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A Basque Slapstick Comedy, 6 August 2013

Even a German count so distant from the Basque Country as this Herr Graf knows well that inhabitants of that place have always had serious problems with flirting. That's precisely the subject of the short comedy "Atanasio Busca Novia" (1925) directed by Félix González Berenguer "Lisfe-Gon-Ber".

In this mad Basque silent comedy, youngster Herr Atanasio; a madcap womanizer wants to flirt with Frau Consuelo, but unfortunately, the latter already has a suitor, Herr Benjamin who obviously doesn't appreciate Herr Atanasio's loving intentions towards his fraulein. Frau Consuelo's father favors Herr Benjamin and will assist in keeping Herr Atanasio away from the sphere of action surrounding his daughter. Immediately a frantic chase begins, extending around the town where many people are seen hunting Herr Atanasio. Finally our hero manages to escape his pursuers, ending the story with a triumphant carriage ride through town, Frau Consuelo at his side.

"Atanasio Busca Novia" is slapstick comedy; that is it has every subject of such a film's sub-genre; a catalogue of classic film gags that since the beginning of comedy have always worked. Consequently there are in this short film; a mad chase, pies in the face, pratfalls, overacted and mimicked performances, everything necessary to easily provoke laughter from the audience.

To have to resort to such classic gags seems too late for a film made during the mid 20's; a comedy formula that certainly always works, the slapstick, ja wohl!, but certainly not very original. Such lack of creativity can be forgiven due to its sincere aim to simply entertain and amuse the audience without any false pretension of a higher art form.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must breakfast a delicious Basque tuna pot.

A Very Important Spanish Pioneer Film Director, 26 July 2013

Many times, an entire life once filled with merit and achievement quickly becomes forgotten after just one mishap. That's precisely what happened with film maker Herr Ricardo Baños, known primarily today for his pornographic silent films ( a minor sin secretly commissioned by His Highness Alfonso XIII of Spain ).

But certainly, before such nonsense occurred, Herr Baños had both an interesting and prolific career during the earliest Spanish silent years. In these primitive oeuvres, Herr Baños skillful inventiveness shines through. Keeping in mind the scarce resources of the very early films, the quality of his work stands out for what was such a small Spanish Film making industry during that early period ).

The true merit of Herr Baños' work can be seen in "Don Pedro El Cruel" (1911), in where another Spanish king is involved; Herr Pedro of Castile, known as Peter the Cruel. Here, the film is filled with more earthly worries to deal with and solve in comparison with Herr Baños' later work ( idle and lecherous decadence seen in the flesh films mentioned above…).

The film's theatrical nature can be seen at the beginning, a historically realistic drama that introduced the actors themselves to the camera during the first minutes followed by ( static camera ) filmed scenes in a pure theatrical manor of acting and décors. But soon after, everything changes; the action takes place in an outdoor setting where can be seen some medium-length shots, careful art direction, and a solid cinematographic continuity for the parameters of such an early time certifying Herr Baños' true artistic concern for his work.

Unfortunately the second reel is missing so we cannot completely appreciate Herr Baños's skillful inventiveness at its full length; although you can certainly know what happened with Herr Peter of Castile and the conspiracy against him by his three bastard brothers ( if you have a dusty reference library at hand ). In spite of such inconvenience, the surviving reel has enough remarkable film achievement to restore to Herr Baños' his lost silent honor as a very important Spanish pioneer film director, and not simply the one who ( in a moment of weakness ), once directed some little pornographic films.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must conspire against one of his Teutonic rich heiresses.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

A Film By The Person Who Directed "Prix De Beauté" (1930), 23 July 2013

Herr Augusto Genina was a prolific Italian Silent film director almost from the beginning of the new invention. This gave him the opportunity to direct films of every genre, even direct the same film again ( in different years ), yet at times, his directing could be very ambivalent. Still, for any worthy silent film fan, he will always be the person who directed "Prix De Beauté" (1930), that early pseudo-talkie film starring the great actress, Frau Louise Brooks.

Although "Prix De Beaute" could be a very complicated subject in itself, this Herr Graf will try to focus his aristocratic attention on another Herr Genina's film. It happens that recently, "Addio Giovinezza!" ( Goodbye To Youth! ) (1927), was shown in the Schloss theater.

This film was a kind of initiation film; the story from a successful play by Herr Sandro Camasio und Herr Nino Oxilia ( who had directed his own film version in 1913 ). It depicts the life of young student, Herr Mario, a model son from a Turin family, who, besides his studies, from time to time will be in love with a seamstress; Frau Dorina, the daughter of his housekeeper, with all three living on a top floor of his home, separated only by a door. Such an idyllic love story will be put in peril when an idle bourgeois Fraulein appears; Frau Elena, for whom Mario is simply an enjoyable way to pass time.

So, it would seem there's nothing new under the silent film sun. Certainly, it's the same old love-triangle story about troublesome relationships, with a University, hormones, youthfulness and sexiness as its background in a somewhat tired attempt to depict again the process of maturity. Unfortunately, Herr Genina's direction fails due to his much too conventional and predictable approach of the subject.

The most interesting aspect of the film about the daily life of Frau Dorina and Herr Mario is their lodging; a credible indoor scenario in contrast with the typical dullness of the student Mario's life, as old fashioned as Herr Erasmus himself. The leading actresses, Frau Carmen Boni and Elena Sangro gave their characters personality, while Herr Walter Slezak as Mario, a mostly insensitive character, gave the three-some scenes in the film that were delightful. However, this was hardly enough for a film lacking any artistic ambition ( due probably to its dependence on the original theater play ).

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must try to remember if he was ever a youngster?.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Two Very Remarkable People, 12 July 2013

There are two very remarkable people in "Die Mädchen Ohne Vaterland" ( The Girl Without Fatherland ) (1912), making it a highly regarded film by this German count; one is Frau Asta Nielsen ( putting women first, an ancient aristocratic custom ), and the other, director Herr Urban Gad.

These important names in early silent film history did their best in order to lay the foundations of what we now call "modern cinema", although this may at first appear to be a contradiction.

Herr Urban Gad's films were astounding considering the primitive film the new invention had in such an early time. The Danish film director had a fluent film narrative in where outdoor sceneries were a very important part for the story ( it wasn't common practice at that time that directors would move lock, stock, and barrel outside the primitive settings ). Because of careful art direction and skillful use of the camera, Herr Urban Gad's pictures were far ahead of their time in comparison with the typical theatrical and static pictures of the period.

And what can this Herr Graf say about Frau Asta Nielsen??... it is not necessary to say too much about the Danish actress, ja wohl!... you only have to watch her performance in this film to comprehend what is both modern and cinematographic acting. Frau Nielsen's natural resourcefulness and brilliant performances continues to surprise audiences a century afterwards; shining here in this film about spying, treason, military secrets, or the perils of being seduced by a gypsy.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must sacrifice himself for his fatherland, bowing down before gypsy charms.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Remarkable Action Scenes, 5 July 2013

The relationship between Poland and its neighbors, namely Germany to the West and Russia to the East was always a very complicated and troublesome one during many centuries, reaching a peak when Poland disappeared entirely after the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia portioned their lands between them until Poland surfaced again in the year of 1918.

The film "Dla Ciebie, Polsko" ( For You, Poland ) deals in some way with such historical events, specifically in the Polish-Soviet war and particularly on April, 1919 when Poland captured Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania. The film immersed this newly Polish state with a love story of young couple, Frau Hanka and Herr Franek into its story of war where the communists overran the city and the Polish Army clashed with the Bolsheviks.

The film ( from the silent year of 1920 ), was directed by Herr Antoni Bednarczyk who had a short film career as director but a long one as actor and theatrical producer.

"Dla Ciebie, Polsko" is basically a patriotic film; having in mind the historical events that reflects the picture and its recent context. The film has a shamelessly Manichean view, depicting Bolsheviks in an excessively caricatured way ( the enemy as a heartless beast ) taking advantage of this aspect in order to transmit to the audience a nationalist message that certainly was its primal purpose. Due to this, Herr Bednarczyk direction many times seems amateurish, specifically his direction of actors was excessively naïf and clumsy.

But fortunately, the action scenes are remarkable in that many extras were involved in order to depict in great detail the armed conflict between Polish and Bolsheviks. The recovery of the city of Vilnius by the Polish troops, superb night scenes in where tanks and a huge army do their best, fighting bravely in the battlefield, including skillfully made shots from different angles illustrate how remarkable this was for such an early film production.

At the end of the picture is included a newsreel of the return of the Supreme Commander to Warsaw in where Commandant Herr Jozef Pilsudski, a very important Polish statesman of that time, walks in front of the troops, certifying in this way the annexation of the city of Vilnius to the second Polish republic. By affording such historical images consistently to the film, the fictional story; namely Frau Hanka und Herr Franek's adventures are overshadowed by the considerable importance of the film as a historical document.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must claim an antique aristocratic farmland to Herr Pilsudski.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Funny Story Of Herr Hasek's Book, 21 June 2013

"The Good Soldier Svejk" is probably one of the most popular books in Czech 'German' literature. Most of Herr Franz Kafka's published oeuvres were written in German because in those times, the German language was the language of the elite and the Czech language was not very appreciated, spoken by common folks only.

Written by Herr Jaroslav Hasek, who had an incredible and thrilling life equal to Herr Svejk's adventures, the book was his most accomplished literary work, finally giving him both fame and money (although the author died before finishing his oeuvre).

The book tells the story of Herr Svejk, a common, simple minded (but certainly not stupid) man. Discharged from military service due to his not being very bright, he worked as a dealer in stolen dogs in civilian life. He would later join the army again, bringing trouble to anyone around him, living through situations from which he always succeeds.

So, having in mind the popular and funny story of Herr Hasek's book, it was just a question of time before this would be adapted to the silent screen. Herr Gustav Machaty was the third one who did so when he directed "Svejk v Civilu" ( Svejk In Civilian Life ) in the silent year of 1927.

It must be said that Herr Svejk was simply the motivation for Herr Machaty's film adaptation; our clumsy hero is not precisely the principal character of that picture. The story in the film is an original one which doesn't exist in the book. Herr Svejk will simply be the link connecting the four different characters; Frau Lo, a modern rich and whimsical fraulein who has an old admirer, the Baron Camera; Herr Pavel, working as chauffeur for Frau Lo, the latter trying to seduce him but the chauffeur prefers the seamstress Frau Anna who lives in Herr Svejk neighborhood; and last but not least, there is a dog named "Hero" which will involve everyone with each other.

These four will be the principal characters of this funny and stylish comedy in where Herr Svejk has a secondary although important role due to his clumsiness and misunderstandings.

Herr Machaty differentiates the scenes depending on the characters involved; on one hand we have an elegant comedy with a subtle eroticism regarding the "ménage à quatre" and on the other one, the common and funny situations of Herr Svejk and his business partners, a motley bunch of common people inspired by their everyday life and packed with puns and sarcasm.

"Svejk v Civilu" is a very remarkable film, a skillful and rhythmic comedy in which Herr Machaty develops gags in a classical way for a film where the literary background is loosely adapted for the sake of cinematic interests, a fact that certainly is what really matters, that is to say, an inventive silent film, and not a faithful book transcription.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must avoid meeting a Teutonic rich heiress in order to prevent unexpected problems.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One Of The Most Accomplished Oeuvres During The Czech Silent Film Period, 14 June 2013

The organist of St. Vitus' Cathedral in Prague is an old, solitary man who is devoted solely to his organ (that is to say, the musical instrument…). One night, the organist receives a strange visit from an old acquaintance; the man requests a special favor of him, namely to deliver a letter and some money to his daughter. The visitor-tormented by a terrible past-then shoots himself in front of the organist. The scene is witnessed by the organist's neighbor who later blackmails him. Meanwhile, the visitor's daughter, a nun, decides to leave the convent when the organist tells her that her father is dead (was her departure due to listening to the organist playing "Toccata and, especially... Fugue" by Herr Bach??). The old man helps her in her new life.

"Varhaník u sv. Víta" (The Organist At St. Vitus' Cathedral) (1929) was directed by the prolific Czech film director Herr Martin Fric who later would be well-known for his satirical comedies; this film is also mentioned by learned silent connoisseurs as one of the most accomplished oeuvres during the Czech silent film period and certainly this film has many interesting aspects that this Herr Graf is going to detail right now.

The first one and the most outstanding is its beautiful cinematography by Herr Jaroslav Blazek, who uses filters and other effects in order to emphasize and enhance a romantic and dreamlike aspect of the story that certainly matches perfectly with the atmosphere of the city of Prague where the film was shot. For example, when our heroine is secluded in the convent as a nun, the cinematography is especially splendid, with powerful close-ups wherein her beauty is showed in its fascinating purity and innocence. Later when she leaves the convent and meets a handsome painter, the cinematography becomes more down to earth and romantic with the background of the streets of Prague providing a dreamy, idealized setting.

Outstanding also are the night scenes (Prague city streets, the organist's humble home, the St. Vitus' Cathedral) where we can see the influence of German Expressionism. This is also apparent in the indoor scenes emphasizing the dark elements of the story.

Besides mystery and atonement, the film has a continuous and well defined line between good and evil though it depends too much on stereotyped characters and their predictable behavior. There's also a rather obvious ending that is detrimental but overall these flaws are dwarfed by the film's many merits.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must play the organ.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

An Outstanding Production Of The Czech Film Industry, 7 June 2013

Herr Gustav Machaty's main claim to fame and glory was due to an early talkie wherein a young fraulein romped naked and merry through the Czech countryside; this holds no great interest to this Herr Graf (that is, the success of an early talkie not watching a beautiful streaker). But certainly this does not do justice to Herr Machaty's silent achievements because before his notorious international success, the Czech director had already an important background as an assistant to such Hollywood directors as Herr von Stroheim ( a distant kinsman this to this Herr Graf… ) and Herr Griffith. Herr Machaty directed a number of remarkable silent films and "Kreutzerova Sonáta" ( The Kreutzer Sonata ) (1927) is one of this most accomplished oeuvres.

"Kreutzerova Sonáta" was an adaptation of Herr Leo Tolstoy's story which was in turn inspired this by Herr Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata". The genius of the Russian writer in depicting the conflicts, mistrust and decadence of love in matrimony, is skillfully transferred to the silent screen by Herr Machaty where the Czech director carefully shows through a long flashback the gradual deterioration of a bourgeoisie couple. The husband is driven mad by jealousy once he suspects his modern wife has a lover. Herr Machaty depicts in detail such marital conflicts, showing a carefree and liberal wife to whom family life holds little appeal. Instead she enjoys the resplendent night social life and neglects her family, paying no attention to her husband and children.

So we have a liberal, modern Czech flapper bound to a serious and bored husband and don't forget the important fact that the wife has a lover so soon the widening gulf between husband and wife leads to stress and resentment and we get a tormented psychological study of irreconcilable differences that will lead to tragedy.

With lavish art direction, convincing performances and skillful direction, "Kreutzerova Sonáta", is an outstanding production of the Czech film industry which was small and modest but not lacking in talent and inventiveness.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must put aside some differences with one of his Teutonic rich heiresses.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Two Polish Family Branches, 31 May 2013

Frau Alicja, daughter of the prince Herr Zamilli, is an idle bourgeois fraulein who shamelessly flirts with Herr Richard, her father's secretary. She treats him with such indifference and scorn that he enlists in the army in order to forget her. During troop exercises in a near-by small village, Herr Richard meets an old fisherman, Herr Szymon, who has a beautiful daughter, Frau Lydia, a young fraulein who has a remarkable resemblance to Frau Alicja; pretty soon both youngsters will fall in love. We then discover that Prince Zamilli has an old diary wherein is written an ancient family secret about a feud between brothers who argued over money and politics during the Polish revolt of 1831. As a result the families of their descendants lived separate lives each in ignorance of the other's existence.

"Tajemnica Starego Rodu" ( Mystery Of An Old Family ) was directed in the silent year of 1928 by Herr Zbigniew Gniazdowski ( a renowned cinematographer ) und Herr Emil Chaberski ( theater and film producer ); the film is a very interesting Polish melodrama with a classic and inventive story.

The film has different stages that the directors develop accordingly with the pace of the story; first we see the idle bourgeois life of princess Alicja (these Polish aristocrats are very similar to their noble born neighbors). Then the story turns into a mystery: Why do Frau Lydia and Frau Alicja resemble each other? Who is the ragged old man wandering in the forest holding a very important document for Szymon, Lydia's father? Finally the family secret is revealed via flashback leading to a catharsis that reconciles the two family branches and leaves hope for a better future.

The film stars Frau Jadwiga Smosarska who was considered in Poland as the "Polish Screen Queen" and who here is convincing in a double role. Herr Stanislaw Knake-Zadadzki, who plays the prince Zamilli, was one of the most eminent theater actors in his country.

Herr Gniazdowski's background as cinematographer shows in the remarkable camera-work and we must also mention the careful production design by Herr Jozef Galewski who captures the perfect mood and atmosphere in this larger-than-life film about romance, mystery and melodrama.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must unveil some old Teutonic family secrets.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

Po zakonu (1926)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Nightmarish Atmosphere And Tense Drama, 24 May 2013

If there was a specific characteristic among the Russian films after the Bolshevik's advent to power, it was a special care about film aesthetics circumscribed in propaganda; avant-garde films that perfectly combined a political message with fascinating imagery. However sometimes Bolshevik films deviated from that norm thanks to the mastery and inventiveness of their directors.

That certainly happens with "Po Zakonu" ( By The Law ), an astounding and brilliant cinematographic exercise directed by Herr Lev Kuleshov in the silent year of 1926. Herr Kuleshov's film theories play an important part in the success of the film.

The film tells the story of five gold prospectors on the banks of the Yukon River trapped during a terrible winter and is an adaptation of Herr Jack London's story "The Unexpected".

With minimal sets and cast ( this was a personal challenge for Herr Kuleshov, the claim that it is possible to accomplish a great film with few resources ) "Po Zakonu" is a remarkable and disturbing masterpiece. Fascinating shots of a wild environment ( nature is a main and decisive character in the film ) emphasize the claustrophobic atmosphere that drives the characters to desperation in their solitude (one of them shoots two other members of the crew).

The film is also a disturbing physiological study wherein every gesture and facial expression is studied as well as the impressive Russian body language. Here the avant-garde technique is in the service of a nightmarish atmosphere and tense drama.

And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must dig for gold in one of his Teutonic heiresses' private rooms.

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien

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