Sunday, 3 April 2011

Cabiria (1914) ...the motion picture moves...

"Cabiria" is the first true cinematic epic and as such features a cast of many hundreds, huge purpose built stages and a fair few elephants.

Set in Carthage during the Second Punic Wars, it focuses the action on the titular Cabiria, her separation and ultimate reunion with the Roman people after their victory.

Directed in visionary style by Giovanni Pastrone it marks the first major use of camera mobility and is perhaps the definitive answer to the question: what happened between Méliès and Griffith? The latter was no doubt heavily influenced by Pastrone and surpassed him dramatically and technically by out "cabiria-ing" his most ambitious shots in "Intolerance" a couple of years later.

"Cabiria" is a classic in its own right and is expertly structured. There are, sadly, no close ups but that would (maybe) undermine the sheer epic nature of the story and its telling. It would be great to see the acting of the monumentally expressive Italia Almirante Manzini and Bartolomeo Pagano though!

Criterion are working on a deluxe re-issue (presumably based on the 2006 reconstruction?) but until then there's an excellent Kino DVD that does the film justice. The print is remarkably clean for a film mostly made in 1913.


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