Sunday, 8 July 2018

Blogogna… The Eight Days of Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna 2018

No amount of pre-planning can prepare you for your first experience of Il Cinema Ritrovato – there’s simply too much film, culture and place to process. But the ever-present nagging doubt that there is something you’re missing just has to be cast aside… So, turning my mind off, relaxing and floating downstream… here’s a non-exhaustive list of my highlights excluding Rosita and 7th Heaven about which I’ve already burbled.

1.    Partying like it’s 1898…

This was my favourite strand of shorts because historians love nothing more than Steam Punk Cinema: Victorians revealing the verve and imagination you always knew they had in abundance. The Age of Engineering and the start of very modern enlightenment.

I started with some silent animation from the BFI archives, or was it animation? There was some devilment with scissors which mixed live action with stop motion to great effect and then a doll rises up to follow its owner as she goes on a date with a young man: think Toy Story mixed with Chucky… a film that re-ignited my childhood dreams of animated plastic…

Playing along was Stephen Horne who added vocalise to his array of instrumentation, a moment as shocking as it was entirely fitting as with all his accompaniment.

There were genuinely stunning 35mm reductions of 68mm originals which showed the World of our grandparent’s almost as clear as yesterday. I’m reminded of sci-fi novelist, Bob Shaw’s idea of slow glass through which light moves so slowly that you can look on events as the happened years later… mind-boggling but the light of events reacting with nitrates in 1898 is revived again through 2018 projection.

Definitely one of the shocks from this period was the five minutes long Opération chirurgicale du Docteur Doyen: Hystérectomie abdominale, ablation de la tumeur (1898) which showed the good doctor hacking his way inside a living patient – heavily sedated – for what seemed much longer. Not to forget it was intended as an instructional scientific film but…

120 years on the pigeons grand children still get fed in Piazza San Marco

2.       Underground cinema: Wolves of Kultur (1918)

All 15 episodes of this propagandist serial were screened through the festival in the Cinema Modernissimo which, originating in the 1900s, is an impressively atmospheric subterranean hall very much under re-construction. In the rip-roaring opener as all-action Alice Grayson (Leah Baird) tries to avenge her Uncle’s murder by the evil quisling duo of Henry Hartman (Austin Webb) and Mario Zaremba (Edmund D'Alby) and recover the plans for a wireless controlled torpedo.

The pace is relentless as are the stream of characters… as a mysterious detective, Roger Barclay (Sheldon Lewis) follows events and a young engineer, Bob Moore (Charles Hutchison) becomes involved after Zaremba tries to marry his sister Helen (Betty Howe) … Oh, and Karl Dane’s in it as a henchman called Carter!

Directed and written by Joseph A. Golden, it’s fun comic-strip nonsense which plays like a more paranoid Les Vampires… I saw about half the episodes including the finale and it was fun!

Accompaniment was from many hands and the one I seemed to find the most was Daniele Furlati who had a lilting main theme that took full advantage of the magical acoustics.

Leah Baird. A real trooper.
3.       Les Deus Timides (1928), with Gabriel Thibaudea

I’ve managed to miss this 2016 restoration several times and it was the perfect start to day two with sprightly, controlled direction from Rene Clair and a performance from handsome Pierre Bascheff that walked that delicate tightrope between Frank Spencer and Harold Lloyd.

It’s “French whimsy” mon amis and the pure, delightful distillation that makes you laugh out loud and forgive the inevitable minor frustrations of two, too-timid souls in service to a plot reliant on the inability to perform even the simplest acts of self-interest.

It’s such a “neat” film with Clair’s direction, editing and camerawork so precise throughout. There are so many cute inventions and I especially loved his use of split screen especially as Batcheff’s character launches into an imaginary fight with his bête noire, the bully Garadoux who, frustrated just the same, fights back screen right. At one point the camera dips, allowing room for both men to raise their arms at the same time: funny in a cinematic way. There’s also their climactic court case in which Clair uses hilarious stills showing the two exaggerated sides of their arguments in a who started it and who finished it war of weasel words. It’s packed with visual punchlines that offer a spectacular parallel narrative to the interpersonal action.

Pierre Batcheff is Fremissin a timid lawyer who sends his own client bad-beardy Garadoux (Jim Gérald) down for three months’ chokey after he’s found guilty of marital assault. Two years later and both men are out in the country and pursuing the same woman, Cecile Thibaudier (Véra Flory).  Cecile wants the one who can ask – Fremissin is too afraid of failure - whilst the other drives her wild by bullying her father (Maurice de Féraudy) who is clearly just a dad who can’t say no.

Garadoux spots his old nemesis trying to make a move on his gal – and potentially his loot – and tries to frighten him off using his pipe as a gun and covering his face with a hanky… Fremissin doesn’t take much scaring but slowly he edges forward. But will the tortoise beat the heavyweight hare as the latter moves in with family and lawyer to try and force the wedding contract…

Gabriel Thibaudeau accompanied with fleet fingered assurance; he’d danced this one before I think.

A split screen interacting with audience sensibilities...

4.       Women… under pressure and disguised as seals
Woman Under Oath (1919) with Donal Sosin

There was a substantial strand of John M. Stahl flickers with this one silent film and lots more to come at Pordenone. This film managed to be both insulting and inspiring… raising important questions about whether women could “handle” the pressure of being on a jury – locked in late at night with all those manly-men… It’s a well-made vehicle for stage star Florence Reed whose character Grace Norton is becomes New York’s first woman juror.

Of course, it couldn’t just be about her actually doing the job of a juror could it; she had to be something far more significant. Though stylish, the twist does tend to undermine the whole point of the story, at least in my opinion.

Eleven angry men and one level-headed woman... almost.
Woman (1918) with Mie Yanashita

“Woman…” as John and Yoko sang dangerously in 1972, “… is the n*gg*r of the World” and if you thought Woman Under Oath was tricksie from a feminist point of view then Maurice Tourneur threw us a few curved balls… tongue in cheek, peut etre, but still… how we’ve changed eh?

A middle-class, middle-aged couple row about something, she storms out and her shakes his complacent male head as if to say, bless her emotional little heart. He starts reading a history book and it tells the tales of women through history… and their faults: Eve’s obsession with that bloomin’ apple (who needs knowledge, right?), Emperor Claudius’ betrayal by his exceptionally unfaithful Messilna (played by dancer Flore Revalles, who is very good) and then the bizarre story of the seal-turned-women who deserts her children and husband Cyrene the fisherman in order to swim once more as a seal. I genuinely had no idea that woman were originally seals: why didn’t any of you mention this?!

Then there’s a girl in the Civil Way who, hiding a Yankee soldier from a Confederate troupe, loosens her resolve when their Captain offers her his watch… she gives the soldier away and he’s executed in front of her.
But wait!
The gentleman turns from the book and thinks his great thought: women aren’t all bad, now they have purpose because of the War and stuff! She who rocks the cradle, probably doesn’t get enough sleep (or credit) and… cue montage of helpful nurses, munitions workers in skirts and women who, now, distractions set aside, could probably be in a film without having a major character flaw.

I really doubt that my Grandad – union member and supporter of suffrage after a First World War in which he saw too much masculine unfairness – would have liked this film. He would have thought it daft and wrong. My Nan would have lamped the projectionist. Still, nice framing and cinematography Maurice.

Oi, Eve, leave that apple alone!
5.Naples au Basier de Feu (1925) with Guido Sodo and Francoise Laurent

Projected under the stars at the Piazzetta Pasolini using what the locals term lanterna a carbone this was arguably the best film in the Naples strand even though it was directed by a Russian and featured French actors.
The otherworldly Gina Manes plays a local beauty Costanzella who escapes the clutches of her violent lover to move in with the unlikely pairing of Pinatucchio a beggar/holy man (Gaston Modot) and a violinist/street singer, Antonio Arcella, played by proto Delon Georges Charlia – last seen being very jealous of Louise Brooks in Prix de Beauté).

Antonio is a hustler on his uppers – he’s had to sell his violin – and is looking to fall in love with someone beautiful and rich. He targets Silvia (Lilian Constantini) a rich socialite, who travels with her aunt, and she gives him money in exchange for charm and melodies. But love takes a turn as he gradually falls for Costanzella, despite promising Pinatucchio that he wouldn’t as the old fellow is besotted himself. It’s a terrific performance from Modot and the bizarre love quadrilateral is resolved in unpredictable ways…

Guido Sodo accompanied on mandolin, mandoloncello and vocal with François Laurent on chitarra helping to create a perfect moonlight movie night. Al fresco may have been on drums…

Naples au Basier de Feu (1925)

6.       Vendemiaire (1918) with Stephen Horne and Frank Bochius (Parts 1&2)

This was a four-part serial (well three plus prologue) from the master of the multi-part adventure, Louis Feuillade and showed a more technically-accomplished and down-to-earth, director three years on from Les Vampires. There were some lush landscapes of the canals and countryside near Lyon and a feature feel to the lengthy episodes as a plot unfolded about two escaped German POWs infiltrating a group of farm workers in the Great War.

René Cresté plays Pierre Bertin a soldier on leave to recover from his mental and physical wounds and he meets a family heading away from the front line to seek work and to find out what happened to their siblings. They all end up working on a vineyard in Lunel (Feullade’s home town) run by Capitaine de Castelviel (Feuillade regular Édouard Mathé) and where the two Germans also infiltrate.

Wilfred (Louis Leubas) and Fritz (Manuel Caméré) cause much disruption as they try to further the fading German cause and frame a gypsy, Sarah (Mary Harald) as they rob the Captain… there are more characters than in the director’s more adventure-based serials and, as the propaganda it undoubtedly was, Vendemiaire stirs your heart as you hope for the best for these refugees.

Stephen Horne and Frank Bochius were on fine form and worked so well together here as elsewhere with an instinctive understanding of their musical combination as well as the momentum of the movie.

Driven away by the war

7.       Vintage colour: Cabaret (1972) and Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

It’s not all about silent film of course and there were so many fascinating and ultra-rare opportunities to see rare celluloid that, all geeking aside, offers a significantly different experience of film watching. The early 60’s copy from the original nitrate of John M. Stahl’s colourful noir was a blaze of greens and turquoise and Gene Tierney was even more striking than usual as the woman who, putting it mildly, loves Cornel Wilde just a little too much.

Cabaret was the real hum-dinger though with a print that was so warm and slightly worn that I half expected some ads for Kiora and a local carpet shop. I’d never seen the film all the way through – although I’d seen Alan Cummings and Jane Horrocks at their famous run at the Donmar Warehouse. Those two simply were the MC and Sally Bowles for me but now I can truly appreciate how good Liza Minelli and Joel Grey were on screen.

Silent film style and references abound and then there's Bob Fosse's extraordinary choreography; still jaw droppingly angular and expressive.

Joel and Liza-with-a-Z...

8.       Lights of Old Broadway (1925) with Neil Brand

We’d been missing some solid, silent Hollywood and Marion Davies delivered in style with this entertaining romp. It was based around the shift from gas to electric lighting in New York and featured sequences in colour using tinting, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl colour process.

Marion is one of twins separated at birth as their mother dies on an Atlantic crossing: one Marion, Anne, grows up with the wealthy de Rhonde family whilst the other, Fely, with the riotous O’Tandy clan who squat on the edges of town, never paying rent and looking to fight, or rather “foight” their way out of trouble. There’s a lot of Oirish intertitles if yer get moi drift… but then it’s well known that *all* the people of Ireland love 1. Not paying their dues, 2. Drinking 3. Larking and 4. Foiting

Of course, Fely meets the de Ronde’s son Dirk (Conrad Nagel) and they fall in love but the two fathers like none of it and only a fist fight will bring them together – the Dads – so that peace can reign and Dirk’s daring fortune in electrical illumination can establish a new dynasty.

All good fun and Marion is wonderful as usual.   Sometimes that’s what we want and Neil O’Brand played along with a twinkle in his eye, he knows when entertainment is due!

Technicolor fragment of the nitrate print of Lights... by Barbara Flueckiger.

Epilogue... Lyda, Pina and Francesca

I was not going to Italy to miss out on diva films so there’s more to be said later about I tre grandi as well as the remarkable smiles of Leda Gys, the amazing hair of Rosè Angione and the films of Elvira Notari.

There were some films I'd already seen and liked including Parts One and Two of Christian Wahnschaffe with Stephen Horne, which I saw in Berlin and the mighty Shiraz which was the LFF Restoration Gala last year, and screened here with a recording of Anouska Shankar's amazing score.

Then, there was so much that I missed... It’s always best to leave wanting more… and the pile will probably grow even more next year. Lost in film, as surely as Sister Sledge were lost in music.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Brock and Bologna: Paradiso… 7th Heaven (1927), with Timothy Brock, Teatro Comunale di Bologna Orchestra, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival 2018

If Mary and Ernst lifted had us on our feet in the Piazza then Janet, Charles and Frank took us off the ground in the stunning setting of the eighteenth-century Teatro Comunale. Rain had stopped playing on the Wednesday and the whole shebang shifted to the orchestra’s home to sensational effect.

You couldn’t find a grander venue for a film, the acoustics were perfect for Timothy Brock’s outstanding score – soaring, heartfelt, powerful and emotionally-aligned; this was a mighty song for the two humans on screen, locked in their story of perfect love… The picture itself was a new digital restoration funded by 20th Cebtury Fox, based on a nitrate print from the 1927 negative made in 1930... this was its European premier.

Lights down and the focus is immediately on Janet Gaynor’s amazing febrility, her delicate face anguished and alive with the interminable terror of Diane’s life crushed by the ferocious disdain of her alcoholic sister Nana (Gladys Brockwell). The New York Herald Tribune noted at the time that Gaynor could “…combine ingénue sweetness with a certain suggestion of wideawake vivacity; to mix facial lyricism with a credible trace of earthiness.” There is no doubt in her presentation nor in Brockwell’s for that matter; Nana is in Hell and even her sister - especially her sister – must join her. She beats her senseless with a whip and forces her to forage for every drop of absinth.

There are further depths but only literally, as we find the ludicrously dashing Charles Farrell as Chico the cleaner: he is by his own mantra, a “remarkable man” and one, who whilst he works in the sewer is always looking up and dreaming of the gutter… and beyond.

Things getting out of hand...
A visit from their well-off Aunt Valentine (Jessie Haslett) and Uncle George (Brandon Hurst) offers the women some hope but Diane has just enough strength to resist her sister’s attempts to make her lie about their virtuosity. She is violently cast down for this and is in the process of being throttled in the gutter when Chico’s hand reaches out of the drains to lift Nana high above a manhole – there’s a superb overhead shot of her struggling against his might.

Chico has to lift Diane up – there is almost no fight left in her. When her sister is arrested and tries to drag Diane with her, he intervenes again telling the police that Diane is his wife. This lie needs to be substantiated and so Chico takes Diane up the stairway to the seventh floor – the arrangement is meant to be temporary, only until the Police are satisfied that their relationship is real. There’s a lovely light touch in this film and Diane’s panic at seeing the single bed in Chico’s room is played out with comedic concern until she sees her gallant room-mate set out to sleep on the floor.

But things don’t end there, and Diane grows on Chico in spite of her wayward hairdressing skills. Farrell towers over Gaynor but there’s a real gentility and respect in their physical relationship. What was a marriage for convenience soon becomes something more – Chico and Diane are Heaven together. There’s faith in the film but it isn’t necessarily derived from organised religion. Diane and Chico’s love is based on their faith in each other and they remain true to themselves. Even their marriage is a home-made affair: no need for a priest when they are sure of love.

War is declared… and the real tests are to come as Chico heads off to the front. He gives Diane one of two religious medals handed to him by a priest but, again, these symbols will prove to be more about their own devotion. They promise to hold the necklaces every day at 11 and to “be” with the other – to connect no matter what the distance and to find their personal heaven.

This is something of a repeated theme for Borzage and you find it even with his early films such as Pride of Palomar. I don’t know if he believed in the “Beau Dieu” but he was sure of love alright. As are we all, at the end of the day, it is all you need. Even after death… the war will be long and with so many tragedies around them can Diane and Chico’s state of grace possibly be maintained? Please see this film and find out.

Mr Brock’s score simply shone, radiating with emotional force out from the orchestra pit filling the Teatro Comunale’s baroque walls and stalls with a magical mix of cinematic fantasias: a timeless mix of cinematic symphonies perfectly moulded around this most emotionally-engaging film.

Rich brass lifted our hearts as strings combined with the wind section in depicting the everyday drudgery and threat of Diane’s struggles. This was classical film composition of the highest order with far more subtle give and take than most modern thunderation… Brock knows what he’s dealing with and is as carefully delicate with his Gaynor as he is playful with Farrell: he underscores their love story and pricks our tear ducts as they are united and re-united. An enigma variation of unresolved, beautiful lines, that converge more than once in joyous crescendo. The violence from Nana and then the War is conveyed equally well – with stark atonal clashes, hope-less clarinet and weary strings… we share in musically-living every moment. And, after Ares finally comes Diana and a simply lovely recurring theme for our couple that all but breaks my cynical old heart…

A few days earlier we’d walked past the Teatro Comunale and dearly wished we could see a concert there; well, we did and it was indeed something to write home about!

Bravo Timothy Brock, Teatro Comunale di Bologna Orchestra and Borzage and his players. 7th Heaven is one of the greatest love stories in silent film and tonight we were all indeed high in the air, past Cloud 9 and in Heaven no. 7 with Chico, Diane and a full house of silent dreamers. Grazzie Mille!


Monday, 25 June 2018

Midsummer night’s dream… Rosita (1923) with Mitteleuropa Orchestra, Piazza Maggiore, il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna

First time in Bologna since I was a boy and a heck of a lot more films to watch. The combination of city and Cinema Ritrovato is disorienting and agitating, but not in a New York way… it’s a pull between cultures, eras and styles of films and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. No disrespect to Pordenone but have you seen the Piazza Maggiore and a cathedral planned to be so grand they had to tone it down so as not to upset St Peter’s and the Vatican?

Tonight was a dream as the film played out next to that cathedral with the ancient walls of the Piazza adding mystic resonance to the reconstructed score as played by the Mitteleuropa Orchestra, conducted by Gillian Anderson. Rosita is not perfect but, huge but, it was Mary Pickford on the biggest of screens, floating through a film directed by Ernst Lubitsch… we forgive our best friends anything and sometimes we love them more when they don’t quite click.

Erik supervises the bombing of Paris...
To be honest, Eric Satie had already loosened my grip on reality with his mesmeric invention for the score of the freshly minted restoration of René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924). The film is a dadaist gag-reel and a hoot for schoolkids of all ages. Daniele Furlati played pianoforte to perfection and proved that Eric’s musical spirit connects more deeply than Rene’s images; still never take a camel to a funeral!

Onto Mary then and a budget younger Ernst could only dream of back in Germany. As has been noted this film has an almost identical plot to The Spanish Dancer made at almost the same time in Hollywood with Lubitsch’s perfect partner Pola. Put the two together and you might have a masterpiece, and, having recently watched that film I couldn't help wondering that you can’t go into battle against Negri’s dance armed with only a guitar. Likewise there are elements of this odd tale that work far better under Lubitsch’s direction and there’s no leery King Beery… which may or may not be a good thing.

Mary picks her chords
But in the moment, under the stars, it was time to simply enjoy the Mary we have and she does her best to convince as the street singer from Seville who captures the heart of both the sleazy King (Holbrook Blinn) and the dashing Don Diego (George Walsh). I always enjoy watching the Queen of Hollywood playing her age and here you can almost feel the creative tension between her indomitable fixed jaw and Lubitsch’s vision; there are some superb moments.

Ernst touch is evident in a flowing narrative that cuts out the side-steps and blind alleys of the Dancer’s version and includes some choice cuts like the hungry Rosita’s tango with the royal fruit bowl – walks left to right, camera on the cherries, walks back again, picks one, picks two… a hand-full - and the ragged feet of the children when climbing on board the royal coach to take Rosita to the royal love nest.

The King and Queen have an up and down relationship.
Irene Rich is very good as the King’s long-suffering Queen, and her relationship with her philandering monarch saves the story from being too brutal: it’s not the way to a girl’s heart to shoot her lover and expect her to then allow you a good time - although we could believe that Mr Beery's King may have thought so.

Mary is sprightly, sassy and quite sensational in Spanish costumery as she punches out energetically throughout. Truly she was first amongst equals and she dominates the screen time so much it does leave you wondering how she and the Don became so attached so quickly. But people weren’t paying to see George they wanted Mary and that’s what they got and they took her love at first sight on trust.

Don and Rosita share an intimate meal
The film did well on release, with good reviews and audience and box office that generated profits and yet Pickford was not happy and didn’t even want it preserved… but there was an original nitrate copy in Russia and the restoration is history... it looks glorious!

The music used a cue sheet based on the now lost score from Louise F. Gottschalk, the 45 separate pieces held traces of Verdi, Bizet (natch) and many more, all matched the moods very well - although I’m not sure I’d agree that they were as well fitted as an original score – the music and the sound were none-the-less very powerful: an 80-piece orchestra blasting out Nineteenth Century themes in a Twelth Century square as the Moon and Venus watched down through a cloudless sky... bellissimo!

Can I have some more?
As always with silent film it’s context, venue, audience, accompaniment as well as the source material itself: you don’t need 100% to get a distinction.

I absolutely loved the night and it’s exactly what I wanted when I decided to come to Bologna… 7th Heaven follows in the Piazza on Wednesday… just enough time to come down from Cloud 9.

The crafty Queen uses her mirror to spy her husband's philandering...
Mary and Ernst discuss her character's motiovation, probably...

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Taxi for Mr Curtis… Cab No. 13 (1926) with Stephen Horne, Kennington Bioscope

Lili Damita worked with Michael, married Errol, helped introduce the director and star of the greatest Robin Hood film ever made. But she had real star power – she positively glows, energised like Fairbanks and could probably kick your head without any back-lift having been trained at l’Opera de Paris.  She ended up starring with Cary, Maurice, Laurence, Jimmy and Gary but quit in her early thirties to be a mother.

Not many of her Hollywood films were great, and there was always something missing when she wasn’t able to express her physicality. In this film she dresses like Peter Pan and performs an impressive – heels as high as her head – kicking can-can and these are amongst her best moments. Her first film with Michael Curtis – then Michael Kertész – was Red Heels (aka Das Spielzeug von Paris) and that has a much higher tempo and some extended dance sequences that make more of her vibrancy.

Our Lil
Here again she is also a fashion plate with impressive eye-popping dresses that show off her neatness (male “code” alert) but for much of the film she’s a humble cab-driver’s step-daughter and the action is suitably Pickfordian knockabout.

Ah, but she can’t just be a cab-driver’s daughter, can she? No, as a baby she was abandoned by her dying mother who had run from her rich husband only to die in childbirth in a poor tenement. The landlady hides a note written to her husband in a book and places the baby in a horse-drawn cab – Number 13 - where it’s owner, Jacques Carotin (Paul Biensfeldt) decides to adopt this bundle of possibilities on the grounds that he’d always dreamed of having children.

Unlucky 13 for horse-drawn cabs as motors had taken over by the Twenties and Jacques struggles
Yes, the plot is a bit like that, but enjoyable all the same – there’s more exposition in the French-titles version doing the rounds and some of the English intertitles on the 35mm print we saw are a bit brusque in comparison. That said, the quality is superb - far, far better than these screenshots - and it’s great to see Lili on the big screen and to see more than an nth-copy digital bootleg allows.

They christen the child Lilian (thereby making it so easy to learn Damita’s name in the read-throughs) and naturally she grows up to be a dancing queen, young and sweet only 18 (in this instance). She graduates as the most talented and mischevous dancer at her ballet school and there are some winning scenes as she dances the Charleston Black Bottom for her classmates and teasers her teacher.

Bored in ballet...
She has a flirty relationship with another tenant, a musician who no doubt will be very successful at some stage, called Lucien Rebout (Walter Rilla) and the pass the time playing, singing, dancing… all the free-to-do stuff. He’s a bit of a Stephen Horne, playing violin and sax… what am I saying, he only does two instruments… but, most of all he - natch – plays on Lili’s heart strings and the two make a lovely couple.

Just when things look to have hit a long stretch of speed-restricted narrative carriageway, a coincidence happens… In an antiquarian bookshop run by a con-man (Max Gülstorff) and his master forger François Tapin (Jack Trevor), the latter discovers the letter from Lilian’s father - wealthy "King of the Cafes" Henri Landon (Carl Ebert) - hidden in the book which obviously has a fair re-sale value. As for the letter, it promises much more and, touching his boss for a 20,000 Franc loan he sets off to present himself as a rich playboy in order to woo the inheritor of her rich father’s millions…

Lovely composition as Tapin forges away like some alchemist turning paper and ink into money...
Bold plan I hear you say and so it seems but Tapin exerts a strange charm on lovely Lilian and soon turns her head by showing her the finer things leaving poor Lucien all glum at her dancing school’s passing out ball. This is one of several good-looking sequences, not just the dancing but also the design from Paul Leni – yes, him – which includes a carousel covered in streamers which is mesmerising. Then there is the second-hand bookshop from which the forgers operate, it’s a cavern of ill-gotten mysteries so well-lit and shot by Gustav Ucicky and Eduard von Borsody. Top-notch mis en scene with some state of the montage thrown in for good measure.

Good-looking film and great-looking stars even if perhaps too much time is spent on Lambeth’s own Jack Trevor – who would go on to feature in a number of GW Pabst’s films including two with Brigitte Helm Abwege and The Love of Jeanne Ney. In truth his François Tapin is more likeable rogue than anything else and, well… you’ll have to see the film, suffice to say that it’s also known as The Road to Happiness.

The eyes have it...
Curtis-to-be's direction is inventive and economical and there's one scene - a confrontation - that's decided on the strength of a "look" - the eyes of one character revealeing to the other that the matter is closed, or it will be if there's any further debate... clever stuff: pure cinema!

Herr Horne accompanied with his usual panache and instrumental juggling. Sometimes you think your mind is playing tricks when the accordion strikes as you follow the action down a Parisian street only to find Stephen – who is playing piano with the other hand – also has the other instrument on his lap. He uses the accordion to create sound effects and generate atmosphere and, of course, it is also perfect for the demi-monde of 1910 cafes under the streets of Paris.

Some of that montage business...
As is traditional with the Bioscope there was also an entrée of three short films that matched the mood and subject of the main film.

Tonight, we started with Fashionable Paris (1907) showing a glimpse of life in the trendy Bois du Bologne and then had La Tour (1928) Rene Clair’s angled explorations of the tower commissioned for the fortieth anniversary of its construction. Meg Morley accompanied and showed again her ability to mix in flavours of the period – a drop of Debussy and a soupçon of Satie – with flowing lines of her own. She made for an hypnotic combination with Monsieur Clair.

Lastly, we had a real treat with Adolf Philipp’s The Midnight Girl (1919) which not only featured Meg’s piano but also Michelle Facey’s pitch-perfect vocal debut on the title song at the beginning and end of the film. A woman of many talents – programming, researching and introducing tonight’s line up as well!

Another absolute cracker in Kennington. Merci beaucoup mes amis!!

Now for some more Cab. 13...