Napoli che canta/The Song of Naples

What astonishes at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival (Le Giornate del Cinema Muto), which takes place annually in northern Italy, is not just the richness of 35-odd years of silent cinema but the way it reinforces the conviction that what we know of silent cinema is simply a fraction of what there is, and of course what there is remains a mere a fraction of what there was. The latest instalment, held in the charming town of Sacile, not only proved again what riches lie in archive vaults but gave hope that damaged films previously thought irrecoverable can be restored, and hitherto lost films discovered in both expected and unexpected places.

Topping the list of exciting discoveries was the fragment of the lost Josef von Sternberg film, The Case of Lena Smith (1929), recently found by Hiroshi Komatsu of the Theatre Museum, Waseda University, Japan. Sandwiched between Docks of New York and Thunderbolt (all 1929), Lena Smith was noted for its artistic lighting and mittel-European setting, and was high on the list of missing films. The fragment, which lasts all of four minutes (corresponding to shots 36-61 of the first reel), presents a tantalising glimpse of Sternbergian bravura, including a tracking shot, double exposure, and the fragmentation of the image. The transfer from nitrate is glorious – we can only hope more will be discovered.

Jean Forest and Victor Vina in Visages d'enfants

Opening night celebrations kicked off with a restored print of the astonishing Swiss-produced Jacques Feyder film, Visages d’enfants. Made in 1923 but released in ’25, Feyder’s deeply personal work (the only film he was sole author on) features the outstanding child actor Jean Forest in one of the most moving, yet understated, portrayals of childhood angst. The opening scene is the funeral of a young mother – Feyder’s use of point of view shots, as Forest looks up to his father, the other participants, and the coffin, is remarkable. The film is full of small details, not so much action as explorations of Forest’s interior, such as when Forest arranges his mother’s dress from out of a chest and rests his head where her knee would be. Extraordinary location work in the Swiss Alps, complete with a breathtaking avalanche sequence seen from both above the snow and in front (as if the camera was mounted on a sled and sent shooting down the mountain) showcase Feyder’s confident direction, yet all this is harnessed to psychological insight rather than mere showiness. Accompanist Antonio Coppola composed an excellent orchestral score, perfectly in keeping with the film and avoiding the pastiche elements so rife throughout Carl Davis’ over-praised compositions.

Of the varied themes covered this year at Pordenone, perhaps the most important was the first ever retrospective of the great Russian actor and director Ivan Mozhukhin (or Mosjoukine and, in the States, Moskine). Certainly one of the most versatile of all silent film performers, Mozhukhin’s extraordinary range exhibits his admiration of both Chaplin and Keaton, not just in their timing and physical grace but also in the psychological acuity they brought to their films. Pordenone’s Mozhukhin retrospective – full, but by no means complete – goes a long way towards raising critical awareness of Mozhukhin after decades of neglect.

Mozhukhin began his cinematic career at least as early as 1911. The first great work to screen as part of the retrospective was Yakov Protazanov’s 1916 The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama). Protazanov’s film distinguishes itself on many levels (sets by Alexandre Benois, creative camerawork), but especially its keen study of the psyche. Mozhukhin’s performance in this film is one of studied, self-absorbed intensity, perfectly assimilating the contemporaneous Russian acting ideal for interior characterisation.

This was followed in 1917 by Protazanov’s Satan Triumphant (Satana Likuyushchii), which combines elements of Faust, The Scarlet Letter, and Ibsen. Here is a prime example of Mozhukhin’s “satanic” period, when the Yermoliev studio emphasised his ability to play demonic figures, and yet he gives his double role (as both father and son) depth and character. A contemporaneous reviewer remarked that Mozhukhin “should immediately be acknowledged as virtually the most exciting screen actor in the Moscow pleiad” (1). This remarkable film (the last reel remains missing) also boasts one of Nathalie Lissenko’s best early performances; the scene in which she undoes a panel on her dress covering her bosom, and then feels inside her cleavage, beautifully captures the idea of this lonely and unfulfilled woman resuscitating her sexuality.

The chaos engendered by the Revolution threw the movie industry into a quandary; many fled the Bolsheviks and decamped to Yalta, whose seaside location and relatively temperate climate had long made it a favoured movie-making site. The 1976 Nikita Mikhalkov film, Slave of Love (Raba lyubvi), tried to capture the anxiety surrounding film production in the Crimea during those revolutionary days, although it’s too much a product of Brezhnev-era propaganda. Lord Chilcott (Chlen Parlamenta), probably from 1919, is one of these works shot by Protazanov in the Crimea. Little is known of its production history, but its genesis could shed interesting light on the flow of story ideas from West to East. The scenario is taken from Irish author Katherine Cecil Thurston’s 1909 novel The Masquerader (and not a novel by William John Locke, as stated in the Festival catalogue, p. 49), which in turn was adapted for the New York stage by John Hunter Booth in late 1917 (and later filmed in the States in 1922 and 1933). Whether the Yermoliev studios heard of the success of the New York show and decided to have their turn at filming the story, or whether only the novel was known, deserves further research, and begs the question of what cultural information was being exchanged between the West and Russia during these uncertain times.

When it was clear the Reds were descending onto the Crimea, the Russian cinema community’s international exodus began. Most went to France, where their talents influenced a generation of French directors, scenographers, and actors. The first of Mozhukhin’s films to be released in France, Protozanov’s L’Angoissante Aventure (1920), was actually shot in bits and pieces during the emigration. It gave Mozhukhin an opportunity to show his range to his new French audience, and as such is a good summation of his skills in both comic and tragic roles. Russian films had long been criticised by foreigners for their morbid endings, so here Protazanov utilises a rather unsatisfying framing device in which the tragic events are all just a dream (think of Lang’s The Woman in the Window). Protazanov shows a flare for moments of Stroheimian decadent excess, such as a drunk Mozhukhin spilling wine on his dying daughter’s bandages; this stylistic feature is also noticeable in the earlier Father Sergius (1918), when Lissenko casually throws her ermine muff onto an icon, treating it like a hat rack.

For his third film in France, L’Enfant du Carnaval (1921), Mozhukhin directed himself. This is a delightful work, hinting at the astonishing visual vocabulary Mozhukhin would employ in his next directorial effort, Le brasier ardent (1923). Full of visual witticisms that include amusing match cuts and a terrific use of scenography, it can be argued that the choice of subject matter (wealthy bachelor finds a child on his doorstep and hires the child’s real mother as nanny) has more than an old-fashioned air about it, but he manages to keep it fresh and sparkling until the tragic conclusion. There are some stylistic similarities between L’Enfant du Carnaval and an Italian film from 1917 which screened at last year’s Festival, Luigi Serventi’s Le Mogli e le arance (Wives and Oranges), written and supervised by Lucio D’Ambra, although this may be pure coincidence.

portrait of Ivan Mozhukhin

Mozhukhin’s fame continued to grow, reaching new heights with the release of the serial La Maison du mystère (Alexander Volkoff) in 1923. Pordenone screened the 1929 condensed feature-length version (Bologna showed the serial version this past June), which cuts the original down from 8,800 meters to 3,200, although the running time is still 159 minutes. The serial, released in 10 chapters, caused a sensation at the time for its downplaying of the traditional cliff-hanger “crowd-pleasers”, instead combining quieter thrills with a high degree of character development not dependent on great feats of adventure. This was the serial that contemporaneous critics acclaimed as lifting the genre out of its working class trough. Previously, most writers treated such populist forms of entertainment, with their sensationalist bent, as suitable only for the lower classes. Even a master like Louis Feuillade, now accepted as one of the greats, was dismissed because of his work in the genre, much in the way early Dickens was snubbed for his perceived leanings towards Penny Dreadful dramas.

La Maison du mystère was followed by Mozhukhin’s second and final solo directorial effort, the extraordinary Le brasier ardent (1923). Though Renoir cites this as the film which convinced him to become a director, few people understood Mozhukhin’s tour de force blend of surrealism, Freud and dada, and Le brasier ardent was a commercial flop. It is directed with breathtaking boldness and a mastery of cinematic styles ranging in influence from Gance and Feuillade to the avant-garde. Le brasier ardent opens with a nightmare sequence that jumps out at the audience, beginning in hell and working itself up to a cathedral, all with Mozhukhin in different parts, from a demonic heretic at the stake to a bishop. The visionary Alexander Lochakoff designed, with Joseph-Louis Mundwiller (who later shot part of Gance’s Napoléon [1927]) as cameraman. Mozhukhin’s incandescent personality, shining out of those riveting eyes, acts as a match to his bravura directing, which includes astounding edits and the use of negative images. The audience is left dazzled by the audacity of his style, and mournful that a great career as director was cut short by an unappreciative public.

One of the most highly respected films of the mid-’20s in France, Kean (Volkoff, 1924) has terrific moments but the two hour plus running time could have been edited down. This was a film close to Mozhukhin’s heart, and like all of his French films it is more than likely that he had a hand in the direction. The moving death scene (20 minutes long!) which, thanks to our hero’s controlled intensity, never veers into bathos, led Jean Tédesco to write in 1924 that while people formerly said “you should have seen Sarah Bernhardt die”, now they say “you have to see Mozhukhin die” (2).

Next in the retrospective was the 1925 Marcel L’Herbier Feu Mathias Pascal, based on Pirandello’s novel. This is a slick production, an excellent example of quality filmmaking of the period that boasts terrific sets and great location shooting in San Gimignano and Rome. L’Herbier’s compositions are striking, with certain scenes (such as a deathbed tableau framed within a lunette-shaped room) reminiscent of works by the great 19th century history painter Paul Delaroche, whose strong influence on silent cinema remains to be explored.

In discussing the last two Mozhukhin films presented at Pordenone, one must again consider the great Alexander Lochakoff. His sets for Michel Strogoff (Viatcheslav Tourjansky, 1926) are a ravishing combination of Russian palaces and Tartar tents. After an opening prologue we see a large gate, whose doors open up to reveal a magical St. Petersburg (recreated in the Billancourt studio of Ciné-France-Films) that must have given a sharp stab of nostalgic longing to the Russian émigrés assembled in the cast and crew. This is stunning filmmaking, of which a small example is the terrific parallel montage showing dancers at a ball gliding swiftly forward, cut with the Tartar hordes riding pell-mell through the countryside. Borger’s catalogue notes (p. 57) about Tourjansky’s indebtedness to Birth of a Nation is spot on.

Ivan Mozhukhin in Casanova

Finally, Casanova (Volkoff, 1927). I can think of no film where Venice is so gloriously shot, where the Carnival festivities of the late 18th century are so perfectly recreated, straight out of the paintings of Pietro Longhi. Full of comedy, and with Mozhukhin bounding through his scenes in the style of Douglas Fairbanks, this is a gorgeous work, and though it lacks the technical bravura of, say, Le brasier ardent, it is a pleasure from beginning to end. The extraordinary restorations by Renée Lichtig (co-winner this year of the Jean Mitry Award) of both this and Michel Strogoff include their original hand-coloured sequences. The night scenes during Carnival, with fireworks exploding over the torch-lit gondolas, are scenes of wonder.

Mozhukhin’s great mistake was his longing to make comedies in the United States. He set off for Hollywood in late ’27 with a Universal contract under his arm and a belief that his enormous success in Europe could translate into American stardom. Instead, Universal shortened his name (to Moskine, although some publicity stills spell it Mosjukine) and then his nose, and put him into a routine melodrama, Surrender (Edward Sloman). It was a flop, and Mozhukhin came back to Europe where he continued to star in French and German films, but the misfire in the States obviously hit him hard. With the arrival of sound he appeared in five pictures but his heavy accent was a liability, and something was obviously missing. He died a pauper in 1939, his death hastened by alcoholism. Pordenone screened Surrender in 1989; it is to be regretted that they stuck to their rule of not showing anything twice, as a proper study of Mozhukhin’s career requires a look at this tragic debacle.

The second major retrospective this year centred on the silent works of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, best known of course for King Kong but whose documentary masterpiece Grass (1925) is justifiably acclaimed. Pordenone also screened the superb Chang (1927), which combines elements of narrative within documentary, and the lesser known works, Ra-Mu (1924) and Rango (1931), on which Schoedsack worked solo. The latter is the only children’s film I know of in which the cuddly baby animal gets killed in the end by a hungry tiger. Taking as their cue Kevin Brownlow’s overview of the genre in The War, The West, and the Wilderness (3), the organisers programmed films by other directors whose work also falls into the category of the “factual film”. Viewing these today, one is struck by the different expectations we have for nature films in 2003. The Court Treatts’ 1928 Stampede features a graphic elephant kill, and all of the films combine elements of the wonders of nature with matter-of-fact scenes of slaughter. Durch Afrika im Automobil (1929), beautifully shot by Rudi Mayer, is the journey of two Austrian aristocrats who are much more concerned with literally shooting the zebras and antelope than viewing them through a camera (4).

We’ve become jaded by Animal Planet and the Discovery channel, not to mention the work of David Attenborough et al., so Brownlow is wise to point out that these films “pall only when they present scenes that have become all too familiar” (5). He was specifically referring to the work of Martin and Osa Johnson whose creative editing plays around with the facts rather cavalierly, and yet it’s interesting to note the Johnsons’ interest in the tribes as well as the fauna – something often lacking in today’s nature shows.

Poster for D.W. Griffith's The Battle at Elderbush Gulch

Pordenone has set itself the worthy task of screening all existing D. W. Griffith works, year by year, accompanied by the invaluable publications of The Griffith Project. The current edition reached the watershed year of 1913, with such well-known masterworks as The Mothering Heart, The Battle at Elderbush Gulch, and of course Judith of Bethulia, here screened not only in the beautiful 74 minute MOMA print but also the shorter 68 minute paper print from the Library of Congress, possibly closer to the director’s original vision. Also included were five minutes of outtakes, including a fleeting glimpse of Griffith himself directing Blanche Sweet. It is unfortunate that Kino did not include these outtakes in their video/DVD release. This section finished with screenings of films said to have been supervised by Griffith but directed by others (including James Kirkwood); these were mostly valuable for showing just how good Griffith had become. It was regrettable that the programmers scheduled many of these at times which conflicted with other screenings, thus forcing difficult choices and reducing the Griffith viewers to a core of dedicated Biograph followers, when viewing should be practically mandatory for all.

In the first of a continuing exploration of Southeast Asian cinema, Pordenone featured two programs of Thai silent films. Little survives of early Thai cinema; only 17 features were made, beginning in 1923 (although the first completely indigenous work wasn’t shot until 1927). Much of what was screened was actuality footage, beginning with two shorts made in 1897 showing King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) arriving in Switzerland and Stockholm, both shot by European cameramen. These historically fascinating scraps were followed by films shot in Thailand, including amateur works made by the royal family. These precious records of a burgeoning industry further our understanding of the little known cinema history of Southeast Asia, as discussed in Ray Edmondson’s stirring essay in this year’s catalogue (pp. 62-65).

If Hans Steinhoff’s Angst (1928) disappointed in comparison to last year’s presentation of his 1929 Nachtgestalten (The Alley Cat) (rightly hailed by Elliott Stein as the great find of the Festival) (6), it still boasts beautiful craftsmanship and fluid camera work. It is difficult to judge as a whole, however, as the print viewed is a reconstruction from three different sources, and aside from an overabundance of inter-titles it occasionally suffers from rhythm problems which Nachtgestalten, with its breathtaking rapid editing, certainly never does. Much debate now surrounds Steinhoff, whose championing as a filmmaker by Horst Claus is going some way to rehabilitating him from Billy Wilder’s assertion that he was “a very bad director” and “a shithead” (7). Infamous for Nazi pictures such as Hitlerjunge Quex (1933) and Ohm Krüger (1941), Steinhoff has been written off simplistically as a “Nazi director… entrusted with some of the lavish propaganda vehicles of the early ‘forties” (8). The problem here lies in the separation of Steinhoff the man from Steinhoff the creator; no one argues that Richard Wagner was a nice man, and those who believe Riefenstahl’s contention that she was apolitical are delusional, but few will deny the talent of these two geniuses. While Steinhoff cannot be placed in the first tier of the greats, he certainly deserves to be regarded as a highly talented technician confidently assimilating some of the lessons from the masterminds of Weimar cinema. Half of his output was before the coming of sound, and 70% of this survives in one way or another. Much credit is due to Claus, who apparently has to spend as much time defending his championing of the works (and not the man) as guiding the research and preservation of the films themselves.

Mention also needs to be made of the extraordinary 1913 Italian comedy short Robinet Anarchico (Tweedledum as an Anarchist). The Robinet series, known as Tweedledum in English speaking countries, was directed by and starred Marcel Fabre, and gained enormous popularity on both sides of the Atlantic (9). Robinet Anarchico is a typical entry in the series, with its absurdist freneticism and avant-garde mise en scène, but what seems especially unusual in this episode is the way anarchists are depicted as objects of humour in a Road Runner sort of way. Anarchism was a very real threat in the Europe of 1913 – the Italian king Umberto I was assassinated by an anarchist in 1900, and just one month after the release of this film, King George I of Greece was murdered. A few months after Robinet Anarchico appeared, a short was released featuring his female counterpart, entitled Robinette nichilista (Robinette the nihilist), testifying to the willingness of the filmmakers to push the envelope in surprising ways.

Fabre is a fascinating figure who cries out for proper investigation. During his stardom as Robinet (1910 to 1915) he also directed a number of avant-garde shorts and features (last year Pordenone screened Amor Pedestre and Le Avventure Straordinarissime di Saturnino Farandola, both 1914). In late 1915 he emigrated to the States, continuing the Tweedledum series for Eagle Comedies and then Jester Comedies (William Seiter was a probable director), all under variations of his real name, Marcel Fernández Peréz. By 1920 he was directing features for smaller studios, until his untimely death in 1929. It would be fascinating to learn if any of these later films survive, and if he tried to adapt his experimental style to meet the requirements of the American studios (10).

For sheer popularity few programs could match the return of Welsh animator Sid Griffiths’ mischievous pooch Jerry the Tyke. First screened in Sacile last year, the current edition showed ten more shorts featuring the “troublesome tyke”. Produced between 1925 and ’27, and totalling 40 shorts, the style somewhat resembles Fleischer’s Felix the Cat, but the best “Jerrys” combine live action with animation and feature delicious sparring between the Tyke and his creator Griffiths (all photographed by Bert Bilby).

Pordenone presented two shows of the works of the pioneering Macedonian filmmakers Ianaki and Milton Manaki, known as the Balkan Lumières. The earliest of these actualities are from 1905, and they run the gamut of celebrations and newsworthy events in the southern Balkans at the twilight of the Ottoman Empire. These lead us to other early actualities, from the staggering Mitchell & Kenyon collection, of which this year’s screening was the third and penultimate instalment. In 1994, 780 original nitrate negatives were discovered in the north of England. Of these, 650 have now been preserved, and their quality is pristine. It is unheard of to have such a complete record of the work of that little-known early cinema promoter, the travelling showman, and likewise extraordinarily rare to have such extensive visual evidence of regional cinema in the first decade of the 20th century. This year’s batch included one more “factory gate” film from Rotherham in 1901 and then continued with scenes of leisure pursuits such as seaside outings in Blackpool in 1904, and the Great Yorkshire Show in Bradford in 1901. It is difficult to view the sprightly, often grimy working class children cavorting for the camera without wondering how many would be slaughtered on the battlefields of the Somme and Ypres, some 15 or so years later.

Two notable Frankenstein-themed films were screened this year, both of historical importance and both considered partly or fully lost for decades. First was the 1910 Edison Frankenstein, directed by J. Searle Dawley, which once made it on the American Film Institute’s “Most Wanted” list, but a collector in Wisconsin had an original complete nitrate print (now available on DVD). Of greater historical significance was the discovery of six nitrate reels of a condensed version of the Otto Ripert six-episode 1916 epic Homunculus, previously known through two badly decomposed and fragmentary prints. So much psychological weight has been heaped onto this work, not least by Siegfried Kracauer, who credits Homunculus as a precursor to Hitler, and his character a telling record of the German psyche (11). Even in only partial form, it is difficult not to make parallels between this Frankenstein’s monster-like figure, born out of science without a soul, and the German psyche plunging itself into a world war and what lay beyond. But parallels can also be made between Homunculus and the horrors of the Industrial Revolution in England, which swept aside human worth in its rush towards increased productivity and mechanisation. Indeed, Kracauer’s claim that Homunculus’ sadism (and homoeroticism!) reflects a trait prominent in the German collective soul seems far-fetched, although consideration must be given to both Kracauer’s status as exile and the period (1946) in which he was writing.

Homunculus‘ fascination also lies in its uses as a template, drawn on by later directors for their own creations. The scene of peasants surrounding Homunculus with straw and setting him alight is reminiscent of the end of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931); compositional similarities can also be found to Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922), while the scene of Homunculus haranguing a crowd directly links him to Brigitte Helm in Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). This was an enormously influential film, and the discovery of more scenes only reinforces our understanding of the previously neglected porous borders between Wilhelmine and Weimar cinema (12).

Richard Dix and Larry Steers in Redskin

Among the newly restored works was the 1929 Victor Schertzinger Redskin, with a score by the Native American duo National Braid. Certainly the most vivid two-strip Technicolor restoration I’ve seen, this enjoyable film was nearly destroyed by the unholy accompaniment. For a film about cultural sensitivity (not all that common in 1929), it is surprising how insensitive the musicians were. I have no argument with their musicality, but they had no idea how to compose for silent films. The loud, atonal music, inspired by Native American themes, worked completely against the film, crushing the frequent touches of humour (Schertzinger directed Mabel Normand in seven of her films) and nullifying the emotional drama. Pordenone boasts the world’s top accompanists, musicians who are keenly sensitive to the nuances of the medium and understand the role of the accompanist as someone who guides the viewer and gently augments the on-screen proceedings, rather than drawing attention to themselves. There seems to be a trend towards commissioning contemporary music for silent films, no doubt in a bid to make current audiences interested in them, but rather than showcasing their wonders the music serves only to antiquate the films, turning them into relics in the face of the distracting post-modernist sounds that ride roughshod over the image. A similar case can be made against the horribly inappropriate Bruno Mantovani score which toured the States and Europe two years ago for the Allan Dwan 1927 film, East Side, West Side (fortunately, when Pordenone screened the restored work in 2001, the skilled accompanist Donald Sosin composed the score). One hopes that the organisers, with their justifiable pride at the quality of their veteran musicians, will not be so foolish again as to subject the audience to something so antagonistic to the vision of the Festival. This dedication to the encouragement of the art of silent film music was reinforced this year by the creation of a series of Master Classes in piano accompaniment.

It’s not that contemporary musicians are unable to provide proper accompaniment – Italian singer Giuni Russo, a sort of Italian Laurie Anderson but with a better voice, brought tears to the eyes of a packed house with her beautiful marriage of song to image for the closing night performance of Napoli che canta (The Song of Naples, 1926). A fitting finale for the Festival, this 33-minute gem has a production history shrouded in mystery. Most likely made for the large Neapolitan immigrant population in the States, Roberto Leone Roberti’s love poem to Naples more than captures the heartache of the countless émigrés who were forced by economic circumstances to leave their homeland. The beauty of Roberti’s direction (he was Sergio Leone’s father) lies not solely in how he captures the physical characteristics of the city, but in his combination of natural beauty with scenes of families together, couples on the water, the happiness of the everyday which is so evanescent and yet so tied to the geographical location of one’s birthplace. Giuni Russo’s singing of traditional Neapolitan songs, perfectly in keeping with the expressive, poetic inter-titles, lent an additional glow and was the perfect accompaniment to a film bathed in nostalgia and longing. A lyrical conclusion to another extraordinary year of discovery.

Endnotes

  1. Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lorenzo Codelli, Carlo Montanaro, David Robinson, eds., Silent Witnesses – Russian Films 1909-1919, British Film Institute, London, 1989, p. 424
  2. Constantin Dorokhine, “Les émigrés russes à Paris et les films Albatros” in Le cinéma français muet dans le monde, influences réciproques, Cinémathèque de Toulouse and Institut Jean Vigo, Toulouse, 1989, p. 134. See also François Albera, Albatros: des Russes à Paris, 1919-1929 (Cinémathèque française, Paris, 1995). A new book by Natalia Noussinova on the Russian émigrés has just been published in Russian hopefully to be translated into French sometime next year.
  3. Kevin Brownlow, The War, The West, and the Wilderness, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979, pp. 401-566
  4. It is to be hoped that the Festival will showcase, at a future date, some of the Belgian and German works shot in Africa and discussed in Guido Convents’ groundbreaking studies, which include A la recherche des images oubliées. Préhistoire du cinéma en Afrique Noire (1897-1918) (Organisation catholique internationale du cinéma, Brussels, 1986); and “Film und deutsche Kolonialpropaganda (für die Subsaharischen Gebiete bis 1918)”, Zeitschrift für Afrikastudien (Vienna), no. 9, 1991, pp. 49-67.
  5. Brownlow, 1979, p. 469
  6. Elliott Stein, “Viaggio in Italia. Silents Please!”, Village Voice, November 12, 2002
  7. Quoted in Eric Rentschler, The Ministry of Illusion. Nazi Cinema and its Afterlife, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1996, p. 324
  8. Davis Stewart Hull, Film in the Third Reich, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1969, p. 33; Steinhoff has occasionally been recognised as one of the Third Reich’s most talented directors: Francis Courtade and Pierre Cadars, Le cinéma Nazi, E. Losfeld, Paris, 1972.
  9. See quotations from contemporary English and American trade periodicals in Aldo Bernardini, Il cinema muto italiano. I film dei primi anni. 1910 (Nuova ERI, Rome, 1996); Bernardini and Vittorio Martinelli, Il cinema muto italiano. I film degli anni d’oro. 1911, 1912, 1913 (Nuova ERI, Rome, 1994, 1995); Martinelli, Il cinema muto italiano. I film degli anni d’oro. 1914 (Nuova ERI, Rome, 1992, 1993)
  10. For more information on Fabre, see Aldo Bernardini and Vittorio Martinelli, “I comici del cinema muto italiano” in Griffithiana, nos. 24/25, October 1985, pp. 116-121; and Antonio Costa, “Il mondo rigirato: Saturnino versus Phileas [sic] Fogg” in Paolo Bertetto and Gianni Rondolino, eds., Cabiria e il suo tempo, Il Castoro, Milan, 1998, pp. 295-310
  11. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler – A Psychological History of the German Film, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1974, pp. 32, 33, 74
  12. A good discussion of the film, although the author only saw the more fragmentary prints, is Leonardo Quaresima, “HOMUNCULUS: A Project for a Modern Cinema” in Thomas Elsaesser, ed., A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 160-67

About The Author

Jay Weissberg is an American film critic living in Rome, Italy. He writes regularly for Variety.