Albatros Set almost out on Flicker Alley

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At long last Flicker Alley are releasing their DVD box set of Albatros films titled FRENCH MASTERWORKS: RUSSIAN ÉMIGRÉS IN PARIS 1923-1929 on the 9th April 2013 the films included are: Le Brasier ardent, Kean, Feu Mathias Pascal, Gribiche and Les Nouveaux messieur.

Available now on blu-ray is Feu Mathias Pascal

Keeping a Film Diary

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I know it’s been quiet around here of late. I have been watching silent films. Recently I haven’t seen any I’ve been taken with enough to write about. At least not on a blog. I have been filling my film diary up with reviews.

When I was younger I used to keep a film diary. I jotted down thoughts & plot outlines in the diary’s pages. This was in the pre-internet age before IMDB & you tube. Scribbling down notes was the best way to retain information. As I grew older diaries film related or not fell by the wayside.

Last Christmas I received a decent sized diary. It seemed a waste of paper as I hadn’t needed one for years. Cue Internet Archive. I was looking at a film to watch on the archive & couldn’t remember if I had watched it or not. Fortunately I recognised the office set in the thumb nails. And reading the TV guide I kept thinking “Have I seen that or not?”. It’s easy to remember the great & the awful, less so all the middle of the road movies.

Something had to be done. This year I’ve been filling the diary up with up scribbles on films usually the whole page. The shortest entry goes to ‘Percy Jackson & the Lightening Thief’ with a brief “It was alright”. Which says it all. Of the average movies, particularly silents, some do have the odd interesting moment or character or whatever which is worth recording to separate it from the truly mediocre.

Doing a film diary is quite nice & liberating. There’s no need to think about anyone else reading the comments & their views or grammatical complaints. Or any need to make it understandable to anyone else either! There are no standards other than writing at least a sentence on the page.

It’s interesting to revisit old opinions in the original diaries & see if my views have changed; ‘Asphalt’ I though was better than ‘Pandora’s Box’. I  was wrong about ‘The Curse of the Cat People’ it was more boring the second time around & I still have no sympathy for Emil Jannings’ character in ‘The Blue Angel’.

It’s worth doing a film dairy. Looking at the growing list at the front I’m not surprised I’m having trouble remembering all the films I’ve seen if I times the total by decades.

And finally someone who made a much finer diary than I:

 

100 Silent Films by Bryony Dixon – Book Review

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100 Silent Films book plus a few of the 100 on DVD.

I’ve been meaning to review ‘100 Silent Films’ by Bryony Dixon (2011) for ages & now as ‘The Artist’ is being screened in the UK it may be the best time to do a review as silent film novices look for something to read on the subject & ‘100 Silents’ came out a few months before ‘The Artist’ & is a handy pocket size(see pic^) ideal for a gift or dipping into.

‘100 Silent Films’ is one in a series of BFI Film Guides e.g. ‘100 Musicals’, although as Bryony Dixon says silent cinema is not a genre but the history of film from 1895 – early 1930’s (plus the odd modern silent). While this statement is true, I thought the book would be devoted to feature length silent dramas, which contain many genres; comedy, horror etc. The book doesn’t and Dixon manages to cover other moving pictures that aren’t extended dramas e.g. animation, newsreels, travelogues, nature films, “fairy-films” & serials. Dixon writes she hopes to appeal to the general reader but there are quite a few films in the book that the more knowledgeable about silents may not know about.

I really liked Dixon’s introduction to ‘100 Silent Films’, because I was nodding my head in agreement with the points she made in it, likening silent film to opera and dismissing the myth that our great-grandparents were any dimmer than us & silent film acting wasn’t always the worst in the world. With reguards to silent film acting I’m always reminded of Doris Day’s quote: ‘If a man does something silly, people say ‘Isn’t he silly,’ if a woman does something silly, people say ‘Aren’t women silly.’ swopping man for talkie actor and woman for silent film actor. I can think of some dodgy/dated performances (acting style is always changing) in silents for sure but are all talkie actors today all great or even half-way decent performers? And it’s not all about women tied to train tracks, even if a conversation I had with person recently had them stating these were the only silents they’d seen!

Dixon hoped in her introduction that her book would encourage the reader to investigate some of the 100 and she succeeded with the residents at this castle. We had viewed some of the 100 already and could tell Dixon has good taste.

Dixon in ‘100 Silent Films’ is aware of the digital revolution, watching ‘Die Nibelungen Saga’ on youtube so probably wouldn’t mind us watching the shorter silents on youtube.

I’m glad I got this book otherwise I woulden’t have seen such silents like ‘Rain’, ‘The Cameraman’s Revenge’, ‘Paris Qui Dort’ & ‘Pied de Mouton'(1907) like watching Edwardian theatre?). Reading about ‘IT’ & watching clips on youtube also lead to a DVD purchase even though I had heard about ‘IT’ before. Dixon also convinced us to watch ‘Battleship Potemkin’, which I had steadfastly avoided.

To sum up: Good read, good films, one to dip in & out of.

100 Silent Films Playlist.

Ivan Mosjoukine Extant Films List

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Here is a list of extant Ivan Mosjoukine / Mozzhukhin Films:

1911 Oborona Sevastopolya/Defence of Sevastopol   Film annex movie
1912 Brigand Brothers (BV & M)                                     youtube clip
1912 Snokhach/ the daughter-in-law’s lover 
1913 The Little House in Kolomna (BV, M)                       YOUTUBE SHORT
1913 UNCLE’S APARTMENT                                                     YOUTUBE PART ONE
1913 the peasant’s LOT (BV, M)                                          Youtube clip
1913 Gore Sarry (fragment                                              E.F.T FRAGMENT
1913 Christmas Eve (BV & M)                                             youtube clip
1914 Woman of Tomorrow/Zhenshchina zavtrashevo dnya
1916 The Queen of Spades (b, M & BV)                                youtube clip
1916 The Beggar woman/Nishchaya                                  YOUTUBE CLIP
1917 Father Sergius (b)                                                     Film annex movie
1917 Satan Triumphant                                                       youtube clip
1917 Behind the Screen/Kulisy ekrana (BV, M)fragment) YOUTUBE CLIP
1918 WARRIOR SPIRIT                                                             YOUTUBE CLIP
1918 Little Ellie/Malyutka Elli
1920 L’angoissante aventure            youtube clip
1921 L’enfant du carnaval                 YOUTUBE CLIP
1922 Le brasier ardent (fa)                youtube clip
1923 Kean (fa)                                      YOUTUBE CLIP
1923 La maison du mystère (serial)(fa)
1924 Les ombres qui passent              youtube clip
1924 Le lion des Mogols (p)                youtube clip
1924 FEU MATHIAS PASCAL (fa)                      youtube clip
1925 Michel Strogoff                                   youtube clip
1926 Casanova                                                  youtube clip
1927 Surrender (g)                                         Youtube clip
1929 Manolesco                                              YOUTUBE MOVIE
1930 The White Devil                                       youtube clip
1931 Le sergent X                                  YOUTUBE clip
1933 La mille et deuxième nuit (English & French versions)
1936 NITCHEVO                                                   Youtube clip
1999 Ivan Mosjoukine ou L’enfant du carnaval (documentary) (b: extra on Father sergius dvd)

Key: B: Bach Films

BV: BFI VHS

FA: Flicker Alley forthcoming

G: Grapevinevideo

M: Milestone FILMS

 P: Potemkine DVD forthcoming (N.B Potemkine have recently released Richard Oswald’s Cagliostro (1929) region free with french intertitles & english subtitles which bodes well for their Epstein box set)

Note: This list is not meant to be definitive but is drawn from information found on the internet and in Denise Youngblood’s ‘The Magic Mirror’ book about Russian cinema from 1908 – 1917. Any additions to the list will be welcome, if there is  firm evidence for a films existence eg it’s highly probable the talkie remakes of L’Enfant du Carnaval & Casanova (both 1934) are extant but I haven’t been able to verify this.

Vera Karalli – Spirits Talking & Ghosts Walking

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Vera Karalli (Koralli, Caroly(1889 – 1972) was a queen of the Russian silent screen. Originally she was a ballerina before her first film in 1914, cinematically she’s best known for the films she did with the skilled Russian director Evgeni Bauer. Bauer died in 1917 & Vera left Russia not long after the revolution, not surprisingly as she was the mistress of the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich staying may not have been a wise move. More surprisingly she was rumoured to be involved in the murder of Rasputin. After leaving Russia Vera made only two more films; one French; ‘La nuit du 11 septembre’ and one German; ‘ Die Rache einer Frau’, directed by Robert “Caligari” Weine, and returned to ballet as a teacher

Like all good silent film stars Vera has star quality. Vera may not have been the most beautiful woman in the world, she does have eyes that draws the viewer in and won’t let go and slender arms with graceful movements. The only two silent’s I have seen her in so far are: After Death (1915) & ‘The Dying Swan’ (1916). Vera doesn’t really do much more than stare, mesmerisingly, a lot in ‘After Death’; the usual tale of boy meets girl, boy rejects girl, girl tops herself and then boy decides she really loves her now she’s dead. Karalli gets more to do in ‘The Dying Swan’ which again features more death obsessed gentlemen. Vera plays Giselle, an independent girl, despite being a mute. She even gets a few scenes of romance and happiness, which is handle very nicely by Bauer, although tragedy is just round the corner. As well as Bauer’s trademark dream sequence Karalli also performs the ballet piece of the title which is elegantly and lightly done. Karalli toured with the film doing the dance live on stage and was reputedly a colossal success.

Both of the above films are available on the Evgeni Bauer DVD: Mad Love (1913) BFI) which also features ‘Twilight of a Woman’s Soul (1913) plus an audio essay all for the bargain price of £10 from the BFI. It would also be an ideal gift for lovers of Poe or ‘The Black Swan’.

Vera Karalli Gallery here and clips:

The Dying Swan

After Death

The King of Paris (1917) the last film worked on by Bauer.

Spanish dance clip

Evgeni Bauer: For those that prefer auteur to actors, here’s one of Bauer’s other high points, To Happiness (1917).

The Other Vera:Vera Kholodnaya was the other queen of the Russian screen noted for her beauty (the 1910’s answer to Louise Brooks according to Youngblood) and died tragically young at 26. Her is a clip of one her films: Be Silent, My Sorrow, Be Silent(1918)

M. Edouard Mathe Matters

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Edouard Mathe who he? If his name sounds familiar, you might have seen him in a Louis Feuillade short or serial from 1914 – 24.

Edouard Mathe not looking very happy

Edouard Mathe’s most famous role, despite being overshadowed by Musidora, was in ‘Les Vampires’ (1915). In ‘Les Vampires’ he played Philippe Guérande a journalist investigating and hoping to take down the notorious criminal gang, Les Vampires, over-running Paris. Philippe Guérande was not the usual crusading journalist he wasn’t that good at it, if it wasn’t for his friend Mazamette (marvelously played by Marcel Levesque) he and his relations would have died a thousand times. After several kidnappings Guérande’s mother points out it wouldn’t be safe to go out, particularly after the incident at the window. In this Guérande is sat next to an open window even though he knows the Vampires are after him, and what happens next? He doesn’t get a delivery of flowers that’s what. It’s very inventive so I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it. In the end financee #2 turned out to be better at dealing with vamps. Edouard Mathe is in ‘Judex’ (1916) too, downgraded to the titular character’s brother from his “heroic” role in Les Vampires. ‘Judex’ is the better serial but ‘Les Vampires’ is more inventive.

Why do I like Edouard Mathe?  Mathe is like Clark Kent if he never turned in to superman, he always looks slightly worried. I like his understatedness, a port of quietness after viewing a few scenery chewing flicks. He’s a reassuring presence, when I watched ‘Tih Minh’ as soon as Mathe turned up in ‘Tih Minh’ it immediately became better even if the famous house of lost women scene happened before his entrance. I do like the scene in ‘Tih Mihn’ where our heroes are debating whether to drive to the baddies’ hideout & walk back because they don’t have enough petrol or send the ladies back in the car and walk to the baddies’ HQ. They chose the latter, very gentlemanly.

Edouard Mathe definitely had some intelligence as he became director of the Galeries Saint-Hubert Theatre before his death. I’m not sure what sort of directors position he took, google translate isn’t that good. A director like a director of a business? Or a director of a theatre in the sense he choses what is performed at the theatre? Or the usual type of director who gives notes on how actors should act in the show?

I only know this last fact from an obituary in an issue of film magazine Hebdofilm (dated 1932). I was touched that several years after Mathe’s last film anyone cared enough to write an obituary. I think Mathe got a mention because the writer knew him & gives truth to the statements about the charming aspects of Mathe’s personality.

Edouard Mathe looking happier!

A brief biography:

Edouard Mathe (1886 -1934 or 32) was a silent film actor who almost exclusively appeared in Gaumont films made by Louis Feuillade from 1914-24. His first film was a short, ‘L’hôtel de la gare’ and his last was ‘Les deux gosses’ (according to IMDB).

He was born in Australia in 1886 and went from there to France. After acting in the theatre for a while he started making films with the celebrated film maker Louis Feuillade. He appeared in such early film serials like ‘Les Vampires'(1915), Judex(1916), La Nouvelle Mission de Judex(1917), Tih Minh (1918),Vendémiaire(1918), Barrabas (1919) and a cameo in a spoof of crime serials by Jacques Feyder called Le pied qui étreint(1916). The above films still exist in the archives.

After Feuillade’s death coincidently Edouard Mathe stopped making films and returned to the theatre, organising a successful tour with his wife and appearing in several long running productions which were specifically written for him including: “The trunk of Zinder” (285 performances), “The Man of September 4” (173 performances) and the three acts of “Fot the Zebie”.

At the time of his death he had become the director of  the Theater of Galeries Saint-Hubert in Brussels, Belgium. He was married when he died.

And that’s it, I still have no idea how he ended up in France from Australia and is Edouard Mathe his real name?

 

Will the Real Musidora Please Stand Up?

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Musidora how do I love thee let me count the ways … Firstly I know what she looks like!

Musidora stand out star of ‘Les Vampires’ (1915) and ‘Judex’ (1916), writer of books and films and director of a few too. A male impersonator on stage and owner of an impressive friend list including Collette. Musidora took to the bullring to prove woman were brave enough to be allowed the vote in Spain.

It irritates me so many people waffle on the web writing: “Musidora she’s so amazing,” and then illustrate their great appreciation by putting up photographs that clearly aren’t her.

For all those people, and those who thankfully aren’t, here are photos of the real Musidora (and here).

Musidora

Musidora side profile

Musidora on a horse

Les Vampires

Older but still Musidora

Not Musidora

Theda Bara does look very similar to Musidora but Musidora she is not.

Theda Bara looking really bored at being mistaken for Musidora

“Look if I write my name over my face will you believe I’m NOT Musidora?”

Argh, the most famous photo of Musidora from Les Vampires, except that it isn’t.

A fake vampire!

This is a photo of a different actress. In Les Vampires this lady is playing the hero’s finance who dresses up as a vampire on stage. Once Musidora turns up, in Les Vampires, wearing her black body stocking the watcher can tell that the two actresses body shapes are different.

Final Postcard of Musidora:

 

Why I chose ‘Silents are Entertaining Too’ as the title of my website

I chose the title ‘Silents are Entertaining too’ for my website because I think many people think silents aren’t entertaining. Out of the those that will actually watch silents, the majority are probably film students who are forced to watch it because they have to and don’t want to. Or else they’re film buffs who feel that they have to watch X & Y otherwise they can’t claim to be experts. Happily there are others out there who know silents aren’t just homework e.g Talking about Silents who find silents so sexy their page seems to have disappeared. The funny thing about silent feature films & serials is that I get much more attached to the characters/stars than in a ‘normal’ film. I always feel sad when I get to the end of a Feuillade serial, even the middling ‘Tih Minh’, like I’m having to leave friends, silly I know.

I think people would get along better with silent film if they saw (Talkie) films and silent films as different e.g. nobody expects ballet and opera to be the same.

Silent film can take a bit of getting used to but once you’ve cracked it, you’ve cracked it. After all millions of film-goers weren’t watching it for their health or to get an  exam pass back in the day. Some read old books, others listen to classical music centuries old, so why not?

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