lunes, 15 de octubre de 2007
Dimitri Kirsanoff’s Ménilmontant (1925)
researched by David Badagnani
Directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff (b. Dorpat, Estonia, March 6, 1899; d. France, February 11 1957, of a heart attack)
Cast: Nadia Sibirskaïa (Younger sister), Yolande Beaulieu (Older sister), Guy Belmont (Young man), Jean Pasquier, Maurice Ronsard.
Estonian-born filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanoff emigrated to Paris with his parents in the early 1920s. There he trained as a musician, studying cello at the École Normale de Musique in Paris and playing music for silent films. He quickly became associated with the circle of young avant-garde ("impressionist") French filmmakers, and began making his own independently produced films on tiny budgets. These stylish, original, early films earned him a considerable critical reputation and were later deemed precursors of both French "poetic realism" and Italian neo-realism. Kirsanoff's first wife, the beautiful Nadia Sibirskaïa (born Jeanne Brunet in Redon, France, 1901), was the principal actress in most of his early films. (She also appeared in Jean Renoir's famous Crime of M. Lange (1935).) Kirsanoff's second wife, Monique Kirsanoff (b. 1913) is the editor of numerous French films.
Ménilmontant (1925), Kirsanoff's second film, is also his best known. (His first film, L'Ironie du destin, completed in 1923, is now lost). Kirsanoff not only directed, but co-photographed, edited, and produced the film for his own company. Ménilmontant was filmed during the winter of 1924-25, primarily on location in Ménilmontant, a poor working class suburb on the eastern edge of Paris which gives the film its name. Originally entitled Les cents pas (The Hundred Steps), the film was at first rejected by Paris film distributors. It was subsequently picked up by film presenter Jean Tedesco for the second season of his series at the Vieux-Colombier theater, and came to be known as Ménilmontant. Kirsanoff's film helped assure the success of the Vieux-Colombier and soon became a major film on the ciné-club and specialized film circuit.
Ménilmontant is in many ways a striking film, and has been described as "une oevre presque parfaite" ("a nearly perfect work") (Georges Sadoul, Le Cinéma Français, 1962). Its story is told entirely in images, without the use of explanatory intertitles; Kirsanoff was among the very rare filmmakers of the silent era to attempt this. The film makes use of techniques such as montage, hand-held camera, ultra-rapid montage, and superposition to achieve the elusive, transcendent quality of "photogénie" so sought after by the French impressionist film directors of the era. Ménilmontant, thus, comes closer to poetry than to narrative prose.
After Ménilmontant, Kirsanoff continued his experiments in film, most notably with Brumes d'automne (Autumn Mists) (1929), and Rapt (1934), made in Switzerland, which featured the use of "contrapuntal sound," with music by Arthur Honegger. With the coming of sound and his separation from Sibirskaïa in 1939, Kirsanoff lost personal artistic control of his work and had to resign himself to working on mediocre commercial films and sponsored documentaries.