Samstag, Februar 27, 2010

"Metropolis" (1927) By Fritz Lang

At this time of the new millennium it is a miracle that even today some lost silent footage from the last century can turn up, emerging from the darkness and allowing a new generation of silent fans to take a look again at those old and forgotten images. Miracle of miracles, some of that rediscovered silent footage belongs to one of the icons of the film history, Herr Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927).

“Metropolis” is one of those few silent films well-known to everybody in these modern days, from aristocrats to commoners, so it is not necessary to say too much about the story of the film, a fascinating futuristic picture that in the background has elements of social criticism influenced by the troubled old Weimar days, a film that through the times suffered many mutilations and revisions, from abridged versions to even a modern pop music version. In 2008 a 16 mm. negative was found in Buenos Aires so finally there was the chance for silent fans, 80 years later after its premiere ( obviously this Herr Graff attended the original premiere in Berlin… ) to watch a version of “Metropolis” very close to its original condition thanks to an additional thirty minutes.

The film was recently restored by the “Murnau Foundation” and was screened at the “Berlinale” film festival where elegant Teutonic people enjoyed the restoration in a warm theatre while interested commoners watched the film at the Brandenburg Gate on a freezing night. Ah, the social class struggle continues even after 80 years, just as it happens in the film.

“Continuity” is the best word to sum up what this new “Metropolis” restoration brings to the story. Now the pace of the film becomes more rapid, especially at the thrilling climax. Some narrative gaps, admittedly not very important ones, are filled; we see more of the character of the thin man ( Herr Fritz Rasp ) Herr Joh Fredersen’s spy and there are also interesting scenes of the vice at “Yoshiwara” district.

Certainly “Metropolis” has been enjoyed by generations of silent film admirers who appreciated its futuristic setting, the incredible decors, special effects and technique, the different performers acting and overacting , and the social dimension of the story. In spite of suffering many mutilations through the years, the power of the film was undiminished, as one would expect of a masterpiece. It even survived the pop adaptation done by the longhaired generation; this was a dubious approach to a silent but effective as a way of getting youngsters acquainted with this great film. Finally though, after all these years, the film can be seen at its best, much like the way Herr Graf remembers it at the premiere at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo cinema in Berlin. We can appreciate the film fully now, not to mention that we are finally living now in the early XXI century, the time “Metropolis” is set in!.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must decide who he should invite for tea, Maria or the robot.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien


A éstas alturas del nuevo milenio, se puede considerar un milagro el que todavía hoy en día siga emergiendo desde su oscuridad, algún metraje silente considerado perdido, dando así la oportunidad a las nuevas generaciones silentes, de poder contemplar de nuevo esas viejas y olvidadas imágenes, un hecho más aún milagroso si cabe si encima el material silente encontrado pertenece a uno de los iconos de la historia del cinematógrafo, tal y como acontece con “Metropolis” (1927) de Herr Fritz Lang.

“Metropolis” es uno de esos escasos filmes silente bien conocido por todo el mundo en estos tiempos modernistas, tanto por aristócratas como por plebeyos, por lo tanto no es necesario comentar demasiado acerca de la trama del filme, una fascinante obra futurista con elementos de crítica social subyacentes en su historia, influenciada ésta por los problemáticos tiempos que se vivían en la república de Weimar, un filme que a través de los tiempos sufrió numerosas mutilaciones y revisiones, desde copias mutiladas hasta incluso una reciente versión pop y musical.
En el año 2008 un negativo de 16 mm. con material inédito, fue encontrado en la ciudad de Buenos Aires, dando así la oportunidad, tras más de 80 años desde su estreno oficial ( obviamente, éste Herr Graff asistió en su día a dicho estreno berlinés… ) de poder, prácticamente, contemplar la versión más completa y original del filme, gracias a sus más de 30 minutos inéditos hasta hoy en día.

El filme fue restaurado recientemente por la “Murnau Foundation” y exhibida en el festival melenudo de la “Berlinale”, en donde elegantes ciudadanos teutónicos pudieron contemplar dicha restauración dentro de un cálido teatro, mientras los melenudos interesados igualmente en ver dicho filme, tuvieron que hacerlo a la intemperie de una noche helada delante de la puerta de Brandenburgo… ¡Ah!, la lucha de clases continua vigente tras más de 80 años, tal y como acontece en el filme…

“Continuidad” es la palabra que mejor resumiría, en relación a la historia, ésta restauración de “Metropolis”; ahora el ritmo del filme es mucho más frenético, especialmente hacia el emocionante final de la película y se completan algunos vacíos argumentales ( aunque también hay que resaltar que tampoco son demasiado trascendentales ) y que existían en anteriores versiones, rescatando especialmente el personaje interpretado por Herr Fritz Rasp, el espía de Herr Joh Fredersen, además de también poder ver interesantes escenas de la depravación existente en el barrio de “Yoshiwara”.

Ciertamente “Metropolis” ha podido ser disfrutada por muchas generaciones de admiradores silentes que han apreciado su ambientación futurista, sus espléndidos decorados, efectos técnicos y especiales o incluso las diferentes interpretaciones y sobreactuaciones de sus actores, además de la dimensión social de su argumento y todo ello a pesar de las numerosas mutilaciones sufridas por el filme a través de los años, que no disminuían el interés de ésta obra maestra, sobreponiéndose incluso a una adaptación pop melenuda perpetrada por las nuevas generaciones, una cuestionable forma de acercarse a los filmes silentes, ciertamente, aunque efectiva con la intención de atraer a los jovenzuelos hacia éste gran filme.

Finalmente y tras largos años, el filme puede ahora ser disfrutado de la mejor de las formas, en una versión prácticamente íntegra tal y como lo hizo éste Herr Graf durante el estreno oficial en el Ufa-Palast am Zoo de Berlín en 1927, siendo actualmente quizás mucho más comprensible el filme, al estar viviendo los primeros años del siglo XXI, ¡tal y como acontece en “Metropolis”!.

Y ahora si me lo permiten, les tengo que dejar momentáneamente, pues este conde germánico debe decidir a quién invita a tomar el té, a María o a su robot.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Samstag, Februar 20, 2010

"Le Capitaine Fracasse" (1929) By Alberto Cavalcanti

Herr Sigognac ( Herr Pierre Blanchar ) is a young French nobleman without means ( well, this it is not a tragic fact for this German count who has known such want during his youthful days, his mature days and even his twilight days… ); he lives a poor and miserable existence in his Schloss until one night unexpectedly a troupe of strolling players asks for shelter. Herr Sigognac will offer his aristocratic roof to the troupe and will be especially attracted to Isabelle ( Frau Lien Deyers ), a beautiful actress, so the next morning, after a short hesitation, he decides to join the actors and travel to Paris with them, becoming, after a violent incident involving two gypsies, the Captain Fracasse.

“Le Capitaine Fracasse” (1929) is a classic adventure epic directed by Herr Alberto Cavalcanti, a director who will do his most important work in France, the land in which he was educated, although he will direct in a number of other countries during the years. The film was based on a famous novel by the French writer Herr Théophile Gautier that obviously this Herr Von hasn’t read it because it was written in French. The story is full of funny, sarcastic and cynical characters inspired by the European comedy theatre of the XVII century.

A very interesting part of the film is its novel subject, the recreation of the lives and work of those strolling players who, for a few coins, performed their comedies in any available place: small towns, populous barns, crowded taverns with audiences of commoners and noblemen alike. The film includes action and adventure involving a wicked enmity between the captain Fracasse and the Duke of Vallombreuse ( Herr Charles Boyer ) who will fight during the whole movie for the love of Frau Isabelle.

The direction is perfect, including elegant camera movements and elaborate adventure sequences with beautiful outdoor scenery. It is a well-done swashbuckler film, archetypical in many moments and indeed very professional but it is a bit too much like other adventure films of those silent days and in some ways does not stand out from them.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must direct a troupe of Teutonic rich heiresses.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien


Herr Sigognac ( Herr Pierre Blanchar ) es un joven noble afrancesado sin posibles ( un he hecho éste nada trágico para éste conde germánico pues le ha sido bastante conocida dicha situación durante sus años mozos, en su madurez e incluso durante su senectud… ); nuestro protagonista vive una pobre y triste existencia en su Schloss hasta que un día, de forma inesperada, una compañía ambulante de actores le solicita cobijo.
Herr Sigognac ofrecerá su aristocrático techo a la trouppe de cómicos, quedando prendado de forma especial de Isabelle ( Frau Lien Deyers ), una bella actriz de la compañía, será éste el principal motivo por el cual a la mañana siguiente, tras un pequeño momento de duda, decidirá unirse a la trouppe y viajar con ellos a París, convirtiéndose, tras un violento incidente protagonizado por dos gitanos, en el capitán Fracasse.

“Le Capitaine Fracasse” (1929) es un clásico, épico filme de aventuras dirigido por Herr Alberto Cavalcanti, un director el cual desarrollaría la mayor e importante parte de su trabajo en Francia, país en el cual se formó artísticamente, aunque posteriormente y con el paso de los años, también dirigirá filmes en otros países.
El filme está basado en una famosa novela escrita por el afrancesado escritor Herr Théopile Gautier, obra que, obviamente, este Herr Von no ha leído por estar escrita en francés y en la cual se incluyen divertidos, sarcásticos y cínicos personajes muy populares en las obras teatrales cómicas europeas del siglo XVII.

Precisamente la parte más interesante del filme es la recreación de la vida y trabajos de esos actores ambulantes, los cuales por unas pocas monedas representaban sus comedias en cualquier lugar disponible, fuesen éstos pequeños pueblos, populosos cobertizos o atestadas tabernas, repletas éstas tanto de plebeyos como gente noble.
En el filme se incluye mucha acción y aventuras, además de una pérfida enemistad entre el capitán Fracasse y el duque de Vallombreuse ( Herr Charles Boyer ) los cuales lucharán durante todo el filme por los favores de Frau Isabelle.

La dirección de la obra es perfecta, incluyendo elegantes movimientos de cámara y elaboras secuencias de aventuras filmadas éstas en bellos escenarios naturales; se trata de un eficaz filme de espadachines, arquetípico en muchos momentos, muy profesional, pero precisamente por éste motivo, el filme se asemeja demasiado a cualquier filme de aventuras silentes, no aportando nada especial a dicho género cinematográfico.

Y ahora si me lo permiten, les tengo que dejar momentáneamente, pues este conde germánico tiene que dirigir una trouppe de ricas herederas teutonas.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Dienstag, Februar 16, 2010

Silent Films Illustrated With Commentaries By:

About D. W. Griffith's "Hearts Of The World" (1918)

Silent Guest Stars: Herr William M. Drew und Rich Wagner

Herr William M. Drew wrote:

As someone who usually appreciates Ferdinand von Galitzien's generally well-informed comments on the silent cinema, I wish to register a strong objection to his dismissal of D. W. Griffith and his films as being "conventional," "conservative" and "dated" and apparently only of value for their cinematic techniques, not their inherent artistry. This opinion of his is, alas, far from original and has been at the heart of the persistent revisionist misinterpretation of the director's work. Much of this, needless to say, is based on a never- ending obsession (in the United States, at least) with "The Birth of a Nation" and the notion that every one of the films Griffith made in his 23 years of directing should somehow be seen as reflecting the same point of view as those parts in the Civil War-Reconstruction film which have caused such controversy.

However, the fact is that Griffith was a complex artist who, were he subjected to a more sophisticated analysis than is usually the case, would be receiving much greater critical appreciation from those who profess to be devoted to film art. Unfortunately, many analysts don't really look at the films with fresh eyes, merely bringing to each work their stereotypical view of Griffth as "conventional," "conservative" and "dated," or viewing every one of his films through the prism of that part of Thomas Dixon's narrative, "The Clansman," that was incorporated into "The Birth of a Nation." Neither have these analysts undertaken a thorough examination of the impact of Griffith's films in his own time beyond discussions of specific technical innovations and the controversy over "The Birth" in the USA.

I can assure Mr. von Galitzien, however, that those who actually did hold conventional and conservative opinions were often fiercely critical of Griffith's work at the time, seeing it as an attack on everything they held dear. For example, "Broken Blossoms" stirred up a hornet's nest of debate in the United States on its original release in 1919, receiving much criticism by some for the alleged brutality and sordidness of its subject matter. In particular, there were apparently a number of people with racist sentiments who resented the film's sympathetic treatment of a Chinese character and his culture and religion which are contrasted with the cruelty and intolerance of the West.
One outraged individual who had spent time as a missionary in Asia wrote "The New York Tribune" on July 6, 1919 to protest what he viewed as a "slur" on Christian missionaries in the East. He complained: "The whole wretched tragedy of that picture is designed evidently to convey the impression that the ancient civilization and religion of China are much better and finer and stronger than the Christian civilization and religion of the Occident. Deliberately Mr. Griffith has contrasted an ideal Chinese poet with a brutal degenerate of the London slums; has shown that the Chinese are tender and gentle with little children, while the London prizefighter is just the reverse. The fallacy of this presentation lies in the fact that while one such isolated, single case might be true, it is plain that Mr. Griffith would have us believe that it is typical--this unfair contrast between two races." Continuing on with his fundamentalist bigotry, the outraged letter-writer charged the "religion of Buddha" as having left 400,000,000 Chinese "the most backward in the world" and that only now, due to the labor of "self-sacrificing missionaries," was China "beginning to awake to her duties and responsibilities." He went on to whine: "It is not fair nor kind that such a picture as 'Broken Blossoms' should be so allowed to distort and warp the truth."

Obviously, analysts like Mr. von Galitzien who have been so quick to write off D. W. Griffith are unaware of this forgotten history surrounding the reception of his films. This ignorance extends not only to those who condemned his films but many of those who admired his films as well. The radical social critic, Floyd Dell, for example, praised "Intolerance" upon its 1916 release in the Socialist newspaper, "The Masses," calling it the expression of "a mind which loves life and beauty and joy, and is moved to rage and pity by the deliberate malice with which, in all ages, life and beauty and love is destroyed."

Perhaps even more significantly in 1916, the leading African-American newspaper on the West Coast, "The California Eagle," in a review of "Intolerance" praised the film, saying that not only did it demonstrate its director's "wonderfully inventive mind" among contemporary filmmakers but that it also "clearly shows that D. W. Griffith stands out above them all as the greatest humanitarian of the age." The reviewer observed: "As a race we believe that 'Intolerance' will do much to abate the prejudicial feeling created by 'The Clansman'" (under which title "The Birth of a Nation" had been shown in California).

There are many equally laudatory comments on Griffith's films as they were shown around the world that I could also include here but for reasons of space have not. Indeed, in many respects it's been my impression that, if anything, Griffith in later decades has been more widely appreciated abroad than at home which is why I find Mr. von Galitizien's comments particularly disconcerting. Perhaps he has never experienced any of Griffith's films with an appreciative audience as I did some years back at a screening of "Way Down East." The indictment of sexism in that film, the denunciation of a male- dominated society penalizing women for failings that are excused or even justified in men, elicited tremendous applause and loud cheers from the audience. So much again for the nonsense that Griffith's films are "conventional," "conservative" and "dated."

Of course, it's possible that Mr. von Galitzien is living in some Utopia where the kinds of evils that Griffith denounced no longer exist and are of purely historical interest. Based, though, on what I read in the papers, there isn't a country in the world, including even those in enlightened Europe, that does not continue to suffer to one degree or another from the kinds of ills powerfully depicted by Griffith in so many of his films.

In conclusion and while reaffirming that I appreciate most of Ferdinand von Galitzien's posts on the silent cinema, I am afraid his observations on Griffith are suffused with the same kind of intellectual laziness that has led others to repeat as holy writ equally hoary myths like John Gilbert having a high-pitched voice and Marion Davies being a Susan Alexander. For that reason, I felt it incumbent on me to dispute yet another manifestation of ignorance about Griffith that has surfaced on this board.

And Herr Rich Wagner added:

Yes, it is definitely true; all of his major work is "paternalistic, combining religion and conservative values." That is the very nature of what is called a morality play. It was his stated intention to try and make the World a better place. If it seems dated, one must remember when it was made.
All of his films are "fictional," but that does not prevent them from having a real purpose. Griffith never hid his purpose, but clearly stated it in every major film. "Hearts of the World" is no different!

Great Britain may have hoped to have Griffith inspire America's involvement in WWI, but it's clear from this introduction that Griffith hated war, and clearly saw the futility of it.
For those who have taken the time to learn the true story of America's history, they should clearly see that his "Birth of a Nation" also fits the common theme of all his films. That theme is, 'Man's inhumanity to man.' Our true history is far more offensive than what was depicted in the film. Be it racial intolerance, war, inequality of the sexes, the conflict of religions (where each views the other as heathen), the social double standards, where women are expected to remain chaste, while men are expected to sow their wild oats, the idea that one can abuse another for their pleasure because of wealth, or that a father can have an affair, but demands that his daughter does not. These are the themes of Griffith's paternalistic films. How could this be too complicated to understand when they are so clearly stated?.

Griffith's "dated approach" all carried that same theme without apology; a sincere effort to make the world a better place. His films were all fiction, but his intentions were not.
With fondest wishes to both Herr Graf and William Drew, who have each helped me immeasurably over the years.

PS: Two things were not mentioned in Herr Graf's review. Griffith framed several scenes through armored plating resulting in a letterbox style.
Finally...the horrific image in the film of what appears to be a man who had been blown apart. Judging by the image and the dead man's expression, he apparently was conscious long enough to reach down with his hand where his body once was.
That image was the real image of War and the horror that soldiers are still facing today. It cause many to gasp when the film was first shown and should still today. I will remember that image long after I forget many of the details of the story.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien replied:

First of all, this Herr Graf would like to say that he appreciated very much the comments and replies of Herr William M. Drew and Herr Rich Wagner to this Herr Von silent review about Herr Griffith’s “Hearts Of The World”. They are very enlightened point of views that this German count would like to make more precise for the sake and enrichment of Herr Griffith silent oeuvre.

As this Herr Graf said in his previous post, this German count highly appreciates-- it would be useless and even pretentious to consider them not in that way -- many of Herr Griffith’s silent films. They are wonderful masterpieces of silent film history. As an example recently this Herr Von emphasized “Isn’t Life Wonderful”, as a superb masterpiece that deserves more attention and to be claimed as one of Herr Griffith’s best pictures. The problem with other minor films of him is the particular film narrative sources that, always granting the artistic and visual style of the Amerikan director, is the background or the surroundings of the film is in question, which do not always fit in some of his films.

In “Hearts Of The World”, a contemporary silent film, the first part of the film is one that suffered those mannerisms that this German Graf doesn’t like at all. If we keep in mind that we are watching a “modern” picture that depicts the horror of WWI, that atmosphere of pretentiousness regarding the live of the two Amerikan families in a French town seems dated even for a “modern” 1918 silent film. They even appear disconnected for Herr Griffith’s artistic purposes; in perspective, it seems two different parts of the film are at odds with one another.
The Herr Griffith film narrative sources in “The Birth Of A Nation”, “Intolerance” and much more in “Way Down East” works and fits for the artistic Herr Griffith film purposes, not to mention the film story of those pictures which rely on such peculiar Herr Griffith style. However, to transfer those caricaturized aspects, that sometimes are somewhat reminiscent of XIX newspaper serials to “Heart Of The World” is an absurdity. What’s achieved is that the first part of the film is more “fictional that fiction itself” and unreal insists this German count, for a contemporary film. But these flaws, when finally Herr Griffith puts them aside, give action and emotion to “Hearts Of The World”.

So, the major problem of “Heart Of The World” it is their simplistic characters in the film context and not any social conflicts depicted by Herr Griffith in many of his great films that you mentioned and that this Herr Von likes very much and shares. Because when this German count watches any Herr Griffith silent film never having in mind any of those unfortunately revisionist controversies (well-known about some Herr Griffith famous silent films), that raises a question that doesn’t generally appeal to this Herr Graf overall because they don’t prevent enjoyment to Herr Von of those specific films. As it was pointed out before, in the context of those films those particular subjects questioned by modern revisionists, weaves into the atmosphere and artistry of those oeuvres, political incorrect nowadays, certainly, but honestly, this Herr Von never paid attention, although knowing those controversies for years, if finally they are successful and in agreement always for the sake of the artistic purposes of the director.

So, forgetting those revisionist controversies that Herr Drew mentioned and that this Herr Graf never cares for and especially the epithet of “dated” that you don’t like at all, Herr Graf is referring specially to the first part of the film. In other words when those peculiar and special artistic licences of the Amerikan director that in other films of him works pretty well but not, in this Herr Graf opinion, this time as an introduction in a contemporary film that depicts WWI. That’s not to ignore , of course, those areas of the film depicting the horrors of war, which this German count knows and appreciates ( this Herr Von after all, lives in Deutschland, not Utopia… ) and Herr Griffith’s mastery during those sequences. That’s because those objectionable mannerisms in that part of the film were put aside by the Amerikan director.

And finally Herr Rich Wagner said:

I believe that I've misunderstood Herr Graf's use of the word 'dated' and I'd like to amend slightly my recent comments made to Herr Graf's original post.

After reading my reply and his original posting again, I've learned from my own words to better understand, and now agree with the statement above. Even when words are clearly written, they can be misleading if you're unsure of what is intended.

He's actually correct to say that Griffith's films seemed dated (out of fashion even when released), when compared to the much more realistic and mature films being made in Europe at the same time. I didn't think so at the time, but after reading my response, it's now clear to me. The reason simply is that Griffith's films can resemble the collected sermons of a minister, whose been preaching on the Seven Deadly Sins. My original response captured that fact when I highlighted the themes of so many of Griffith's major films.

From my recent comment. “Yes, it is definitely true; all of his major work is "paternalistic, combining religion and conservative values. That is the very nature of what is called a morality play. It was his stated intention to try and make the World a better place. Be it racial intolerance, war, inequality of the sexes, the conflict of religions (where each views the other as heathen), the social double standards, where women are expected to remain chaste, while men are expected to sow their wild oats, the idea that one can abuse another for their pleasure because of wealth, or that a father can have an affair, but demands that his daughter does not. These are the themes of Griffith's paternalistic films. How could this be too complicated to understand when they are so clearly stated?”.

That final question haunted me until I realized that perhaps this was exactly what Herr Graf had meant by dated, but I had misunderstood.
Unlike his contemporaries, Griffith's morality plays all carried a common theme without apology. His was a sincere effort to make the world a better place. When viewing his work along side the many other films from Europe, they certainly do seem "dated" in the way that I believe Herr Graf had intended by his comment. I believe it's a view I now share, along with his great respect for D. W. Griffith's entire work including "The Birth of a Nation."

Unlike William Drew, I never thought Herr Graf's comments were anything revisionist, but simply an honest appraisal of Griffith's work.

I've learned much from this exchange.

Published in “alt.movies.silent”.

Samstag, Februar 13, 2010

"Hearts Of The World" (1918) By D. W. Griffith

The relationship between this Herr Graf and Herr D. W. Griffith has been always complicated, even tumultuous through the years due to artistic considerations and differences. These disputes don’t of course lessen the Amerikan director’s fundamental importance in cinema history for this German count.

The basic problem with Herr Griffith is that he is sometimes simplistic in his stories and often paternalistic combining religion and conservative values that make some of his work seem very dated.

“Hearts Of The World” has many of those irreconcilable artistic differences for this German count. The film depicts the loves and sorrows of two American citizens in France ( Why do they have to be Americans? Surely there were lovers in France) and their families in a little town during WWI.

During the first part of the film, Herr Griffith depicts the idealized and tranquil lives of the two sweethearts, their families and their neighbours, all in the typical and sentimental Herr Griffith style. There is so much sweetness in the air that this Herr Graf found himself looking forward anxiously to the arrival of Germans. Arrive they finally do, invading the village and poisoning the idyllic life with their brutality and bad manners.

“Hearts Of The World” it is not a pacifist film; it is true that in 1918, the date of the film’s release, the world was still licking its wounds after such a big disaster but the end of the war was in sight and new perspectives were emerging making the film’s lopsided and patriotic approach seem out of date.

Obviously “Heart Of The World” is a fictional film not a documentary ( although the film includes real war sequences besides a prologue for the British release in which Herr Griffith himself appears in the war trenches and at 10 Downing Street; a good example of Griffith’s sense of self importance ) nor does it need to be one but the story lacks interesting and realistic characters.

As this Herr Graf mentioned before, the typical Herr Griffith mannerisms don’t reduce his artistic accomplishments and there is much narrative vigor in this film, especially during the war sequences. It has a number of strong scenes, including one wherein our hero is paying a visit to his sweetie ( well, he’s on some sort of secret mission while his comrades are being killed trying to retake the village). There is also a beautiful sequence showing our suffering heroine, temporarily deranged, and wandering in the field camp looking for her fiancée. Also outstanding are the decors and the skilful combination of fictional and real war sequences; splendid editing gives motion and emotion to those scenes.

The actors do their best within the limits of Herr Griffith’s particular artistic interests; Herr Douglas Gordon Hamilton does well as the handsome hero, a promising bourgeoisie writer before the war. Frau Lillian Gish and her curls, is the typical Herr Griffith heroine, conservative and candid. She will lose her innocence during wartime but emerge the stronger for it. Meanwhile Frau Lillian Gish’s sister, Frau Dorothy, playing the Little Disturber overacts painfully while the German actors play their characters as America saw Germans, brutal and ruthless, utterly indifferent to the pain of others.

“Hearts Of The World” is a Herr Griffith film that devotees of the Amerikan film director will enjoy a lot and those who have many differences with the Griffith style, will still appreciate it to some extent if they put aside the Amerikan director’s conventional and dated approach to the story and characters.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must attend a soirée full of heartless Teutonic aristocrats.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien


La relación entre éste Herr Graf y Herr D. W. Griffith ha sido siempre bastante complicada, incluso tumultuosa durante todos éstos años, debido a ciertas discrepancias y diferencias artísticas, disputas éstas que sin embargo no impiden que éste conde germánico reconozca la gran importancia que tiene el director americano en la historia del cinematógrafo.

El gran problema con Herr Griffith es que a menudo sus historias adolecen de cierto simplismo y paternalismo, combinado éste con ciertos valores conservadores y religiosos, que consiguen finalmente que muchos de sus filmes resulten hoy en día demasiado anticuados.

“Hearts Of The World” posee esas diferencias artísticas irreconciliables para éste conde germánico, un filme en el cual se narra los amores y las penas de dos ciudadanos americanos en Francia ( como si no hubiese suficientes amantes franceses en dicho país para protagonizar éste filme… ) y sus familias, en un pequeño pueblecito durante la primera guerra mundial.

Durante la primera parte del filme, Herr Griffith nos muestra la idealizada y tranquila vida de los dos tortolitos, sus familias y buena parte del vecindario, todo ello con el sello característico de Herr Griffith; hay tan alto grado de cursilería en el aire que éste Herr Graf estaba deseando ansiosamente la llegada de los teutones, llegada que finalmente se produce invadiendo los germanos el pueblo, emponzoñando tan idílica y cursi atmósfera gracias a su brutalidad y malos modos.

“Hearts Of The World” no es desde luego un filme pacifista; bien es cierto que en el año 1918, año de producción de la película, el mundo entero todavía se estaba recuperando de las graves heridas producidas por tan grave desastre bélico, aunque también hay que mencionar que una vez finalizado el conflicto, una nueva perspectiva acerca del mismo sería bastante oportuna y no ésta visión patriótica y añeja por la cual se decanta Herr Griffith.

Obviamente “Hearts Of The World” es una obra de ficción y no un documental ( aunque el filme incluye imágenes reales del conflicto además de un prólogo para la versión británica del filme en el cual se puede ver a Herr Griffith en persona tanto en las trincheras cómo en el número 10 de “Downing Street”; un buen ejemplo de la gran consideración que se tenía a si mismo el director americano ) y aunque desde luego no era necesaria una producción realista , la historia adolece de cierto interés y personajes creíbles.

Cómo éste Herr Graf ha mencionado anteriormente, los típicos manierismos de Herr Griffith no restan importancia a ciertos logros artísticos del filme, como por ejemplo el vigor narrativo que posee la película, especialmente destacable durante muchas de sus escenas bélicas, tal y como acontece cuando nuestro héroe visita a su novia ( aunque él mencione que está allí por una especie de misión secreta como espía, mientras sus camaradas están siendo masacrados durante la reconquista del pueblo… ), o escenas ciertamente conmovedoras como en la cual nuestra sufrida heroína, temporalmente trastornada, vaga por el campo de batalla en busca de su amado.
Hay que destacar también los decorados del filme y la hábil combinación de imágenes reales con las de ficción, un espléndido montaje que da emoción y ritmo a la película.

Los actores dan lo mejor de si mismos dentro de las limitaciones de los particulares intereses artísticos de Herr Griffith; Herr Douglas Gordon Hamilton es el perfecto y atractivo héroe, además de ser todo un prometedor escritor burgués antes de la guerra y Frau Lilian Gish y sus rizos, como la típica heroína Griffithiana, conservadora y cándida a la vez, la cual perderá su inocencia durante el conflicto bélico, emergiendo tras tanto sufrimiento, una mujer mucho más fuerte.
Frau Dorothy Gish, hermana de Frau Lilian, interpreta, de forma dolorosamente sobreactuada a una joven bastante alborotadora, mientras los actores que encarnan a los teutones interpretan a éstos vistos con ojos americanos, esto es, brutales y despiadados, profundamente indiferentes ante el dolor ajeno.

“Hearts Of The World” es un filme que los partidarios del director americano gustarán especialmente y los que mantienen ciertas diferencias con el estilo de Herr Griffith apreciarán en justa medida si consiguen olvidarse de sus convencionalismos y anticuados personajes.

Y ahora si me lo permiten, les tengo que dejar momentáneamente, pues este conde germánico tiene que asistir a una soirée repleta de crueles aristócratas teutones.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Samstag, Februar 06, 2010

"American Aristocracy" (1916) By Lloyd Ingraham

The first time that this German count saw the title of this Amerikan silent film he thought it was some sort of misprint. When he realized that was not case, he assumed he was dealing with a science fiction film but was amazed to find out otherwise and that the boldness of the title was meant to be taken literally, nightmarish though the thought is. Fortunately, during the film this German count’s certainties were verified, proving that such hypothetical Amerikan aristocracy doesn’t and never has existed.

And that is demonstrated right from the beginning. True the supposed Amerikan aristocracy do have similar habits to genuine old European aristocrats: they like to spend idle time in spas drinking a great deal of alcohol and looking down on the social climbers who dare to aspire to the upper echelon. However, there are two reasons why this supposed American aristocracy is not the genuine item; First, they made their fortunes thanks to bizarre inventions or selling common products like vulgar shopkeepers unlike European aristocrats who never exerted themselves and occupied their minds on the more pressing problem of how best to spend all their leisure time. Second, those Amerikan new rich have a lot of money and European aristocrats don’t…

Fortunately Herr Lloyd Ingraham, director of “American Aristocracy” (1916) depicted very well those big differences with the help of the always enjoyable presence of the great Amerikan actor, Herr Douglas Fairbanks who does a lot of acrobatics in this film, including racing a car, flying a hydroplane and solving a mystery involving modern filibusters (not Senators but American agitators hoping to ferment revolution overseas). Of course he steals the girl from his rival too. This early Fairbanks film shows the star doing the stunts and performing in the way that would make him one of the most important actors of the silent screen, playing good bad men, pirates and local heroes.

The film was written by the multi talented Dame Anita Loos, and is a funny, small and unpretentious production, correctly done and effective, a valuable early vehicle for Herr Fairbanks. Equally important, this estimable document proves that genuine aristocrats have never existed in Amerika.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must found an organization that defends rights of real aristocrats.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien


La primera vez que ése conde germánico leyó el título de éste filme, creyóse que se trataba de una errata, pero cuando dióse cuenta de que no era el caso, entonces supúsose que se trataba de un filme de ciencia ficción, para finalmente quedarse estupefacto al comprobar que tanto atrevimiento acerca del título del filme en cuestión, era ciertamente literal, espantosamente literal.
Afortunadamente, durante el filme éste conde germánico pudo ver como sus certezas se tornaban realidad, certificando definitivamente que esa hipotética aristocracia americana no ha existido nunca, jamás.

Y esto queda demostrado desde el mismo inicio del filme; bien es cierto que esa supuesta aristocracia americana tiene hábitos similares a los auténticos aristócratas europeos, tales como pasar su extenso tiempo libre en balnearios, tener cierta querencia por el alcohol y mirar por encima del hombro a esos arribistas que aspiran a escalar puestos en las altas clases sociales, pero aún así, hay especialmente dos cuestiones por las cuales se certifica que esa aristocracia americana no es auténtica.
La primera, que los susodichos han hecho sus fortunas gracias a inventos raros o vendiendo productos ordinarios como si fuesen vulgares tenderos, cuando los aristócratas europeos nunca se han esforzado demasiado a no ser en cuestiones de cómo emplear su tiempo libre y segundo, esos nuevos ricos americanos tienen un montón de dinero y los aristócratas europeos, no….

Afortunadamente, Herr Lloyd Ingraham, director de “American Aristocracy” (1916) refleja en éste filme esas grandes diferencias con la ayuda de la siempre agradable presencia del gran actor americano Herr Douglas Fairbanks, el cual hace un montón de acrobacias en el filme, incluyendo además la conducción temeraria de un coche, pilotar un hidroavión y resolver un misterio en el cual están involucrados unos modernos filibusteros ( en éste caso no se trata de senadores americanos, si no de agitadores que inflaman revoluciones foráneas ), además de robarle la chica a su más inmediato rival.

En este filme primerizo de Herr Fairbanks, se puede contemplar a la estrella silente haciendo sus piruetas e interpretando a esos personajes que tan famoso lo harían en todo el mundo silente, esos villanos con buenos sentimientos, piratas o héroes locales.
El filme fue escrito por la multidisciplinar Dame Anita Loos, una divertida y pequeña película, una producción silente nada pretenciosa, muy bien realizada y efectiva al mismo tiempo, además de ser un vehículo perfecto para el lucimiento de Herr Fairbanks y un valioso documento en el cual se certifica que los auténticos aristócratas nunca han existido en Amerika.

Y ahora si me lo permiten, les tengo que dejar momentáneamente, pues este conde germánico tiene que fundar una organización que defienda los derechos de los genuinos aristócratas.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Donnerstag, Februar 04, 2010

"Metropolis" Returns On February 12th

Ah, the good old silent days!!... A necessary and excellent restored exercise in nostalgia for this German count, ja wohl!.

For more information click here.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien