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Ewald André Dupont
Lya De Putti
By 1820, Edmund Kean is the most admired Shakespearan actor. But if his art is peerless, his free lifestyle is ill thought of, particularly by the high society. Kean has fallen passionately in love with Countess Elena de Koefeld, the wife of the ambassador of Denmark. Elena loves him too but hesitates to give up her rank in society and follow Kean. On the other hand, Anna, a rich heiress who refuses to marry Lord Mewill, the husband chosen by her parents, confesses her love for Kean and decides to become an actress like him... The aristocrats, outraged by Edmund's profligate ways, decide to boycott his performances and his career is broken. Kean does not recover from such a blow and, on a stormy night, dies in Elena's arms.Written by
It is fitting that Ivan Mosjoukine, the first great male superstar in European film, should get to play the great English theater superstar, Edmund Kean in this adaptation of Dumas's play. This is fiction, based on historic characters, and not an attempt to present a real biography. It's an ecstatic portrayal of an artist trying to keep his balance between a world of social boundaries and moral rules, and the unlimited, revolutionary freedom of his art. Poor Kean tries to live in both worlds at once; he is in love with a titled lady whose social position is too high above his own, and in his work he can give voice to his passions and longings through his performance of Shakespeare. The two finally collide in the middle of a disastrous performance of 'Hamlet', where Kean breaks through ALL the boundaries at the same time - voicing his love, and his hatred of injustice, and even of the limitations of his art. When he breaks the 4th wall and accuses the Prince of Wales, he also breaks the play and ends up broken himself. Mosjoukine is his usual wonderful self in this film. Naturally, in a movie subtitled 'The Madness of Genius', he has some good opportunities to do his famous mad-scene acting, particularly with those brilliant eyes. His manic dancing and drinking in a tavern are wonderfully energetic and driven, and it's only a wonder that all the people around him didn't come away from the scene with scorch marks. Mosjoukine is always a wonderful and vulnerable lover - in the scene where he's told that his boyishly impulsive gesture of sending roses to the woman he loves has been rejected and ridiculed, his reaction is just a marvel of controlled acting. He's feeling anguish, grief, rage and humiliation, and the viewer watches breathlessly as the seconds tick by and he holds them all in balance, so that we can't predict which one is going to win out. Is he going to collapse in tears or explode in rage? It's impossible to know until it happens. Despite the high drama of much of the film, as this is Mosjoukine, comedy is never very far away. There is a scene where he tricks his creditors and manages to elude them, which makes him so happy he actually dances a little jig on screen. His own high spirits are always infectious and leave you smiling and hoping he'll win. The movie even throws in a funny little joke, showing the two main women in the story in their respective bedrooms fantasizing about Kean, just as the women in the audience watching the movie doubtless fantasized about Mosjoukine. This is a fine, exuberant showcase for Mosjoukine's splendid acting talent.
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