Mozjoukine

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Seven Days 'Til Sunday
(1998)

Festival entry
Blown up from 8mm. B&W experimental shows shots of (dummy) bodies falling - down a stair well (striking), off a grain storage silo etc. Arresting novelty goes on a bit too long.

The Fledglings
(1964)

British sixities indie.
Every know cliché of the B&W sixties art film - speeded sequences, still frames for the photo session with the girl, Bande à part & Halelluya in the Hills horseplay, improvised dialogue including some wildly out post synch. Even with it's recognisable glimpses of the sixties Chelsea scene it's all as convincing as rubber salami.

Three party scenes, including a lesbian event and witchcraft with the girl reading (of course) beat poetry - "the gates of heaven where all comers will not be admitted, even if they bring bottles"

Two young Chelsea types get the girl they share to go with an unlikely American producer who ignores Zanuck calls and wears a suit which needs pressing.

A few nice images and model Julia White appeals. There's some perverse pleasure in finding a film like this, especially an English one. Quarrier was the blond gay vampire in Fearless Vampire Killers.

Atraksion
(2001)

Late Raoul Servais
Manipulated sepia live action - men in striped tights each carry two ball & chains. One attempts to scale a column and finds gravity reversed - he's on a giant light flex.

Striking imagery. Recognisably the work of the great animator but not one of his best.

What does it mean beyond a condemnation of conformity - inscrutable.

La cosecha
(1970)

Obscure Argentinian feature.
Not without interest though this Argie feature is shot and played in the style of a bucolic comedy even though played with unrelenting seriousness.

Action centers on a farmer prevented from reaping a record harvest by his family, the corruption and bureaucracy of the administration, and inferior machinery - ending with prison gates closing on him.

There's some atmosphere generated by scenics of wheat fields or carnival crowds thrown into jail, These come with a harvest festival and a surreal dream in which characters taunt the stolid lead.

Uomo d'acqua dolce
(1997)

Early and unremarkable Antronio Albanese comedy.
Italian TV comic Antonio Albanese spring boarded into features directing himself in this version of the STREET OF CHANCE plot where he vanishes from the life of his pregnant wife, the appealing red headed Valeria Milillo, only to re-appear holding the jar of mushrooms he went out to find five years ago.

The film is a succession of routines which build to a pay off that never arrives or proves to be feeble. Best segment is a spoof of avant garde music to which Nicola Piovani, the only name in the credits familiar outside Italy, must have contributed.

Polished Milanese production. Albanese would later work with directors like Woody Allen and Gianni Amelio.

So This Is Marriage
(1929)

Lumbering Early Sound short
Curious that this draggy two reeler survives having only the incidental interest of primitive form, the indistinguishable participation of celebrity cameraman Stradling and some proto Radio City Music Hall choreography from a chorus line which shows up at random.

After successive single shots of married couples in double beds we go to some implausible garden party where the lead arranges for the wives to pretend they have been kidnapped by a prowling criminal called "The Gorilla". This leads him to appreciate his own wife for some inexplicable reason. Dialogue is declaimed and everything is shot square on from a distance.

La galerie des monstres
(1924)

Creaky French silent
This is a disappointing silent circus melo from the L'Herbier outfit. Catelain, lead of the drear L'IINHUMAIN is even worse here. Hard to see how his Riquets sub-Harlequin dance act has made him the star of the Buffalo traveling circus - a shadowy anticipation of Freaks.

One of the tribe of gypsies who sleep in the snow outside the Castilian town, He pairs with local girl Moran (the Al Jolson MAMMY) in her first role. They are turned out

Later (how much later?) they are raising a baby in the Buffalo traveling circus arriving in Toledo. Montage of acts - a tumbler, cowboys, clowns, musicians and a fakey menagerie with a rigged human torso, a bearded lady who is obviously a bloke & the skinny girl as a mermaid.

The spurned owner lusts after Moran & lets the lion into the cage where she dances (so so montage). Catelain is made to do his act while they are waiting for the doctor.

The circus acts turn on the boss, vaguely anticipating FREAKs. Flossie the spangles girl and the cowboy lion tamer who stole a kiss from from injured Moran are considered to have redeemed themselves and the leads and their baby get to drive their caravan back to her village Can't see that going too well.

This one offers curiosity value in it's excellent Lobster Films restoration in a square format. Serge Bromberg did a pro-piano accompaniment at the Forum des Images screening in Paris.

Die Lawine
(1923)

Silent Alpine melo from the director to be of "Casblanca."
Escaping political turbulence in their native Hungary, Michael Curtiz and his star Michel /Victor Varconyi set up in Austria where Curtiz made a number of films with now forgotten leading lady Mary Kidd.

This one is a weepy melodrama with Varconyi reclaiming Kidd and her child who he had abandoned to marry well with Lilly Marischka . The spurned bride has her revenge winning him back in a ski resort and then casting him aside. Rescues in the snow by a wonder dog and a pursuit on skis. This last and the glimpse of Marischka's palatial home liven up an unsurprising weepy.

Director Cirtiz and star Varknonyi had polished their technique since their first efforts.

This one will have to stand in for the Mary Kidd collaboration as it is the one to survive and in a nice tinted copy with a slightly abrupt end.

Talla
(2019)

Iranian contemporary drama
Anything from Iran has value as an indicator of what is happening in that country to put against the fake news and propaganda we are stuck with. TALLA / GOLD is pretty good on this level. It shows a group of friends leading unsatisfactory lives in Tehran. Unemployed or tied to unsatisfying jobs which don't allow them to put together savings, they decide to go into business together (think LA BELLE ÉQUIPE) setting up a Soup Restaurant. They hit bureaucratic hurdles and their financing involving ballet with the books runs amok - at which point the piece turns into a people smuggling melodrama.

Things are not helped by the fact that women in head scarves and bearded men tend to look the same (that's the idea) making the piece even harder to follow. This one has moments of conviction but it's mainly a curiosity.

Seven and a Half
(2019)

Afghan-Iranian episode message piece.
Haft va nim / Seven and a Half is the new Persian language film from the Mahmoudi Brothers whose films are regularly put up as the Afghan entry for the Academy Awards. Their subject is the Afghan-Iranian experience with many Afghans moving to Iran, some as a way station to European homes.

Director Navid Mahmoudi's film is made up of seven vignettes each one featuring a distressed young woman battling the demands of Iranian society with an intimidating concept of marriage. Women in head scarfs, rather like men in military uniforms, tend to look the same making things no easier to follow.

Each story is recorded in a single run of Arri 4K digital which provides a muted colour image occasionally undermined by missing a change in exposure, an extra walking through the shot determinedly not looking at the camera or the question of how they are going to continue when someone closes the door on the camera.

Seven and a Half's major asset is it's rendition of a society about which we don't know enough. The film's earnestness and high purpose mark it as a contender for art film distribution which may be undermined by its seventy five minute running time.

Veille d'armes
(1935)

Accomplished French naval melodrama
This apparently edition of the much filmed stage piece can more than hold its place in competition with thirties A French feature melodramas like Accusé leve-toi, Esquadrille and Double crime sur le ligne Maginot. It makes an intriguing comparison with The Woman from Monte Carlo, the Warners version of a few years earlier which used Walter Huston and Lil Dagoner in the parts played by Francen and Anabella. Surprisingly the French film is easily the better and more polished production though the American film's down beat ending has more conviction.

Marcel l'Herbier was an uneven director but here, as with l'Argent or Perfum de la dame en noir, he was right on top of his material, with a great cast (Pierre Renoir is particularly excellent) and a script which works on ironing out the piece's implausibilities and delivers it in gleaming Jules Kruger lighting, against an authentic naval background which constantly impresses and may well have been the patriotic motive behind the production.

Francen declaring in court "The dead witnesses are the vindication of my honor as a French Naval Officer" deserves a cheer. He's less plausible claiming to be 46 as the love interest of Anabella, glamorous in her evening gown with the lily bodice and other high fashion outfits. L'Herbier and Spaak needed to put in as much effort on their unlikely union as they did on the ship at sea stuff to make this work.

This one is a fascinating piece of cinema history as well as a fun night at the movies.

I Spy: Trial by Treehouse
(1966)
Episode 6, Season 2

Good series - limp ep.
The second series of I SPY lost the zip of the original. This otherwise mediocre piece has one interesting idea. The kid in Scotty/Cosby's fake family has already seen one father figure vanish when the previous UNCLE agent was killed and takes that to be the pattern for all the men in his life. He has to be re-assured. Otherwise clichés like the cultivated criminal, the undercover agents faking a murder and romance with back room operative Tyson.

THE SUBURBAN AFFAIR ep kicked the idea around with agreeable outrage.

Il grande spirito
(2019)

So so Rubini gangster piece.
This one is disappointing coming from the creator of STAZIONE and LA BIONDA. Rubini is a scruffy small time provincial hood involved in a gang war. His associates treat him dismissively after a stuff up bank job where he shot a poodle. He manages to get the loot away from them and plans taking off with his beautician ex. However he finds himself trapped in the apartment block roof top squat of crazy (how crazy?) Papaleo on who he has to depend despite the fact that Papeleo thinks he's a Sioux Indian under the control of the Great Spirit.

The cast work at making their characters vivid and the industrial sky line and small time corruption is nicely caught but it really is too much to try and run this up into a two hour movie.

Und der Zukunft zugewandt
(2018)

TIME TO SHAFT THE SOVIETS.
It looks like its time to sock it to the former Soviet Union in movies. This is the big subject for the new Kazakhstan cinema and here it's the infamies of the GDR however Bernd Böhlich' s "Und der Zukunft zugewandt / Sealed Lips" is showing us something subtly different from what we've seen before.

We kick off with a ragged prisoner going over the wire in a gulag as searchlights rake the scruffy ground. Guards open fire. Falsh forward and a stern looking Alexandria Maria is dismissing a call from a friend saying she told her so as the Berlin wall comes down. No surprises so far.

However in her 1952 native Germany, an officer in the Ministry of Propoganda and Innovation one of the officers has reviewed her case and realised that a great injustice has been done here and her two women colleagues. Against the advise of his bureaucrat dad he has the trio repatriated ("Pack thirty kilos and leave your work clothes") and brought back. Turns out she was one of a 1930's group of leftist artists who Stalin put in front of a firing squad.

They ut her fevered daughter into a children's ward and appoint her to a new People's Theatre with a backcloth of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin on the stage and put her to mounting a children's drama on the theme of the Collectivization Conference Ulbrecht is hosting. The only condition is that the women sign a statement that they have been off working in Russia because this is not the moment to admit Russian courts hand down the wrong judgement.

Things are going nicely for Lara. Her daughter is in school while Lara makes it with the Pediatrician. However Stalin dies at the point where one of the survivor women gets into a half bottle of rough red and blabs to the doctor. He queries the matter with the bureaucrat who accuses Lara of breaking her signed agreement. She packs the kid off to her own mother in the country who only half knows the truth ("Do they have no stamps in Russia") before the man in the long over coat flashes his badge and our heroine finds her self in a cell where she can't lie down or sit on the bed before nightfall.

The doctor goes off and takes over the Hamburg practice his dad (Hark Bohm with one scene) is closing thus losing his services to the Socialist state.

This is one where even the people with decent instincts are twisted into infamy by the system.

Nice touches like the portrait painter describing doing Brecht, who got bored posing, only to be told that's the way people feel at his plays. Straight forward effective film making from a mainly TV director brings a feeling of conviction to material which has shading and motivation to the heavies while not diminishing their misdeeds.

This one should have wide showing.

The Girl-Friends
(1968)

Pre boom Australian film short.
Another sub- Canadian Film Board, sub-Goddard (Band a part) short piece marred by self conscious playing and some awkward technique. On the plus side the girl lead was promising & the film offers some interesting ideas on University life eg. the prospects of the working class boy hopelessly following the fine arts course.

The two Melbourne girl flat mates and the boy who wants to drop out with one (cf. the CLaudia Weil film) are not convincingly characterized with the uncertain emphasis and in-jokes.

Four Square Steve
(1926)

Agreeable cowboy two reeler.
This Mustang western is a companion piece to the William Wyler THE FIRE BARRIER and THE TWO FISTER with more riding in a circle round the camera covered by the long lens. If anything, by the modest standards which we must apply, this one is better.

We pick up Ed. Cobb on foot like Randolph Scott in THE TALL T, after shooing his horse like Alan Ladd in WHISPERING SMITH. The nasty is derisive. However shortly Ed punches him out for molesting an appealing young Fay Wray in ringlets and he's the one that has to walk.

Plot develops with abduction and pursuit and there's one great stunt with the hero crashing through the roof of the Bad Hats' shack before a chase in cable car. Nicely cut though they do have direction of travel wrong in leaving the ranch house and getting good value out of it's sparse but adequate production values.

Das wandernde Bild
(1920)

Lang Primative
In a murky and shortened streamed version and much better DVD of the 1987 restoration, this (very) early Lang film must vie with BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT as the director's worst outing.

With it's alpine snowscapes and surprise revelation, it seems closer to Scandinavians like Dreyer and Seastrom or to Arnold Fank, . Throw in an END OF THE AFFAIR vow.

Matronly May (who is not above pressing both palms to her brow in anguish) is on a real train, when she gets a warning telegram. Marr, a motorist is following her escape into the Bavarian mountains. Arriving at the Tyrolean valley resort, she finds her room let but young Dr. Mabuse offers her his, following her across the Königsee lake by motor boat, leaving the pursuer to be rowed.

A hooded mountain hermit first turns May away but finally takes her in, as the man approaches. A flashback reveals the pursuer is the twin brother (an OK matte of him at the window above himself) of her free love companion who wouldn't marry her after she had a child. May and the brother faked a wedding.

The brother sends rocks hurtling down on the hut, where they shelter. Buried in the avalanche with not so convincing studio interiors, May realises that the recluse is actually (cf. MONASTERY at SENDOMIR) her lover Marr, the brother of pursuer Marr - got that?

Klein Rogge leads the rescue and husband Marr is killed in the fight. However that does not bring happiness to all, as hermit Marr has sworn to the stone virgin on the ice cornice that he will not move on May again till the statue walks. A vision or a plot convenience relieves him of his vow. He comes down the mountain to the hotel, where May is being dined by Rogge. The non marriage bond is vindicated and the couple go off leaving cousin Rogge to inherit the family fortune.

As far as can be determined by the abbreviated copy, the handling is advanced for the time and the subject matter is surprisingly modern, including rape in marriage. However it is suffused with the same Xmas card religion that shows up in METROPOLIS. The superimposed phantom bell also anticipates that film's shown-sound alarm gong.

The alpine segments are the film's best and Seeber's snow scenics with grad filter skies are the film's major asset even if his dissolves in camera are shakey.

The piece holds attention quite well and has some striking images - the railway, the lake, the bogus walking virgin, the pursuer foreground in mid shot with the escaping pair across the chasm, distant. However it is just a relic with none of the evil fascination of the director's crime movies.

Samgoeori moostang sonyun-ui chwehoo
(2006)

Shoddy Korean shocker
South Korean ultra violence feature of remarkable shoddiness. The guy in the Ron Perlman beast make up has a country farm house with his mum, where someone dumps dead animals and people on the table and he gets his head blown open in the car by the character whose eyes are put out at the noodle stall by the heavies, continuing with white eye circle pieces, while the cutie in the vinyl suit hovers.

Caterpillarplasty
(2018)

Grotesque beauty satire.
Digital toon. Grotesque waxy figures subject themselves to beauty parlor treatment. Original imagery makes for a memorable short continuing the Film Board Tradition of advanced animation.

Anita Garibaldi
(1910)

Early years historical Italian film
Played in unedited wide shots and running to dozen a side battles, this one anticipates the Anna Magnani film by half a century. It shows the leader's wife accompanying him on his campaign, harassed by white uniform soldiers and dying nobly.

The performance style is histrionic with lots of flinging arms about and the occasional clutching the heart. The restrained acting of the twenties Italian silents was still to come but the use of actual historic exterior locations and elaborate costuming was already in place. It appears to have been made without artificial lighting.

The contemporary films of David Griffith were already more restrained, more plausible but at this length ANITA GARIBALDI is an interesting glimpse into the evolution of film drama.

Mademoiselle from Armentieres
(1927)

Prestige British silent.
Surviving tinted fragment represents pretty much the second half of the film French inn keeper girl Brody, as in Elvey's HINDLE WAKES backed by mother Ault, follows British soldier-sweetheart Longden and his chum Goddard, into the trenches. Square jawed Boche spy officer Heatherly tells the German officers who have caught them that she gave him the date of the offensive, outraging the captured leads.

We get the usual comic O.R. duo sharing their water bottle and British Tommy Longden cleans his nails with his bayonet during the barrage, waiting to go over the top.

Actuality (or presumed actuality) is integrated quite effectively with little generation loss, however the over-running of the enemy trenches is original shooting, a ferocious, messy business. The scenes with the French on the right, integrating more actuality, add to conviction.

The framing story ends in front of a British terraced house home.

Good pacing, OK performances - at least for the British characters - and well chosen angles make this more watchable than most of the work made around it and confirm the view that Maurice Elvey was a neglected talent.

The second half survives in a tinted print.

VIEWED 2003 UK C:29

The Marriage of Corbal
(1936)

Creaky costume drama.
Terrible imitation Korda British piece presumably aimed at repeating The Scarlet Pimpernel. The opening has some promise with elaborate decors (Otto Werndorf was doing the Max Scack films of that period but there's no desiger credit) and the shiny blade guillotine being sharpened - cut to aristocrat prisoner Terry's blonde hair being trimmed. She jumps when the razor touches her neck. Even here everyone is so British.

There's nothing as good in the rest of the film as the doors at the back of the big set opening to show the guillotine outside.

Citizen Nils Asther shows up as a Revolutionary official with a passport made out for her as his nephew and takes her in drag with his mounted troops towards the Swiss border. Material with her being ordered to wash by the soldiers or the inn maid coming on for her. They are easily bluffed. She's still wearing lipstick. Scene of her in a wet shirt and swimming discretely naked.

The area is under the benevolent control of Marquis Sinclair and the peasants who are quite happy to see others topped, object when his death is proposed. He does a defense about Liberty, Equality and Fraternity being Christian principles. Terry hates her savior because her mother has been executed and has placed herself in Sinclair's care. He of course has a stock of elaborate dresses that are her size. Romance blooms.

The piece tries for a few striking tableaux including the large scale assembly decor which pans to the shadow of the guillotine or a shot of Terry in black mantilla at prayer but the odd striking compositions are wasted. This is a film sorely in need of a couple of good sword fights.

Performances are not helped by a director for whom English is not a first language with accented Asther emoting in a different convention to the English stage actors and taking awkward pauses after he delivers lines meant to be significant. Noah Beery as a loyal Revolutionary Sergeant gets by.

The U-Tube copy is foul and the disk a little better.

Armchair Theatre: The Bird, the Bear and the Actress
(1959)
Episode 26, Season 3

Still impressive British Sixties TV
One of the most impressive episodes of this long running series. The limits of nineteen fifties British TV (and its storage) hold it back from the ambitious statement about high art and commercial mediocrity they want. There's one dirt spotted film shot of an eagle we're told is crushed by the Mistral. We never see the set designs that the Gordon Craig character played by Jones prepares so we have to take the characters' word for it that they are brilliant, which gets by but limits the impact.

A couple of reporters have doing a story on Jones' hermit life (an uncomfortable introduction) and they later encounter theater producer, a barely recognizable Corbett, with his director Montague and star Reid at the roulette table - a bit of unneccesary production value.

Learning from them that the old man is is living thirty miles away, Corbett has his group book into Jones' village inn. Corbett convinces the demanding designer their Sean O'Casey production will be executed exactly to his specification, actually wanting only the prestige of his name. Reid (in unflattering outfits) is captivated when he compares her to an Isadora Duncan character he knew. "Light and shadow he said my face was"

However her ambition to be a star though already twenty eight, along with the taunts of Corbett's neglected, drinking wife keep her subservient until the old designer shows up elated at the prospect of seeing his work staged and she has to tell him that he's being used. He rips up the sketches and the contract.

Toadying Montague tells her of Corbett "He'll kill us both" and Reid comments "He already has."

Working primarily in the single inn lounge and terrace setting, Kotcheff manages to make the performances impress to the point where we forget how tacky the decor is. They can't manage bleak and wind swept and the theatrical language and symbolism (the dead eagle picked over by small birds) are a big ask but the imposing production manages to sell them. The cast are excellent and this is possibly Jones' best outing. The sweat shows on his big close up.

Moving studio cameras and complex staging are state of the art - shots of the Reid distant behind the men, listening to their skulduggery. No flair or unsteadiness. The telerecording crops the top of the image noticeably.

The Film of Her
(1997)

Fascinating short film.
Every so often among the wannabe short movies and film school exercises that get space in festivals, something stands out. THE FILM OF HER is remarkably resonant.

The plot line has a clerk who stops the paper prints from the Library of Congress copyright rolls being burnt because he believes an old porno movie, which has haunted him since he saw it in his youth, is included ... intriguing points of contact with reality and shared experience.

Video transfer uses mixes, superimpositions and undercranking to create emphasis. Director Morrison went on to do a feature length compilation of decayed Nitrate film to be played with live music. These got as far as the Pordenone Silent Film festival.

El proyeccionista
(2019)

Grunge and brooding from the Dominican Republic
José María Cabral's El proyeccionista / The Projectionist fills in our knowledge of Dominican Reublic cinema, a work from one of their most prestigious film makers staring another, one Félix Germán whose 2005 La maldición del padre Cardona this film references.

It's just a pity that the current film isn't more involving. It's got ambition in spades. It's telling us about the death of the photo chemical image, replacing real life with the movies and fetishising screen players to the point where grizzled Germán would rather watch his faded Kodachrome that get it on with spunky young Cindy Galán who keeps on taking her shirt off. Throw in references to the Pygmalion legend.

Traveling showman Germán is not interested in the new digital technology proposed to him, clinging to his 33 and a third records and various movie projectors while rolling round the countryside doing film shows to a dwindling audience. He has a refrigerator full of old Kodak film cans containing home movie footage of a curvy Latina become his love object.

He sets out in the truck taking his movies to barrios where they would rather sit watching their TVs. At one stage, he zaps the junction box plunging the district into darkness to restore his audience.

Young Galán is one the run from her own family problems and imposes herself on the trip despite his resistance. He's on a quest to find the secret in his dad's faded photo, tracking down a former soldier whose memory has dimmed like the physical record.

Germán's pilgrimage leads him to his crumbling one time family home where he recovers a sound record that accompanies ancient film. One of the movie's many implausibilities is the notion that a clockwork Bolex will hold synch. with a battered quarter inch tape deck.

El proyeccionista is grungey and incoherent and it ignores many of the more interesting possibilities it broaches. The (Haitian?) migrant column they encounter is no more than a target of opportunity audience. We've seen bits of this done better in Picture Show Man, Cinema Paradiso or Blow Out. In fact the 1997 Bill Morrison short The Film of Her covers the same ground better in its twelve minutes.

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