Menilmontant (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926)

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sevenarts
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Menilmontant (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926)

#1 Post by sevenarts » Mon Sep 15, 2008 7:30 am

This remarkable experimental short is now the fourth entry in my Films I Love series. And I thought it deserved its own thread, because there's really just nothing like it for sheer beauty and intensity. Hopefully this will start some discussion of this amazing film -- and Kirsanoff in general, who I haven't seen much of beyond the stuff in the Kino sets. Any recs?

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#2 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Sep 15, 2008 8:58 am

I've long planned to start a thread on Kirsanoff in the Flimmakers thread, and there's quite a bit of discussion on the film around the forum, much of it in the "All-Time" list thread, as well as the silent-era/1920's list thread. Menilmontant was at one time my favorite film, but it usually goes in and out of the top spot with Epstein's Chute de la maison Usher, which is probably my all time favorite.

Menilmontant is simply breathtaking, and as it's only the second film young Kirsanoff made, it's mind-boggling in it's achievement. Aside from it's very deep heart and soul, it's streetish sensibility (so ahead of it's time), it's dazzling use of montage, hand-held shots, use of ambiguity as a primary narrative conceit, it's disposition as a film with a bursting narrative told entirely without intertitles (in this sense I find it more impressive than the Mayer kammerspiels with Pick and Murnau.. except maybe for Sylvester/New Years Eve), not to mention to central performance of Sibirskaia, it's quite simply a thing of immeasurable beauty, an artistic achievement on a par with anything in any art form in any time.

Almost equally impressive is Brumes de automnes, as well as Arrière-saison, and his fabulous early sound masterpiece, Rapt (which I had the great fortune of seeing in the cinema just after it's recent restoration).

Has anyone ever seen a photo of Kirsanoff... or have a link to one that's online?. I once began a filmmaker thread for him, but decided to hold off until I could locate a pic to kick the primary post off (not to mention find a quote attributable to him).

Little known fact: he was pals with that other great underappreciated Impressionist master, who equally towers over his French counterparts while being so little known: Jean Gremillon. Maldone & La petit Lise could have easily passed for Kirsanoff films.

Kirsanoff seems to be the source of the great French Impressionist conceit of using dreary, cloudy, damp autumnal landscapes to express the poetic melancholy of his characters... a poetic device began in Menilmontant and taken up (and perfected) by Jean Epstein in Usher... continued all the way down the line even in the US by Weinberg in Autumn Fire.

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Zazou dans le Metro
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#3 Post by Zazou dans le Metro » Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:11 am

Well call me old fashioned but I find the park bench scene with the sandwich in Menilmontant the most wrenching, heart-stopping triple lump in the throat moment in cinema with the possible exception of the cake scene in Sunrise.
(I only just realised how food orientated that makes me).

Also surely Carax references the opening scene in the cutting of Mauvais Sang's explosive fight scene?

Anyway regarding the photo of Kirsanoff to kick start your page, I have never seen any images of him. I have the' L'oeuvre singuliere de DK' by Trebuil but unfortunately there are no illustrations whatsoever. I'll dig out my 1895 revue of The Dictionary of Cineastes of the 20's to see if there's something in there.
Have you got a copy of Richard Abel's series on French Cinema? I haven't but am wondering if these are illustrated in any way.

I haven't managed to muster the courage to buy the Ramuz set at nearly 100 euros which includes Rapt but perhaps there maybe something in there?
I am assuming that the restoration of which you speak is the version in that box set.
Anyone verify? Sounds like a job for Knappen no?

Look forward to seeing your page.

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Knappen
Joined: Wed Jul 12, 2006 2:14 am
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#4 Post by Knappen » Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:30 am

Can't say that I have much Kirsanoff material at hand moi non plus. I will try and take a look at the university library.

Zazou, David Hare posted caps from the DVD of Rapt that shows how good a restoration that is.

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HerrSchreck
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#5 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:43 pm

Is that Ramuz Coffret what is known as "the swiss dvd" of Rapt?

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Zazou dans le Metro
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#6 Post by Zazou dans le Metro » Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:52 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Is that Ramuz Coffret what is known as "the swiss dvd" of Rapt?
here's the page in English

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Knappen
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#7 Post by Knappen » Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:20 am

I was thinking of this thread the other day and decided that I would get on the case as I am now living in walking distance from most main libraries in Paris. The cinéma section at the BFI Centre Pompidou turned out to be the Holy Graal: I found this picture of Kirsanoff in Histoire du cinéma suisse by Hervé Dumont published by the Swiss Cinémathèque.

Image

The equality is not great as I simply used the camera on my iphone. Since I don't have a scanner at hand I'm afraid that is all I can provide at the moment. Those who have access to the book please come with an upgrade.

Also grabbed - much too fast - a pic of this awesome poster. Not too steady on the hand after eating only crêpes and grecs for a week.

Image

Somebody come up with some quotes and we got a Kirsanoff profile coming.

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foliagecop
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#8 Post by foliagecop » Wed Oct 08, 2008 11:52 am

Anyone seen the imdb comments on this? They're hilarious. I'd never even heard of the film before today, but sevenarts & Schrek's passionate and glowing praise of it has me chomping at the bit for a screening! Thanks guys.

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HerrSchreck
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#9 Post by HerrSchreck » Wed Oct 08, 2008 1:10 pm

The difficulty I run into when wanting to create a filmmakers thread for someone like Kirsanoff is the lack of any real resources out there to link in to the thread. It's a bit depressing to have something so sublime and there is very little substantive material out there for reference.

Not to mention the fear of engaging in a simple vanity project, "because I can" (i e generates little to no discussion). But in the case of Kirsanoff, just on the strength of the three shorts provided by Kino across the AV sets, and Rapt, it's pretty much a no-brainer.. resources or no.

Because there will always be the intermittent discovery of the film by someone, followed by euphoric ranting mirroring my own and others throughout time. It really is a piece of magic.

PS-- foliagecop: what was so hilarious about the imdb reviews? Notwithstanding the couple bored pans, it pretty much reads as expected.

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foliagecop
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#10 Post by foliagecop » Wed Oct 08, 2008 2:54 pm

I guess the comments must get rotated, cos what's on there now wasn't what was on earlier. Needless to say, what's on now isn't 'hilarious' - in the ironic sense I intended - but praiseworthy.

How rude!
Joined: Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:36 am

Re: Menilmontant (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926)

#11 Post by How rude! » Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:19 am

A reboot of a five year old thread!

Just watched Menilmontant, and wanted, no needed to jump online and add my thoughts on that extraordinary scene, only to find a fellow traveller has described my
reaction as if they have read my mind. I welled up, feeling like I was witnessing the scene in person.

Before seeing this film, the scene that has stayed with me more than any other, is the final, profound and moving scene in Tsai Ming-liang's 'Vive L'Amour'.

Is Tsai Ming-liang on record as saying he has seen, or been influenced by Menilmontant?

The film has left me in a deeply emotional state, and, though, I can't quite describe how I feel, I know I have witnessed something very, very special.

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La Clé du Ciel
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Re: Menilmontant (Dimitri Kirsanoff, 1926)

#12 Post by La Clé du Ciel » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:25 pm

This may (or may not) be old news, but the Cinematheque Francaise now have some lovely pages on their website devoted to films and filmmakers of the silent era (Epstein, Mosjoukine et al). The pages are especially useful for knowing what restorations have been done (and when). They have a Kirsanoff page with only the second image of the man I've ever seen:

Image

Intriguingly, they also mention that an HD transfer of their 35mm print of MENILMONTANT was made in 2012 and suggest plans for a blu-ray release at some (unspecified) point: http://www.cinematheque.fr/catalogues/r ... stauration

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