Ernst Lubitsch – Madame DuBarry aka Passion (1919)

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In 1919, before Ernst Lubitsch was known for his famous “touch,” the master director made something like nine films–a perfect opportunity for an artist to really practice his craft. Even he had to start somewhere.

Madame du Barry was retitled Passion to avoid the anti-German sentiment after World War I. Even though it was a French title and a French story, in Europe the movie was connected to the German director Ernst Lubitsch. Lubitsch’s name appeared nowhere in the American posters or movie titles so the movie wouldn’t bomb in America.

The great German actress Pola Negri plays the title character, a poor seamstress who becomes the courtesan of King Louis XV (Emil Jannings), and forces him to promote her secret lover to lieutenant in the royal guard so that he will be close to her. The story ends in tragedy for the lovers, but also a Bastille Day triumph. Continue reading

Mauritz Stiller – Herr Arnes pengar aka Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919)

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In the sixteenth century, the Swedish king availed himself of mercenaries from other nations to wage his wars, however, rumors of mutiny and insurrection made him banish and imprison a force of Scottish soldiers. Having escaped prison, three such mercenaries find themselves adrift in the icy wasteland of the severe Swedish winter. Half mad from starvation and drink, they commit a senseless and utterly bestial crime. Although they initially manage to evade justice, no ship is able to carry them away through the frozen waters and back to Scotland. They remain stranded on the coast of Sweden, waiting for Spring to arrive, knowing not that destiny’s nimble hands are weaving its web around them with every passing day. Continue reading

Various – The Movies Begin – Disc 5 – Comedy, Spectacle, and New Horizons (1893 – 1913)

This edition explores the establishment of cinematic genres in the first years of the 20th Century, offering rare glimpses of the innovative visual comedy of Max Linder, the pioneering Italian epic NERO – or THE BURNING OF ROME, the phenomenal animation of Windsor McCoy, the social realism of Alice Guy Blaché’s MAKING OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN, D. W. Griffith’s early melodrama A GIRL AND HER TRUST, and more!

By 1907 the cinema’s initial growing pains had subsided and fairly distinct generic categories of production were established. This volume of The Movies Begin examines some of these integral works that begin to reflect the modern day cinema — punctuated with authentic hand-tinted lantern slides used during early theatrical exhibition. Continue reading

Yakov Protazanov – Pikovaya dama AKA The Queen of Spades (1916)

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Already in the early years of Russian cinema Protazanov’s name was a hallmark of artistic excellence. “The Queen of Spades” is a brilliant example of his extraordinary talent. The film has not only a first-rate story and ingenious Mozzhukhin’s performance, but also all the tricks that were available to filmmakers in 1916. The use of crosscutting in the film is quite sophisticated for the time; superimposition is yet another important device; and the use of flashbacks here is very effective. Unlike most pictures of that time “The Queen of Spades” made a genuine contribution to the evolution of Russian film art. I think it would be great if more people see one of the best pre-revolutionary Russian films.

–GostaBerling Continue reading

Carl Boese & Paul Wegener – Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam aka The Golem: How He Came Into the World [+Extras] (1920)

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Classic Horror Review :

Emanating from Jewish folklore, the legend of the “golem” has transfixed audiences for centuries. Although when used pejoratively the word “golem” describes a moronic person easily manipulated, the word often refers to any mythical creature animated from inanimate materials such as clay, sand, or stone.

One of the most popular “golems” appears in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Spelled “Gollum,” Tolkien’s character shares similarities with creatures that haunted Jewish legends, particularly the golem featured in director Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent classic, The Golem. Both suffer from split personalities and possess hybrid traits: Gollum is part human, part frog, fish, etc.; many Jewish golems, including Wegener’s, are monsters made of inanimate objects that carry human traits. Both have been damned or punished, and in both instances, the creatures start well intentioned but transform into evil beings, usually due to gluttony, greed, wrath, envy, or pride. Thus, they are morally “gray,” and like Wegener’s monster, Tolkien’s has often been depicted as gray in color to symbolize this amorality, most notably in Peter Jackson’s recent films. Continue reading

Louis Feuillade – L’orgie romaine AKA Heliogabale [hand coloured version] (1911)

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Short silent epic from gaumont, hand coloured. The story of Elegabalus, one of Rome’s most vain, brutal, decadent and perverted emperors. Apart from his personality problems, things only really take a nasty turn for him when he sets lions on his guests at a palace party. After a couple of years, people (or at least the pretorian guards) are not going to stand for that… Continue reading