"Brumes D'Automne" (1929) By Dimitri Kirsanoff

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"Brumes D'Automne" (1929) By Dimitri Kirsanoff

Unread post by Ferdinand Von Galitzien » Sat Nov 07, 2009 12:23 am

At this time, those longhaired youngsters interested in this Herr
Graf's silent rants, probably will know, among other aristocratic
trifles, the fondness of this German count for the autumn season, an
indispensable relief for the battered aristocrats, wearied after
enduring the sufferings of the summer season going to and fro, that is
to say, from soirées to private balls, from Baden-Baden to Monte Carlo.

All the virtues of the autumn season are wonderfully depicted in a
short but exceptional silent film, "Brumes D'Automne" (1929), another
superb, lyrical masterpiece by Herr Dimitri Kirsanoff.

As it says in the preface to this beautiful short film, "Brumes
D'Automne" is a cinematic poem, an astounding, lyrical and avant-garde
oeuvre wherein Herr Kirsanoff gets hold of the titanic task of
capturing the melancholy, nostalgia, the hope and hopelessness of human
inner sentiments. Frau Nadia Sibirskaia ( Herr Kirsanoff's first wife
and his muse during his early oeuvres ) reflects these aims perfectly
and Herr Kirsanoff transmits them to the audience in an incredible way.

The genuine autumn mood is exhibited in "Brumes D'Automne" in a
superior, unique, painful and even magical manner. It is an exceptional
film in which the autumn atmosphere and ethereal human feelings
complement each other admirably. The audience is moved by evocative
images from nature ( falling leaves, rain, mist frozen landscapes), all
beautifully photographed by Herr Jean de Miéville. This, combined with
the suffering the heroine must undergo, makes "Brumes D'Automne" a
melancholy masterpiece.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because
this German Count must enjoy the autumn season mood.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien
http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/

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Unread post by davidgasten » Sun Nov 08, 2009 4:21 pm

Oooo--great movie! This one shows up in Kino's Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Rip: Music For Experimental Film DVD. Here's my little write-up on Brumes D'Automne in my review of the Verlaine/Rip DVD:


Brumes D’Automne (1929) is a film directed by French resident and Estonian émigré Dimitri Kirsanoff. Kirsanoff was an early independent filmmaker who developed his own style and technique without being aware of the other French avant grade filmmakers of his period, at least initially. Apparently Kirsanoff has a whole body of fantastic work that to this day has yet to be completely rediscovered.

Like Man Ray, Kirsanoff takes a poetic approach to his filmmaking, but chooses to use a more cohesive (if fragmentary and minimalistic) storyline. Kirsanoff tells this story with one actress (Kirsanoff’s first wife Nadia Sibirskaïa, whom he would use repeatedly in his short films, and who would go on to play roles in a couple of Jean Renoir movies); brief, faceless glimpses of one male actor; and a series of naturalistic settings, all with no intertitles whatsoever.

The story goes like this: It is autumn, the leaves are falling, it’s raining outside, and the days are getting shorter and colder. A girl receives a “Dear John” (or is that a “Dear Jane?”) letter from the man she loves. She remembers the last time she saw him and how she had agreed to wait for him—and now he has left her, so she ended up waiting for nothing. She is heartbroken and proceeds to burn all of his letters. The smoke from the burning letters goes out of the chimney and into the crisp autumn air, forever lost and never to return. She then goes out walking in the fallen leaves, draped in a large shawl. She comes upon a lake, and considers suicide, the cold lake beckoning her to her death like a chorus of male sirens. But she picks herself up and keeps walking, as the leaves in the trees above her fall and float away in the water, almost as if they are carrying the initial strains of heartbreak away with them. The end.

Although Brumes D’Automne concentrates more on a moment of lost love, the film is still quite romantic, as it gazes lovingly upon the actress and plunges the viewer headfirst into her world and her emotions. We want to wrap our arms around the actress and let her cry in our bosom, but obviously this is not to be; the only comfort she has is the large, warm shawl that is wrapped around her. For this film, Verlaine improvises over a subtle tick-tock pulsing provided by Rip that gives us an ever-present sense of the falling rain and the falling leaves. Again, the film is romantic but cold at the same time, which repeats the theme of longing that comes across so well in [Man Ray's] L’Etoile de Mer. Verlaine and Rip prepare you for the sequence where the actress considers suicide by starting the suspense when she walks out the door, and then building it up, letting you hear and feel the lake calling out to her as she becomes delirious, and then returning to the gentle, pulsing tick-tock of the rain and leaves when she shakes off the thoughts of suicide and keeps walking.

[This is] definitely [an] experimental silent film you could play for your girlfriend—just don’t tell her that it’s “experimental film”.


You can read my full review of the Verlaine/Rip DVD that features Brumes D'Atomne at:

http://www.polanegri.com/tom_verlaine_dvd.htm[/i]
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Unread post by spadeneal » Wed Nov 11, 2009 4:29 pm

Ménilmontant was a favorite of Herman G. Weinberg, and Weinberg's own Autumn Fire obviously owes a debt to the visual style of Brumes d'Automne. However, there is an implication in Weinberg's writing -- mirrored in a lot of other writing about Kirsanoff -- that he was an underachiever and really didn't do anything interesting after Rapt. This, I think, has helped lead to an incuriosity about Kirsanoff's work apart from the "big three" -- Ménilmontant, Brumes d'Automne and Rapt -- and further may have led to the loss of some titles and the neglect of his other work. Certainly most of them are unavailable.

He seems to have continued making experimental shorts after Rapt, most in a musical vein. He also made some documentaries and conventional narrative films, but he never seems to have really broken into mainstream French film-making the way his fellow experimenter Jean Renoir did. I, for one, would like to know more. Also, Kirsanoff apparently had some contact with film-making in the Soviet Union before he went to France, but as he arrived in Paris in 1923 I wonder what that could have entailed. Russian montage -- the style Kirsanoff is often cited as an exponent of -- was still in its infancy by the time he left.

I think projection speed in Ménilmontant is crucial. The famous axe-murder scene at the opening is just an unintelligible blur if you project it too fast, and most times I've seen it, that was the problem with it.

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Unread post by FrankFay » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:21 am

Sometimes an artist only has so much in him, and after a while he gets blocked or burned out.
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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:40 am

Also, Kirsanoff apparently had some contact with film-making in the Soviet Union before he went to France, but as he arrived in Paris in 1923 I wonder what that could have entailed. Russian montage -- the style Kirsanoff is often cited as an exponent of -- was still in its infancy by the time he left.
Or was it?

Here's what I've always found interesting. We haven't seen enough of the pre-Soviet Russian films, the White Russian emigres such as Alexander Volkoff, V.I. Tourjansky, Yakov Protazanov, etc. to know, but where are the two places that rapid cutting and montage flourished in the mid-20s?

In Russia-- where the White Russians had been.

And in France-- where they went. Where it's visible in their films (Volkoff's Kean, say) and in those of people they came to know and work with, such as Abel Gance (both Volkoff and Tourjansky assisted on Napoleon).

To me that suggests that they had already developed it to some degree before emigrating, and were the main influence on it developing in France. Of course, for both personal and political reasons, the Soviet filmmakers had no interest in telling anybody that their petit-bourgeois predecessors were the initial inspiration of their great innovations. And so the reputations of the White Russians have constantly been belittled and written out of film history, regarded as either unimportant (in Russia) or mere commercial product (in France); even though when someone does see their films, they're usually impressed.

So I would not trust any historical judgement on the merits of Kirsanoff's later work without seeing the films for myself.
We need to preserve our old movies so that future generations may continue to misinterpret them. —Dave Kehr

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"Russian" cutting

Unread post by DShepFilm » Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:08 am

In 1989 the Pordenone Giornate del Cinema Muto was devoted primarily to pre-Revolutionary Russian silent films. They ran dozens, selected from (as I recall) about 300 survivors; the selection was by Yuri Tsivian and David Robinson.

They were extremely interesting films for many reasons, and most were beautiful prints from original negatives. BFI (and Milestone, distributing in this country) released a nice sample on VHS. But there was no evidence in any of them that the very short shots characteristic of later Soviet or French impressionist films found its source in pre-Revolutionary Russian cinema. Those films are languid, to put it gracefully.

INTOLERANCE got to Russia (minus the Christ segment) and to continental Europe in 1920 and perhaps Iris Barry was right when she speculated some 70 years ago that Griffith was the fount of inspiration for very fast cutting, organized on whatever principle (remember ? Eisenstein = collision; Pudovkin = linkage)

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Unread post by greta de groat » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:06 am

I've been curious about the editing issue as well, and i've seen the Milestone collection that, cool as the films are, show no sign of that style of editing. Perhaps there were closer ties between the exile filmmakers and those remaining in Russia than we realize. When did it first appear in Europe, in France or Russia? Was Gance first, or was it Kuleshov? Were the Russian exiles reading Kuleshov's writings? Protazanov went back to Russia, i'm not sure if there were others who went back and forth between Russia and France in the 20s or how easy it was to see the latest film from either place. I mean, Griffith could have inspired both groups separately, but it does seem to a bit much of a coincidence that the same style turns up in the circles of Russians and Russia ex-pats but nowhere else.

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Unread post by spadeneal » Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:17 pm

The Fall of Babylon made its bow in Russia in 1919, and Eisenstein cited it as a major influence. Jean Renoir was also deeply impressed by it -- he saw it in Paris. So that's one possible connection. Of course, we are so conditioned to Intolerance as a whole unit in the US that some do not consider the abridged versions very seriously, but The Fall of Babylon was far more widely seen in greater Europe than Intolerance. Griffith himself once said that he was invited to direct a film in Russia, but wouldn't do it as they only offered to pay him in furs.

Dziga Vertov began his first series, Kinonedelja (Kino Daily), in 1918. I have not seen what remains of this 41-chapters long series (which, surprisingly, is most of it), but it was shown at Pordenone a couple of festivals ago. From what I was able to gather, Kinonedelja is a newsreel and -- while it is more interesting than most newsreels (Eduard Tissé was one of the cameramen) it does not break out into Russian Montage. Even for Vertov, that would be a later development.

I have heard a story that Russian film makers adopted fast montage out of necessity owing to the short lengths of film cutoffs available to them to use for shooting. While I'm sure the short lengths were a circumstance, I suspect the veracity of that story, especially when you have guys like Kirsanoff cutting sequences together in lengths of 1-3 frames per shot.

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Unread post by Mike Gebert » Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:03 am

So I picked up the Tom Verlaine/Jimmy Rip DVD, which consists of six Rohauer-distributed experimental films.

Brumes d'Automnes is easily one of the two best. It's a lyrical evocation of melancholy, mostly beautiful in its minor key way. I don't think it's the equal of Menilmontant, but it's quite successful at what it's aiming for. One advantage it has is that the female (Nadia Sibirskaia) is genuinely beautiful, and Kirsanoff also dresses her well, which puts it leagues ahead of the two Man Ray films, for instance, in which rather gawky French women walk around in unflattering clothes. The other advantage it has is, a point.

The other one I have always liked is The Life and Death of 9413-- A Hollywood Extra. It too has a story and a point of view (sardonic), and I've always admired its Metropolis-on-the-cheap ability to conjure up an atmospheric Expressionist look out of what's obviously cardboard and shadows.

The rest, well, they are much like student films, a little experimenting (let's shoot through rippled glass!) and every foot of it winds up in the finished film. The American version of Fall of the House of Usher has some nice visuals, but it just screams "we just saw Caligari and want to make one too!" (Robert Florey, co-director of 9413, later felt the same way, but he got Bela Lugosi and a gorilla for his.) Rhythmus 21, an abstract cartoon, is just primitive for its genre, abstract shapes moving about, hard to be impressed by that in the CGI era. Of the two Man Ray films, Emak-Bakia seems quite aimless, while L'Etoile de Mer at least manages a sinister air of menace, but in either case, you can't help thinking how much more focused and pointed Luis Buñuel's similar work is, because he has a satirical point to make beyond merely playing with shooting reflections in a piece of costume jewelry.

The scores are a bit too similar and, with the twanging guitar dominant in some cases, you start to expect Lee van Cleef to turn up looking for Eli Wallach. If you object to modern scores, you will find much to object to, if you don't, they have some effectively moody moments.
We need to preserve our old movies so that future generations may continue to misinterpret them. —Dave Kehr

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Unread post by Damfino » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:41 pm

I wrote a little review of this DVD a couple years ago which I'll post - since I'm a fan of twangy guitar and it's not often used for silent soundtracks, I had a more positive response....
***

A few months ago, Kino released a DVD that I haven't seen much mention of, called Music for Experimental Film, featuring Tom Verlaine & Jimmy Rip playing guitar soundtracks to a selection of several silent avant-garde films. I believe all of these films were on Kino's earlier Avant-Garde collection; the difference here is the soundtrack. And what sounds!
Some of you may know Tom Verlaine as being the guitarist for Television; the music for the films on this disc is quite gorgeous and hypnotic, and is perhaps the most entrancing accompaniment I've ever heard for silent films. So even though folks have seen these films before, I highly recommend this disc just to listen to it!

This website has a good review:
http://www.polanegri.com/tom_verlaine_dvd.htm

It's pretty rare that "rock-style" accompaniments get released with silent films. Sometimes indie-rock bands will play live soundtracks to silent films, but these are usually one-time events that survive only in the memory of those who were there. I recall wonderful live shows of Page of Madness and Menilmontant, for instance, but the music can't be resurrected. Jean Painleve's underwater documentaries have been released on DVD with a very minimalist soundtrack by Yo La Tengo (Painleve's shorts are fascinating, by the way). The great band Califone has put out two CDs (Deceleration One and Two) featuring their soundtracks for Salome (1922) and The Mascot (1933), but of course you have to sync those to the films yourself. At the moment I can't remember any other examples.....

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Unread post by Penfold » Sun Nov 22, 2009 4:58 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:
Also, Kirsanoff apparently had some contact with film-making in the Soviet Union before he went to France, but as he arrived in Paris in 1923 I wonder what that could have entailed. Russian montage -- the style Kirsanoff is often cited as an exponent of -- was still in its infancy by the time he left.
Or was it?

Here's what I've always found interesting. We haven't seen enough of the pre-Soviet Russian films, the White Russian emigres such as Alexander Volkoff, V.I. Tourjansky, Yakov Protazanov, etc. to know, but where are the two places that rapid cutting and montage flourished in the mid-20s?

In Russia-- where the White Russians had been.

And in France-- where they went. Where it's visible in their films (Volkoff's Kean, say) and in those of people they came to know and work with, such as Abel Gance (both Volkoff and Tourjansky assisted on Napoleon).

To me that suggests that they had already developed it to some degree before emigrating, and were the main influence on it developing in France.
I haven't seen any quick cutting in Tsarist Russian cinema either, but there are hints of it in Gance's J'Accuse (1918/19)...and it's fully operational in La Roue (1922/23)which suggests that Gance developed the technique, and that the White Russian filmmakers learnt it from him.....how Soviet Russian filmmakers developed it - independently?? Would they have seen films like La Roue ?? From contacts in France?? I wouldn't know....
I could use some digital restoration myself...

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Unread post by davidgasten » Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:01 pm

Nice to see a couple more references to the Verlaine/Rip DVD! Damfino, thanks for linking to my review; I appreciate that! It was a DVD that I was concerned was going to get lost in the shuffle, hence why I went out of my way to review it.

Regarding modern soundtracks, I actually got into silent movies because of them. I will be honest and say that a lot of indie rock or avant-artsy-fartsy soundtracks would likely not be to my liking because lots of times these are too artist-centric. It's like they want to remake the Andy Warhol extravaganzas with The Velvet Underground playing and Warhol's movies playing on the wall. To me that just makes the silent movie into shifting wallpaper; they might as well put a kaleidoscope up there. The ones I like are where the performers support the movie on the wall--they pay attention to the rise and fall, the tension, and the punctuation in the movie, and don't get in the movie's way.

Here's a short list of really good, well-constructed modern silent movie soundtracks:
  • · Canadian new-wave era performer Nash the Slash's Nosferatu soundtrack. There's no video so you have to synch it yourself, but its definitely one of the best modern soundtracks I've heard. I have a review of that one up at: http://www.polanegri.com/nash_the_slash_nosferatu.htm.

    · The French prog/chamber/electronic group Art Zoyd have soundtracks for Noseratu, Faust, Häxan, Metropolis, and the French The Fall of the House of Usher, and the first two especially are really good. The alternate soundtrack on the regular (non-HD) Kino DVD of Nosferatu is the Art Zoyd version.

    · Gary Lucas of Captain Beefheart fame has a soundtrack to The Golem[ that he's performed all over the world; what I've seen of it is pretty powerful.
[/list]

One of the artist-centered "silent movie as moving wallpaper" ones that I'll mention is from the German prog/krautrock band Faust, who are known to many as the granddaddies of industrial music. They have two completely different improvised versions of a Nosferatu soundtrack, one on CD and one on vinyl--I have the vinyl one. I like it because it's Faust, but it really makes no sense as a movie soundtrack.
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