Aleksandr Medvedkin – Schastye aka Happiness [+Extras] (1932)


Aleksandr Medvedkin’s Happiness, as rowdy as any Soviet silent movie, is a comic parable composed of equal parts of Tex Avery and Luis Buñuel. It satirizes the plight of a Soviet farmer who finds himself providing for the state, the church, and his peers at the expense of his personal satisfaction. A hapless young prole, Khmyr, is tasked by his wife with the goal of going out in the world and finding happiness, lest he end up dead and dissatisfied after a lifetime of toil, like his father. Through stylistic exaggeration and a systematic attack on pre- and post-Revolutionary Russia’s dearest institutions, the movie achieves a wide-ranging, and deeply wounding, attack on the limitations placed on personal freedom in Russian society Continue reading

Alexandre Volkoff – Kean (141-minute version) (1924)


This is a biopic of the 19th Century actor, Edmund Kean.

You may remember him for his famous last words: “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”

Made some 90 years after his death, the film tells of the greatest actor of his time, a man toasted as the greatest actor of all time.

Great though he may have been on the stage, his personal life was a wreck.

He was hounded by creditors, had a problem with alcohol, and to make matters worse, had fallen in love with the wife of an ambassador.

Troubled by the fact that he loves, and is loved, by someone he cannot have, he drowns his troubles in drink, seeming to have a grand time dancing till all hours of the night while really in terrible pain. Continue reading

Various – Screening the Poor 1888-1914 [compilation] (1888-1914)

Around 1900, the issues of poverty and poor relief were the source of heated controversy. This DVD illustrates in seven chapters how examinations of the ‘Social Question’ were presented in magic lantern slide sets and early films. On the screens of auditoriums, Sunday schools, music-halls, cinemas and churches, visitors could witness orphans freezing to death in the snow, drunkards plunging their families into misery and helpless old people begging for a scrap of bread. Audiences experienced poignant moving pictures in performances with music, singing and recitations. The photographic and film industries delivered glass slide sets and films in very large runs on a variety of themes relating to poverty. Continue reading

Nino Oxilia – Rapsodia satanica aka Satan’s Rhapsody (1915)


Rapsodia Satanica (1915) was the last film directed by Nino Oxilia and is undoubtedly one of the finest achievements of the early Italian cinema. In it, Oxilia spins a variation on the Faust myth, embodied here by the diva Lyda Borelli. Typical of extravagant D’Annunzian aestheticism at its height, Rapsodia Satanica was one of the summits of what was later called the “tail coat film.” Diametrically opposed to the “cinema of reality” practiced by Serena, Martoglio and others, “tail coat films” set their melodramatic stories in the salons and villas of the upper middle class and the aristocracy, deploying narrative structures contrived to showcase their actors and especially its actresses. This had the effect of accentuating their physical presence and turning them into stars – probably the first stars in movie history. The success of the “dive” contributed to the development of motion picture grammar in its special use of the close-up.
Written by Anthony Kobal Continue reading

Oleg Frelikh – Prostitutka aka Prostitute (1927)


From Imdb:
Prostitution, Statistics And Harangues, 13 November 2009
Author: FerdinandVonGalitzien

“Prostitutka” (1927) is a Bolshevist silent rarity, unusual because of its subject matter, that being prostitution in the U.S.S.R. The world’s oldest profession requires a treatment both delicate and balanced, not an easy topic for a first time director like Herr Oleg Frelikh. Actually, this little known work was Frelikh’s only film as a director (prior to this, he had been an actor) and it’s a flawed but interesting effort. Continue reading

F.W. Murnau – Der Letzte Mann AKA The Last Laugh (1924)


Jannings’ character, the doorman for a famous hotel, is demoted to washroom (bathroom) attendant, as he is considered too old and infirm to be the image of the hotel. He tries to conceal his demotion from his friends and family, but to his shame, he is discovered. His friends, thinking he has lied to them all along about his prestigious job, taunt him mercilessly while his family rejects him out of shame. The man, shocked and in incredible grief, returns to the hotel to sleep in the bathroom where he works. The only person to be kind towards him is the night watchman, who covers him with his coat as he falls asleep. Continue reading