Alfredo De Antoni – Il processo Clémenceau (1917)

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It is ironic that the very few references to this excellent film that I was able to find online all referred simply to the fact that this was Vittorio De Sica’s first film!? And, it is true of course that the young De Sica appears in the film briefly as the son of the Clemenceaus, but the film has so much more to offer… Based on Alexandre Dumas fils’ novel, the film stars Francesca Bertinini as Iza in this tragedy of a woman trapped in a loveless marriage. At 107 minutes, this was a lengthy film for 1917. It is divided into two parts, chronicling the life of Iza as a girl or young woman, and her life as an adult. The story is told through the pen of her husband, and this is in several ways important in appreciating the subtle weight of what could on the surface look like a “typical” Diva film of the era, but which does in fact carry more psychological weight, and was inspired by the more complex dramas that Asta Nielsen starred in during the early teens. Continue reading

Lawrence B. McGill – How Molly Malone Made Good (1915)

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This 1915 film stars Marguerite Gale as the title character, a journalist trying to make her name by interviewing celebrities for the New York Tribune. Picture quality is quite good, although the print is a little dark on the whole. A number of celebrities play themselves, including noted drag performe Julian Eltinge, and burlesque star Mabel Fenton. Continue reading

Robert Reinert – Opium (1919)

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“Opium” (1919)

Produced in Germany by Meinert-Films
Directed by Robert Dinesen
Released in 1919 with a running time of 112 minutes.

Cast Werner Krauss, Sybill Morel, Hanna Ralph, Conrad Veidt and Eduard von Winterstein

Cinematic Freedom

Germany in 1919 was a country that had been devastated by the war, four years of slaughter, famine, civil unrest, a civil war and runaway inflation. The country was in dire need of change. The Council of Peoples Representatives in 1919 abolished the military censorship that had been in effect since 1918. The council believed that the numerous political parties causing unrest would use the screen to spread their political views instead of battling in the streets. The political parties continued using the streets and beer halls to spread their message, but, having nothing to fear from government interference, the film industry decided to take advantage of the abolishment of censorship. Continue reading

Enrico Guazzoni – Fabiola (1918)

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Italian film’s early master of the historical spectacle, Enrico Guazzoni, was responsible for the second of (at least) three film adaptations of Nicholas Patrick Wiseman’s classic novel about Christianity’s rise in ancient Rome. Aside from the usual great production values of these silent epics, what surprises here is perhaps the rather graphic violence. And, the film is further notable for being Elena Sangro’s debut (when she was still going by the name Maria Antonietta Bartoli-Avveduti) in the title role no less. Continue reading

Antoni Bednarczyk – Dla ciebie, Polsko aka For You, Poland (1920)

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The film’s plot is set during the war between Poland and the Soviet Russia (1919 – 1921). Wartime brutally encroaches on the life of a couple in love – Franek and Hanka. The Bolshevik troops cause damage to Polish villages and manor houses, and in one of the manor houses the invaders have a carousel. Luckily, the Polish cavalry comes to the relief just in time. Unable to wait passively, Hanka becomes a sister of mercy in one of the field hospitals near Vilnius, while Franek gains wide recognition after capturing a Russian spy. The significant documents found on the spy contributed to the capture of Vilnius. The bloody battles end with the Polish troops entering the town, and Hanka and Franek finally find each other again, although in quite surprising circumstances. The film ends with the documentary recording of the ceremony of incorporating Vilnius into the Polish borders, with the participation of Marshal Piłsudski, the highest commanders of the Polish army and some foreign guests. Continue reading

Lois Weber & Phillips Smalley – The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916)

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from the Milestone Films website:

“Pavlova’s artistry is something that we are often asked to take on faith, something where you had to be there. Watching The Dumb Girl, you are there!” — Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

In the early 20th century, when few stars were known by name, no woman had greater worldwide fame than ballet dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova. Unlike movie actresses, whose celebrity spread with the international distribution of their films, Pavlova’s renown had to be earned theater by theater, performance by performance. Her legendary art was, by its nature, ephemeral. Still, no one traveled farther or worked harder than this slight daughter of a Russian laundress. Continue reading