Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rare screening of Louise Brooks film, Prix de Beauté

The infrequently screened film, Prix de Beauté, starring Louise Brooks, will be shown on June 23rd as part of the 26th edition of Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, Italy. The prestigious international event is put on by the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero and Cineteca di Bologna. 

For this special presentation, the silent version of Prix de Beauté will be accompanied by the noted pianist and composer Timothy Brock, who will direct the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna in a performance of Brock's original score. (Timothy Brock has composed scores for two other Brooks' films, Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl.) The Prix de Beauté score was commissioned by the Orchestre national de Lyon in collaboration with l'Institut Lumière. Prix de Beauté will be screened outdoors in a public square, the Piazza Maggiore.

Image courtesy of Il Cinema Ritrovato
An international effort, Prix de Beauté (which translates as "Beauty Prize," and was given the title Miss Europe in England and other countries) is a 1930 film directed by Augusto Genina, an Italian director then working in France. The film was based on a story idea by the German director G.W. Pabst (who directed Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl) and the French director Rene Clair. Clair had, at one point, intended to direct Prix de Beauté, until funding fell through.

The film stars Louise Brooks as Lucienne Garnier, a typist who enters a beauty contest. Georges Charlia plays Andre, Lucienne's jealous boyfriend. Augusto Bandini plays Antonin, Lucienne and Andre's friend and co-worker. Also in the cast in small roles are the French actors Jean Bradin and Gaston Jacquet. Costume design is by the famous Jean Patou.

Prix de Beauté is notable as being the first sound film to feature Brooks, though her dialogue (Brooks did not speak French) and singing were dubbed. Prix de Beauté was, in fact, shot as a silent. Dialogue, sound effects and two songs were added in post production.

Though at times prosaic, Prix de Beauté retains great charm and interest - largely because of Brooks. And, its ending, both striking and poetic, is considered one of the most remarkable and striking passages in film history.

"Prix de beauté represents a truly success¬ful mix of the tenants of neorealism and elaborate fantasy ..." notes film historian Paul Vecchiali in L'Encinéclopédie. Ciné¬astes "français" des années 1930 et leur œuvre. "Despite unrefined post recording and overacting by Georges Charlia, in standard silent movie fashion, the film is a masterpiece.... Genina proves it with his stark style: love and jealousy go hand in hand, gnawing away at the banality of day-to-day, which is no longer sublimated by feelings. The extraordinary beauty of light and the skill and intelligence with which it is used add other noteworthy elements, placing this movie among the most important works of the first years of talkies even though it is a silent film!"

More info: Bilingual pages on the Il Cinema Ritrovato can be found at, with additional information on Prix de Beauté on this webpage.

An international effort with pan-European appeal, Prix de Beauté proved popular and played across Europe. Enough, that is, to be noted in the upper left hand corner of the front page of this 1931 newspaper from Iceland.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Isn't the internet amazing! Here is a snapshot taken in Italy last night of "Prix de Beaute" being projected on the big screen in a public square in Italy


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