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Monday, 23 November 2015

On DVD (11) - House of Mystery - Alexandre Volkoff and Ivan Mosjoukine's 1921/22 serial

Alexandre Volkoff
Among the many confessions I have to make about what I have and haven't seen is that I have seen almost nothing of the work of Alexandre Volkoff and his collaborator and lead actor Ivan Mosjoukine. Others have known of them for decades. Earlier this year I got a first glimpse when I watched a bootleg of their The White Devil (France, 1930). Wikipedia has much information on Mosjoukine, including some most interesting near-gossip  that I cant possibly verify but I assume it's pretty accurate. 

Even before I knew anything of these people MOMA in New York had devoted  a season to Films Albatros  the introductory note for which is still on the MOMA website  though the essay referred to at the end no longer seems to be available. A pity.

Even earlier Flicker Alley issued a DVD box set titled French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1928, which I now find Dave Kehr reviewed in glowing terms even before the MOMA season . in his New York Times video column.  It's hard to keep up.

Silhouette shot from House of Mystery
Still the emergence early this year of House of Mystery did set a few pulses racing including the judges of the DVD competition at Bologna. More attention should have been paid. Before that had occurred however I now also find that Kristin Thompson wrote a long essay on the blog she shares with David Bordwell which you can find here. at Observations of Film Art /. 

Ivan Mosjoukine in House of Mystery
Here's a key para  Like so many of the major French films of the 1920s, especially the Impressionist ones, La Maison du mystére combines a sentimental, old-fashioned story with unconventional stylistic devices: unusual pictorial motifs, beautiful cinematography and design, and imaginative staging. It is probably this visual interest that led to the film’s original acceptance by reviewers and to its enthusiastic reception by modern historians and silent-film buffs.

What more can I say.

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