Sunday 3 September 2017

Digitisations, Restorations and Revivals (31) - Telluride Film Festival selection

Associate Editor (Restorations and Revivals) Simon Taaffe has come across the following films being screened at the forthcoming Telluride Film Festival. There are only four titles so the full notes are reproduced here. For those who may be unaware, Alice Waters is one of the great chefs of America. See below.

Such is Life (Germany, 1920) Realistic and unsentimental, Carl Junghans’ lost-and-found classic follows an aging laundress (Vera Baranovskaya, from Pudovkin’s MOTHER) who supports her alcoholic husband (Theodor Pištěk) as he escapes into the arms of a saloon girl (the legendary Valeska Gert, THREEPENNY OPERA, JULIET OF THE SPIRITS). Anticipating the great works of Italian neorealism, SUCH IS LIFE relies on a purely visual narrative to create deep empathy, nding emotion and lyricism in the faces and eyes of its protagonists. This astounding discovery, restored by the National Film Archive in Prague, is all the more shocking because it was Junghans’ first true feature film (his bizarre career also included tributes to Lenin, irtations with Nazism, a failed collaboration with Langston Hughes and fame as an American landscape photographer). It is so far ahead of its time that it de es all historical logic (Czechoslovakia, 1929, 74m). Preceded by Buster Keaton’s essential comedy ONE WEEK, newly restored (U.S., 1920, 25m) With live accompaniment by Donald Sosin. –MS

The Cotton Club
The Cotton Club Encore (Francis Ford Coppola, USA,1984) Do you remember that extraordinary moment in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 THE COTTON CLUB when the beautiful Lila (Lonette McKee)—a mixed-race chanteuse “passing” for white in 1920s New York—performs a show-stopping rendition of “Stormy Weather,” sung with the melancholic passion of a woman who can’t express herself any other way? No? That’s because that sequence and more than 20 minutes of equally glorious scenes (with Richard Gere, Diane Lane, Gregory Hines and Maurice Hines) ended up on the cutting-room floor amidst post-production squabbles between Coppola and the film’s producers. Instead, audiences saw a hugely ambitious, undeniably awed panorama of life in and around the storied Harlem nightclub where gangsters and rumrunners rubbed elbows with showgirls and movie stars. With painstaking archival research and digital restoration, Coppola’s original vision for THE COTTON CLUB has been restored. A masterpiece stands revealed. –SF (U.S., 1984/2017, 139m) In person: Francis Ford Coppola, Maurice Hines, Zachary Hines

Ivan Mozjoukine, Kean or Disorder and Genius
Kean or Disorder and Genius (Aleksander Volkoff, France, 1924) The second collaboration in France between two Russian émigrés, director Aleksandr Volkoff and actor Ivan Mosjoukine, is an adaptation from the 1836 play by Alexandre Dumas. Dismissed as a minor work, the drama seemed an unpromising choice for critics of the period. They were wrong: the film was a box office triumph, a perfect synthesis of burlesque, musical comedy and tragedy, blending Volkoff’s visual mastery with Mosjoukine’s chameleon screen persona. Though based on the life of London actor Edmund Kean, this is so much more than a theatre biopic; Kean’s whirlwind dance in a seedy tavern was so extraordinary that audiences asked to have it screened twice during the shows! The gorgeous new 35mm restoration by the Cinémathèque Française, an audience favorite at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival, was manually tinted according to the techniques of the period. – PCU (France, 1924, 139m) With the Mont Alto Orchestra, introduced by Paolo Cherchi Usai and Céline Ruivo

The Baker's Wife
The Baker’s Wife (Marcel Pagnol, France, 1938) After last year’s triumphant marathon screening of Marcel Pagnol’s iconic Marseilles trilogy, we return to the seductive world of the famed French auteur with the story of quarrelsome inhabitants of a rural village in Provence. Thrilled with the skills of their new baker (Raimu)—not just perfect baguettes, but croissants, tourtes, even fougasse with anchovies!—they are set into action when his nubile wife (Ginette Leclerc, reminiscent of a young Mae West) runs off with a virile shepherd, and the distraught baker neglects his ovens. It’s a tour-de-force for Raimu, whom Orson Welles called “the greatest actor who ever lived,” and Pagnol’s characteristic tight-knit, gossipy, and eccentric community. The young yet doctrinaire clergyman, the radical teacher, and the delightful Marquis who lives with his four “nieces,” savor meals of turbot with lemon and roast chicken—but they’re nothing without the staff of life. –MB (France, 1938, 133m) New 4K restoration by Nicolas Pagnol and the Criterion Collection. Introduced by Alice Waters

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