Cinema Modernissimo > 14:15

1924 in concert

Introduced by

Oliver Hanley and Andrea Peraro

Live sonorization by Valentina Magaletti (drums)


Saturday 22/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Watching Au secours!, you feel the urge to exclaim like Alice in Wonderland: “Curiouser and curiouser!” What could be more curious than this brief comic interlude, shot quickly and at low cost, nestling between the epics La Roue and Napoléon. And what an unusual pairing of the master of 1900s burlesque, Max Linder, with one of the leaders of the “first wave”, Abel Gance! A Grand-Guignol haunted house inspired by an André de Lorde play became a Pandora’s box for these two to unleash the past and present forces of their art. The Belle Époque attractions (automatons, menageries, special effects) married the rhythm of the Roaring Twenties with quickfire editing, flicker, kaleidoscopic images, and echoes of Hollywood slapstick. The inventiveness of the shots – from the Éclipse studios to the eccentric Folly of the 18th-century Désert de Retz gardens – transforms the stage into a laboratory. It is reminiscent of La Folie du docteur Tube (Gance, 1915) that also showcased the mystifying power of film, how it can contort the way the world looks until we cry out for help: “Au secours!”.

Élodie Tamayo

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Max Linder. Scen.: Abel Gance. F.: George Specht, Émile Pierre, André Reybas. Int.: Max Linder (Max), Gina Palerme (Suzanne), Jean Toulout (conte Alain de Mauléon). Prod.: Films Abel Gance. 35mm. L.: 827 m. D.: 36’ a 20 f/s. Col.


Film Notes

Kino-Pravda No.18 ties an astonishing number of places and subjects together in one long “movie camera race”; a formula that Dziga Vertov would repeat in later works. It might also be seen as a demonstration of his idea, formulated in the manifesto We (1922), that “intervals (the transition from one movement to the other) are the material, the element of the art of movement, and by no means the movements themselves”. Lifts, airplanes, cars, minecarts, trams (keep your eyes open for a cameo by Mikhail Kaufman) and multiple intertitle styles combine to take the viewer and the operator – himself a protagonist – “in the direction of Soviet reality”, where children, workers and peasants of different origins cross paths in the city streets. The “communist baptism” (oktjabriny) sequence, with its hard lighting and complex editing, also reminds us that Vertov was no stranger to a level of performativity for the camera, concluding in what he had earlier described as an “apotheosis: a poetry of labour and movement”.

Luis Felipe Labaki

Cast and Credits

F.: Pëtr Novickij, Grigorij Lemberg, Michail Kaufman, A. Dorn. Prod.: Goskino. 35mm. L.: 290 m. D.: 14’ a 18 f/s. Bn.


Film Notes

Ballet mécanique is an exemplary film within the cinematic expression of the European avant-garde art movements. It consists of an exploration of modernist imagery, comprised of closeups, repetitions, oscillations, as well as unusual views of objects and people in motion, all edited together in a rapid and syncopated rhythm. The genesis of the film involved several key international figures in the history of art and culture, each of whom made their own individual conceptual and aesthetic contribution.

In the 1920s, avant-garde artists were proposing a form of experimentation that aimed to rupture the structures of film language. The experimental nature of Ballet mécanique even extended to George Antheil’s original musical score. A nitrate print preserved at EYE Filmmuseum (from which the print being screened stems) contains coloured inserts in blue, green, red and yellow. EYE’s nitrate print is one of only three surviving vintage first-generation elements, while most archives hold only black-and-white duplicates of earlier coloured prints.

Rossella Catanese

Cast and Credits

F.: Dudley Murphy, Man Ray. Mus.: George Antheil. Int.: Kiki de Montparnasse [Alice Prin], Katherine Murphy, Dudley Murphy, Fernand Léger. Prod.: André Charlot. 35mm. L.: 311 m. D.: 12’ a 24 f/s. Bn e Col.