Saturday, August 13, 2011


Dmitri Kirsanoff (1899-1957), 1926, 38m, silent

The film's claim to attention was it's mention by Pauline Kael as her favorite film. At well under an hour, and easy availability in an excellent print on YouTube, it seemed worth a try, in spite of being silent. Most memorable is the haunting, misty, autumnal black and white cinematography. The title refers to a suburb of Paris and the film is as much an exploration of the place as an essay on human experience framed exquisitely by these run down environs as they must have been in those twenties. It is a modernistic montage of cobbled streets, aging weathered working class dwellings, flowing water and bridges, trains and machinery, old and new.

The film opens with a curtain swelling to unfold a scene of grisly brutality followed by the murder of a couple. This is followed by the travails of the two daughters as they grow up, get involved with the same man, experience jealousy, the birth of a child, learning the meaning of hunger, suicide contemplated, and a violent climax. The plot is not explicit but the forty minutes concentrate a lot. The rapid fire rush of images weaves a film of stunning power and artistry. Though diametrically opposite in flavor and content, its lyricism reminds one of that more acclaimed masterpiece, 8 1/2.

Silent cinema is no poor cousin. Unpropped by technology and sound, it must be sustained by its own inner resources.

The film in five parts and excellent print and sound can be viewed HERE on You Tube .


Greg said...

There was a link to this film a while back on the Ebert Club newsletter, in relation to its being Pauline Kael's favorite film. A lovely little gem that seems to exist outside of space and time.

S. M. Rana said...


That is how I linked to it.

You are so right--it is very universal in its humanistic concerns and "outside of space and time".