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

Enrico Guazzoni – Quo Vadis? (1912)

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Directed by Enrico Guazzoni
Scenario by Enrico Guazzoni, from a novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz
Amleto Novelli (Vinicius), Gustav Serena (Petronius), Amelia Cattaneo (Eunice), Carlo Cattaneo (Nero)

The birth of the motion picture epic is generally dated to the 1913-1914 Italian films Quo vadis, The Last Days of Pompeii, Cabiria and Cajus Julius Cesar, many of them based on a standard set of 19th century religious novels that would be made and remade over the next half of the 20th century. One of several specialists in the genre, Enrico Guazzoni filmed this second version Quo Vadis?, the prime exemplar of a subsidiary genre to “Life of Christ” films, one that might be called the “Christ vs. Caesar” genre. The title of this film means “Where are you going?” and the question is posed by the Ascended Christ to Peter in a vision as the latter departs Rome on the eve of an Imperial persecution. The main story, however, focuses on a Roman commander, Vinicius, who falls for a Christian girl, Lygia, and is so drawn into the underground Christian community, experiencing a personal transformation along the way. Continue reading

Cecil B. DeMille – The Cheat (1915)

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Description: One of the early De Mille’s melodramas: love triangle, fruvolous wife, demonic Japanese tempter… But besides all that melodramatic rubbish it’s one of the most innovative films of the era. De Mille actively experimented with lighting, cutting, and framing to extend narrative technique. “The Cheat” featured probably the first use of so called “psychological editing: cutting not between two simultaneous events but to show the drift of a character’s thoughts. A must see. 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