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 Post subject: 3 / BD 183 Michael
PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2004 9:13 pm 
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Michael

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Danish master Carl Th. Dreyer (1889-1968) directed Michael (also known as Mikaël) in 1924 for Decla-Bioscop, the artistic wing of German production powerhouse Ufa. It was Dreyer's sixth feature in five years and his second in Germany.

Based on Herman Bang's 1902 novel of the same name, Dreyer's film is a fascinating fin-de-siècle study of a "decadent" elderly artist (Benjamin Christensen) driven to despair by his relationship with his young protégé and former model, Michael (Walter Slezak). With suffocatingly sumptuous production design by renowned architect Hugo Häring (his only film work), this Kammerspiel, or "intimate theatre", foreshadows Dreyer's magnificent final film Gertrud by precisely forty years.

Michael was scripted by Dreyer with Fritz Lang's wife Thea von Harbou (Metropolis, M, etc). It stars the director Benjamin Christensen (Häxan); Walter Slezak (Hitchcock's Lifeboat); Nora Gregor (Renoir's The Rules of the Game); Mady Christians (Ophüls' Letter from an Unknown Woman); and Karl Freund (who shot Metropolis) in his only ever appearance as an actor. Freund lensed part of Michael too, but left to work on Murnau's The Last Laugh, and Rudolph Maté (The Passion of Joan of Arc) took over.

Never before released on home video, this 80th anniversary DVD set is a timely opportunity to experience a film that was once described (by Dreyer biographers J. & D. D. Drum) as "having one of the strangest and saddest fates a film ever suffered".

SPECIAL FEATURES

• 80th Anniversary Edition – 2 discs
• Two transfers, two scores (Pierre Oser, 1993; Neal Kurz, 2004)
• Full length audio commentary by Dreyer scholar Casper Tybjerg
• Both English and German intertitled versions
• 26-minute illustrated Dreyer audio interview, 1965
• 20-page booklet
• Reprint of Tom Milne's The World Inside (1971)
• Reprint of Jean Renoir's Dreyer's Sin tribute (1968)
• Translation of the original Danish programme (1924)
• New 2004 essay by Nick Wrigley
• R0 PAL – ie. not region-encoded


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 8:13 pm 
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I agree that in the context of Kino's "Gay Classics" set Michael appears to be the odd man out, in that it is simply not a polemical work.

HOWEVER I cannot understate the clearly homosexual milieu in which the three characters (Christensen, Slezak and the majordomo) exist right down to the overly kitschy decor and art styles of the period ("tasteful" nude statues and painting, overly burdened antique furniture, etc.) There is a clear river of emotional life running between these men and it is not heterosexual. I have already said in another thread that Dreyer - who was obviously a man of some worldliness (like Mizoguchi) could happily run the gamut of human themes from the mytsical/magical (Parson's Widow) to the "other side" (Vampyr), through religious obsession to the the feverish atmosphere of a 1920's homosexual art salon in Michael. The beauty of this movie is that the erotic nature of the subject is completely taken for granted and that the film's very moving emotional catharsis springs from that love. (I also find the tenderness and affection of the majordomo very moving.)


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 8:30 pm 
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I cannot understate the clearly homosexual milieu in which the three characters (Christensen, Slezak and the majordomo) exist right down to the overly kitschy decor and art styles of the period ("tasteful" nude statues and painting, overly burdened antique furniture, etc.) There is a clear river of emotional life running between these men and it is not heterosexual.

I don't disagree that that the relationships between the men in this film is an emotional one....but what I was wondering is whether or not the "gay" reading of this film is a relatively recent phenomenon. Was Michael looked at back in the '20s as a film with men who "liked" other men?

And please don't take this as any attempt on my part to challenge gay readings of films. I just don't necessarily agree that films that depict emotional relationships between men are necessarily depicting a queer relationship. of course, you don't rely on that fact alone....but if I recall correctly I read something at one point that relied, in part, on the furniture in Sidney Greenspan's character's office in The Maltese Falcon to draw the conclusion that that character was therefore gay.

I think the reference was to Greenspan anyway.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:21 pm 
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John, have you heard the commentary? Casper covers it all pretty well.

I can't remember where I read it, sometime over the Summer as I was ensconsed in the film, but Dreyer didn't want the film marketing as a "gay film" -- he wanted it to stand on its own, not pigeonholed as this or that.

For me, it's a multisexual film, brilliantly ambiguous, and repeatedly rewarding. Both Dreyer's biographer (Jean Drum) and the late Bob Baker's ludicrously harsh Time Out review, very unfairly trash MICHAEL.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 9:27 pm 
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Too funny....it's Greenstreet, not Greenspan in Maltese Falcon.

I tell ya, Matt's spellchecker ain't worth a shit!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:25 pm 
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I'm glad I'm not the only one with disastrous spellcheck talents!
Back to Michael. John, I second Peerpee's recommendation that you listen to the Eureka/Moc commentary, if you can. Among other thing's the commentator goes into considerable detail about Herman Bang, who was a kind of "Gay Lib" author for his time, although he lived a somewhat quieter life than that might suggest. There are fascinating lines drawn between Bang's prose and treatment of the relationship, and Dreyer's own treatment. Among the very powerful (and cinematic) additions is Dreyer's depiction of the Count, who is losing his wife to another younger man in parallel to Christensen losing Michael, right down to a comiseration scene between the two of them. And don't forget the Majordomo - here the depth of his affection renders him a classicically "denied" character in Dreyer's work.
Also, thanks to the Image DVD of Parson's Widow you have the chance to see Dreyer (in a more playful mood) examine sex and its frustrations. The young Deacon here is constantly frustrated by the old Widow in his attempted physical contact with his new wife. Also think of Gertrud (on another stylistic level) where the characters talk and talk about a relationship that has passed but which has defined Gertrud's life.

More generally it has occurred to me (having just passed a respectable age) that maybe younger viewers of these movies may be a bit surprised, if not shocked to see subjects like homosexuality depicted on the screen at all in this period. Quite apart from liberal censorship in pre-Hitler Germany, 30s France and pre-code Hollywood, many films presented homosexuality and homosexual characters for those with"open eyes". But even within the context of this cinema of "signs" and "keys" Michael is outstanding for me as a particularly explicit depiction of the milieu. But all this of course is another subject, for another time.

I don't really agree with Peerpee's notion that the film is "omni-sexual" (for one thing I am not sure what he means, apart from its depiction of both hetero and homosexual characters.) I love the absolutely straitforward depiction of these men and their mileu (about which, again, the commentator goes into some detail) and which is presented without apology or as a "problem" and I am glad if it is moving to a universal audience (as it should be.) . I love Dreyer for this. Finally what concerns him are the ravages that love plays on the soul and the great power of sexual passion in defining, whether tragically or transcendentally, people's lives, both homo and hetero.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2004 11:46 pm 
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Is the Casper Tybjerg commentary (which I obviously haven't listened to yet) on the Kino release the same commentary that is on the MOC release?

I have not watched much Dreyer other than Joan of Arc, Day of Wrath and Ordet. Gertrud, Vampyr and Parson's Widow are waiting their turn in the "to be watched" stack. Notwithstanding that, I can see quite clearly the "ravages that love plays on the soul" theme in the Dreyer films that I've seen, spiritual love being just as "ravaging" as the "carnal" kind. I've always thought the sex as a motivator was quite evident in Day of Wrath, although I don't see it that way in Michael...in fact, I'd dare say that Michael is more a reflection of the "love as ravager" theme than the "power of sexual passion." Regardless, Michael is worthy of another viewing by me before I hit it again with commentary.

John


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:45 am 
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John when you watch Michael again have a really good look at the "art". Very tacky, kitsch styles of the sort admired in certain "salons" then and now. This art is as far from "spiritiual" as I can imagine! It is also germane that Christensen's "art" only comes alive (both to him and to general acclaim) after he picks up Michael at an exhibition and paints him in the nude. He then takes Michael into his house, lives with him as a lover and treats him to a lavish lifetsyle (frequently against the counsel of his jealous but wise majordomo) and then goes into a crisis after Michael begins an affair with Nora Gregor. I just don't think it gets any plainer than this. On another note the young Slezak is, frankly, a bit of a dish, and Christensen's superb performance shows his character thinks so too. Peerpee mentions from the commentary that Dreyer wanted to underpaly both the neurasthenic atmoshere of this type of milieu, which he does while still suggesting the somewhat overwrought nature of the artwork and decor and in the process Dreyer de-emphasises the "atmosphere" surely for the very reason that he wants us to focus on the passions, not on what he clearly, in his very very worldly way, knew what would have otherwise have become a study in "Abnormal psychology".


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:35 am 

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John wrote:
And please don't take this as any attempt on my part to challenge gay readings of films. I just don't necessarily agree that films that depict emotional relationships between men are necessarily depicting a queer relationship.

I mourn the loss of the old Eisenstein: The Sound Years thread.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 2:58 am 
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Eric let's I'm all for rekindling that thread. Who's to start??

BYW Matt thanks for placing this in its correct slot..


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 4:59 pm 
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Quote:
I don't really agree with Peerpee's notion that the film is "omni-sexual" (for one thing I am not sure what he means, apart from its depiction of both hetero and homosexual characters.) I love the absolutely straitforward depiction of these men and their mileu (about which, again, the commentator goes into some detail) and which is presented without apology or as a "problem" and I am glad if it is moving to a universal audience (as it should be.) . I love Dreyer for this. Finally what concerns him are the ravages that love plays on the soul and the great power of sexual passion in defining, whether tragically or transcendentally, people's lives, both homo and hetero.

Casper Tybjerg's commentary does an excellent job of describing the origins of Michael in an explicitly homosexual novel, and discusses a strongly suggestive corresponding subtext in the finished film. But I concur with peerpee regarding the film's "brilliant ambiguity" in portraying (and veiling) the sexual preferences of the Master, Michael and Switt. The three men may very well be settled into some kind of tense triad of affections at the outset of the film, an interpretation for which there is supporting evidence throughout. On the other hand, one cannot deny the ferocity of Michael's subsequent erotic obsession with the Countess, or ignore the Master's comment to Switt that he "doesn't want to die childless," which casts the anguish of his estrangement from Michael in a decidedly different light.

Dreyer resolutely withholds a final definition of these relationships, especially in his meticulously noncommital treatment of the Master. Christensen portrays the Master as deeply disappointed in Michael, but is never permitted a moment in which it is clearly demonstrated that his disappointment is rooted in sexual jealousy. Even when Switt openly taunts the Master, early in the film, that Michael is out chasing a ballerina, the Master barely registers a reaction. Homosexual subtext there may be in Michael, but I would not agree with flixyflox that it is by any means "absolutely straightforward."


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:24 pm 
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It is apparent from the early flashbacks which are related by Michael that the initial force of the relationship with the master is past. Michael himself seems sexually undefined in these passsages and the Nora Gregor character becomes his entree to heterosexuality. Was Michael himself ever "gay", was he "unformed" as a friend has proposed? Has the Master's early passion subsided into domestic tolerance? And what of the role of Switt who sees things so clearly. Then why does Michael's betrayal and the theft of the etchings provoke the master's final crisis?

All this is rich and fascinating. I just find myself increasingly short with people who evidently find the notion of a homosexual character in some way "unfit" for one so "elevated" as Dreyer. Remember, Dreyer also made films about saints, lunatics. witches, adulterers, liars, vampires and ordinary people hurt by love.
I do have some questions of a completely different nature for Peerpee. There is a mention of Mady Christians somewhere on the Eureka box but where on earth is she in the film? I don't see her anywhere. Is this an editorial glitch (like the very funny Herman "BONG" credit.) Secondly a couple of scenes in the master's salon have sudden interpositions of odd unmatched brief shots which look like they may have been inserted as some sort of "cover" footage to replace missing material. Did the MoC team notice this when preparing the master? I should add the same shots are present in my old TV copy of "Mikael" from 1991 which was itself a restoration of what was previously thought to be a "lost" film.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:55 pm 
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All this is rich and fascinating. I just find myself increasingly short with people who evidently find the notion of a homosexual character in some way "unfit" for one so "elevated" as Dreyer. Remember, Dreyer also made films about saints, lunatics. witches, adulterers, liars, vampires and ordinary people hurt by love.

It is fascinating....I hope you don't deem my comments as indicating some belief that homosexuality is an unfit topic for Dreyer. When it comes to older films I sometimes difficult to see those sub-texts at first glance becuase I assume, often incorrectly, that any gay undertones wouldn't be there because gayness back then was so much in the closet. I'd certainly never think that it was impossbile to find its way into films, but I'd think that the powers that be would see to it that evidence of those undertones would be erradicated in the cutting room.

I still haven't heard the commentary, but realizing now that the source material for Michael was explicitly gay goes a long way towards to motivating me to look for the themes and and clues you've mentioned when I give it another go.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:26 pm 
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Quote:
Is the Casper Tybjerg commentary (which I obviously haven't listened to yet) on the Kino release the same commentary that is on the MOC release?

Technically yes. Same commentary, but I was sent a very glitched, messed up commentary and spent a weekend completely re-editing it from Casper's original recordings. The MoC version is a slightly different edit. Almost identical though.

I haven't heard the Kino commentary --- are there any glitches or messups in it? -- I patched around 30 things for the MoC commentary.

At one point, Casper says "two" for no reason, other than it was part of his own countdown "1, 2, 3, 4..." -- I edited that out, but it might have crept onto the Kino disc.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:31 pm 
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John I wasn't thinking of you at all when I wrote that. Thanks for being open to the ideas I have expressed.

Peerpee - the Casper commentary runs as smoothly as a baby's bum on the MoC. However I am still intrigued by the odd seemingly spliced-in "cover" shots. I can't refer you to specific times on the disc as I am somewhat far from my player and library for the time being.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 7:53 pm 
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Quote:
I do have some questions of a completely different nature for Peerpee. There is a mention of Mady Christians somewhere on the Eureka box but where on earth is she in the film? I don't see her anywhere. Is this an editorial glitch (like the very funny Herman "BONG" credit.)

Couldn't do anything about Herman Bong, but it's a good laugh :). One interesting tidbit... I was under the impression that these German intertitles were done in the early 90s, but I recently saw Jurgen Roos full-length 1966 Dreyer docu, and his clips of MICHAEL have exactly the same intertitles, so they're *at least* early 1960s when it was reissued.

re: Mady Christians. My source was David Bordwell's book. I think she's a maid, but I'm not sure. It is a tenuous, unsatisfying, cast mention but she is apparently in the film.

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Secondly a couple of scenes in the master's salon have sudden interpositions of odd unmatched brief shots which look like they may have been inserted as some sort of "cover" footage to replace missing material. Did the MoC team notice this when preparing the master? I should add the same shots are present in my old TV copy of "Mikael" from 1991 which was itself a restoration of what was previously thought to be a "lost" film.

Didn't notice anything untoward. Got some exact times of these shots?


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:37 pm 
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Definitely will when I am able to get back to the pleasures of home. As I said the 91 "version" from SBS TV also has this odd cover footage. What is noticeable is that the shots look very dupey compared to the texture of the principal footage and they are cut in without regard to continuity of angle or matchup. I will do an exact timing over the weekend (god help us it's you know whatmas) and get back to you - they don't really bother me but do look incongruous, and could possibly be excised from this beautiful restoration without damaging the continuity.
As for Mady I admit even Nora is barely reconizable to me after La Regle, (not to mention Slezak, from hunk to blubber in Lifeboat!) but Mady is one of those actresses I never expected to look very different over time, although I would be quite surprised to see Lisa's mother lurking in this salon! (By the way the SBS print from 91 is seemingly complete but shorter than MoC because they included a hilarious voice over to replace the intertitles, intoned by one of those ghastly ham rep. actors, as though attending a funeral - in light of recent posts on Michael, sex or passion were the LAST things on this actor's mind!!)


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2005 3:44 pm 

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ltfontaine wrote:
It’s already apparent that MoC / Eureka is going to be a great source of important, well-chosen, well-presented films on DVD, and the quality of Michael only heightens those expectations. To finally have access to one of Dreyer’s most elusive titles is reason enough to celebrate, but the options and supplements on the MoC edition make it indispensable for those of us who are especially interested in this director.

It’s turning out to be a pretty good year for Dreyer on DVD. I have to admit that I enjoyed The Parson’s Widow, from Image, less than I had anticipated, but the two accompanying short films are wonderful, and the feature is notably unique as Dreyer’s only comedy. Michael, on the other hand, is a denser, more satisfying film than my prior reading had led me to expect would be the case. It certainly doesn’t approach Dreyer’s unbroken string of masterpieces that begin in 1928 with The Passion of Joan of Arc, but it is rich with evidence of the director’s developing skill with actors and mise en scene.

Dreyer elicits a nuanced and commanding performance from Benjamin Christensen that is especially fascinating in light of Christensen’s function as a role model to Dreyer and the tension that reportedly existed between them during filming. Nora Gregor, best known as Christine in Rules of the Game, appears here in her first film role, the dark subtlety of which is at least partially attributable to Dreyer’s direction, as he rejected Thea von Harbou’s intentions to cast the Princess as more of an outright opportunist. (The sequence in which the Master struggles to “see” the Princess as he paints her portrait prefigures the more extended treatment of a similar theme in La Belle Noiseuse.) Walter Slezak is a bit of a milquetoast in the title role, and appropriately so, but Rob Garrison registers strongly as Switt, who vies with Michael for the attention of the great painter, perhaps as his romantic rival.

Dreyer’s ability to create a world through carefully crafted visuals and spatial effects—in this case a series of opulent, claustrophobic interiors that reek of hothouse decadence, worthy of Petra von Kant—is powerfully in evidence, even though Karl Freund resisted Dreyer’s entreaties to employ the mobile camera that Freund preferred to hold in reserve until moving on to his next assignment, Murnau’s The Last Laugh. (Freund has a brief, most enjoyable cameo in the film, as an art dealer, his only onscreen appearance.)

Of the two versions of the film presented in the MoC set, I much prefer the European print, which is in remarkably good condition, and features an hypnotic modernist score in which an overripe romantic string solo swells above an off-kilter, repetitive, atonal piano figure, the delirious effect of which is most apt. Neil Kurz’s piano score on the US print is also very fine, though the print itself shows greater evidence of wear. The European print is surely the one I will return to on future viewings, and I’m pleased with its quality.

What the US print does feature, however, is a superb commentary by Casper Tybjerg, whose discussion is as excellent as on his track for Criterion’s Joan. Tybjerg is eloquent on a wide range of topics, including the careers of all the principals, the Kammerspiel form of which the film is an example, and the ongoing controversy about whether or not the relationships in Michael are homosexual in nature. Tybjerg devotes a substantial portion of his commentary to this latter topic, and to describing the life and work of Herman Bang, who wrote the novel on which the film is based. The result is a commentary track that skillfully orchestrates discussion of the various elements of the film, placing it in the contexts of its time and the director’s body of work. The effect is similar to that achieved by David Kalat on his commentary for Criterion’s Testament of Dr. Mabuse, with its rigorous emphasis on text and context.

It’s also great to have the rare Dreyer audio interview from 1965, nicely illustrated, as previously noted. I haven’t spent much time yet with the booklet other than to admire its pleasing appearance. This set is, in fact, beautifully designed and executed throughout, surely an indicator of things to come. In a year of many excellent DVDs, Michael definitely ranks among those at the top of my list.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 21, 2005 12:22 pm 
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Great review here:

Quote:
Michael is an early examination of a subject that continues to interest writers and filmmakers � the power of art and the fire of inspiration. It�s an inspiration that arises out of the very act of being human and communicating with other people and all the emotions that this gives rise to � love, desire, jealousy, betrayal. All these emotions contribute to the richness of life, its reflection in art and its ultimate culmination in death. The relationship of the artist and their inspiration is a complex one and not an easy one to achieve (Jacques Rivette has tackled it marvellously in La Belle Noiseuse) and it is particularly difficult to convey in a silent film. This is where Dreyer�s artistry comes into play. In a parallel subplot, the Duke of Monthieu embarks upon a doomed love affair with a married woman, Alice Adelsskjold. The subplot mirrors the main story in a more conventional playing out of events that culminate in the traditional duel, but it subtly overlays its impression of forbidden love and drama on the main story, depicting a love triangle situation that the main story can only imply. The relationship between the Master and Michael is a more complexly layered one with elements of father and son, artist and muse, master and prot�g� and possibly even suggestions of a homosexual relationship between them. All this is difficult to convey in any film, never mind a silent one, but Dreyer, through the theme of the subplot implies as much as he shows.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:53 pm 
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I love this movie and MoC's dvd but I wonder why it was decided to include two almost identical versions instead of attempting to create one good restoration of the film. Except for the commentary of the American version and the soundtrack of either of the two there's no real reason to revisit the lesser version after choosing a favorite. The cuts are basically the same in both versions so I don't really understand. :?


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2005 5:59 pm 
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The booklet explains that the English intertitles in the David Shepard version are onscreen for a shorter time than the German intertitles are onscreen in the German version. This translates to a 3-4 minute time difference and we didn't want to timestretch one of the scores over one of the versions to make it fit.

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there's no real reason to revisit the lesser version after choosing a favorite

But at least you have the choice to choose a favourite. It's very unlikely that this film will receive the full restoration that it deserves in the next 10 or 15 years. Projected sales were nowhere near good enough to fund such a costly restoration, and *actual* sales have only verified this.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 25, 2006 12:55 pm 
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I'd rate this movie as a curiosity rather than a bona fide classic. The story is cliche-ridden and melodramatic, and the mise-en-scene is cluttered - far removed from the stark austerity (the 'whiteness of Dreyer', as Truffaut called it) that would become Dreyer's trademark.

But it's interesting to see one of the master's formative works, and also to catch performances from a trio of familiar actors better known for other roles: Benjamin Christensen (who directed and starred in Haxan), Nora Gregor (who played Christine in Renoir's Rules of the Game), and Walter Slezak (who lost the youthful good looks that gave him the eponymous lead role here, and went on to play the U-boat commander in Hitchcock's Lifeboat).

The DVD presentation can't be faulted. I enjoyed the (as ever) informative commentary by Casper Tybjerg - even if he does have the cadence of Prof Stephen Hawking at times - and the audio interview, in English, with Dreyer himself is fascinating. Good, also, to have the choice between two versions of the film, and two scores.


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 10:27 am 
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I have watched it just recently, and am quite amazed. Though it does not have the same depth as Dreyer's later works, it carries the 'decadent' atmosphere brilliantly. Fine acting as well.
The DVDs are also very fine, especially the commentary track. I would definitely prefer the German version, though. It looks sharper, and as the booklet already says, the music track is far superior. And here's my one complaint: I was not able to get rid of the English subs on the German version, although using the remote control on my Panasonic player it says there's the option of subtitles 'on' and 'off'. Is this intentional, or just a fault of my system? In any case, it's disturbing if you can read German, and distracts from the feeling of watching something 'original' from the past....


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2006 10:37 am 
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Tommaso, it's a gltich on the DVD, unfortunately. The subs can't be removed.

I wonder if one could rip the DVD to one's hard drive and manipulate it using a DVD authoring program to remove the subs and then re-burn it. I'll try this later today and report back.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:22 am 

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I saw this for the first time just last night. I decided to watch the USA print first as it was on the first disc. I didn't really go in to the film expecting much but I became hooked from virtually the start. The print was lovely to look at with a nice contrast to it. Some scenes such as the party/meeting at the beginning and the exhibition towards the end were particularly atmospheric what with Dreyer's brilliant use of light and shadow.

Someone above commentated that the mise-en-scene seemed cluttered - this was something that I felt helped the film as it gave it a grand feeling. There's something about cluttered rooms filled with large objects (in this case paintings, sculptures and large pieces of furniture) which seems to make them feel larger than big empty rooms. There was always somthing interesting to complement the shot too - I particularly liked the fountain.

I thought the actors were quite an interesting looking bunch that would have seemed completely at home in a talkie (were any of them in any sound pictures?) particularly Benjamin Christensen. Something tells me that he would have been a big star if he'd pursued a career in acting. I know he suffered from stage fright when he was a stage actor but does anyone know if this was the case with his film acting? It's a shame really that Michael was his last acting role. Of course, he did make significant contributions to film as a director.

Robert Garrison as Switt also had an interesting look to him and a was constantly reminded of Robin Williams when watching his performance. The women were all good too but none were particularly attractive I felt which meant that Zoret's painting of the countess and subsequent love triangle (Zoret-Michael-Zamikow) were slightly less believable for me than they would have been if someone more conventionally attractive had been cast.
The only area I felt the cast was really let down was, ironically enough, in Michael himself. Walter Slezak just didn't seem like a capable enough actor and I swear that in some places I actually found him slightly annoying me. His hair didn't help either.

The Neil Kurtz score was particularly good on this one. Probably a lot closer to the original score, which I understand consisted of pieces by Tchaikovsky, in that it actually utilises his music in the Swan Lake scene (as you would expect). It may have happened in other scenes but I wasn't aware. This is something that the Pierre Oser score didn't do and, for me, this is why Kurtz's is superior.

The overall package is fairly nice and you can see that MoC, this only their second released at the time, were still finding their feet with regards to their style and the content of their discs. The commentary was interesting but I wish these academic types would refrain form describing what's happening on screen when they have nothing to say. I'm sure most people would rather have blank spots than be told what they are looking at.
The interview with Dreyer was also a nice addition but somewhat redundant as it talks very little, if at all, about Michael. Surely it would have served better as an extra on a future Dreyer disc? But then I suppose that would have left the second disc decidedly empty.

Overall, I can't see a reason to be dissapointed with this package and you certainly get your money's worth with the two prints of the film. Essential for MoC collectors.

Now, with regards to the subtitle glitch on Disc 2 - are there any measures in place to offer a substitute disc without the disc? Has the glitch been removed for future pressings? I ask as I find it slightly frustrating that we are not allowed (because of this) to see the film in its original form and surely this is one of the things that MoC has strived for since the beginning? I remember Nick once saying that they wouldn't licence films from some Japanese companies as they insisted on forced subtitling. Well, this is exactly the case here but it is more of a technical issue.
I'll stop going on and on - is this likely to be rectified any time soon or, as you say Nick re:sales, is it unlikely that the mistake will be corrected?


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