Thursday 9 December 2021

On Blu-ray - David Hare is enraptured by the new restored edition of TIH MINH (Louis Feuillade, France, 1918)

 I am unable to hold back any longer.

These two shots of Tih Minh (above and below) are from the end of the first episode in what Jonathan Rosenbaum describes as six hours of a journey through the Garden of Eden.

This staggering new reconstruction and restoration of Feuillade's 1918 serial Tih Minh is one of those movie miracles a great many cinephiles have literally been waiting decades to see.
It's been worth the wait, and I've only begun the journey but I have to say without a hint of exaggeration this is one of the greatest, most defining works of all cinema.
The opening of Episode 1 is a leisurely cast presentation to the camera with portrait-like screen tests for each of the actors and actresses, which is in itself a defining lesson in screen acting, the relationship of the screen to us, and our relationship to the screen.
Only towards the end of the cast call does the final actor, playing M. Placide quickly wink at the camera in one of Feuillade's very rare breaks of the fourth wall. If this opening sequence doesn't rope you in you may as well give up on ever having a relationship with cinema. Everything about this and his earlier Judex also in 12 episodes plus an epilogue from 1917 simply takes the movies once and for all to their most privileged position in human experience.
These new restorations of Tih Minh, begun 2018 and completed last year, and Judex also completed in 2020 are mind bendingly beautiful. The new Blu-ray disc sets from Gaumont are French language but the intertitles are so much easier to manage than spoken dialogue for those of us who have a reasonable but imperfect grasp of French language skill. if you prefer however there is an English subtitle option under the French inter-titles. I commend the two discs to the widest audience possible.

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