Saturday 31 December 2022

On the web somewhere - David Hare unearths TEMPETE (Dominique Bernard-Deschamps, France, 1939)

Erich von Stroheim in blackface

Possibly last movie acquisition of the year, while I still wait for the 4K/UHD disc of Goodfellas from Oz ($A21 folks includes a regular Blu-ray), the Kino Lorber The Lodger and a couple of other things:

Dominique Bernard Deschamps' totally insane Tempête (France, 1939) , aka somewhat less floridly Thunder over Paris. In which Erich von Stroheim does black face for the opening twenty minutes as a con man who peddles hair straightening ("Conking") snake oil to Harlem black folks in a daffy Studio backdrop set New York.  

Erich has to be seen to be believed, but the blackface comes off as his scheme falls apart and he and business partner flee to Paris where they can rub shoulders with the likes of Marcel Dalio, Arletty and Julien Carette in a mind boggling nightclub sequence with long frocked dancing girls which itself signals Elina Labourdette's "Dancing girl"/Prostitute scenes from Bresson's Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, but five years avant la lettre.  

Tempête was one of the last pictures made for the pre-war Discina studio, literally months before it and the assistant director Andre Cayatte became fixtures with most of what remained of the French movie world in Occupied Paris at the newly formed Continental PIctures, set up by Alfred Greven in 1941 for the Gestapo which would perhaps ironically (or not) never have permitted such un-Nazi PC material as blackface and a black audience subplot as part of their precious Aryan philosophy.).
Anyway Tempête is the sort of movie guaranteed to chase the blues away after a damnable year. The video capture was from a TV broadcast and the subs are custom. So a backchannel treat only. No known commercial DVD.

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