Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 10:00


Jean Epstein
Introduced by

Émilie Cauquy

Piano accompaniment by

John Sweeney e all’arpa di Eduardo Raon

2023 marks the 20th anniversary of A Hundred Years Ago and the beginning of the next chapter for the strand, under new stewardship. The current programme picks up where the last one left off, both literally and figuratively, giving long-time and younger festival goers an opportunity to (re-)discover some key films and filmmakers of 1923. Of course, we couldn’t resist adding a few surprises, and selected non-fiction shorts and newsreels to highlight some of the year’s major events.
Appropriately, “(new) beginnings” is a theme connecting several films in this year’s edition. 1923 saw Sergei Eisenstein and Jean Epstein emerge as film-making talents. With The Covered Wagon, Hollywood reinvented the Western as an “epic” genre. Buster Keaton completed his transition to feature film director with Our Hospitality, producing some of his finest work over the following years. Screening in the Recovered and Restored strand is a new restoration of A Woman of Paris, Chaplin’s first (and ultimately sole) foray into serious drama.
Migration is another theme running through this year’s selection. Postwar instability led to notable cases of filmmakers fleeing their home countries out of economic or political necessity, as exemplified by two major films made by Ivan Mosjoukine and other Russian exiles at the French Films Albatros company, Le Brasier ardent and La Maison du mystère. Meanwhile, Ernst Lubitsch became the first of Germany’s foremost film directors to venture to Hollywood, while the American Sidney Goldin was responsible for one of the best Austrian Jewish-themed comedies, Ost und West, the latter premiering in a new digital restoration.
Italy’s film industry was in decline as a result of the toll the country suffered in the First World War and the drain of talent that sought better working conditions abroad. Nevertheless, with L’ombra (premiering in a new restoration) and La fuga di Socrate, we showcase remarkable later examples of two of the most popular genres of the previous decade, the diva and forzuti films.
Seminal films making a welcome return to Il Cinema Ritrovato this year include La Souriante Madame Beudet, Germaine Dulac’s impressionist-feminist masterpiece, and Schatten, a highpoint of German Expressionist cinema. Such cases are indicative of the increasing importance of being able to (re-) experience these films as they were meant to be seen (and heard): on the big screen with live musical accompaniment and, where possible, on 35mm film.

Oliver Hanley


Monday 26/06/2023


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Jean Epstein was just 23 when he wrote his first book, La Poésie d’aujourd’hui, followed by Bonjour, cinéma, both published in 1921. In January 1923, when he was 25, he began shooting his second feature (his first as solo director), L’Auberge rouge; by the end of that year he also directed Cœur fidèle, La Belle nivernaise and the documentary La Montagne infidèle (see Chapter 7). His first feature, the biopic Pasteur, co-directed by Jean Benoît-Lévy, was screened in Turin that May at the Esposizione di Fotografia, Ottica e Cinematografia, one of only two entirely French fiction films in competition. Newspapers and journals were hailing him as his generation’s leading cinéaste-philosopher, and starting in December 1923 he toured France with lectures based on the writings of the Italian film theorist Ricciotto Canudo. As with most enfants terribles, Epstein must have been insufferable in this period, but the superlatives were justifiable.
Curiously, L’Auberge rouge remains an understudied early work, perhaps because Epstein himself, like most virtuosi quick to criticize their youthful creations, expressed dissatisfaction soon after its release. Watching it today, however, we’re struck by the film’s insistent focus on the gaze, together with its psychological acuity and remarkably mature understanding of rhythm and montage, most notably in the celebrated storm sequence, but equally in the dinner party scenes where the camera circles around the table as the story’s web tightens around characters whose lives will be changed by the narrator’s revelation.
The director himself adapted the scenario from Balzac’s short story, making small changes including the introduction of a love interest in the form of Gina Manès. In an interview during the shooting for “Cinémagazine” (23 March 1923), Epstein explained, “I sought to make a film based not on scrupulous staging, but on a thorough psychological study of the characters… My drama will not be ‘external,’ seeking to seduce the eye, but solely ‘internal’; its aim will be above all to capture the hearts of the spectators.”

Jay Weissberg

Cast and Credits

Sog.: dal racconto omonimo (1831) di Honoré de Balzac. Scen.: Jean Epstein. F.: Raoul Aubourdier. Scgf.: Georges Quénu. Int.: Léon Mathot (Prosper Magnan), Jean-David Evremond (Jean-Frédéric Taillefer), Pierre Hot (il locandiere), Gina Manès (sua figlia), Clairette de Savoye (sua moglie), Marcelle Schmit (Victorine Taillefer), Jaque Christiany (André), Robert Tourneur (Herman), Mme. Delaunay (la strega), Thomy Bourdelle (l’olandese). Prod.: Louis Nalpas per Pathé Consortium Cinéma. 35mm. L.: 1650 m (l. orig.: 1835 m). D.: 72’ a 20 f/s. Bn


Director: Ferenc Futurista
Year: 1923
Country: Cecoslovacchia
Running time: 10'