Louis Feuillade – Gustave est médium (1921)

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Gustave realizes he has acquired a telekinetic power.

Alors que ses collègues de l’administration départementale s’apprêtent à sortir déjeuner, Gustave dort profondément sur son bureau. Lorsque son chef passe et le trouve assoupi, il le réveille brutalement et le congédie. Dépité, Gustave rend visite à sa tante qui est en pleine séance de spiritisme. Elle demande aux esprits de lui désigner un médium et c’est Gustave que la table choisit en gigotant très fort. Ravi, Gustave teste ce nouveau don chez lui et les meubles font un raffut terrible à son approche. Il cherche à en tirer un profit et se fait engager par un déménageur. Avec lui, plus de problème, tables, chaises armoires, tout voltige et ses nouveaux collègues, ravis de l’aubaine n’ont qu’à le laisser faire. Gustave heureux gagne beaucoup d’argent. Malheureusement ses amis de l’administration rentrent de déjeuner et le réveillent. Gustave désolé est contraint de reprendre son ennuyeux travail de bureaucrate. Continue reading

Monta Bell – Lady of the Night (1925)

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Directed by Monta Bell, who deserves to be remembered alongside Von Stroheim and other directorial giants of the era, the picture stars Bell’s favorite actress, Norma Shearer, in a dual role. She plays a

rich girl, Florence, and a poor girl named Molly, a gangster’s moll.

Having the same actress play both roles is the brilliant touch. The women, of course, look alike, yet no one in the film notices. In the eyes of the world they’re totally different people. The audience, however, sees them as through the eyes of an omniscient observer — recognizing plainly that these women are, essentially, the same. Continue reading

Monta Bell – Torrent (1926)

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IMDb review:

Greta Garbo’s American film debut is an analogy of how our lives can be swept off course by fate and our actions, as in a torrent, causing us to lose a part of ourselves along the way.

Greta plays Leonora, a poor peasant girl in love with Ricardo Cortez’s character Don Rafael, a landowner. Ricardo is in love with her too, but is too easily influenced by his domineering mother. Leonora ends up homeless and travels to Paris, where she becomes a famous opera singer and develops the reputation for being a loose woman. In reality, part of her attitude is bitterness over Rafael’s abandonment. Continue reading

D.W. Griffith – The Avenging Conscience: or ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ (1914)

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D.W. Griffith’s silent psychological drama based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” tells the story of a depressed young man who murders the cruel uncle who prevented his marriage to his beloved and the ensuing guilt that drives him into madness. Stars Henry B. Walthall, Blanche Sweet. AKA: “The Telltale Heart.” 84 min. Standard; Soundtrack: music score; bonus short “Edgar Allan Poe” (1909). Silent with music score. Continue reading

Jean Epstein – L’auberge rouge AKA The Red Inn (1923)

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Based on the story by Honoré de Balzac. Caught in a storm, two young doctors book into an inn for the night and find themselves sharing a room with a Dutch diamond merchant. During the night Prosper steals from the merchant, but when he awakes in the morning he finds the merchant dead and his friend gone. When the stolen property is found on him he is arrested for the crime and executed. 25 years later the innkeeper’s daughter relates the tale to a traveler, who in turn later relates it at a dinner party. At that party is Frederic Taillefer, the missing friend and murderer. Continue reading

Vsevolod Pudovkin – Mat AKA Mother (1926)

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The son of a worthless alcoholic father and a hardworking mother leads
an illegal strike during the failed 1905 uprising. In an attempt to save
her son, the mother inadvertently gives him away to the police, but
gradually turns to communism after experiencing injustice and suffering.

Pudovkin’s first feature turns Maxim Gorky’s rambling novel into a
tightly constructed narrative. The film’s emotional and visual impact
has not diminished with time, nor has Baranovskaya’s
performance. – Holt’s Foreign Film Guide. Continue reading

Mikhail Kalatozov – Jim Shvante (marili svanets) AKA Salt For Svanetia (1930)

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The Georgian-born filmmaker Michail Kalatozov (19031973) is best remembered for directing some of the most innovative and successful Soviet films of the 1950s and 1960s. This DVD presents digitally restored versions of two of his lesser-known, early works, which were highly controversial in their time but now rank among the finest achievements in Soviet silent cinema. Salt for Svanetia is an austere depiction of peasant life in the inhospitable terrain of the Caucasus Mountains. Nail in the Boot, a biting parable of wartime irresponsibility, chillingly prefigures the later Stalinist purge trials. Günter Buchwald’s and Stephen Horne’s prize-winning scores and the experimental accompaniment by Masha Khotimshi underline the poetic and expressive visual style of these exceptional masterpieces. Continue reading