The Great Consoler is Lev Kuleshov’s most personal film reflecting both the facts of his life and his thoughts about the place of the artist in contemporary reality. It was the only film in the Soviet cinema of those years that raised the question of what role a creative person played in society.
The film takes place in America in 1899, and in its principal plot depicts Bill Porter, who is the great consoler of the title, in prison. His writing skills earn him privileges from the governor and he is spared the inhumane treatment meted out to other prisoners. Porter is very much aware of the brutality around him but, mindful of his better conditions, refuses to write about prison life. He prefers to console his less-well-treated friends, and indeed all his readers, with excessively romantic fantasies in which good invariably triumphs. Continue reading Lev Kuleshov – Velikiy uteshitel aka The Great Consoler (1933)
In a chic nightclub, a navel officer admires his new love, the singer Stella Maria. A fellow officer warns him not to get involved with this woman and tells the tragic story of a sailor who lost everything because of his love for her. Some years before, in the port of Toulon, a sailor, Jean, met Stella in a bar. The two danced and instantly Jean realised he was love. The sailor later traced Stella to her home in St Tropez where, having forced his way into her bedroom, he spent the night with her. Some days later, Jean saw Stella in the company of another man. Driven by jealousy, he deserted his post and decided to put an end to his days… Continue reading Jean Godard – Pour un soir..! (1931)
Impressionistic short documentary of the Helsinki morning at the end of 1930s with a poetic narration. Continue reading Valentin Vaala – Herää Helsinki! AKA Wake Up, Helsinki! (1939)
Unable to secure Hollywood-studio backing for his Depression-era agrarian drama Our Daily Bread, director King Vidor financed the picture himself, with the eleventh-hour assistance of Charles Chaplin. Intended as a sequel to Vidor’s silent classic The Crowd (1928) the film casts Tom Keene and Karen Morley as John and Mary, the roles originated in the earlier film by James Murray and Eleanor Boardman. Unable to make ends meet in the Big City, John and Mary assume control of an abandoned farm, even though they know nothing about tilling the soil. Generous to a fault, the couple opens their property to other disenfranchised Depression victims, and before long they’ve formed a utopian communal cooperative, with everyone pitching together for the common good. Beyond such traditional obstacles as inadequate funding, failed crops and drought, John is deflected from his purpose by sluttish blonde vamp Sally (Barbara Pepper), but he pulls himself together in time to supervise construction of a huge irrigation ditch — a project which consumes the film’s final two reels, and which turns out to be one of the finest and most thrilling sequences that Vidor (or anyone) ever put on film. Continue reading King Vidor – Our Daily Bread (1934)
“Mountain-film” specialist Luis Trenker plies his trade with his usual expertise in the Austrian Velorene Sohn (Prodigal Son). Trenker himself plays the leading role of Tonia Feuersinger, a Tyrolean mountaineer bound and determined to scale the American Rockies. He also wants to journey to the States to court pretty American tourist Lillian Williams (played by pretty American actress Marian Marsh). Leaving his broken-hearted local girlfriend (Maria Andergast) behind, Tonio treks to New York, but never quite makes it to the Rockies; instead, he gets a welding job on a skyscraper, then achieves success as a prizefighter. In the end, however, he realizes that his heart is still in the Tyrol and thus returns to the arms of his hometown sweetheart. Though aimed at the German-speaking clientele, Verlorene Sohn was financed in Hollywood by Universal Pictures.
— allmovie.com Continue reading Luis Trenker – Der verlorene Sohn AKA The Prodigal Son (1934)
A Man-Made Monster in Grand Guignol Film Story
Out of John L. Balderston’s stage conception of the Mary Shelley classic, “Frankenstein,” James Whale, producer of “Journey’s End” as a play and as a film, has wrought a stirring grand-guignol type of picture, one that aroused so much excitement at the Mayfair yesterday that many in the audience laughed to cover their true feelings. Continue reading James Whale – Frankenstein (1931)
Tanya, a Russian refugee, is hiding in Rangoon, Burma under the protection of her lover, Tony Evans, a gunrunner working for a weathly underworld leader named Nick. Nick wants to add Tanya to his stable of women in a decadent Rangoon club and intimidates Tony into turning her over to settle a debt. At first the abandoned Tanya refuses to cooperate with Nick, but eventually decides to beat him at his own game and uses sex to gain power. She becomes notorious for her affairs, is re-named “Spot White,” and by blackmailing a British officer, gets passage money out of Rangoon. On the boat to Mandalay, she meets formerly prestigious surgeon Gergory Burton who is now exiled in Burma because of his alcoholism, and they fall in love. Unfortunately, Tony has followed her, and in an attempt to escape the authorities, he frames her for what appears to be his murder. She is arrested, but before the boat docks, Tony comes to Tanya’s cabin and proposes that they open a club like Nick’s, with Tanya as “hostess.” Tanya, desperate to sever her past, poisons Tony, who falls overboard to his death. When they dock in Mandalay, the captain reports that stowaways saw Tony in the hold and it is presumed he escaped in a small boat. Tanya is freed, she confesses her crime to Gregory, and they pledge to start a new life together Continue reading Michael Curtiz – Mandalay (1934)