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An epic of the Weimar cinema, The Love of Jeanne Ney follows a young French woman’s struggle for happiness amid the political turbulence and corruption of post-World War I Europe. A tour-de-force for director G.W. Pabst (Diary of a Lost Girl, Pandora’s Box), is a stunning cinematic experiment that never fails to surprise the viewer as it races towards its exhilarating conclusion.

Glenn Erickson, DVDTALK, One of the most enthralling silent movie experiences at UCLA Film School was seeing David Bradley’s print of The Love of Jeanne Ney, a 1927 melodrama starring two greats from Metropolis in secondary roles, Brigitte Helm and Fritz Rasp. Every scene is rich in atmosphere and fluid in camerawork. The first act of director G.W. Pabst’s movie takes place during the Russian Civil War (1919-1921 or so), with great detail in scenes of crowded entertainment halls and revolutionary headquarters. The least significant extra or prop made a contribution to the atmosphere.

Scenes in The Love of Jeanne Ney flow as smoothly as do the silent dramas of Josef von Sternberg. The suspenseful romantic melodrama Jeanne Ney makes no particular claim to great art or importance. Its source is a pot-boiler novel by Soviet revolutionary Illya Ehrenburg, whose life experiences brought him into contact with top historial and artistic names in Bolshevist Russia and the art haunts of Paris. Ehrenburg reportedly repudiated Pabst’s movie, for dropping all of his political rhetoric.

The Love of Jeanne Ney stars a marvelous personality by the name of Édith Jéhanne, who we are told died just a couple of years later, ‘about the time that talking pictures were coming in.’ Jéhanne would look perfectly natural in a movie made in 2020. The movie is in some ways artistically chaotic, in that it mixes more than one acting style and even bounces between genres — political conspiracy thriller, docu-like street scenes, intimate romantic melodrama. Rich characters drift in and out of the narrative. The story plays well and comes to a satisfying conclusion, even if a score of subplots are just left unresolved!


The most gifted visual storyteller of the German silent era, F. W. Murnau crafted works of great subtlety and emotional complexity through his absolute command of the cinematic medium. Known for such dazzling films as Nosferatu (1922), The Last Laugh (1924), Faust (1926), and Sunrise (1927), Murnau was also drawn to more intimate dramas exploring the dark corners of the human mind. In Tartuffe (Herr Tartuffe), he revisits Moliere’s fable of religious hypocrisy, in which a faithful wife (Lil Dagover) tries to convince her husband (Werner Krauss) that their morally superior guest, Tartuffe (Emil Jannings), is in fact a lecherous hypocrite with a taste for the grape. To endow the story with contemporary relevance, Murnau frames Moliere’s tale with a modern-day plot concerning a housekeeper’s stealthy efforts to poison her elderly master and take control of his estate.

“In Jean-Pierre Melville’s debut film The Silence of the Sea, Howard Vernon’s tragically naive Nazi lieutenant tries to curry favour with the French family he’s staying with by praising their culture.  He says his Fatherland has but one emblematic literary genius, Goethe, but France is spoiled for choice with Zola, Racine and Molière.  It’s not stressed in Melville’s film, but the latter was not always so beloved.  The first performance of Molière’s 1664 comic play Tartuffe was followed by an immediate ban, with Archbishops threatening excommunication for anyone who watched it.  The scale of the efforts to ban it compares to the worst days of the campaign against The Satanic Verses – or, indeed, to Nazi book-burnings.

“Both of those were in the future when German director F.W. Murnau made his 1925 silent adaptation of Molière’s play, now reissued as part of the F.W. Murnau Early Work box set by Eureka Masters of Cinema.  Molière’s tale of a pious man swindled out of his fortune by a monstrously greedy priest – the Tartuffe of the title – would surely still have offended some, but time and a place in the European literary canon had domesticated this once-feral beast.  And yet Murnau’s film doesn’t feel safe.  For all his work was never as explicitly political as his great contemporary Fritz Lang, he can’t have been ignorant of the anti-democratic, censorious currents in Weimar-era German politics.  In adapting Tartuffe, he was reaching for a weapon that had grievously wounded its target before, and hoping to repeat the trick.

“The first thing to note is that Murnau’s Tartuffe is not Molière’s.  Compared to the mostly respectful ‘heritage cinema’ adaptations of Shakespeare and Dickens that were being made elsewhere, Murnau’s film is a complete reinvention of its source, stripping away side characters, cutting out much of the last two acts and adding a modern frame story in which a young man shows his grandfather an adaptation of Tartuffe in order to awaken him to the danger of his scheming housekeeper.  The frame story, perhaps inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, has long been considered ballast by critics.  In their book The German Cinema, Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel call it “quite unnecessary”, and in general dismiss the film as lesser Murnau.

“Murnau is not infallible, of course, but it would be fair to assume he made these changes for a reason.  How does Murnau’s framing story affect Molière’s play?  You could say it makes it less incendiary – the villain of the new material is a servant rather than a cleric, an instance of “punching down”.  But the film doesn’t end on her defeat.  It ends with captions warning that a man like Tartuffe – a hypocrite, a swindler, a lecher, a tyrant, a man glorying in his own unchecked authority and ability to dish out cruelty – might be sitting next to them right now.  And in Germany in the mid-1920s, that might well be true.

“Murnau knows that time and familiarity has made staging Tartuffe in 1925 a lot safer than it was in 1665.  In the framing story, he purposely removes that safety net.  The rest of the film lives up to that daring, an accelerated retelling of Molière’s story that moves like a rocket.  The children of Tartuffe’s mark Orgon are cut out, turning the narrative into a duel between Tartuffe and Orgon’s smart, resourceful wife Elmire.  Emil Jannings and Lil Dagover are tremendous in these roles, and Murnau’s soft-edged, tight, static framing relishes in their close-ups.  Occasionally he adopts Tartuffe’s point of view, mercilessly undercutting his sanctimony with hungry iris-ins on Orgon’s jewellery and Elmire’s cleavage.

“Without Molière’s dialogue and some of his plot twists, Murnau’s film is less funny than his source, though he and his regular co-writer Carl Mayer create some fine visual gags to compensate.  At one point Tartuffe persuades Orgon that part of his holy duty involves placing him in a hammock and rocking him to sleep, a tremendously funny idea made even funnier by the bearish Jannings’s physicality.  At times Jannings resembles Gérard Depardieu, who directed and starred in a 1984 adaptation of Molière’s play.  The only other notable attempt at a film adaptation went unmade; Terrence Malick briefly considered ending his post-Days of Heaven hiatus with a version.  Given that Malick’s existing work contains absolutely no anti-clericalism – or, indeed, jokes – he must have been planning a reworking as radical as Murnau’s; if so, it would have forced a long-overdue reassessment of the earlier film.  Dynamic, daring and full of beautiful compositions, it’s definitely more than lesser Murnau.



Before she became a celebrated documentarian, Leni Riefenstahl was a popular actress, best known for her “mountain films” made by director Arnold Fanck. The Holy Mountain (Der heilige Berg, 1926) and The White Hell of Pitz Palu (Die weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü, 1929) were awe-inspiring dramas of romance and survival, but her 1927 film The Great Leap (Der große Sprung) was something surprisingly different: a playful romantic comedy set high atop the Dolomotes. Riefenstahl plays an Italian peasant whose simple life is upended when a series of urbanites invade the slopes for a ski vacation. This bubbly comedy (featuring Riefenstahl’s usual on-screen love interest, Luis Trenker) combines slapstick laughs with stunning footage of acrobatic skiing and rock climbing, making it perhaps the most entertaining (if unconventional) entry in the cycle of German mountain films.

Evidently the commentator on this Blu-ray sees as evidence Leni Riefenstahl was a Nazi her climbing mountains in her bare feet (which is INCREDIBLE to watch and for that reason alone makes this comedy is a must see). This is what happens when academics talk. The stunt double for Marlene Dietrich’s 1947 film GOLDEN EARRINGS figured Marlene would never run barefoot through the mountains. She figured wrong. The way to tell Marlene from her double is that Marlene is barefoot. I can’t think of a more anti-Nazi German woman than Marlene.

It gets tiresome hearing any and all party lines being towed.

We’d all be better served if Kino began to find commentators who are not out of film school.

Bernardo Bertolucci: “Film students should stat as far away as possible from film schools and film teachers. The only school for the cinema is the cinema.”

Robert Graves: “But, after all, what is a scholar? One who may not break bounds under pain of expulsion from the academy of which he is a member.”


“The flimsiness of the plot certainly doesn’t matter because, like a Jackie Chan film, what impresses most here is the death-defying physical stunts and the clever action editing and framing of Fanck and his cameramen, respectively. An early sequence, where Toni pursues Gita up a skinny, tall rock formation to woo her, triggered my fear of heights more intensely than anything in the entire Mission: Impossible franchise. There was clearly no way to shoot that sequence as it appears other than to get some bold actors and some bold camera people to climb some steep freaking rocks!

“The undeniable highlight of The Great Leap is the prolonged ski race, which runs almost the entire last thirty minutes of the film. While some of Fanck’s smaller-scaled physical jokes and scattered bits of character comedy are kind of hit-and-miss, the barrage of large-scale gags and stunts that he unleashes in this section are alternately jaw-dropping and hilarious. It doesn’t hurt that Schneeberger is in that foolish balloon suit the whole time (which logically would not help his character’s skiing at all). The suit instantly makes him into a live-action cartoon character that Fanck further manipulates through speed changes and a few instances of reverse motion.

“There’s a running joke in this section with Gita’s favorite goat Pippa, who gets strapped to some skis but then slides down the slope in a different direction. In some shots, the gag of the goat continuing down the mountain unattended is adorable and funny, and in some shots, it looked treacherous enough that I just hoped the goat made it out okay. Please, no one disillusion me. I don’t want to know that they had to use a dozen goats to finish the sequence, or something.

“The cast all acquit themselves well as their characters, with Riefenstahl a charming free spirit and Schneeberger a likable milquetoast buffoon. Paul Graetz steals his scenes as the dopey valet, especially during the race sequence: waiting for his master near the end of the course, he passes the time building snowmen and getting delightfully soused.

“While it’s far from a perfect film, The Great Leap is full of so much ingenuity and technical ambition that it should satisfy the curious viewer who would seek it out.”

SPRING NIGHT, SUMMER NIGHT!/Spring-Night-Summer-Night/p/177390362/category=0

A young man opens the door to the bathroom and sees his sister bathing. His blood leaves his brain and goes straight to his crotch.

The story is set in Hillbilly country.

The theme, already daring, is made even more so by the background in which it is set.

Considering the ignorance nearly all of us grow up in when it comes to sexuality this is a story which finds common ground in many lives.


“Though saddled with a titillating, easily exoticized elevator pitch—sexually mature siblings in a family of Ohio hillbillies tempt the unspeakable against the backdrop of dying coal country—Joseph L. Anderson’s Spring Night, Summer Night is forged from matters of universal relevance. From its opening scenes, which form a sketch of domestic friction that concludes with a symbol of nature’s upending of familiar order, this neglected jewel of American regional filmmaking is preoccupied with the imminent encroachment of adulthood and all the attendant personal upheavals that come with it. Capsized and re-edited early in its lifespan by an exploitation distributor under the title Miss Jessica Is Pregnant, the original film downplays taboo in favor of stewing in the mix of emotions surrounding Carl (Ted Heimerdinger) and Jessica’s (Larue Hall) hesitant bond. Because of a hazy history regarding their parents’ sex lives, a question lingers as to whether they’re blood relatives in the first place—all the better to magnify the treacherous decision-making processes that accompany one’s eventual flight from the family nest.

“Shot on monochrome 35mm using the cast-off camera models at an Athens rental house, and overdubbed in many spots to account for the swarming mid-summer locusts that overwhelmed the original analog audio, Spring Night, Summer Night looks and sounds as delicate as the emotions it puts under a microscope. In spite of its limited means, however, it’s a dexterous directorial achievement for Anderson, a University of Ohio professor whose brief career beyond this assured feature debut comprises only a trio of a shorts and a sophomore effort, America First, about which little information exists online. Anderson’s conscious intention was to impart the ethos of Italian neorealism to the stories of impoverished Appalachia, and here his visual repertoire merges the anthropological instincts of a documentarian and the formalism of an aesthete, with scenes of fly-on-the-wall multicamera coverage mingling alongside carefully blocked long takes shot on bumpy homemade dolly track.

“One such shot surveys and crystallizes the tension on the homestead as the embittered family patriarch (John Crawford) chases Jessica through the screen door, around the house, and across the lawn while demanding she reveal the identity of the man who impregnated her. Anderson keeps the camera outside, elevating the landscape to the same level of importance as the action contained within it—a compositional equity that he maintains through much of the film. Ravaged by the industrial boom and the corresponding disintegration of the rural mining economy, the family’s residence of Canaan, Ohio is a single-street ghost town where even the expansive rolling hills and dirt roads hardly offer an escape from the prevailing atmosphere of stale gossip and diminished hope. The dive bar peddling 25-cent Blatz and weekend hootenannies would seem to provide a temporary, boozy respite, but even here the revelry is prone to turn quickly to conflict, as when Carl lashes out at Jessica for dancing with another man. When everyone knows everyone, little can stay repressed.

“Still, for all the small-town suffocation so eloquently expressed in Anderson’s filmmaking, the prospect of leaving is no less daunting. Omens of the outside world’s dangers abound throughout Spring Night, Summer Night. Carl runs into an old acquaintance who notes that he needs to keep his busted tractor running to keep it alive, and then we hear it break down off screen. Later, in a bit of roughhousing in the acreage behind their farmhouse, Carl mimes shooting his youngest sibling with an air gun just before running off into the woods with Jessica. There, we see one of Jessica’s slippers trickle down a stream, a symbol of lost innocence imbued with the quality of a fairy tale. It’s telling that Carl’s impulsive and short-lived getaway to Columbus, prompted by a cryptically shot sexual episode with Jessica, occurs entirely off screen (it was apparently filmed and then cut); we’re left only to speculate on the impression it made on him, while remaining fully aware of Canaan’s terrible gravitational pull.

“As home life in Spring Night, Summer Night yields one trauma after another, Anderson remains sympathetic to the roots of these issues. Portrayed as an alcoholic and reactionary autocrat through much of the film, Crawford’s father figure is ultimately granted a soft-spoken monologue one afternoon at the bar to expound on the myriad ways his community and country have left him behind—a scene captured in a single creeping camera movement that might have inspired Béla Tarr. None of this, however, is to diminish the suffering of Carl and Jessica’s mother (Marjorie Johnson), who brings a fierce independence to combat the callousness of her husband, even as she laments a brighter past in California. Anderson’s film is about ordinary people driven to extreme behavior by the destitution of their situation, and yet it’s alert to the ways in which escaping this situation is equally extreme and perhaps even foolhardy. It concludes on an arresting image that crystallizes this ambiguity—one that has since become something of an indie cliché but which here takes on a primal power.”


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