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1921-1930

Yakov Protazanov – Belyy oryol AKA The White Eagle (1928)

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Synopsis:
Lash of the Czar was one of several English-language titles for the Russian film Belyi Orel. The film was based on The Governor, a play by Leonid Andreyev. V.I. Kachalov plays the governor of a small Russian province who tries to treat the people under his authority with kindness and equanimity. But when a local factory goes on strike, the governor buckles under to pressure from the Czar and orders the wholesale slaughter of the strikers. He pays for this betrayal of his trust with his life — at the hands of a courageous Bolshevik spy. Anna Sten, who in 1934 was brought to the U.S. as Sam Goldwyn’s “answer” to Greta Garbo, appears as the governor’s wife. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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Yakov Protazanov – Chiny i lyudi AKA Ranks and People (1929)

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Quote:
From his early silent works, the great Russian film director, Herr Yakov Protazanov, made literary adaptations from equally great Russian writers, as is the case with “Chiny I Lyudi” ( Ranks And People ) (1929) in which three short stories by Chekhov, “Anna On The Neck”, “Death Of A Petty Official” and “Chameleon” were assembled for the silent screen.
“Anna On The Neck” tells the story the young and beautiful Anna (Mariya Strelkova ) who has just married an old but rich civil servant. Anna thinks her marriage will rescue her father and her two brothers from a miserable life of poverty. Anna becomes disenchanted fast when her rich husband turns out to be an avaricious and severe man. Anna’s sad life changes when she attends a posh ball and every man there, including the mayor, is charmed by her. Anna’s husband hopes to get business advantages through this but Anna is thinking of revenge. Read More »

Jean Grémillon – La Petite Lise (1930)

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Jean Grémillon’s first talkie, the 1930 LA PETITE LISE, is anything but talky. While opening
and closing with soulful afro-Latin strains, something just above silence reigns throughout
the film. Grémillon is already orchestrating the auditory menace of nuanced sound sculpting
that would later pervade REMORQUES (1941), setting forth evolving rhythmic figures at an
atmospheric whisper. Grémillon grafts this aural frieze onto smoldering b&w photography.
Truly, the frame is often smoking for purposes of motif.
In truth, this film has the most impressive use of sound I know of, including Bresson’s
MOUCHETTE. Read More »

Yuri Zhelyabuzhsky – Papirosnitsa ot Mosselproma aka The cigarette girl of Mosselprom [+Extras] (1924)

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Review
Though many casual film fans are of the opinion that the Russian silent cinema began and ended with Montage and Propaganda, several charming romantic comedies and dramas emanated from the Soviet film industry of the 1920s. The Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom tells the tale of a young man who falls in love with the title character (Yulia Solnsteva). She becomes a famous film star, and herself falls in love–not with the hero, but with her cameraman. No one ever gets what he or she truly wants in the story, though they continue to pursue their lost dreams to the bitter end. Revelling in The Unexpected throughout, Cigarette Girl of Mosselprom is capped by an adroit surprise ending. (Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide)
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Oskar Fischinger – Oskar Fischinger: Ten Films (1926-1947)

Spirals (1926)
Study no. 6 (1930)
Study no. 7 (1931)
Kreise (1933)
Allegretto (1936-43)
Radio Dynamics (1942)
Motion Painting No. 1 (1947)

and 3 Early Films:

Wax Experiments (1921-26)
Spiritual Constructions (1927)
Walking from Munich to Berlin (1927)

Special Features
* Never-released early experiments, animation drawings and tests
* Home movies of Oskar, Elfriede and Hans Fischinger in the Berlin Studio, c. 1931
* Biographical Photographs
* A Selection of Paintings by Fischinger
* Film notes by Fischinger and others
* Biography
* Preserved films, high definition digital transfers and digitally remastered audio

Decades before computer graphics, before music videos, even before “Fantasia” (the 1940 version), there were the abstract animated films of Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), master of “absolute” or nonobjective filmmaking. He was cinema’s Kandinsky, an animator who, beginning in the 1920’s in Germany, created exquisite “visual music” using geometric patterns and shapes choreographed tightly to classical music and jazz. (John Canemaker, New York Times) Read More »

John Ford – Cameo Kirby (1923)

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The director formerly known as Sean O’Feeney is billed as John Ford for the first time here, and he helps make this one of John Gilbert’s best pre-MGM features. Cameo Kirby (John Gilbert), once a man of high social standing, has become a professional gambler and works the Mississippi riverboats of the 1800’s. An old man (William E. Lawrence) is being cheated in a crooked card game, and Kirby gets involved in the play, with the intention of giving the man his money back. Unaware of Kirby’s plans, the old man commits suicide. It turns out that Kirby’s sweetheart (Gertrude Olmstead) is the man’s daughter. But in spite of the tragedy, she comes to understand Kirby’s altruistic motives. Based on a story by Booth Tarkington, the melodrama is offset by solid performances and an exciting paddle-wheeler river race (a bit of action that one would expect from John Ford). An 18-year-old Jean Arthur made her movie debut in this film as a bit player. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide
Jean Arthur – Ann Playdell; Engenie Ford – Mme. Dauezac; Alan Hale – Colonel Moreau; William E. Lawrence – Colonel Randall; Jack McDonald – Larkin Bruce; Gertrude Olmstead – Adele Randall; Phillips Smalley – Judge Playdell; Richard Tucker – Cousin Aaron Read More »

John Ford – 3 Bad Men (1926)

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Synopsis (contains spoilers)
Set in 1877 during the Dakota land rush, 3 Bad Men gracefully blends the epic with the intimate. This seriocomic tale centres around three outlaws who redeem themselves by protecting pilgrims who need thier help to reach what 3 Bad Men explicitly calls the promised land.

The ostensible celebration of the pioneering spirit in 3 Bad Men is darkened not only by the necessity of the outlaws’ deaths but also by the fact that the promised land is morally tainted. The ground reserved for new settlers is former Indian homeland, seized by the white government that conquered the Sioux nation in the aftermath of the Custer massacre. Ford leaves that aspect largely implicit, reserving the role of overt villian for the corrupt sheriff of the town of Custer, Layne Hunter. Read More »