A couple is brutally murdered in the working-class district of Paris. Later on, the narrative follows the lives of their two daughters, both in love with a Parisian thug and leading them to separate ways.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Nadia Sibirskaïa ...
Younger Sister
Yolande Beaulieu ...
Older Sister
Guy Belmont ...
Young Man
Jean Pasquier ...
The father
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
M. Ardouin ...
The mother
Maurice Ronsard ...
The lover
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Storyline

A couple is brutally murdered in the working-class district of Paris. Later on, the narrative follows the lives of their two daughters, both in love with a Parisian thug and leading them to separate ways.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Details

Country:

Release Date:

26 November 1926 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Les cent pas  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(Buenos Aires Festival Internacional de Cine Independiente)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the November 15, 1926 issue of Cinéa - Ciné Pour Tous, Joseph Faivre wrote intertitles for the Belgian release of the film, although it had been specifically advertised in France as a film without any titles. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A rarely-seen masterpiece that deserves an audience.
4 October 2002 | by (Los Angeles, CA) – See all my reviews

I think "Menilmontant" is one of the great masterpieces of the silent era, and upon reading the comments posted, felt that it needed a little support. (If for nothing else than to encourage other people to seek it out, if not on video -- currently the only videos of this film have copied it at the wrong projection, thereby cranking up the film's speed and changing the running time from approximately 35 to 20 mins. -- than at a local museum or revival house; at least until someone puts out a definitive copy on video or DVD.)

Dimitri Kirsanoff's film centers on two young country girls who flee to the city after their parents are brutally murdered (we are given very few details as to who did this or why). The film's narrative is very sketchy, as there are no intertitles, and the two girls have similar features and are dressed similarly throughout most of the film. One of the girls, played by the wonderful Nadia Sibirskaia (Kirsanoff's wife), goes off with a man while her sister stays home in their tenement. When she returns home she soon has a baby, and her sister goes off (presumably as a prostitute) with the man. Sibirskaia presumably becomes homeless until she is ultimately reunited with her sister. The man they went away with earlier shows up again, only to be killed by a random criminal.

The film's slim and fragmented plot does nothing to convey the extraordinary and evocative world Kirsanoff creates through a barrage of disparate techniques lifted from German expressionism, Soviet montage, Hollywood melodrama, and the French avant-garde. The opening massacre is shown through a rapid Eisenstein-inspired montage; the compression of time and dreamlike waywardness of the girls' journey is presented through a series of lap dissolves; and the wintry, desolate atmosphere of Menilmontant (a poor, working class district on the eastern edge of Paris) is conveyed by an impressionistic use of documentary footage.

The film's most celebrated sequence occurs while Sibirskaia is wandering destitute on the streets of Paris (after contemplating drowning herself and her baby). Alone at night on a park bench, the young mother is cold and hungry, when an old man with a cane sits down on the bench next to her. The old man quietly shares some of his bread with her (never looking at her, he only lays the scraps and pieces on the bench separating them). The desperate girl tearfully accepts the food, and smiles, though the man barely looks her way. It's an extraordinarily sad and moving sequence that has echoes of Chaplin, but without that comedian's maudlin approach to sentiment. Sibirskaia's performance here is wonderfully nuanced and naturalistic -- there's very little of the histrionics usually associated with much silent film acting -- and she possesses a face that rivals Lillian Gish. The only comparable sequence I can think of is in Ozu's great 1935 silent film, An Inn in Tokyo.

In spite of its short length, this a film overflowing with riches. It ranks with the best films of any year.


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