Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2016 - in passing

Girl Seeks Father, Lev Golub, 1959

Even among the many beautiful prints in the "Cinema of the Thaw"-series, the print of this often fairytale-like children partisan film stood out as especially gorgeous. The long scene in which the red-dressed girl seeking her father and her slightly older companion are chased through marshlands by bloodhounds might've been the most intense five (ten? felt more like fifteen, actually) minutes of my festival. The film somehow manages to stay true both to the child's eye view and to the very real horrors of the war depicted. Maybe one reason of its success is that the (magnificent) main actress is so young, that all her actions are almost automatically attributed to base impulses, not at all tainted by the kind of sentimentalized, precucious subjectivity one so often finds in film children. (Like, for example, in Mario Soldati's disappointing La mano dello straniero).

Miles of Fire, Samson Samsonov, 1957

If Girl Seeks Father is all affect, Miles of Fire is all action. Pure movement images, structured in line with the guns mounted on the back of the two horse carriages in which the protagonists travel. The guns aim backwards, so the posse (the revolution) has to constantly stay ahead of its adversaries in order just to stay alive.

The Last Warning, Paul Leni, 1929

Paul Leni's last film before his untimely death starts out as a rather pedestrian whodunit, but thankfully changes gear completely after about 15 minutes. The rest of the film is a madcap horror (or rather: "backstage horror") comedy littered with - among many many other attractions - plastic spiders, dusty female ghosts, animated intertitles, antropomorphic houses, trapdoors that hide even more trapdoors, stylish montage sequences, bizarre deep-focus framings. Joyfull, in its own way honest funhouse filmmaking only hampered by an unsightly digital print.

Camp of Gouda, anonym, 1916

One of the most beautiful shots of the festival: girl refugees from Belgium, interned in the Netherlands during the first World War, jumping up and down in front of the camera, eerily rhythmic, animating the whole screen.

Merry-Go-Round / Afraid to Talk, Edward L. Cahn, 1932

The only film in the Laemmle series that had a programmer feel to it - but only in the best of ways. The schematic plotting is fueled by a news ticker running along the front of a skyscraper; the bare-bones sets hardly maintain the illusion of a continuous fictional world; and the happy ending is happily (but without any hint of irony) written over by the acknowledgment of systemic evil. Louis Calhern is a magnificent precode bastard.

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