Monday, May 21, 2012

Five days of Louise Brooks in Montreal

Twice in the coming two weeks, the Cinéma du Parc in Montreal is screening a movie starring Louise Brooks as part of its 17 film salute to early film, "The Artists" (thru June 3).

The two films, both made in Germany and directed by G.W. Pabst at the end of the silent era, are Pandora’s Box (or Loulou, as it is titled in France) and Diary of a Lost Girl. Both date from 1929, and each will be shown variously with German, French or English subtitles. Pandora’s Box screens May 22-24, and Diary of a Lost Girl screens May 28-29. It is a great opportunity to see Brooks, a screen legend, at the height of her career and in her best work.

As the Cinéma du Parc states on its bilingual website, the idea for the series originated came about with the success of The Artist, when just about everybody was caught by surprise over the media frenzy around the film. An unlikely contender, The Artist was a French production shot in Los Angeles which became the first silent film since 1929 to win the Best Picture Oscar, and that after gaining numerous awards at Cannes, the BAFTA and the Césars.

Jean Dujardin, who won nearly every Best Actor award around the world for his portrayal of fading star George Valentin, prepared for his role by watching classic silent films and by studying silent era actors, notably Douglas Fairbanks. In fact, the film Valentin views (as his own) in his apartment is Fairbanks’ first swashbuckler, The Mark of Zorro (1920). He had also, reportedly, read Jeffrey Vance's superb 2008 book on the actor.

Described as virtuosic, unique, poetic, touching and unforgettable, The Artist generated considerable public interest in silent film in 2011. That interest has carried through to today.

Some of the other films set to be screened as part of “The Artists” include Fairbanks’ The Black Pirate (1926) and The Thief of Bagdad (1924), as well as Wings (1927), the first silent film (and until The Artist the last silent film) to win an Academy Award. F.W. Murnau’s The Last Laugh (1924), with the great Emil Jannings as the pathetic doorman, is also on the schedule, as is a newly restored print of Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925), and two swell Buster Keaton Films, Seven Chances (1925) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928). Another early masterpiece, Sunrise (1927), will also be shown.

Also on the schedule is a third G.W. Pabst film, The Threepenny Opera (1931), which will be screened in both their German and French versions. As the Cinéma du Parc website explains, "The French version of The Threepenny Opera was filmed simultaneously to the German version, a practice that was common at the beginning sound in the movies, before dubbing became the norm. Pabst directed both films, alternating between the two different casts on the same sets, with the same shots and the same compositions. But the two films are still very distinct, with the styles and the sensibilities that are intrinsic to each language."


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