13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
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When you watch as many films as I do and especially silent films it's always exciting and gratifying to make a new discovery that's truly worthwhile. This set is marketed as REDISCOVERING JACQUES FEYDER FRENCH FILM MASTER and while that is certainly true based on the three films in this collection I would add that Feyder is a master filmmaker period! I knew of Feyder's name from the Greta Garbo vehicle THE KISS made in 1929 which was her last silent film. A good film but not a great one I thought but I have since gained a greater appreciation of it after seeing this collection.
The jewel of the set is unquestionably FACES OF CHILDREN released in 1925. Shot on location in the French Alps, it tells the story of a sensitive boy's reactions to his mother's death and his father's remarriage. The film is honest, understated, beautifully photographed, and performed by all with consumate skill especially Jean Forest as the boy. Photography is the principal componet in all these films as Feyder knows how to use movement within a frame for maximum impact without a lot of razzle dazzle. However he does not hesitate to use photographic tricks to emphasize a point.
CRAINQUEBILLE from 1923 tells the story of an old vegetable peddler in Paris who becomes victimized by the legal system after a simple misunderstanding. Incredible shots of Paris as it used to be are combined with portrait like closeups of the old man and the people around him. Jean Renoir had to know this film well. The film also introduces several surreal shots a la Abel Gance in depicting the world of French justice which help to magnify the old man's plight in being trapped in a world he cannot understand. The performance of Maurice de Feraudy as the title character is nothing less than astounding while Jean Forest (from FACES OF CHILDREN) is no less remarkable.
While not the best film, my personal favorite is QUEEN OF ATLANTIS from 1921 which follows in the exotic footsteps of Louis Feuillade and Fritz Lang's THE SPIDERS. Although very long at 163 minutes I couldn't stop watching it thanks to incredible location photography in the Sahara desert, visually striking art direction, and the overwrought intensity of the performances which all combine into a remarkable piece of cinematic storytelling. Some contemporary reviewers have criticized Stacia Napierkowska's title character as being too hefty to be a sex symbol but if you study your French Postcards that was the norm in those days. Think of Theda Bara in a lot less clothing. She's no Brigitte Helm (METROPOLIS) to be sure but this film is leagues ahead of G.W. Pabst's 1931 version of the same story known as MISTRESS OF ATLANTIS.
All three films have been lovingly restored by no less than 4 film archives and are presented by Lobster Films of Paris. They are color tinted and feature ideal new scores from Antonio Coppola and Eric le Guen. The only down side is that there are no extras whatsoever which considering the rediscovery angle is incomprehensible but that doesn't stop this from being a 5 star offering all the way.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This great 3-disc set is a real delight for lovers of both silent and high quality films in general, and it's thrilling to see so many excellent long-forgotten films finally see the light of day again! The three films in this set were written and directed by French filmmaker, Jacques Feyder, and are of a very high standard, especially for their production years of the early 1920s. Furthermore, each film is different in theme and style, yet an underlying foundation of solid screenwriting and skilful editing make each one a shining example of French/European cinema of the time. In fact, a number of times I was reminded of the pioneering American director/filmmaker D.W. Griffith in the manner of storytelling, attention to people's emotions and even some `social commentary' which Griffith was well known for. This is most evident in Feyder's film "Crainquebille" which is the name of an elderly fruit and vegetable peddler in the old part of Paris who becomes the victim of the judicial system which nearly ruins his life completely. Some unusual camera effects are used to express the old man's confusion and distress in this film, and similar sensitivity to feelings are superbly shown in "Faces of Children", which explores the effect of a mother's death and father's remarriage on a young boy. This film is enhanced by a most beautiful setting in a French region of Switzerland with breathtaking scenes of valleys and mountains, as well as charming villages and houses. And just when you were relaxing to the comfortable pace of domestic life, watching the boy not adjusting so well to his new stepsister, the pace suddenly quickens and turns into quite a Griffith-like dramatic crisis near the end. But the most outstanding film of the three must surely be the epic adventure, "Queen of Atlantis", being nearly 3 hours in length and telling an intriguing and fascinating tale about a secret, hidden oasis in the middle of the Sahara Desert which was once the lost city of Atlantis, where the queen wields emotional power over all men - except one. Based on a novel, the plot is rather busy and moves along at a good pace throughout, while constantly featuring scenes of the real Sahara Desert and Algerian villages, as well as many African and other exotic artefacts. The story revolves around two officers of the French Foreign Legion who are taken prisoner and kept among the many men who fall under the spell of the Queen of Atlantis, and overall the film is somewhat reminiscent of both `Lawrence of Arabia' and the Indiana Jones adventures, but without all the action of the latter. It's no wonder that "Queen of Atlantis" was a big and long-running hit in Paris in 1921, and I'm sure it has lost none of its appeal and fascination over the decades, thanks to very good film restoration and superbly-suited musical accompaniment to each film. This is definitely a set of films worth rediscovering.
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This set of DVDs contains magnificently restored and tinted copies with new orchestral scores of Jacques Feyder’s silent masterpieces.
They show the impressive quality of his directing (also of children), his editing genius, his realism, his feeling for dramatic build-ups, his psychological insight and his predilection for spectacular sceneries.
‘Crainquebille’, based on a short story by Anatole France, is a tale that comes straight out of the ‘Belly of Paris’. Its main theme is friendship (here between two street vendors: an old peddler and a newsboy) and its opposite, exclusion and hate. The movie exposes the brutal power of the law (the police and the judges), the coldness and cynicism of the bourgeoisie and social ostracism of ‘stained’ people (even when a trial is rigged).
The movie excels by its realism (the street and market scenes) and by the acting of its main characters.
‘Queen of Atlantis’ is based on an exotic novel by Pierre Benoit. Its main theme is a subconscious male fear: the fatal attraction by a male devouring female. Even the heat of the Sahara cannot stop the seductive force of a sex goddess. An appealing element in this movie is the quality of the cast.
The most astonishing picture in this set is ‘Faces of Children’, based on an original screenplay by J. Feyder and his wife, F. Rosay. It is a major masterpiece in the history of the 7th art. The main theme is the bond between a mother and her child even after the mother’s death.
The editing is fascinating: one frame cuts (a technique later used by D. Vertov and A. Resnais and their followers) to evoke an obsessive dream and the cutting and mixing of two scenes in order to enhance the dramatic tension.
Other elements are fetishism (see L. Buñuel) and the bringing to life of a portrait in order to stress the unconscious emotional bond between mother and child.
The direction of the children is simply superb.
Of course, J. Feyder uses also melodramatic elements. However, the end of the ‘Queen of Atlantis’, although seemingly idyllic, is a slap in the face of all males on earth.
But, Akira Kurosawa explained it later so wonderfully: art is not the expression of (the artist’s) personal emotions, but the engendering of emotions in the heart of the spectator. In other words, the spectator should really share the joys and pains of the characters on the screen. Therefore, the directing must be focused on ‘natural’ acting, on doing things ‘naturally’. Jacques Feyder knew this all important message instinctively. He was a real master of Art.
This set is a must see for all movie buffs.
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I couldn't believe how great this film was when I saw it. Immediately set about trying to find it. I can't believe a story this great was written so long ago.