Albatros productions

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Mike Gebert

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PostFri May 27, 2011 5:31 am

Assuming the contract now with the Cinematheque's legal department goes through, next year Film Preservation Associates will be releasing through Flicker Alley an Albatros DVD box set with KEAN, LE BRASIER ARDENT, FEU MATHIAS PASCAL, GRIBICHE and LES NOUVEAUX MESSIEURS; also the complete serial LA MAISON DE MYSTERE as a separate release.


Wow. That's really amazing news, a lot of things I've dreamed of seeing (I've only seen Kean off that list) and never really expected to.

Thank you for being you, David.

And everybody go buy Laila, it's a lot of fun!
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Ann Harding

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Re: Albatros productions

PostWed Aug 17, 2011 2:26 am

Gribiche (1926), a delightful Jacques Feyder picture will be broadcast on Arte TV on August 29th at 0h00. More details are available here. The lead is played by Jean Forest, the same little boy who played in Crainquebille and Visages d'enfant. Feyder discovered him in the streets of Paris.
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Ann Harding

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Re: Albatros productions

PostWed Aug 31, 2011 6:45 am

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Gribiche (1926, Jacques Feyder) with Jean Forest, Françoise Rosay, Cécile Guyon and Rolla Norman

Little Gribiche (J. Forest) meets a rich American widow, Mrs Maranet, (F. Rosay) in a Paris department store. He gives her back her bag she dropped by accident. Mrs Maranet decides to adopt him to give him a 'proper education'. The child leaves his mother (C. Guyon) to live with Mrs Maranet. His life becomes a hectic schedule of bath, exercise and tutors...

In 1925, Jacques Feyder shot this delightful film after a novel discovered by his wife Françoise Rosay. While she was a talented opera singer and actress, she had so far only appeared as an extra in various Feyder pictures (such as Crainquebille from 1922). Operators thought she was not photogenic. So she had the idea of lighting her hair color with some slivery glitter. It worked. For the first time, she got a starring part and was able to show her considerable talent under her husband's direction, a partnership to would endure until Feyder's death in 1948. The little boy in the title role is Jean Forest. He was a street urchin discovered by Feyder in Montmartre (then a poor district of Paris). He had already played in Crainquebille (1922) and in Visages d'enfants (Faces of Children, 1923) showing a great natural talent for acting. This is Feyder's first film for the Albatros company. It will be followed by two more (Carmen and Les Nouveaux Messieurs). It was also his first meeting with a genious of art direction, Lazare Meerson. He became one of his most faithful collaborators. He is the one who created a complete Flemish town in Epinay studios for La Kermesse Héroïque (Carnival in Flanders, 1935) with even a canal. His talent is already obvious in the way he delineates cleverly the social differences with the furnishing of the rooms. Gribiche lives with his mother in a lower-middle-class area of Paris and their living-room contains the typical 'neo-Renaissance' sideboard fashionnable in the 20s. In sharp contrast, Mrs Maranet lives in great luxury in a Art Deco house with some refined furniture, sort of 'neo-classical'. The boy was not living in poverty but his widowed mother had to work to make both ends neet. Mrs Maranet takes the boy with her and gives him to servants and tutors. He has a military schedule of exercises and courses. The child is expected to behave properly, wear stiff clothes and kiss ladies' hands. Mrs Maranet is obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness. The bathroom for the boy is a perfect showcase of her mania: huge room with giant bath plus a very modern-looking shower. Quickly the child cannot stand this life any more. He leaves during the night of the 14th of July to enjoy the celebrations in the street. Having some ice-cream between two biscuits is far more fun that those terribly stiff dinners with dozens of forks an knives! Mrs Maranet likes to boast about her charity and she tells her friends how she saved the child from abject poverty. We get a caricature of the worst kind of melodrama as she tells the story. According to her, the poor child and mother were living in a hovel. The film uses cleverly some Paris locations (Les Trois Quartiers department store, Bois de Boulogne and the Grenelle district with the overground metro). Feyder will use Paris even better in the following Les Nouveaux Messieurs, a foretaste of future Carné pictures (he was Feyder's assistant). The class-distinction is exemplified by the way you wear a napkin. With Mrs Maranet, it's on your lap; with his mother, it's tucked in his collar. The final scene resolves the conundrum: you have to wear your napkin tucked in your collar to avoid staining your clothes while eating snails.
The newly restored print is gorgeous. It's tinted throughout. The image is sharp and well contrasted. I saw the previous restoration at a screening in 2008. It was certainly not as good, quality-wise. But, I noticed that the new restoration, performed on a different negative, is lacking one scene. When Gribiche runs away during the 14th July, he meets a tramp under the overground metro. They sit together on a bench and drink some wine. Inexplicably, the scene is missing from this new print. I hope when the DVD is produced by Flicker Alley, it will be restored.
As for the score, well, it was really annoying. The pianist and percussionist seem to ignore the mood of the scenes and the characters. The pianist played repetitive minimalistic motives and the percussionist was irritating. I ended up switching off the sound. I hope that on the DVD we'll have some better music.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostTue Sep 06, 2011 11:11 pm

Thanks very much for this thread!

Just scanning the titles at the moment, I saw Marcel L’Herbier's name and was reminded that many years ago I saw L’Inhumaine at MOMA but missed the ending.

Is it on DVD anywhere in the US? Thanks
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Re: Albatros productions

PostThu Sep 08, 2011 1:07 pm

Ann Harding wrote:As for the score, well, it was really annoying. The pianist and percussionist seem to ignore the mood of the scenes and the characters. The pianist played repetitive minimalistic motives and the percussionist was irritating. I ended up switching off the sound. I hope that on the DVD we'll have some better music.


I couldn't agree more. One of the most insensitive and outright unbearable scores for a silent film that I have heard. What I hated most was the whispering of unitelligible words when a character was reading a letter.
Still, a great film! Very reminiscent of the equally fabulous VISAGES D'ENFANTS. There appear to be a great many excellent French silents of the 1920s waiting to be discovered. Let's hope Arte have got some more up their sleeve.
"The greatest cinematic experience is the human face and it seems to me that silent films can teach us to read it anew." - Wim Wenders
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Re: Albatros productions

PostThu Jan 12, 2012 6:31 am

Yesterday, I saw this wonderful Mosjoukine picture at the CF. I discovered it in 2008 and I had as much pleasure as the first time I saw it.

Image (I. Mosjoukine, A. Brabant & H. Krauss)
Les Ombres qui passent (Shadows going by, 1924) by Alexandre Volkoff with Ivan Mosjoukine, Andrée Brabant, Nathalie Lissenko and Henry Krauss

Louis Barclay (I. Mosjoukine) lives in Southern England with his father (H. Krauss) and his wife Alice (A. Brabant). His domineering father makes him live according to Thoreau's precepts. But, one day, he receives a letter announcing a huge inheritance. He leaves his family to go to Paris...

The script of this film was written by Mosjoukine himself with Kenelm Foss. Instead of adapting a play or a novel, he created his own story with elements coming from various traditions. He mixes happily American comedy, Russian tragedy and French melodrama. Les Ombres qui passent is certainly the film that showcases the best Mosjoukine's comic talent. In 1913, he was already hilarious in Domik v Kolomne (The small house in Kolomna, 1913) playing a cook in disguise. For this film, he becomes a shy and naive young man leaving in the countryside. In the morning, he goes to the beach riding with his wife, both dressed only in swimsuit (much to the astonishment of a local vicar). The life is nice and uncomplicated, if it weren't for his domineering dad. The prospect of leaving to go to Paris is extremely attractive. He goes to a local tailor to buy a suit. And what a suit! The pants are too short and the jacket is a bit large. Dressed like Buster Keaton, he takes the boat to France. He doesn't go unnoticed when he arrives at the Paris hotel. Everybody is having a good laugh at his eccentric appearance. His first diner in the restaurant is equally hilarious as he moves his chair around to look at the ladies while swallowing a huge dinner. Suddenly, Louis has a taste of freedom like never before. But his is also the target of various crooks who want to get all his money. And his father's arrival doesn't change his mind. He wants to follow the gloriously attired (Paul Poiret no less) Jacqueline (N. Lissenko) whatever the consequences, not knowing she is one of the crooks. But she has fallen for the young man and refuses to go on the deception. The last part of the film, shot in Corsica, moves slowly towards tragedy. Louis will lose his true love and will have to go back to his former life. The whole film is a marvellous showcase of Mosjoukine's multiple talents. Athlete, comedian or tragedian, he is always projecting his personality with just the right note. The other actors give also their best: Henry Krauss, the former star of the Capellani pictures of the teens, André Brabant, as the sweet mischevious wife and Nathalie Lissenko as the brooding adventuress. To top it all the sets by Lochakoff are gorgeous Art Deco at its best and Fedote Bourgassoff provides some very elegant camerawork. The CF print is a gorgeous tinted print and among the best prints from Albatros. The film was played silent, as usual with the Cinematheque. It deserves the best musicians available to give it the right atmosphere.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostWed Mar 28, 2012 9:45 am

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Carmen (1926, Jacques Feyder) with Raquel Meller, Louis Lerch, Victor Vina and Gaston Modot

I first saw this adaptation of Prosper Mérimée's short story, about 5 years ago at a screening at the CF. At the time, I felt the film was overlong at 165 min and the piano accompaniment was pretty inadequate. Therefore, it was a pleasure to be able to watch the film again with its original score written by the then young composer Ernesto Halffter Escriche who had studied music with Manuel de Falla and Maurice Ravel. It was certainly worth revisiting this gorgeous looking film with this digitized print shown on Arte TV in 2002. First, surprisingly, I found the digital print superior to the 35 mm one I saw, especially in terms of tinting and toning. The film was shot mostly in Spain (around Seville) and in the South of France making the most of the breathtaking landscapes. In the lead, Raquel Meller plays an unusual Carmen. She is not flamboyant and she clashed with the director during the shooting. She even suggested they should call the author, Prosper Mérimée (who died in 1870...) over the phone! But we can't fault Feyder as a director of actors. He gets the best out of the Austrian Louis Lerch as Don José, avoiding the usual excesses in the part. Gaston Modot, as the One-Eyed smuggler, is a delight with his huge tatoo of Carmen on his chest. Meller was a celebrity in the 20s in France after making three features with the talented Henry-Roussell, including Violettes Impériales (Imperial Violets, 1923) and La Terre Promise (The Promised Land, 1924). If her Carmen is not that demonstrative, she still provides a valid characterization of the gypsy girl. But what makes the film worth investigating again is the orchestral score by Ernesto Halffter Escriche. His music recalls the impressionistic colours of Ravel. It's not a leitmotiv full score delineating each character. It's more an accompaniment creating an atmosphere throughout the film, a bit like Henri Rabaud did it for Le Joueur d'échecs (The Chess Player, 1927) by R. Bernard. With the music, the film flows in spite of its length (165 min). I was very glad I was able to revisit the film again. A CD of the Halffter score is available from Naxos:
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Re: Albatros productions

PostWed Mar 28, 2012 9:47 pm

Ann, if you haven't already seen it, here is a link to my Pordenone review of Albatros and the Russian films that came before it. The section of interest is about half-way down the page:

http://www.silentera.com/articles/heiss ... e2003.html
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Jun 04, 2012 2:38 am

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Suzanne Verrier (Gaby Morlay) and Jacques Gaillac (Albert Préjean)

Les Nouveaux messieurs (1928, Jacques Feyder) with Gaby Morlay, Albert Préjean and Henry Roussell

This charming comedy pokes fun at parliamentary life during the French Third Republic. Adapting Flers and De Croisset's play, Feyder creates a little masterpiece of understatement. Suzanne Verrier (G. Morlay) is a ballet dancer at the Paris Opera. She is kept in grand style by the Count of Montoire-Granpré (Henry Roussell), a member of parliament, who offers her a limousine with chauffeur. But, the opera chief electrician, Jacques Gaillac (A. Préjean) is secretly in love with her. By a strange reversal of fortune, the government is toppled and new general elections bring Gaillac to power. From union leader, he becomes minister. Then Suzanne has to make a choice between the two men...
Feyder has at his disposal a magician of a set designer: Lazare Meerson. Meerson creates some superb sets in particular Suzanne Verrier's flat which looks ultra-modern with its pure white lines. The building of the CIT union is also a masterpiece showing Art Deco at its best. For the cast, Feyder hesitated for a long time before casting Albert Préjean. Poor Préjean recalls in his memoirs how his friend René Clair told him about the part and to run for it. His first meeting with Feyder was disastrous: "I need an actor, not an acrobat." In fact, Préjean had started his career as a stuntman. He worked with the wolves of Le miracle des loups (1924, R. Bernard) and he climbs a building with his bare hands in Le fantôme du Moulin-Rouge (1925, R. Clair). But he had already shown his qualities as comedian in the wonderful Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (An Italian Straw Hat, 1927) under René Clair. Feyder asked him to shed 8 pounds and he went on starvation diet for a week. He finally got the part after a disastrous screen test when he had to kiss Gaby Morlay. It's also a pleasure to see the wonderful Henry Roussell playing the aristocrat. He is no caricature an never pompous. He draws an elegant and humorous figure who stops at nothing to keep his mistress, though always with great finesse. Gaby Morlay is just a joy to behold. Her career went on from success to success with the arrival of sound. Here, she is a delightful dancer, exhuberant, charming and totally natural. Some of the most charming scenes in the film shows her going for a swim in the Seine river with Préjean. The film predates the poetic realism from the 30s, better known with the Marcel Carné films. Actually, Marcel Carné was Feyder's assistant on Les nouveaux messieurs and we can guess he drew some inspiration from this film. Funnily enough, the film was banned from the screen for several months. One scene created the fury of the censors: an elderly member of parliament falls asleep in the National Assembly. He dreams that a whole corps de ballet invades parliament with lovely female dancers everywhere. It took an intervention from the actress Mary Marquet (a friend of Françoise Rosay, Mrs Feyder) to lift the ban.
This is the first time I had a chance to see the film with some music, so far I had seen it only in silence. The new score created by Antonio Coppola with a small chamber ensemble (Octuor de France) brings charms and dynamism to the proceedings. He follows the plot and the atmosphere perfectly (and it's not always the case!). Overall, my third visit with this lovely film was just as enthusiastic as the previous times. The film remains fresh even after repeated viewing.
Just one word about the print. It's supposedly a new print from 2011, but I couldn't see any differences with the previous 1990 print. The image has the same defaults and softness.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Jun 04, 2012 10:09 am

"Les nouveaux messieurs" is one of the films in the Flicker Alley set of Albatros Films, which will happen when the Cinematheque finally delivers all of them. A year and counting, and so far we have (only just) received three of the six licensed titles. Then we need to do new music for GRIBICHE (Mont Alto) and KEAN (probably Robert Israel). I hope you will all feel the results worth waiting for.

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Re: Albatros productions

PostTue Jun 05, 2012 1:13 am

I really glad to hear that Gribiche will have a new score. The one on the Arte broadcast was terrible. And Robert Israel for the wonderful Kean sounds ideal. :) I can't wait.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostFri Jun 15, 2012 4:07 am

DShepFilm wrote:"Les nouveaux messieurs" is one of the films in the Flicker Alley set of Albatros Films, which will happen when the Cinematheque finally delivers all of them. A year and counting, and so far we have (only just) received three of the six licensed titles. Then we need to do new music for GRIBICHE (Mont Alto) and KEAN (probably Robert Israel). I hope you will all feel the results worth waiting for.
David Shepard

I'm very excited to hear that this project is still in the works - with things as they stand, do you think it will it likely be a 2013 release?
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Re: Albatros productions

PostFri Jun 15, 2012 5:53 am

So glad to hear this is still happening... someday.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostWed Jul 04, 2012 7:11 am

Last WE, there was a broadcast of this Oswald picture on French TV. So far it's the only Albatros production available on DVD.

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Cagliostro - Liebe und Leben eines großen Abenteurers (1929, Richard Oswald) with Hans Stüwe, Renée Héribel, Alfred Abel, Illa Meery & Charles Dullin
This Franco-German production is one of the last silent films produced by the Albatros company. 1929 represents the nadir of this once flamboyant company. Its main stars and directors had left: Mosjoukine, Tourjansky and Volkoff were now working in Germany (after a brief Hollywood spell for some of them). As for French directors Feyder, Clair and L'Herbier, they were also working elsewhere. So it's not surprising that the company decided to work with producer Wladimir Wengeroff at a time when German cinema was powerful and could provide funds easily. So we end up with a mixed cast made of German (Stüwe, Abel, etc.) and French actors (Héribel, Dullin, etc.). It was also the case for L'argent (1929, M. L'Herbier) with Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Mary Glory and Pierre Alcover. This big production was over 2 hours long. But, alas, it has survived only as 9.5mm reduced version clocking less than 60 min. The storyline is so heavily truncated that it feels like watching a series of small vignettes connected by lengthy titles. None of the characters seems to develop properly. In terms of film-making, Oswald really goes through the motions and doesn't show at all the kind of powerful techniques of 1929. Compared with other films of the time, Cagliostro looks dated. The story follows roughly the Alexandre Dumas novel showing Cagliostro's rise among the crowned heads of Europe and his later involvement in the notorious Queen's Necklace Affair (a bunch of crooks managed to get hold of a priceless necklace made for Queen Marie-Antoinette who had refused to buy it). Famous actors play the historical parts. It's actually quite funny to see that Edmond Van Daële who played Robespierre in Gance's Napoléon is now King Louis XVI while Suzanne Bianchetti is still Marie-Antoinette as in Gance's film. I am quite puzzled as why this particular title was selected for a DVD release when you know the riches of the Albatros catalogue. The only explaination is that the film contains some nudity. Perhaps the DVD company was titillated by the vision of Miss Meery's breasts? Who knows. But, if nudity is a factor to publish silents, then, they should grab quickly L'Enfant du carnaval (1921, I. Mosjoukine) and Casanova (1926, A. Volkoff) as they are both far better pictures and contain the appropriate amount of alluring ladies.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Apr 29, 2013 3:33 pm

After a year and a half in labor, the Albatros DVD set "French Masterworks, Russian Emigres in Paris 1923-1928" is finally available for shipment. The set contains five features, and it looks wonderful. The best price seems to be direct from Flicker Alley:

http://www.flickeralley.biz/index.php?o ... &Itemid=56

I don't want to dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back (or even seeding the customer reviews at amazon.com) but this is a distinguished presentation of really great films in beautiful prints with first class scores, packaged with a superb little book. I'm really proud to have had a part in bringing them out.

Although "The Late Mathias Pascal" is available on a Blu-Ray, no release in that format is contemplated for the others.

David Shepard
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Apr 29, 2013 6:10 pm

Ordered! Five amazing-sounding films I've never seen at the unbeatable pre-order price of $44.95 (25% off), no tax, and free shipping. One helluva deal. Thank you David and the rest of the Flicker Alley crew for bringing us these treasures, and thank you Ann for the stills and writeups on the films in this thread.

And, if I end up loving THE LATE MATHIAS PASCAL (and it sounds like I will), I'll spring for the Blu-ray upgrade as well.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Apr 29, 2013 8:37 pm

WaverBoy wrote:Ordered! Five amazing-sounding films I've never seen at the unbeatable pre-order price of $44.95 (25% off), no tax, and free shipping. One helluva deal. Thank you David and the rest of the Flicker Alley crew for bringing us these treasures, and thank you Ann for the stills and writeups on the films in this thread.

And, if I end up loving THE LATE MATHIAS PASCAL (and it sounds like I will), I'll spring for the Blu-ray upgrade as well.


Excellent! I was watching the release date occasionally slip, so it's nice to know that it's now here. While I know one of the films in great detail, I'm looking forward to seeing the others!
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Re: Albatros productions

PostMon Apr 29, 2013 9:27 pm

Mine came today. It really exists!

I read about Kean in Film Comment in about 1980, and booked it from Murray Glass/Em Gee Film Library. It's only taken 33 years to catch up with the others!
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Re: Albatros productions

PostTue Apr 30, 2013 12:34 am

A large part of my Pordenoen review for this year concerns itself with Albatros, give it a read it you are interested:

http://www.silentera.com/articles/heiss ... e2003.html

My favorite film of this year from Albatros and the 'White Russian' immigration was Michel Strogoff, which hasn't gotten the attention of the films you've mentioned, but I thought was terrific.
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Re: Albatros productions

PostTue Apr 30, 2013 10:54 am

Michel Strogoff is a wonderful super-production and Mosjoukine is the star, but it is not an Albatros film. It is a Films de France - Deulig (German) co-production and for commercial use, there are 11 participants in the rights that we would have to clear. 10 agree to sign off, one will not. Sometimes it is easier although illegal to be a [you imagine the name] DVD publisher that practices steal-to-own.

David
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Re: Albatros productions

PostThu May 02, 2013 3:40 pm

My French Masterworks set came today. Great packaging; a single regular-sized STURDY transparent keepcase with a hinged inside leaf, none of this stack-em-up-on-top-of-each-other nonsense from Flicker Alley. The keepcase fits inside a nice cardboard sleeve along with the informative illustrated nicely-designed booklet. Artwork is fantastic all around, as you'd expect from a class act like FA. An especially cool touch is the giant Films Albatros logo on each inner side of the cardboard sleeve, where you can't really see it unless you peer inside the sleeve. Can't wait to start watching the treasures within...
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PostFri Apr 01, 2016 11:02 pm

Ann Harding wrote:
snackary wrote: However, I had the exact opposite reaction to Le lion des mogols, which felt so absurdly bipolar that it was the perfect environment for Mozzhukhin's see-saw sentimentality. There's so much going on, and it's so complex, while still Epstein's stylistic playground. The nightclub//taxi-ride cutting sequence rivals anything else in his career. It's not his most beautiful film, but it's certainly his most interesting--particularly as an in-joke about France's very prominent orientalist policy/history/whatever.

The film has its fans. Personally, I didn't find it that innovative or well structured. The taxi-ride cutting was quite pointless. It felt like a meaningless exercise unlike Volkoff's rapid-cutting in the Coal Hole Tavern in Kean. Here is was Abel Gance wrote about the film when he saw it in 1924: "I see Le Lion des Mogols. Constant imitation of La Roue. The good scenes are mine. Stupid script. Sets, costumes and acting are in keeping. Mosjoukine is very nearly done for. Overdone and contrived camerawork to show off. No content. Repetitions. A failure." It's a very tough criticism. But, I must agree with him. Epstein is so obsessed with the shape that he forgets the essence.


I finally caught up with this one at the Epstein retrospective at PFA--which i had been ignoring having completely forgotten that he directed this film. Luckily i looked at the program just in time. Between the negative comments i'd seen on this and my indifference to the Epstein films i'd seen before, i went in with low expectations but it was better than i expected. It is ridiculous and the story is not well told, but i thought Mosjoukine was fine and the costumes were hilarious. I could see Mosjoukine's goofy little touches in parts, and of course his Albatross films flirted with the avant garde a lot more than most mainstream films. But, i agree that the "arty" parts of this film were not well integrated or meaningful--there would suddenly be a spate of rapid cutting or strange closeups at ordinary moments in the story and i'd be thinking what was that all about? It just sort of reaffirms my impression that i'm not missing much by skipping the rest of the Epstein films. Judith Rosenberg at the piano is always a plus.

greta
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