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Showing posts with label NeilKBrand. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NeilKBrand. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Was sagst du, Mensch ?

This is a Festival review of People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag*) (1930)

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (28 August to 7 September)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

2 October

This review is of a screening of People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag*) (1930), which was a special event at Cambridge Film Festival 2014 (#CamFF) on Friday 5 September at 4.00 p.m.

The naturalness of director Robert Siodmak’s People on Sunday (Menschen am Sonntag) (1930) beguiles us, and persuades us that what we are seeing might be true – an effect that is part of the immediacy of Neil Brand’s (@NeilKBrand’s) and Jeff Davenport’s live accompaniment.

Even for those of us who could construe the German in the slide at the beginning, and learn that what we were about to see was around 90% complete (some 1,800 metres of a known length of around 2,000 metres), nothing seemed to be missing, and the restoration was so clear that it did not leave us distinguishing different parts of the footage.

After the event, what one is left with is the impression of the morals and activities of the weekend in Berlin, spent by the lake at Schildhorn, and one has to pinch oneself and say that this presentation of life (outside of the candid shots of contemporary Berlin) is no more truthful than a newsreel of the day : that is the power of cinema, and of exposures that were not only clear, but insightful and affecting, that they can speak to us to-day when care has been used to present them alongside themes that match their moods, but had a feeling if not always of energy as such, then of being alive.

That, too, is something that we would come to associate with screenwriter Billy Wilder, whether in Some Like it Hot (1959), or Sunset Boulevard (1950), and is as good a reason as any to be interested in this film…

Over at TAKE ONE, Mike Levy has more observations about the film / performance...


* Might we still write Menschen am Sonntag, or would it more often be Leuten - without the full sense that these are real, human people ?

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Sympathy for the Vampyr

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

13 October (updated 21 October)

The British Film Institute (@BFI) trailer for the release of the restored Nosferatu in its original version for the first time - due out on Hallowe'en - quotes Time Out as calling it one of the most poetical of all horror films, an evaluation with which I concur :

Nosferatu (1922), one will gather, was performed with live accompaniment by Neil Brand, and it was a very fine one :

In all of this, Brand brought out the passing of time with key moments when a clock strikes, for much in this film happens at a pace - Hutter's journey across to where Count Orlok lives - and much, when there is no immediate movement, has a sort of febrile negative inertia, a sort of immanence that the shining arpeggios or alternated chords bring out.

For example, when Hutter (Gustav von Wangenheim) energetically, boyishly even, dashes the book that tells him all the mysteries of the vampires to the floor, we suspect that he is trying to convince himself in youthful disrespect that all this is nonsense - and the music played out that half-hearted self-deceit. We, as observers of the film, are in a different relation to its subject, set, I guess, in something like the seventeenth century, when distances maybe seemed further and we did not have the same instantaneous media by means of which to learn things about the world, e.g. do a Google search about Orlok and his castle...

We would expect no less from Brand that his playing is humane - he does not imbue a live performance with qualities that are not there, but he so knows and loves this pre-spoken form of cinema that he can draw out the story, the visible emotions, the hidden feelings, and we trust him with seeing this film because he invests of himself and his talent. I am not sure whether, technically, they are themes or leitmotifs, but they recur, they remind us of earlier moments, and they help us be inward with the characters.

The film revolves around Nosferatu himself, who is involved in some land deal that will bring us back where we started and to his fate. In these times, some of the visual effects and the nuances of the film, for those not used to films of the time, will seem ludicrous, so there was a fair amount of laughing in Screen 2, but I hope that there was also an appreciation that there is a sort of obsessive love-story at play here, not just of a vampire for blood : the film's subtitle is eine Symphonie des Grauens, and a symphony requires more than one theme.

As a reviewer at IMDb has judged that Max Schreck (the name means something like 'fright'), who plays Count Orlok / Nosferatu, is Nosferatu, and he is both sinister, but at the same time desires beauty, in Ellen Hutter (played by Greta Schröder) : her character name means someone who keeps watch, and ultimately, by doing so, she defeats the infestation that responds to the control of Orlok.

As I say, there is an unfulfilled sense of longing, and this was in Neil Brand's masterly playing, showing that even the ugly Orlok can have desires in 'an Expressionist film' : if we can be in touch with the art of this time, whether the ambiguous states of mind in Edvard Munch's paintings, woodcuts and other prints, or the artworks and diaries of August Strindberg (not often enough thought of nowadays as a painter), we will see the action as something to engage with more seriously, and not limited by its technical constraints.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)