Jolly Cinema > 16:00

The Flute of Krishna / APPLAUSE

Rouben Mamoulian

For The Flute of Krishna: flute accompaniment by Stephen Horne


Saturday 24/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Half backstage musical and half New York film, beautifully shot on location – including on Brooklyn Bridge – this was Mamoulian’s directorial debut, as he boldly discards his theatrical background for a fully cinematic take on stage life. It’s the story of a burlesque dancer who sends her daughter to a convent to protect her from the wicked world of show biz, only for the girl to return as a young woman and land in the very predicament that the mother had been dreading all along. Even in this first effort, Mamoulian’s symbolic cutting is fully in place, creating the architectural similes in a montage, first of the ceiling and arches of a church and then, as the character enters the modern world, of the steely dome and arches of the train station: the same pattern but a different message. Now the girl is compelled to reconcile these two worlds. The concept of “high and low” finds other spatial metaphors such as the dingy theatre dressing rooms and the tips of the skyscrapers. The film ends on an ambiguous note, rejecting spiritual piety but not wholly accepting of a life based on earthly pleasures either.
This is a cinema of spectacle in which the camera – almost fully liberated after two years in abeyance since the arrival of sound – seeks visual pleasure in motion and sensuality. It also illustrates a tendency that Mamoulian returned to again and again, through to his final film: the spectator (in the story) is part of the spectacle, and preoccupation is divided between the performance and how the audience views it. Though some of the techniques used in the film are not exactly new, the impeccable execution and the way match cuts, split-screen  and sound collage are integrated into the narrative give the film a whole new identity. The camera, unleashed like a butterfly, traverses jerkily through ghostly scenes in which the muffled sound of the early talkies reinforces the medium’s ghostliness. An astonishing debut.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Sog.: from the novel of the same name (1928) by Beth Brown. Scen.: Garrett Fort. F.: George Folsey. M.: John Bassler. Int.: Helen Morgan (Kitty Darling), Joan Peers (April Darling), Fuller Mellish Jr. (Hitch Nelson), Jack Cameron (Joe King), Henry Wadsworth (Tony), Dorothy Cumming (madre superiora). Prod.: Monta Bell, Walter Wanger per Paramount Famous Lasky Corp. 35mm. D.: 80’. Bn.


Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Year: 1926
Country: USA
Running time: 7'