Charles Bryant, Alla Nazimova

Sog.: dalla pièce omonima (1893) di Oscar Wilde. Scen.: Alla Nazimova, Peter M. Winters [Natacha Rambova]. F.: Charles Van Enger, Paul Ivano. Scgf.: Natacha Rambova. Int.: Alla Nazimova (Salomé), Nigel De Brulier (Jokaanan), Mitchell Lewis (Erode), Rose Dione (Erodiade), Earl Schenck (Narraboth), Frederick Peters (Naaman), Louis Dumar (Tigellinus). Prod.: Nazimova Productions. 35mm. L.: 1528 m. 24 f/s. Col. (da una copia nitrato imbibita / from a tinted nitrate print)

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The post-naturalistic, consciously chosen artificial mode of performance reached its zenith with Alla Nazimova’s lead performance in Salomé. She also produced the film, which was directed by her longtime artistic partner Charles Bryant. He staged the Oscar Wilde play with lots of symbolist mannerisms, while Natacha Rambova’s décor and costumes were inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for the play. The acting is very physical, almost dance-like: gesture and posture are more important than mime. Louis Delluc noted in his review of the film (“Cinéa”, 18 May 1923): “We hardly have time to isolate individual gestures or poses. We can only fleetingly perceive that these gestures and poses are beautiful, intentional and normal, vivid and stylised, the one being complementary to the other. Everything is conceived toward a whole.” The unaccustomed aesthetic radicalism displeased most of the contemporary press and audience. The artistic and commercial failure of “this original and too intellectual work, ahead of its time” (Vittorio Martinelli, Le dive del silenzio) prompted Nazimova to turn her back on Hollywood and return to her stage career, which was never completely interrupted.

Because of their decidedly artificial style, diametrically opposed to later Hollywood conventions, Nazimova’s films were long considered outdated and were largely forgotten; in many film history books she is not even mentioned. In recent years, however, Salomé has been unearthed and celebrated as a queer cult film. Still to be discovered more widely is the extraordinary quality of Nazimova’s performance.

Martin Girod

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