War]


La Femme française pendant la guerre (FR 1918). Alexandre Devarennes. The frame enlargement gives an impression of the beautiful cinematography and refined toning. Photo: © ECPAD-14.18 A 975.

FR 1918, D: Alexandre Devarennes, scen: René Jeanne, photog: Alphonse Gibory, cast: Suzanne Bianchetti, prod: Service Cinématographique de l’Armée (SCA); Service Photographique et Cinématographique de l’Armée (SPCA), 35 mm, 363 m, 19’54” (Pt. 1), 314 m., 17’10” (Pt. 2) =  677 m, 37 min (16 fps), tinted; titles: FRA, source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris. With special thanks to Noëlle Guibert and Francine Guibert, the granddaughters of the film’s director.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "In 1917, politician Louis Barthou delivered a much-reported lecture at the Sorbonne, “L’Effort de la femme française pendant la guerre,” published in full by Le Monde Illustré (28 April 1917) and well worth reading, especially for the way he suggests that women’s activities since 1914 helped to counter the reputation of French women as outrageous coquettes. He also details the various ways women’s work had helped the war effort – he calculates that 375,000 women were then employed in the private sector – as well as the moral support given by mothers, wives, and sisters as their men put their lives on the line."

"Whether directly inspired by the speech or simply channeling the rhetoric of the moment, director Alexandre Devarennes (1887–1971), working in collaboration with René Jeanne, then associated with the Service Cinématographique de l’Armée, made the two-part propaganda film La Femme française pendant la guerre, released in the summer of 1918 (the title could have been lifted from that of Countess Roger de Courson’s 1916 book, which was identical). An initial fictional scene with actors, including Jeanne’s wife Suzanne Bianchetti in her screen debut, directly appeals to the emotions with its brief vignette of a mother crying as her children play around her. From there, the film shifts into actuality territory, showing women in the city and country performing jobs traditionally associated with men: train station porters, tram conductors, chimney sweeps, factory workers, farmhands, etc. The second part details ways women directly help soldiers at the front, whether by knitting clothes, working as nurses and entertainers, or caring for future generations. After comparing women of the time to heroines of the past, Devarennes shows women awarded medals and, to give it a relatively up-to-date feel, hospitalized workers injured in the 30 January 1918 aerial bombardment of Paris."

"Each part’s opening intertitles consist of split screens with women engaged in various activities: plowing a field, in a factory, holding a baby. According to the magazine Les Potins de Paris (7 November 1918), La Femme française pendant la guerre was the first film to use this type of animated intertitle and ushered in a new cinema fashion, though the claim is unsubstantiated. Alphonse Gibory, whom Devarennes credited as the film’s cameraman in a 1968 interview, worked with Pathé and Éclair until joining the Service Cinématographique during the War. He collaborated with Devarennes on three films, and after the Armistice worked for the American Red Cross, for whom he filmed the 1919 International Red Cross conference in Cannes."

"Barthou significantly underestimated the number of women workers in France. In the agricultural sector alone, 3,200,000 female workers replaced the 3,000,000 farmers called up for service. By 1918, 430,000 women were working in munitions factories, 120,000 were nurses (of whom only 30,000 took a salary), 11,000 were employed in the post office, and 5,000 on the trams. When the War ended, most were quickly laid off.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: The split screen introductions to the sections are engaging. Jay Weissberg informs us above that the crying mother in the beginning is Suzanne Bianchetti in her screen debut (later to appear in some of the greatest films including Napoléon vu par Abel Gance, Casanova, and Verdun, visions d'histoire).

Mobilization volontaire des femmes: the imagery is striking of women washing railway cars, selling newspapers, taking care of transport errands in workers' dresses, working as chauffeurs, tram drivers, and conductors, and as street cleners and in other public works. They take care of industrial size kitchens and restaurants. In winters they sand streets. They sweep chimneys. They work at textile factories. They manufacture benches from wood. They also work in heavy metal industry, bulding electric engines and welding in what looks like a munitions factory. Ouvrières et mamans: while working they are breast-feeding.

À la campagne there is heavy toil in the fields, harnessing horses, steering ox sleds, and carrying water.

Fraternité et tendresse: the women's contribution to the general bien-être is invaluable. They take care of supply depots. They keep up hope – espérance, eg. by slipping good luck letters to helmets. Le réconfort is also provided by the cinema and toys for children. We see a big cinema audience.

Aide et consolation. In a beautiful superimposition we see a soldier sleeping and women at work. They dress all wounds: panser toutes les blessures. And serve steaming soup. A nurse helps an invalid read the papers, and to return to the recurrent theme of blindess in this edition of Le Giornate: voir pour ceux qui ne voient plus. Et préparer l'avenir: the joy of the children they meet as teachers.

Les repatriats: rediscover l'illusion du foyer perdu.

The women are compared with Sainte Geneviève, Jeanne d'Arc, and Jeanne Hachette for their devouement and héroïsme. We even observe them as victims of bombings and invalids at hospitals. The film ends with a Sainte Geneviève Day parade.

The director Alexandre Devarennes, the screenwriter René Jeanne and the cinematographer Alphonse Gibory bring a serene and tender touch to their grave subject both in urban and pastoral settings.

Although there is a duped look the beauty of the cinematography can be appreciated. I also admired the refined sepia toning and the occasional red tinting. I guess they may have been achieved via a colour internegative. Print-wise one of my fondest memories of this year's Le Giornate.

La Croix Rouge Suisse accueille des réfugiés français en gare de Bâle / [The Swiss Red Cross Welcomes French Refugees at the Basel Railway Station]


Image not from the movie. Des rapatriés à la gare du Bouveret en 1917-1918. Carte postale de la collection de Christian Schüle. NotreHistoire.ch.

CH/DE 1917, ?, photog: ?, prod: Alexander Gottfried Clavel-Respinger, 35 mm, 282 m, 17’37” (14 fps); titles: ENG (flash), source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100.
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, 7 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "It’s estimated that 2 million French men and women became refugees during the Great War; among that number were approximately 500,000 civilians in German-occupied territories who were repatriated through Switzerland. In addition to these figures were the 68,000 sick and injured prisoners of war from both sides accepted by neutral Switzerland to wait out the conflict in various facilities. French prisoners even had their own weekly newspaper, the Journal des Internés Français, supported by the French Ambassador to Switzerland and published between 1916-1918, complete with advertisements such as “French internees passing through Geneva, have your meal at Restaurant Dumont. Under the management of Mme. Dumont in the absence of her husband, fighting at the front.”"

"Unsurprisingly, the Red Cross was deeply involved in the care of these men, looking after their medical needs and ensuring that food, letters, and packages were properly delivered – the Basel train station even had an “infirmary” for damaged parcels. The city’s location on the frontier with Alsace made it a crucial transition point, hosting the Commission on Civilian Hostages and Prisoners (Commission des Otages et Prisonniers civils) as well as the Office for the Repatriation Committee (Bureau du Comité des Rapatriés). Though many refugees and POWs were received with true compassion by the Swiss, not everyone was welcome; historian Gérald Arlettaz has written thoroughly on the difficulties faced by refugees whose politics or ethnicity were considered “problematic,” resulting in considerable countrywide unrest.
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Moving footage of refugees being received at the Basel railway station, including little children. Long takes. Giant transportations. Flash titles.

Après l'incendie de Salonique, août 1917 / [After the Great Fire of Thessaloniki, August 1917]


Image not from the movie. Refugees following the destruction of the Great Fire of Thessaloniki in 1917. Public domain. Wikipedia.

FR 1917, photog: Gaston Haon, prod: Service Cinématographique de l’Armée (SCA), 35 mm, 33.3 m, 2’03” (14 fps); no titles, source: Établissement de Communication et de Production Audiovisuelle de la Défense (ECPAD), Paris.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Grande Guerra 100
    Grand piano: John Sweeney.
    Teatro Verdi, no titles, 7 Oct 2017

Jay Weissberg (GCM 2017): "“I saw a city dying, in the triple death throes of flame, ashes and smoke.” The words belong to the otherwise unknown Captain Ibrahim Jessé-Ascher, writing in the French magazine L’Illustration, after watching Thessaloniki burn (his byline reads “Inahim,” which is surely an error). Salonica, as it was generally known then, had for centuries been a multicultural jewel under Ottoman rule, and remained so after becoming part of Greece in 1912. Though residential districts were divided by religion and ethnicity, the polyglot population (a majority of whom were Jews) was proud of its cosmopolitan reputation."

"As a major port, Thessaloniki became an important staging ground for Allied troops once Greece officially entered the War in June 1917. Then on 18 August a small kitchen fire turned into an unspeakable conflagration, reducing enormous sections of the city to cinders and leaving 79,000 people homeless. The blaze took 32 hours to control, partly because of antiquated fire-fighting equipment and narrow streets, but also because much of the water supply had been commandeered by the tens of thousands of Allied soldiers stationed there."

"Jessé-Ascher evocatively described the scene: “It was as if an invisible hand were passing the torch of divine vengeance over the city. The scourge seemed endowed with a sort of terrible intelligence, a malicious subtlety. It rose, brooded, crawled, leapt up, and upon its impact, one by one, they all collapsed – tall houses, mosques, churches, synagogues. Like black candles from some Satanic mass, the minarets tapered away, pink, or lily-white, imploring to the last, in this terrifying liturgy of the unrelenting element…. One hundred thousand poor souls, with no refuge, no means, no bread, no clothing, at the same time cursing – with the total injustice of Woe – the scourge that had ruined them.”"

"Given the large presence of Allied troops, it’s not surprising that many cameramen were in Thessaloniki to record the carnage. Après l’incendie de Salonique, août 1917 was filmed by Gaston Haon, attached to the Service Cinématographique de l’Armée. After the War, it was Haon who encouraged Julien Duvivier to become a director, and the two worked together on Duvivier’s first film (a Western), Haceldama ou Le Prix du sang (1919), and again in 1929, on Maman Colibri."

"It’s impossible to know whether Après l’incendie de Salonique, août 1917 can be connected with the 100 metres of film screened on 10 September in Paris, described by Hebdo-Film as showing “the formidable fire that just destroyed half of Salonica.”
" Jay Weissberg

AA: Devastating footage of the Great Fire of Thessaloniki, a city known since the classical antiquity, today the home of Aristotle University (Aristotle was born not far from the city). Half of the Jewish population lost their homes. Lively footage of people, bleak images of ruins. Good visual quality.

Seven Footprints to Satan


Seven Footprints to Satan (US 1929). Photo from the English Subtitles Club website.

Seven Footprints to Satan (US 1929). Photo: from the Hollywood Gorilla Men website.

Seven Footprints to Satan (US 1929). Front row: William V. Mong, Thelma Todd, Charles Gemora (gorilla). Back row: Creighton Hale, Sojin, Nora Cecil.

La scala di Satana [the title on the print]. US 1929. D: Benjamin Christensen, scen: Richard Bee [Benjamin Christensen], from the novel by Abraham Merritt (serialized in 5 parts, 1927; published as a novel, 1928), titles: William Irish [Cornell Woolrich], photog: Sol Polito, ed: Frank Ware, make-up: Perc Westmore, cast: Thelma Todd (Eva / Eve Martin), Creighton Hale (James “Jim” Kirkham), Sheldon Lewis (The Spider), De Witt Jennings (Uncle Joe), Sojin (Satan’s majordomo), Laska Winter (Satan’s mistress), Nora Cecil (Satan’s housemaid), William V. Mong (Professor X), Kalla Pasha (the false Professor Wrede), Angelo Rossitto (the dwarf), Doris Dawson (Satan’s chosen one), Thelma McNeil (woman in Satan’s house), Loretta Young (victim in white dress), prod: Wid Gunning, First National Pictures, rel: 17.2.1929, copy: DCP (from a nitrate print of the Italian distribution version [Pittaluga Filmsonor], missing the First National-Vitaphone soundtrack), 70 min; titles: ITA, source: Cineteca Italiana, Milano.
    The film was not released in Finland.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Cineteca Italiana 70.
    Grand piano: Daan van den Hurk.
    Cinemazero, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Casper Tybjerg (GCM 2017): "The naïve, sheltered Jim Kirkham has inherited a large fortune and announces his intention to slake his thirst for adventure by going to “darkest Africa” to seek a lost city. His uncle Joe and his girlfriend Eve try to dissuade him, but he remains determined. Attending a large party where Eve’s father shows off a priceless gemstone, Jim quizzes a mysterious guest whom he suspects might be an impostor; suddenly, several others pull out revolvers and start shooting, and pandemonium erupts. Jim flees with Eve, but they find themselves locked inside the car and taken to a vast mansion belonging to the mysterious Satan. Here, they come upon all manner of bizarre goings-on, including a huge, orgy-like party, but their attempts to escape are thwarted again and again by strange and unsettling figures. At the end, to save Eve, Jim is forced by the hooded figure of Satan to confront the challenge of the seven footsteps, risking servitude – or death."

"A delightfully bonkers haunted house comedy-thriller in the mold of The Cat and the Canary (which also featured Creighton Hale), the film is marked throughout by Christensen’s delight in shadow effects and riotous sense of humor. It is based on a grim and serious, even sadistic terror novel written in 1927 by the top pulp writer Abraham Merritt (whose extravagant fantasy The Ship of Ishtar remains a great read). In Merritt’s novel, Satan is an imaginatively sinister and demonically cruel Fu Manchu-like master criminal, but in this adaptation by Christensen and William Irish he becomes a very different figure, in keeping with the light-hearted tone of the film. Merritt’s Kirkham is a hardened man of action, an ex-secret agent and Indiana Jones-like adventurer; the movie’s Jim is a bespectacled, wide-eyed dilettante."

"Still, Christensen’s film features many elements of menace and perversity: Satan’s mansion is peopled by an extraordinary gallery of weird and threatening figures, including a turbaned oriental played by Sojin (the villainous sorcerer from Fairbanks’ The Thief of Bagdad), a slinky black-dressed femme fatale, and a killer ape. The place is filled with secret doors popping open to startling effect, and while the orgy scene stays well within the boundaries of what a Hollywood film could show at the time, the atmosphere still seems remarkably debauched. Christensen presents us with some really startling images – a ballroom filled with black-hooded men dancing with masked ladies in elegant gowns; a dainty hand with a jeweled bracelet reaching out of a coffin; and a naked woman held down by a gorilla’s paws to be whipped – or worse."

"Historian Arne Lunde has argued that the film is “a modernist and self-reflective text”: “the nonsensical architectonic heterogeneity and abrupt spatial dislocations of the film’s three mystery mansions double for the American film factory itself. Creighton Hale’s Jim Kirkham is a Harold Lloyd / Buster Keaton-like naïf trying constantly to make sense of an unstable world of generic narrative fragments that keep shifting, evaporating, and transforming around him” (Journal of Scandinavian Cinema 1:1, 2011, p.16). In Christensen’s Hollywood publicity shots, he is practically never seen without a cigar – even when lying on the floor setting up a low-angle shot – and Lunde suggests that the cigar-smoking Uncle Joe can be seen as a stand-in for the director."

"Christensen made his mark as a director with his first two Danish films, Det hemmelighedsfulde X / The Mysterious X (1914) and Hævnens Nat / Blind Justice (1916), followed by the extraordinary Swedish production Häxan / Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922). After two years in Germany, Christensen moved on to Hollywood in 1925, making several films for M-G-M before joining First National, where he made four smaller-budgeted but apparently quite successful films, of which Seven Footprints to Satan is the only one to survive. It followed two other mystery-comedies, The Haunted House and House of Horror. Seven Footsteps was also considered lost until the 1960s, when a nitrate print with Italian titles was discovered in the collection of the Cineteca Italiana in Milan.
" Casper Tybjerg

AA: Paul Leni had launched the haunted house genre with The Cat and the Canary (1927) at Universal Pictures.

To that genre belongs also Seven Footprints to Satan, made during Benjamin Christensen's last year in Hollywood. It was one of the films in which he collaborated with Cornell Woolrich.

Creighton Hale stars as the heir Jim Kirkman who is about to go to darkest Africa to discover the oldest civilization in the world. "You wouldn't last ten days. You haven't even explored the garden of your villa".

There is a scandal at a reception where everybody is not what they seem. Together with his girlfriend Eve (Thelma Todd) Jim is kidnapped to a strange house where they meet exotic figures such as dwarves, an apeman, a man with crutches, a monkey, and Chinese. There is a strange party, perhaps an orgy, with scantily clad ladies, hosted by a man called Satan. In front of him Jim is put to a test of the seven footsteps.

Nothing is what it seems, but an an air of perversity and the uncanny lingers. (Someone mentioned Eyes Wide Shut.)

Benjamin Christensen is at home in the dream mode. The sense of the uncanny brings to mind The Island of Lost Souls, The Hour of the Wolf, and Twin Peaks. The elaborate plot evokes The Game, but Seven Footprints to Satan is superior.

Shot by Sol Polito, the film is visually exciting with an imagery of darkness, a map of unusual faces, eloquent close-ups and sets in which we can follow the action on two floors.

The copy is watchable with an occasionally soft and duped look.

Anna-Liisa (1922) in Pordenone


Anna-Liisa (FI 1922). In the flashback the farmhand Mikko (Einari Rinne) is in love with Anna-Liisa (Helmi Lindelöf), the 15 year old daughter of the Kortesuo farm.

FI 1922. D: Teuvo Puro, Jussi Snellman, scen: Jussi Snellman, based on the play Anna Liisa (1895) by Minna Canth, photog: Kurt Jäger (interiors), A. J. Tenhovaara (exteriors), des: Carl Fager, ed: Teuvo Puro, Kurt Jäger, cast: Hemmo Kallio (the master of Kortesuo), Meri Roini (the mistress of Kortesuo), Helmi Lindelöf (Anna-Liisa, the daughter at Kortesuo), Greta Waahtera (Pirkko, her little sister), Emil Autere (Johannes Kivimaa, Anna-Liisa’s fiancé), Mimmi Lähteenoja (Husso), Einari Rinne (Mikko, Husso’s son, now a lumber boss), Axel Ahlberg (provost), prod: Erkki Karu, Suomi-Filmi Oy, filmed: summer 1921 – winter 1922, rel: 20.3.1922, DCP (from 35 mm, 1581 m), 69 min (transferred at 20 fps), tinted; titles: FIN, SWE, subt. ENG by Maarit Tulkki, source: KAVI – Kansallinen audiovisuaalinen instituutti, Helsinki.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: The Swedish challenge.
    Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau.
    Cinemazero, e-subtitles in Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg, Antti Alanen (GCM 2017): "Anna-Liisa, the daughter of a well-to-do farm-owner, is engaged to be married to a wealthy young neighbor, Johannes. She is admired for her upright and decorous nature, but she carries a dark and melancholy secret that once drove her to the brink of suicide. The secret is known to old Husso, the mother of Mikko, formerly a farmhand on Anna-Liisa’s father’s farm. Mikko has made a lot of money as a log-rolling boss and now returns to claim Anna-Liisa as his bride. She does not want him, but she is caught in a bind by Mikko and Husso’s threat to expose her dreadful secret: that she became pregnant by Mikko and in desperation killed her newborn child."

"Even today, making an infanticide the heroine of a story seems incredibly bold. The film was based on the 1895 play Anna-Liisa, written by Minna Canth (1844–1897). Canth was a pioneer of realism on the Finnish stage and a committed participant in the debates on the social position of women and the institution of marriage that raged across the Nordic countries in the 1880s and 1890s. Her strong stance against the oppression of women and the poor made her work controversial, but when the film was made, Canth was recognized as the most popular and prolific Finnish-language dramatist. Adapting one of her plays was therefore a logical choice for a film company wanting to make a Swedish-style national film based on a distinguished literary work. The final result was a success; Anna-Liisa even became the first Finnish film to be exported (it premiered in Stockholm in September 1922)."

"The stage play is quite compact, with all three acts using the same set: everything happens in the main room of Anna-Liisa’s father’s farm. The film effectively opens up the play, moving quite a bit of the action outside and adding little vignettes of Finnish rural life, including a shot of Johannes emerging from a sauna and a scene of Mikko among his fellow log-rollers, visualizing an important type in Finnish films, the virile but sometimes loutish lumberjack. The film also uses flashbacks to fill in the backstory, including gorgeous images of Anna-Liisa’s summer-night tryst with Mikko. All these exterior shots help to give the film a rural pictorial atmosphere which resembles some of the best Swedish achievements of the period. It should however be pointed out that Mikko’s profession as a lumberjack was also an element of the stage play, so this detail is therefore not an addition inspired by Mauritz Stiller’s Sången om den eldröda blomman (Song of the Scarlet Flower, 1919), even if that film was especially influential for Finnish film production."

"Teuvo Puro (1884
1956) was one of the makers of the first Finnish fiction film, Salaviinanpolttajat (The Moonshiners, 1907), in which Jussi Snellman (18791969) played the lead. Puro and Snellman were both actors with the Finnish National Theatre in Helsinki, and the leads of Anna-Liisa, Lindelöf, Autere, and Rinne, also came from there. In 1919, Puro was one of the co-founders of Suomi-Filmi, one of Finland’s two leading film companies during the studio era. Puro went on to make several important silent films, including Meren kasvojen edessä (Before the Face of the Sea, 1926) and Noidan kirot (The Curse of the Witch, 1927)."

The print

"A new digital restoration based on a duplicate positive was carried out by KAVI (The National Audiovisual Institute, Helsinki) in 2013. The material was scanned at 2K but because of frame-line issues in the first-generation material the image had to be scanned twice; the best alternative was selected scene-by-scene. The restoration was conducted using DaVinci Revival and PFClean software programmes. Almost all scenes have been stabilized, and flicker, dirt, scratches, tears, splices, and all manner of patina have been removed when possible. Contrast has been corrected, and colour has been added according to original models using DaVinci Resolve software; the DCP has a colour solution similar to tinting." Magnus Rosborn, Casper Tybjerg, Antti Alanen

AA: I have already blogged about this restoration of Anna-Liisa in 2014.

The subject-matter is distressingly topical, including this week in the U.S. Congress as the Donald Trump administration seeks to roll back the birth control mandate.

Infanticide is a heavy topic. Minna Canth in her final work confronted it boldly, aware of how acute it was in reality. In the 1890s the 15 year old Anna-Liisa, daughter of a prosperous farmer, cannot marry her lover Mikko because he is only a farmhand without means. Abortion is illegal, and to keep a baby out of wedlock would destroy Anna-Liisa's life. Nobody would marry her. Nobody would take care of her. (This week in Pordenone we have seen films of young mothers in similar situations in Der gelbe Schein and Fante-Anne. In both the mother dies and the orphan baby is left in the care of others).

This is Anna-Liisa's coming of age story. At first she is a victim of circumstances; in the finale she transcends them. She takes full responsibility of her actions although the world has been unfair to her. Doing so she wins everybody's respect, and Johannes will be waiting for her when she is released from prison. This is a story of Anna-Liisa's growth to her full strength of character.

Infanticide is not an exceptional theme in world art. It is central in Goethe's Faust, in the tragedy of Gretchen / Margarethe.

It was also a key theme also in Tolstoy's play The Power of Darkness which Canth had not yet read or seen, but Canth was deeply Tolstoyan, and their minds moved along similar tracks. The Power of Darkness had its Finnish premiere in 1896, the year after Anna-Liisa.

Selma Lagerlöf's great international breakthrough novel Jerusalem (19011902) starts with infanticide. Gerhard Hauptmann's play Rose Bernd (1903) also deals with infanticide; its Finnish premiere was in 1914. Carl Th. Dreyer's first film The President (1919) is a trial drama about infanticide. As is Victor Sjöström's first American film Name the Man (1924) based on a novel by Hall Caine.

In D. W. Griffith's Way Down East (1920, based on a play by Lottie Blair Parker) the seduced girl (Lillian Gish) becomes pregnant and the baby dies. While it is not a story of infanticide the tragedy is similar to Goethe, Tolstoy, Canth, Lagerlöf and Hauptmann.

Anna-Liisa the 1922 adaptation belonged to the early prestige works of the Finnish cinema. Based on a compact play that obeys the three unities it has been successfully opened up cinematically (with flashbacks, dream sequences and lumberjack scenes), and yet it retains the explosive intensity of the tragedy in the psychologically complex finale.

Among the weaknesses is the casting of Helmi Lindelöf (18841966) in the leading role of Anna-Liisa who is 18 years old during the present of the narrative (and 15 in the flashbacks). Lindelöf would have been at the right age to play Anna-Liisa's mother rather than Anna-Liisa. There are instances of overacting.

Einari Rinne (18901933) is photogenic in his first film role as the lumber boss Mikko, now a man of independent means who returns to reclaim Anna-Liisa whom he had seduced three years earlier. Einari Rinne was the eldest of three charismatic actor brothers. Jalmari Rinne and Joel Rinne had long careers in the theatre and the cinema, and the family is a continuing presence on the Finnish stage.

Because of Einari Rinne's effortless masculine presence we may sense that Mikko might have been the right one for Anna-Liisa if the social conditions would have been fair to both. However, his temperament is too violent, whereas Johannes's presence remains too tame.

Watching this Finnish film in an international festival I became aware of the high literary quality of the intertitles which the translation fails to convey. Finland is bilingual, but already the original Swedish intertitles missed the poetry. The English translation is faultless and accurate but without literary flair. The same probably goes for the Italian translation. (There was a moment of amusement in the audience when the titles in four languages appeared for the first time.)

Gabriel Thibaudeau focused on the interior development of the psyche in his subtle and lyrical musical interpretation.

The DCP has been expertly created from excellent source materials. As always, I have my reservations on simulations of tinting on digital.

Cinemazero was so packed that there was a long queue outside of festival patrons who were left out of the screening.

Podvig vo ldakh / Heroic Deed Among the Ice


Подвиг во льдах (1928). From the website: Humus.dreamwidth.org. Советские кино и театральные плакаты 1920-1930-х годов

Подвиг во льдах. Поиски экипажа "Италии". Героический фильм в 7 ч. [A Feat in the Ice. In Search of the Crew of the Italia. A Heroic Film in Seven Acts] / Urotyö Jäämerellä / Exploit on the Ice / Ice-Breaker Krassin / [Feat in the Ice / Impresa tra i ghiacci], D: Sergei Vasiliev, Georgii Vasiliev (USSR 1928), photog: Wilhelm Bluvshtein, Ignatii Vallentei, Evgenii Bogorov, prod: Sovkino (Leningradskaia fabrika), DCP (from 35 mm, 2016 m), 71 min; titles: RUS, source: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Soviet Travelogues.
    Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz.
    Cinemazero, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Oksana Sarkisova (GCM 2017): "The industrialization campaign in the Soviet Union brought growing attention to the Arctic as a new frontier of symbolic spatial politics. In 1928, international media attention was drawn to the efforts to save Umberto Nobile, a famous Italian airship designer, and his team following the catastrophe on the expedition to the North Pole of the airship Italia. Nobile’s expedition started off from Milan in April 1928; on May 23, the airship left Spitsbergen and headed towards the North Pole. Two days later the Italia crashed; several survivors, including Nobile, set up a red-coloured tent off Foyn Island, in the northeast (the least accessible region of Svalbard), and sent out SOS signals. Several countries participated in the rescue mission. The Soviet Union dispatched several ships, three of them with cameramen on board. The rescue operation became the subject of Georgii and Sergei Vasiliev’s compilation film, Feat in the Ice. Cameraman Evgenii Bogorov worked on board the research vessel Persei, Ignatii Vallentei filmed on the icebreaker Malygin, and Wilhelm Bluvshtein, who also served as the directors’ assistant on the production of the film, was dispatched to the icebreaker Krasin, which ultimately played the central role in the rescue mission. Feat in the Ice combines footage by various cameramen, and interweaves several expeditions into a single heroic narrative."

"The film opens with footage of Georgii Sedov’s 1912 expedition, which, despite its tragic end, is referenced as an early predecessor of Soviet polar exploration. This is followed by a brief mention of Roald Amundsen and Umberto Nobile’s 1926 flight to the North Pole on the airship Norge. Amundsen is greeted by crowds upon arriving in the USSR; an animated map traces the expedition’s itinerary. The rest of Feat in the Ice focuses on the 1928 rescue mission. The tripartite structure of the first part of the film reminds us of a folktale with three heroes: the Persei starts off from Murmansk and gets caught in the ice shortly upon its departure; the Malygin departs from Arkhangelsk and also becomes stranded in the ice, yet continues its search mission with an airplane operated by pilot Mikhail Babushkin. Finally, the Krasin becomes the main hero of the story: it takes off from “the city of Lenin” and, as if guided by the “directing” gesture of Lenin’s monument, cuts across the desert of ice. While its advance is slowed down by propeller blade damage, the icebreaker sends out a Junkers aircraft operated by Boris Chukhnovsky, which identifies several men on the ice but is itself forced down onto an ice floe by thick fog. Flying together with Chukhnovsky, Bluvshtein records the experience of the crew, a polar bear hunt, a “festive” meal, and spectacular icy panoramas as a backdrop."

"The film repeatedly emphasizes the pioneering achievements of the Krasin, which set a record for advancing the farthest north in the Svalbard region. The final reel highlights international media interest in the event – printing presses, radio stations, telegraphs, and crowds of newspaper boys not only circulate reports about the rescue, but also propagate a proud Soviet narrative of pioneering exploits in the Arctic. The survivors who appear on record are radio operator Giuseppe Biagi, technician Natale Cecioni, navigator Alfredo Viglieri, and of course expedition leader Umberto Nobile, among others. Swedish pilot Einar Lundborg, who picked up Nobile from the ice floe but crashed his plane on the return for more survivors, also appears in the film. The Krasin’s rescue mission was unexpectedly extended, as in late July it also offered assistance to the German passenger liner Monte Cervantes with 1,800 passengers on board, when it collided with an iceberg on its journey from Norway’s North Cape to the Svalbard archipelago."

"In the final episodes, the Krasin arrives at Stavanger in Norway, where Soviet Ambassador Alexandra Kollontai, an organized group of Norwegian workers, foreign correspondents, and a group of youth identified as “Norwegian pioneers” visit the ship. The closing scenes show the Krasin carrying on the Soviet mission of mastering the Arctic regions. Feat in the Ice remains an important document of transnational solidarity, the strengthening rhetoric of ideological competition in the Arctic, and the cameramen’s dedicated work in harsh polar conditions.
" Oksana Sarkisova

AA: An Arctic documentary film of high value, an account of the international rescue mission to save the crew of Umberto Nobile in 1928, with a focus on the Soviet contribution.

The film begins with a résumé of previous Arctic explorations, including Sedov and Amundsen. Umberto Nobile dedices to fly "to the place where not even the eagle has landed". Nobile does reach the North Pole with his zeppelin Italia but crashes on his way back with heavy casualties. There is an international rescue mission. (Even Finland participated).

This film focuses on the Soviet contribution. Of the Soviet ships, Persei, Malygin, and Krasin had camera crews, and the film is based on their footage. There are epic tracking shots from the ships, and stunning aerial footage from the airplanes. Exciting moments include hauling airplanes from the ships, and footage of crashed airplanes. Seagulls and ice bears are sighted. The audience squirmed when ice bears were shot, and there was a silence even in the music. Krasin, "the most powerful icebreaker of the world", is observed facing its biggest challenges, trying to cut the heavy ice.

The visual storytelling is mostly classical, but towards the end there is a montage approach as the message of the success of the rescue travels around the world: we see printing presses, newsboys, etc.

There is an escort to Hammerfest, and in Stavanger a meeting with Alexandra Kollontay, the Soviet Ambassador, one of the first women to hold such a post. There is a propaganda moment which weakens the film as propaganda. The film ends in montage style. In the final images the ice is breaking.

The grip on the narrative is not very strong, but the footage is often amazing. Animation is often used on maps to make sense of the voyages.

José Maria Serralde Ruiz provided a heroic musical commentary with references in the beginning to Sergei Rachmaninoff's fifth piano prelude (Прелюдии для фортепиано / Ten Preludes, Op. 23, 1903, No. 5, in G minor) and towards the finale to Dmitri Shostakovich's concertino for two pianos (Концертино для двух фортепиано, соч. 94, 1954).

The visual quality is uneven but often enough good and with full contrast.

The Red Tent (Красная палатка), a fictional account of the voyage was directed by Mikhail Kalatozov as his last film in 1969 with Peter Finch (Umberto Nobile), Sean Connery (Roald Amundsen), Claudia Cardinale (Valeria), Eduard Martsevich (Malmberg) and Hardy Krüger (Lundborg).

Kara-Dag. Zhemchuzhina vostochnogo Kryma / [Kara-Dag. The Pearl of Eastern Crimea]


Kara-Dag (SU 1929), D: Anatoly Zhardiniye. Photo: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.

Карадаг. Жемчужина восточного Крыма / [Kara-Dag, la perla della Crimea orientale]. SU 1929, dir, photog: Anatoly Zhardiniye, prod: Sovkino, DCP (from 35 mm, 359 m), 13 min; titles: RUS, source: RGAKFD, Krasnogorsk.
   Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: Soviet Travelogues.
   Grand piano: José Maria Serralde Ruiz.
   Cinemazero, e-subtitles in English and Italian, 7 Oct 2017.

Oksana Sarkisova (GCM 2017): "The end of the 1920s witnessed a surge in mass tourism, prompting Soviet film studios to increase their output of expedition films depicting the beauty and tourist potential of various regions. The Crimea was turning into “the people’s resort,” and kulturfilms started to promote the area as a popular locale.The coastline of the Black Sea, known as the “Soviet Riviera”, attracted the attention of filmmakers and cameramen in the second half of the decade. Kara-Dag (Black Mountain), a volcanic mountain range in Eastern Crimea, was especially famed as a destination for poets and artists in the early 20th century. Poet Maximilian Voloshin’s mansion in Koktebel at the foot of the mountain served as a summer residence and shelter for many “Silver Age” poets, including Marina Tsvetaeva, Osip Mandelstam, and Andrei Belyi, who found inspiration there, immersed themselves in “primeval” nature, and discovered a safe haven in increasingly troubled times."

"Cinematographer Anatoly Zhardiniye combined an interest in filming with experiments with gliding – another activity which has attracted many adventurers to the Crimea. In 1929 he produced this one-reel travelogue, which features numerous panoramic vistas, showcasing the beauty of the area’s picturesque coastline with its famous gorges and cliffs, and many natural rock formations, such as Kara-Dag’s Great Wall, Devil’s Finger, King, Queen, and other peculiar shapes linked to ancient legends. The film also includes a visit to the village of Otuzy, inhabited by Crimean Tatars, where the camera captures traditional dwellings (saklia), gardens and vineyards, a cemetery, and a winery. We also see the Biological Station of the National Academy of Science, established in 1901 by the scientist Terenty Vyazemsky (1857-1914), who transformed his own estate as well as donating his considerable library for the purpose. The station was later nationalized and continues to host a research center and a rich botanical and mineral collection. The film Kara-Dag thus fuses cultural, touristic, ethnographic, and scientific frames of reference.
" Oksana Sarkisova

AA: A geological travelogue of the magnificent volcanic rock formation Kara Dag (Black Mount) between Koktebel and the Otuzka River Valley on the south coast of Crimea.

Kara Dag is introduced in a tracking shot from a boat. Gora Svyataya (Sacred Mountain) has emerged from volcanic matter, liquidified lava. Mountain climbing is hazardous as stones are easily removed on the limestone slopes.

At the Kok-Kaya the destructive force of lime, the levelling impact is in evidence.

We observe the Ivan-Razboinik Rock, the mythical Vorota Karadaya (= today Zolotye Vorota or The Golden Gate, also known as Shaitan-kapu / Chertovy), and Chortov Palek = Devil's Finger.

From the underground water beautiful springs emerge. Cows are on pasture. We witness the erosion of Karache slopes. Ocean waves have worked the deep rock and the solidified lava.

At Otuzka villages grapes are cultivated. Grapes look juicy. Most become wine. Villagers dance a ring dance.

Finally we see the biological research station established by Terentiy Viazamsky. The Mediterranean vegetation is studied there.

André Bazin would have loved this film, as would Andrei Tarkovsky: a film about sculpting in time. There is a sense of the sublime in the way the landscapes are shot.

There were touches of J. S. Bach in the piano interpretation of José Maria Serralde Ruiz.

A pale dupe in low contrast of a film that must have looked beautiful.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Rudyard Kipling: The Vampire (a poem)


Philip Burne-Jones: The Vampire (1897), the painting that inspired Rudyard Kipling's poem. The webmaster informs us that the painting and the poem were exhibited side by side. The painter is Philip Burne-Jones, not his father Edward. The exhibition took place a few months before the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Image and data from the website Postcard Roundup. The original painting is in monochrome (see below).

Rudyard Kipling
The Vampire

A fool there was and he made his prayer—   
    (Even as you and I!)   
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair—   
    (We called her the woman who did not care)   
But the fool he called her his lady fair
    (Even as you and I!)   

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste   
    And the work of our head and hand   
Belong to the woman who did not know   
    (And now we know that she never could know)   
And did not understand!   

A fool there was and his goods he spent   
    (Even as you and I!)   
Honour and faith and a sure intent   
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant)
But a fool must follow his natural bent   
    (Even as you and I!)   

Oh, the toil we lost and the spoil we lost   
And the excellent things we planned   
Belong to the woman who didn’t know why
(And now we know that she never knew why)   
    And did not understand!   

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide   
    (Even as you and I!)   
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside—
(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)   
So some of him lived but the most of him died—   
    (Even as you and I!)   

“And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame   
    That stings like a white hot brand—
It’s coming to know that she never knew why   
(Seeing, at last, she could never know why)   
    And never could understand!”

1897
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)
Public domain.

Philip Burne-Jones: The Vampire (1897). Public domain. Wikipedia. Please click to enlarge the image.

A Fool There Was, film concert (2017 score by Philip C. Carli)


A Fool There Was (US 1915) with Theda Bara and Edward José. William Fox Vaudeville Company / Box Office Attractions Company. Public domain. Image: Wikipedia. Please click to enlarge the image.

US 1915, D: Frank Powell, scen, adapt: Roy L. McCardell, Frank Powell, from: the play by Porter Emerson Browne (1909), the poem by Rudyard Kipling (1897), painting by Philip Burne-Jones (1897), photog: George Schneiderman, cast: Edward José (The Husband [John Schuyler]), Theda Bara (la donna vampiro / The Vampire), Mabel Frenyear (The Wife [Kate Schuyler]), May Allison (la cognata / The Wife’s Sister), Runa Hodges (The Child), Clifford Bruce (The Friend [Tom]), Victor Benoit (One of Her Victims [Parmalee]), Frank Powell (The Doctor), Minna Gale (The Doctor’s Wife), [Creighton Hale (The Vampire’s new admirer, guest at wild party), Makoto Inokuchi (servant)], prod: William Fox Vaudeville Company; presented by William Fox, dist: Box Office Attraction Co., filmed: 1914 (Fox / Willat Studio, Ft. Lee, New Jersey; St. Augustine, Florida), rel: 12.1.1915, 35 mm, 5284 ft (orig. 6 rl.), 78 min (18 fps); titles: ENG, source: The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
    Preserved with support from The National Film Preservation Foundation / Park Service, The Film Foundation.
    Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone: The Canon Revisited.
    World premiere of a score composed and conducted by Philip C. Carli.
    Played by the Philip C. Carli quintet with David Shermancik, Günter Buchwald, Romano Todesco, and Cristina Nadal.
    Teatro Verdi, e-subtitles in Italian, 6 Oct 2017

Leslie Midkiff DeBauche (GCM 2017): "“There has always been a mantle of mystery around me, a consummation partly the result of chance, partly of design, and partly the result of consistent work on the part of the press department,” said Theda Bara in 1916. Born in 1885 or 1890, in the shadow of the Sphinx or in Cincinnati, the daughter of an Italian painter or a Russian Jewish tailor, she played bit parts in several plays beginning in 1908 and acted in the Yiddish theatre. As Theodosia Goodman, her actual name, she appeared in the 1914 feature film The Stain (Pathé) directed by Frank Powell. The following year Powell moved to Fox Film, where he recommended the unknown actress for the role of The Vampire, “the woman who did not care… And never could understand,” in A Fool There Was. William Fox signed her to a five-year contract on the advice of Robert Hilliard, the matinee idol who had played the husband on stage when A Fool There Was ran at New York’s Liberty Theatre in 1909; he predicted that “the part will make her.” It did. Renamed Theda Bara, she became a celebrity."

"The artist Philip Burne-Jones (son of the famous Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones) had prefigured the female vampire, a soulless “rag and a bone and a hank of hair,” in his 1897 painting depicting a satiated woman, her eyelids drooping, her mouth half-opened, leaning over the still body of a man whose chest shows the mark of her teeth. Burne-Jones’s cousin, Rudyard Kipling, wrote a poem called “The Vampire,” which began with the words “A fool there was,” to accompany the painting’s exhibition. In 1909 the American author Porter Emerson Browne used the poem as the basis for a stage play. That same year he also fleshed out her story in a novelization which provided the Vampire’s backstory: she was the illegitimate child of a peasant and a debauched French nobleman."

"A slightly different vampire emerged in the Fox film (there had been two earlier movie adaptations: Selig’s 1910 The Vampire, and Vitagraph’s 1913 The Vampire of the Desert). Via the film’s narrative structure and its style – especially editing and mise-en-scène – Bara’s “hell cat” becomes, ironically, a more conventional but also a more dangerous “other woman,” wielding her sexuality to attain position and wealth. No longer the bad seed of a corrupt line or an embodied libido, she is an angry social climber whose seduction of the Husband is motivated by a snub from his wife. Even before she acts to entrap Schuyler, a father, Wall Street lawyer, and citizen-statesman on a mission to the Court of St. James, contemporary audiences would have recognized that she was ill-bred, if not immoral: her clothes are all “wrong.”"

"At a resort where most ladies are relaxing wearing white summer dresses and soft, non-tailored suits, the Vampire wears a tight striped skirt, and encases herself in an exotic form-fitting dark jacket with a long tapered back, like tails; the shape of this ensemble resembles a wasp’s carapace. Instead of a conventional wide-brimmed hat, trimmed with lace to keep off the sun, she sports a dark straw hat with a flipped brim on one side, with one tall trailing feather. Cutting-edge perhaps for Europe but outré in the Schuylers’ circles, she stands apart. Making her stand out even further in this milieu, she wears far too much make-up, especially around the eyes."

"The Vampire is contrasted with a range of female types. First, she competes with the long-suffering, ever-loyal Kate Schuyler for her husband’s love. Second, she is contrasted with Kate’s sister, a spunky American girl engaged to Schuyler’s best friend. While the Vamp is deviant in every respect, the sister represents all that is correct and appropriate to the gendered norms of the day. Surprisingly however, the most intriguing female character vis à vis the Vampire is the Schuylers’ young daughter."

"Her hair dressed in ringlets and a doll in her arms, the little girl seems to be as ingenuous as the Vampire is deceptive. And yet, an editing motif established early in the film parallels these two characters. In a series of juxtapositions, the child behaves like a “baby vampire” in the slang this film spawned, a vamp-in-training. Both characters are imperious, literally controlling where men sit and what they do. Both emasculate men. Twice Schuyler kneels before the Vampire, his head slumped on her bosom. Similarly, the child forces the family butler to play with her doll, to hold her kitten while she “reads” the newspaper, and to let her ride him like a horse. While these scenes function as comic relief, their pattern begs the question: would, could this child grow up to be a vampire?"

"The girl and the Vampire also function as rivals for John Schuyler. A striking use of mobile framing illustrates their irreconcilable, and equally impossible, goals: the child wants her father back, her family reunited; the Vampire desires social acceptance. A high-angled shot of a busy New York street centers on two cars driving side by side. One contains Schuyler’s wife and daughter, the other Schuyler with the Vampire. Husband and wife face away from one another, but the child leans towards her father’s vehicle desperately crying, “Papa dear, I want you!” While he cowers, the Vampire responds to her with a wave and a smile."

"At the end of the film, the girl is brought to her father’s apartment. “As a last appeal I will take his child to him,” says Tom, Schuyler’s friend. She takes her father’s hand and tries to pull him out of his chair, towards the door and home. Yet the Vampire has only to enter the frame, and Schuyler turns towards her, never looking back at his daughter, doomed."

"Kipling’s poem is quoted one last time: “So some of him lived, but the most of him died.” The film resolves the poem’s ambiguity: at the end, Schuyler truly is dead. His family is broken, his diplomatic mission to England unrealized. Still, the Vampire’s victory is pyrrhic. Alone again, without money, or sex, or love (at least temporarily), she’s last seen dressed similarly to the figure in the Burne-Jones painting, smiling over Schuyler’s body. That final image reinforces the moral void at her centre, much as Kipling does with his last line, “(Seeing, at last, she could never know why) / And could never understand!
” Leslie Midkiff DeBauche"

The music

Philip C. Carli: "A Fool There Was has always fascinated me – there is so little of Theda Bara left to see, it was a shatteringly popular success upon release, its director (Frank Powell) is barely a footnote in film history, and it has had an unequivocally negative (and often snide) assessment in film histories up to the present. What is it?"

"A damned good film, in my opinion, and one whose emotional impact has made it one of the hardest things to compose for I’ve ever faced."

"Such a progressively degrading and bleak narrative, so well depicted by its stars, writers, director, and cameraman (George Schneiderman was a genius, I must say) has impacted me very hard. I don’t know if that will come through in the music I’ve composed, but I have viewed this not so much as a morality tale but as a story of severely flawed human beings who all have the capacity of free will, but choose their paths according to their class, personalities, and predilections. No one is simple or simplistically portrayed; there are moral and ethical choices everywhere, and most of them are misdirected. Though it would be a stretch beyond belief to equate director Frank Powell and scenarist Roy McCardell’s effort with, say, the films of Evgeni Bauer, there are corollaries here and there with elements of Bauer’s intricate fatalistic outlook. There is a control in Theda Bara’s performance throughout the film which makes Edward José’s dissolution all the more painful to watch – if you accept the premise. I stress this because I think of Bara’s character as a succubus – succubi are accepted psychological personae, and Theda Bara’s part is not a male fantasy, but a female entirely in charge of herself in a specific mental and emotional way, obtaining strength and independence through methodically using others to her own ends. She is, in a way, almost admirable; she is certainly compelling to watch and assess in every respect. And the focus is on her and her psyche from the opening credit: “a psychological drama by Porter Emerson Brown”."

"Musically, it has been difficult to fully complement this film. Its bleakness has been a challenge to partner, as much as I desire to embrace it. I try to make colors emerge from the progressive despair and not have it be simply melodramatically monochrome; glints of tension, corruption, and attractive evil coming through the harmony and melody are what I believe highlight the emotion and pain that seeps through the film to its final moments. Musically I am a craftsman first and an artist second; A Fool There Was is a film that must be viewed as craft that became art, almost in an unconscious way, and I hope to link with it sympathetically and evocatively, however it may be viewed by modern audiences.
" Philip C. Carli

AA: I saw for the first time A Fool There Was. It was screened in Pordenone in The Canon Revisited series, one of whose intentions is to screen films which everyone is aware of but few have seen.

I was impressed by the blunt and bold approach to the tragedy. Theda Bara as the vamp is a force of nature, a pheromone powerhouse whose mere presence derails men and sends them onto a path to destruction. One rots in jail, another is an alcoholic wreck in the gutter, and her latest conquest puts a bullet through his brain when Theda abandons him, but not before ordering: "Kiss me, my fool!"

Theda is usually rude and sulky. Her animal magnetism is so irresistible that she does not even need to smile.

We start at the sunset of the happiness of the Schuyler family. John Schuyler receives a letter from the State Department: he has been appointed U.S. Ambassador in England. This being 1915, a fatally important mission.

His wife Kate's sister is injured when she falls from a car, and Kate stays home to take care of her.

On board of the ocean liner Gigantic the languorous Theda immediately starts to spin her web around John. Two months later they are on a love holiday in Italy. But "why are your thoughts in America when you say your heart is in Italy?"

Because of John's conduct nobody wants to meet the U.S. Ambassador. Schuler is a disgrace to his country, and he is dismissed. His staff resigns, too.

Kate knows everything but stands by her man. "A cross means love, and love often means a cross", she explains to their little daughter. Reading John's mail Theda adds to the signature: "The Fool".

In one of the most memorable images of the movie two cars meet: John with Theda, and Kate with the daughter. The daughter misses her daddy most.

Kate tries to rescue John from Theda's spell, to no avail. Kate's confrontation with Theda is electrifying. "As a last appeal I will take his child to him". John is now a drunken ruin, a shadow of his former self, but his daughter's visit moves him to return to his family. Then the mere appearance of Theda makes him turn around for good. He crawls on the stairs, struts and frets and falls.

"So some of him lived, but the most of him died (even as you and I)" is the final text: Rudyard Kipling's poem The Vampire is used liberally in the intertitles.

A Fool There Was is an essential work in the screen history of divas, femmes fatales and love goddesses, interesting to watch during the same week with Pola Negri vehicles. Theda Bara is a truly fatal woman, dressed in black, intelligent and clever, incarnating sexual desire only. When Marlene Dietrich played fatal women there was always a tender and maternal side. None of that with Theda Bara.

An inspired score by Philip C. Carli played with feeling by Carli, David Shermancik, Günter Buchwald, Romano Todesco and Cristina Nadal perfectly in tune with a film which is highly stylized and exaggerated but in an energetic and sophisticated way.

A watchable print from sources with sometimes a soft, shaky and duped look.