The Kidnapping (1934) Poster

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Between the two mountains
dbdumonteil23 March 2008
Except for Dita Parlo ("La Grande Illusion" "Au Bonheur des Dames" "L'Atalante" )all the cast has sunk into oblivion.The film itself was restored in 1995 to excellent results.The pictures are splendid ,depicting mountains landscapes and cloudy skies and colorful villages with an exceptional talent.This is one of the most underrated films of the thirties;few people know it.I remember watching it about a decade ago and at the time I did not realize how much this was new,unusual,in a word ,ground-breaking.

Two villages ,on the two sides of the mountain.Because they have killed his dog ,but because he desires the pretty Elsi , Firmin abducts her ,a girl from the "other" village.

The film is extremely erotic,from Firmin crawling on the ground to catch the girl to Elsi taking the crucifix down and replacing it by a mirror which will reflect her topless body.Never Parlo was so sensual and so attractive than here .She is not the damsel in distress the audience expects.Her kid brother died when he was desperately searching her and though Firmin is not really responsible for this death ,she wants to take revenge on him.The scene when she reads the letter and she learns the tragic event with the one-legged hawker shouting " presents for your fiancée! ribbons! scissors!needles!threads!" is unforgettable.

Sexual symbols abound;sometimes we think of Luis Bunuel:this director would have loved the scene of the crucifix.Presence of the water flowing where Jeanne ,the former fiancée of Firmin is praying while her village is on fire where her ex-fiancé and Elsi are both caught in their own trap (the room where the boy locked up the girl;the village idiot Elsi wanted to manipulate);the bees pollinating the flowers;the idiot trying to caress Elsi's legs .One should note that the whole village attends the service on Sunday but Elsi seems to be a pagan and to contaminate her abductor.

The village idiot has got something of Luis Bunuel:crazy about Elsi,he would do anything to sleep with her.But as a half-wit he is an outcast in his own village and he is not part of the people who love or are loved .He 's got to content himself with watching the puppets the hawker brings to the inhabitants .

"Rapt" is a Russian-French production;in spite of the peaceful nature ,it's a story of love and hate ,full of sound and fury.The soundtrack is exceptional,and the film itself can be looked upon as the missing link between the silent era (Jeanne running on the road recalls the pre-talkie era ;so do the wonderful depictions of the meadows ,of the people themselves)and the talkies .On the other hand,the sound is astonishing,like,for instance ,during the storm where the winds raging outside the house are given an unconventional unrealistic treatment.

Like this?try these.....

"The collector" William Wyler 1965

"La Drôlesse" Jacques Doillon 1979
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Let's keep on amending film history
kekseksa19 October 2017
I was not fortunate enough to see this in a very good copy and the sound in the copy I saw was particularly poor but even so the quality of the film and its evocation of a strange uncouth world (no sentimentalisation of the country life here) steadily won upon me, so that I have little to add to the praise of the film by other reviewers.

We are nowadays continually amending cinema history as more and more becomes available from the silent era but also from this curious period which in Europe saw the development of what I have called elsewhere a "mixed form", that is to say, a form that used sound but relatively minimally while retaining the visual values of the silents - a period that produced some of the finest films ever made.

Nor would it be true to say that they simply avoid "sound" or that "sound" is unimportant in such films. In fact, as one sees or rather hears very clearly in this film, the relative sparseness of sound gives it an enhanced importance. The music of Honegger is remarkable, creating an eerie ambiguity between the diagetic ( part of the action( and non-diagetic (accompanying score), while both the cuckoo-clock and the primary "talking" character,the unijambiste peddler played by Bolivéro, have key roles in the film.

In the US late silents (with a few notable exceptions) had become so talkative (in terms of intertitles that they were virtually just sound films without the sound. In Europe the general tendency had been in the other direction towards a sort of ideal of "pure cinema" and Kirsanoff had already made significant contributions in that regard.

This is a most striking example of the mixed form especially as in many ways the subject of the film itself is inarticulacy. The hero ("Je ne peux pas...") is nearly as silent (and nearly as simple) as the dumb simpleton who is a kind of alter ego. A curious but very significant choice of story for an early sound film. Like silents, the mixed films have to be watched with a degree of attention that many modern viewers find difficult and this is not a film one necessarily appreciates from the word go. But the effort is more than repaid as the film progresses. Te fine cinematography often recalls two other great French directors whose work is hugely significant in the "mixed" genre, Jean Epstein and Jacques Grémillon.

In ten years' time, at the rate things are going (some 150 "new" silent features are currently finding their way onto youtube each year), our knowledge of film history and thus of film itself will have advanced beyond recognition. Already the simplistic US-centric histories with which we all grew up are looking faintly ridiculous. Ten more years of amendment and there will be practically nothing left of them.

And - just as remarkably - this revolution has not been very strongly led by the professional film critics or the pontiffs of "film studies" who often try desperately to hang on to the half-truths and damn lies which they imbibed earlier in their career but in the first instance by a very small circle of more perceptive scholars and now increasingly by a genuinely popular interest that continues to spread and strengthen.

One is rapt withal.
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Two-worlds (the same wind blows back)
chaos-rampant18 February 2016
Let me amend cinematic history and insert this among the finest of the decade. Had it come out in Hollywood, starring a Greta Garbo, it would have been among the classics that appear in lists instead of something so obscure that it has barely 100 votes as of this moment and not even the site algorithm fetches it by title.

The cinema on display is stunning. I posit that Kirsanoff had one of the most profound grasps of language at around this time, equal to that of a Kuleshov. Between this and Menilmontant he strikes me as a genuine master; but one who never quite managed to find fertile ground in which to grow roots and branch out his vision. A few decades later he might have been a Tarkovsky, this is how much esteem I have for him anyway.

Menilmontant was urbane, modern, fluid youthful life in motion in the big city that heaves and spills over from the inside out. This is something else entirely, pastoral, solid, earthy life in a small mountain village that trudges on irrevocably towards human catastrophe.

At first glance it appears that he was stifled here, that this might have been work he took on after not being able to get more personal things off the ground. Sound had rolled in, solidifying reality; objects and places now had to be as you would see them on a dull morning, instead of the dreamlike fluctuations we find in silents. But not if you keep watching.

The story is simple, like a tragic legend from the past of a small village that goes on as hearsay. A man who was wronged one morning and couldn't stop himself from wronging back thrice harder and the karmic cycle unleashed. Now he has stolen a beautiful blonde woman, someone's wife, and absconded with her to his own village on the other side of the mountain where he keeps her under lock and key.

We are given possible reasons for this deep-seated animosity that goes beyond what simply happened that morning. They're French speakers on this side, German on the other, and those were years with much anxiety bubbling between them, simmering over Versailles. Another reading would see him as a poor working hand for her husband, fed up with this life where he has to cross a mountain to work for someone else.

But what matters is that we have a tired face roughened by years of frustration. Baleful eyes. Whatever it is that pushed him over the edge now has taken shape. The wrong is plain to him, he would like to take her back home, but the mountain pass has been snowed and he will have to live through the life that he has set in motion around him.

This happens with the slow grind of inevitable catastrophe like in a film noir. Things grow unhinged in the small village as time passes. Inside the house is the distraught woman, locked up against her will. Outside is the man, oblivious of the karmic noose being threaded around him.

Two men act as instruments for trickster fate here, both outsiders. One is the crippled salesman who tricks his way into the room where she's kept; upon handing her a letter from her husband, she begins to conspire her own part in the noir plot, becoming a femme fatale who seduces more delusion out of him, feigning love that he's eager for.

The other is a dumb mute who is shunned by the whole village, finally unleashing fate in the stunning finale. But this is a karma that engulfs everyone; both him and her and the whole village that turned a blind eye to wrongdoing that was in plain sight of them. Billows of smoke engulf the village, the ignorance and delusion that obscure reality and create chimeras of emotion and desire.

The cinematic mastery for me is that we don't just have a gripping story. Everything here is replete with resonance. The man staring out a black window, winds blowing outside and echoed in the empty house during a storm. A bucket overflowing with water by a faucet left running; life that forgets to be mindful of itself, spent aimlessly. Sound had rolled in, but for Kirsanoff this is something to use as a way of sculpting echoes from beyond the walls of the story. Here's a silent maker who wasn't about to peter out with sound. The soundtrack is rich and detailed, clearly the result of much work. The effort is to be visual with the whole of the cinematic air.

The most powerful shot comes near the end, another girl who would have been his fiancé - Nadia Sibirskaia, the girl from Menilmontant - rushing back frantically to the village, only too late, to a life that won't be there when she comes. She had been there for him all this time.
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