AEC


film (b)log by
ariel esteban cayer


about

index

portfolio


Ballet Mécanique (short; Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy, 1924)

Ballet Mécanique (short; Fernand Léger & Dudley Murphy, 1924)

Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

Dr. Mabuse der Spieler (Fritz Lang, 1922)
"The Great Gambler: An Image of the Age", the first part (in 6 acts) of Fritz Lang’s 1922 Expressionistic crime epic Dr. Mabuse, introduces us to the famous Doctor Mabuse, hypnotist, telepath, master of disguise and, last but not least, criminal mastermind. Through a cast of characters he expertly embodies, Mabuse (the stunning Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who here rivals Chaney) controls the underworld, but is mostly seen tormenting the young socialite Edgar Hull. Under the guise of Hugo Balling (yes — ballin’), Mabuse infiltrates Hull’s gambling circles, systematically ruining him in every facet of his life until Hull is eventually killed. Prosecutors and aristocracy get involved, things get far more complicated and a lot is left to be resolved in Part Two…
Striking example of Lang’s visual bravado, Dr. Mabuse (which would be followed by two sequels, 1933’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and 1960’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse) engulfes Berlin in a slimy nightmare of slant angles and organized crime, gambling and corruptio — further perpetuating a cycle of German films concerned with the figure of the tyrant or the post-WWI tyrannic presence at the period (from Nosferatu to the aforementioned Testament of…), both prefiguring and foreshadowing the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party a decade later. 
Yet before such subtext is even perceptible, Mabuse is a hypnotic, dense and ambitious (clocking at more than 4 hours) crime saga that places you on the side of the villain: a bold thing for Lang to attempt and an early exploration of the urban underworld that would lead to masterpieces such as M (1933). And as if the sheer scale of this project wasn’t enough, Lang would tackle the two-part epic Die Nibelungen in 1924. 

Dr. Mabuse der Spieler (Fritz Lang, 1922)

"The Great Gambler: An Image of the Age", the first part (in 6 acts) of Fritz Lang’s 1922 Expressionistic crime epic Dr. Mabuse, introduces us to the famous Doctor Mabuse, hypnotist, telepath, master of disguise and, last but not least, criminal mastermind. Through a cast of characters he expertly embodies, Mabuse (the stunning Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who here rivals Chaney) controls the underworld, but is mostly seen tormenting the young socialite Edgar Hull. Under the guise of Hugo Balling (yes — ballin’), Mabuse infiltrates Hull’s gambling circles, systematically ruining him in every facet of his life until Hull is eventually killed. Prosecutors and aristocracy get involved, things get far more complicated and a lot is left to be resolved in Part Two…

Striking example of Lang’s visual bravado, Dr. Mabuse (which would be followed by two sequels, 1933’s The Testament of Dr. Mabuse and 1960’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse) engulfes Berlin in a slimy nightmare of slant angles and organized crime, gambling and corruptio — further perpetuating a cycle of German films concerned with the figure of the tyrant or the post-WWI tyrannic presence at the period (from Nosferatu to the aforementioned Testament of…), both prefiguring and foreshadowing the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party a decade later. 

Yet before such subtext is even perceptible, Mabuse is a hypnotic, dense and ambitious (clocking at more than 4 hours) crime saga that places you on the side of the villain: a bold thing for Lang to attempt and an early exploration of the urban underworld that would lead to masterpieces such as M (1933). And as if the sheer scale of this project wasn’t enough, Lang would tackle the two-part epic Die Nibelungen in 1924. 

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

Jiraiya the Ninja (short; Shozo Makino, 1921)
If you thought Masashi Kishimoto’s shonen manga Naruto (1997) had invented Jiraiya and the idea of summoning giant frogs, snakes and slugs, think again. This all harks back to the 19th century folktale “Jiraiya the Gallant” or “The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya”, of which an early film adaption survives (in fragments, amounting to roughly 20 minutes), as directed by the founding father of classic Japanese cinema, Shozo Makino.
It’s a thing of wonder, really — recalling the cinema of Méliès and I had the immense privilege of seeing a print of this tonight, scored by live percussion no less, before a screening of Kurahara’s phenomenal I Hate But Love (1962).
Below, an excerpt of my short review for Panorama-cinéma:

En ouverture de leur part de la rétrospective Nikkatsu (en collaboration avec le Festival Fantasia et la Cinémathèque Québécoise) prenant d’assaut Montréal pour une deuxième et dernière fois, le Festival du nouveau cinéma présenta le curieux Jiraiya le ninja (1921), premier film d’effets spéciaux nippon réalisé par Shozo Makino, père fondateur du cinéma japonais – et à qui on doit, entre autres, une célèbre adaptation cinématographique du fameux Chushingura (47 Ronins) en 1928. À l’occasion, le tout fut mis en musique par la troupe montréalaise de tambours japonais Arashi Daiko. 
 
À l’instar de Méliès, Makino, truque son audience au montage, substituant Jiraiya par un nuage de fumée et une grenouille disproportionnée gobant tout ennemi sur son passage. La trame narrative (ou ce qui en reste : le film n’a survécu qu’en partie) est purement accessoire à un déluge d’images familières, mais chronologiquement distantes. Combats, pirouettes et autres exploits d’arts martiaux se succèdent dans un cadre fixe plein à craquer. Issu du théâtre, Makino refusa pendant longtemps de bouger ses cadres, dotant Jiraiya d’une étrange qualité relevant de l’anachronisme (on se croirait une décennie plus tôt), tandis que Makino réaffirme encore une fois les origines littéraires du récit qu’il adapte. 
 
En effet, en plus d’être un curieux objet filmique, Jiraiya offre une rare et excellente occasion de replacer la figure populaire du ninja  dans le contexte de ses débuts au cinéma. Figure ancrée dans l’imaginaire populaire, Jiraiya est tout d’abord tiré du conte Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari, dont Makino fait ici l’adaptation cinématographique, donnant le rôle à Onoe Matsunosuke, première grande star du studio Nikkatsu et fréquent collaborateur. Longtemps représentée dans le théâtre kabuki, la légende de Jiraiya survit jusqu’à aujourd’hui à travers plusieurs éléments (les personnages Jiraiya, Tsunade et Orochimaru ainsi que leurs invocations de grenouilles, serpents et limaces géantes), récemment popularisés par le manga Naruto de Masashi Kishimoto depuis 1997. [via Panorama-cinéma]

Jiraiya the Ninja (short; Shozo Makino, 1921)

If you thought Masashi Kishimoto’s shonen manga Naruto (1997) had invented Jiraiya and the idea of summoning giant frogs, snakes and slugs, think again. This all harks back to the 19th century folktale “Jiraiya the Gallant” or “The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya”, of which an early film adaption survives (in fragments, amounting to roughly 20 minutes), as directed by the founding father of classic Japanese cinema, Shozo Makino.

It’s a thing of wonder, really — recalling the cinema of Méliès and I had the immense privilege of seeing a print of this tonight, scored by live percussion no less, before a screening of Kurahara’s phenomenal I Hate But Love (1962).

Below, an excerpt of my short review for Panorama-cinéma:

En ouverture de leur part de la rétrospective Nikkatsu (en collaboration avec le Festival Fantasia et la Cinémathèque Québécoise) prenant d’assaut Montréal pour une deuxième et dernière fois, le Festival du nouveau cinéma présenta le curieux Jiraiya le ninja (1921), premier film d’effets spéciaux nippon réalisé par Shozo Makino, père fondateur du cinéma japonais – et à qui on doit, entre autres, une célèbre adaptation cinématographique du fameux Chushingura (47 Ronins) en 1928. À l’occasion, le tout fut mis en musique par la troupe montréalaise de tambours japonais Arashi Daiko. 
 
À l’instar de Méliès, Makino, truque son audience au montage, substituant Jiraiya par un nuage de fumée et une grenouille disproportionnée gobant tout ennemi sur son passage. La trame narrative (ou ce qui en reste : le film n’a survécu qu’en partie) est purement accessoire à un déluge d’images familières, mais chronologiquement distantes. Combats, pirouettes et autres exploits d’arts martiaux se succèdent dans un cadre fixe plein à craquer. Issu du théâtre, Makino refusa pendant longtemps de bouger ses cadres, dotant Jiraiya d’une étrange qualité relevant de l’anachronisme (on se croirait une décennie plus tôt), tandis que Makino réaffirme encore une fois les origines littéraires du récit qu’il adapte. 
 
En effet, en plus d’être un curieux objet filmique, Jiraiya offre une rare et excellente occasion de replacer la figure populaire du ninja  dans le contexte de ses débuts au cinéma. Figure ancrée dans l’imaginaire populaire, Jiraiya est tout d’abord tiré du conte Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari, dont Makino fait ici l’adaptation cinématographique, donnant le rôle à Onoe Matsunosuke, première grande star du studio Nikkatsu et fréquent collaborateur. Longtemps représentée dans le théâtre kabuki, la légende de Jiraiya survit jusqu’à aujourd’hui à travers plusieurs éléments (les personnages Jiraiya, Tsunade et Orochimaru ainsi que leurs invocations de grenouilles, serpents et limaces géantes), récemment popularisés par le manga Naruto de Masashi Kishimoto depuis 1997. [via Panorama-cinéma]
À propos de Nice (short; Jean Vigo, 1929)

À propos de Nice (short; Jean Vigo, 1929)

Regen (short; Joris Ivens & Manus Franken, 1929)
Beautiful evocation of a city through still shots and high angles, the 1929 experimental documentary Rain is impressive on the basis of its camerawork and tricky angling alone. Tracing the narrative of an Amsterdam rainstorm, Ivens and Franken find beautiful ways to capture small “events” such as rain falling on different textures, and so on – and by extension manage to capture a very impressive slice-of-life specific to a city and, with hindsight, a specific time in (film) history. One could argue that both Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Johnnie To’s Sparrow (2008) — among others, most certainly — would later reference the specific “sea of umbrella” imagery from this early film.

Regen (short; Joris Ivens & Manus Franken, 1929)

Beautiful evocation of a city through still shots and high angles, the 1929 experimental documentary Rain is impressive on the basis of its camerawork and tricky angling alone. Tracing the narrative of an Amsterdam rainstorm, Ivens and Franken find beautiful ways to capture small “events” such as rain falling on different textures, and so on – and by extension manage to capture a very impressive slice-of-life specific to a city and, with hindsight, a specific time in (film) history. One could argue that both Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940) and Johnnie To’s Sparrow (2008) — among others, most certainly — would later reference the specific “sea of umbrella” imagery from this early film.

Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922)

Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

The Penalty (Wallace Worsley, 1920)

The Penalty (Wallace Worsley, 1920)

Applause (Rouben Mamoulian, 1929)

Applause (Rouben Mamoulian, 1929)

Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor, 1923)
My introduction to the comedic genius of Harold Lloyd, Chaplin & Keaton’s perhaps unjustly overshadowed bespectacled contemporary, Safety Last is an absolute triumph of comedy, romance and trickery, culminating in the famous, rib-splittingly hilarious and jaw-dropping long climb set piece, that was recently hugely referenced in Scorsese’s Hugo (2011).

Safety Last! (Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor, 1923)

My introduction to the comedic genius of Harold Lloyd, Chaplin & Keaton’s perhaps unjustly overshadowed bespectacled contemporary, Safety Last is an absolute triumph of comedy, romance and trickery, culminating in the famous, rib-splittingly hilarious and jaw-dropping long climb set piece, that was recently hugely referenced in Scorsese’s Hugo (2011).

Lonesome (Paul Fejos, 1928)
This is probably a stretch of comparison, but something like the Hausu (1977) of the late silent/cusp-of-the-talkie era (the film includes three dialogue scenes), Fejos’ unexpectedly eccentric and robustly energetic film is a wildly stimulating and inventive film — using, like Nobuhiko Obayashi’s aforementioned cult film, all manners of editing, juxtaposition, collage, color tinting and basic filmmaking available at the period. Romantic, tragic and touching upon working class ambitions in a pointedly gender-divided world, Lonesome is a true, memorable find and an absolute joy to watch, recently restored and given the proper DVD/Blu-ray treatment by Criterion. 

Lonesome (Paul Fejos, 1928)

This is probably a stretch of comparison, but something like the Hausu (1977) of the late silent/cusp-of-the-talkie era (the film includes three dialogue scenes), Fejos’ unexpectedly eccentric and robustly energetic film is a wildly stimulating and inventive film — using, like Nobuhiko Obayashi’s aforementioned cult film, all manners of editing, juxtaposition, collage, color tinting and basic filmmaking available at the period. Romantic, tragic and touching upon working class ambitions in a pointedly gender-divided world, Lonesome is a true, memorable find and an absolute joy to watch, recently restored and given the proper DVD/Blu-ray treatment by Criterion. 

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927)

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Benjamin Christensen, 1922) 
Last night, I had the opportunity to see one of my favourite films again at Blue Sunshine with a live score by The Montreal Nintendo Orkestar, an “avant-garde electronic duo composed of French sound experimentalist Albérick (.cut) and local artist Stephen Cibo [who by] using two Nintendo DS videogame units run through a variety of guitar pedals and effects processors…conjured up a brooding cinematic soundscape uniquely their own, run[ning] the gamut from ambient, industrial, noise, and even a touch of pop.” [1]
And while I stole my “review” of their sound from their spot-on artist’s bio, it is because I do not think I need to specify how great it was to finally see this 1922 masterpiece with the appropriately droning ambient backdrop to which KTL’s new score for The Phantom Carriage (1921) would have been a perfect follow-up and which at times, echoed the recent and most excellent score Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross have composed for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Rewatching the film with its sappy orchestral DVD score will prove tedious and nearly impossible. Based on this performance, I also highly recommend catching The Montreal Nintendo Orkestar Friday February 3rd @ Le Cagibi. 

Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (Benjamin Christensen, 1922) 

Last night, I had the opportunity to see one of my favourite films again at Blue Sunshine with a live score by The Montreal Nintendo Orkestar, an “avant-garde electronic duo composed of French sound experimentalist Albérick (.cut) and local artist Stephen Cibo [who by] using two Nintendo DS videogame units run through a variety of guitar pedals and effects processors…conjured up a brooding cinematic soundscape uniquely their own, run[ning] the gamut from ambient, industrial, noise, and even a touch of pop.” [1]

And while I stole my “review” of their sound from their spot-on artist’s bio, it is because I do not think I need to specify how great it was to finally see this 1922 masterpiece with the appropriately droning ambient backdrop to which KTL’s new score for The Phantom Carriage (1921) would have been a perfect follow-up and which at times, echoed the recent and most excellent score Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross have composed for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rewatching the film with its sappy orchestral DVD score will prove tedious and nearly impossible. Based on this performance, I also highly recommend catching The Montreal Nintendo Orkestar Friday February 3rd @ Le Cagibi.