Monday, 2 October 2017

Brooksie lands... Now We're in the Air (1927) Pordenone parte terza

If the segment of Now We're in the Air didn't exist we'd still fantasise about the rediscovery of a beautiful moment of Louise Brooks that was lost. Now it's found we have just over twenty minutes - less than most rest breaks at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto - to make sense of what look very much like a so-so movie. And yet... restored Brooks shines brightly out in those glimpses we have, a twenty-one-year-old neophyte committing to another part of her build to stardom. Now We're in the Air was never going to be great film but the fate of its star makes it very special indeed.

Which is why I have no hesitation in picking it as my highlight of the day especially as the programmers had inserted the high-class clunker that is The Reckless Age (1924). This is not a good film; the premise is wafer thin and utterly risible... a young woman is willing to, of her own free will, marry a London Lord she has never met who has insured himself against the marriage actually happening... I really can't go on, especially as she meets the man we know will be her eventual partner in the first reel. But, there is method here: The Reckless Age shows what can happen to attractive young female stars in Hollywood, in this case Ruth Dwyer, who was presented with a stepping stone that just wasn't very good.

Just you wait, two more years of this and I'm burning bridges!
I find it hard to believe that the Air could be as bad but it doesn't look promising. Still, it exists, it's history and it has the supernatural presence of the biggest comeback kid in movie history, not in terms of success but in her enduring influence and actual star power. Louise Brooks is the cover star of the festival and all for just this twenty three minutes.

John Sweeney accompanied by royal command and even made Wallace Beery look funny!

History isn't about quality and Now We're in the Air proves that all too well. We are grateful for this sunshine glimpse of Brooks' extraordinary presence and yes, that probably is "code" but, you know what I and Henri Langlois mean...

Now, if you're here for quality then, probably Warning Shadows (Schatten - Eine nächtliche Halluzination) (1923) might be your thing especially with Daan van den Hurk and Frank Bockius accompanying - I saw this at the BFI with John Sweeney and did enjoy it perhaps not the best expressionist film, but fun.

La diva di commedia!
If it's laughter you're after then you can't look beyond Trappola (1922) a bonkers tale of an orphan who makes it as a movie star featuring the cheeky girl stylings of one Leda Gys. The cutting is mad-fast - this is Eisenstein on opiates although some segments are clearly missing but it does reflect the quicksilver charms of diva di commedia Miss Gys. The story makes far more sense than the Reckless Age and the film compensates with committed performances within the framework of its own illogic.

All this said, there's not much Leda Gys does in an hour that Léontine, known in the U.S. as Betty, doesn't manage in minutes. She's ferociously funny and there's literally a gag every other beat as mayhem is created in the shorts Betty Tries to Learn a Business (1910) and Betty Is Still at Her Old Tricks (1910). These were screened as part of the Nasty Women strand but really, she's Naughty more than anything else. the actress is still unknown and deserves to be "found".

We also watched: Italian drama Fiore Selvaggio (1921) directed by Gustavo Serena and featuring the lesser-known diva Anna Fougez in a series of stunning outfits. Costumery far outweighs screenwriting in this plodder about a muse who throws herself away on a promise only to regret all in the lingering denouement.

The other Aasta Nielsen (Swedish, extra "a")
Far better was the Swedish rustic drama Fante-Anne which featured stunning backdrops of valley and field much in the way of yesterday's A Norway Lass (1919). The stars lack the charisma of that film but it's a compelling story well performed especially by Aasta Nielsen (no, not that one).  The payoff was an end title when our heroes head off to America where "a man can be himself and not subject to prejudice..." how times have changed USA?

Günter A. Buchwald and Frank Bockius provided expert accompaniment and were also excellent on the mesmerising Maasai in Maasai Men and Women (1920?) a tribe who seemingly invented the Pogo dance.

Most affecting of all though was a strand of films showing the effects of the Great War. This was moving and quite distressing the decades melting away as you witness the human cost of war, especially children suffering in the thousands. Stephen Horne accompanied with skilled respect.

And that was my Monday. Tomorrow is apparently Tuesday and I'm calling it Jenny Hasselqvist Day! Vem Domer? (1922)... our judgement awaits!

No, it's not.


  1. I've been following your posts with a great deal of envy - it seems like a strong programme this year!
    I'm gutted to miss La trappola - Leda Gys is great, but little of her work is readily available, and none of her best films. I'd also love to see Fiore selvaggio just for Fougez, who I've been quite fascinated with lately. I'm not surprised that it was rather a substance over style film, though.

    I'm also glad that you and Jenny got to spend some quality time together ;-)

    1. Leda Gys was so good! Just a mad whirl of a film - one of those that takes you by surprise! And Anna Fougez has true diva style - would like to see more. There's a Lyda Borreli exhibition in Venice which I wasn't able to make: it looks very interesting though!

      And Jenny was brilliant! A restoration of Gosta Berling is in the works according to a Swede in the know...

  2. I know, I'd heard about the Borelli exhibition! It looks great.