The fallibility of film history: Valeria Creti unmasked as Filibus

Filibus (1915) poster

I wrote about the delightful 1915 action caper Filibus a few years ago: a wonderful gender-bending tale of intrigue and adventure, one of my favourite silents. In particular, I praised the performance of Cristina Ruspoli as the title character Filibus, and her alter egos the Baroness de Croixmonde and the Count de la Brive.

“Who is Filibus? What is she doing?” asked contemporary adverts for the film. This question now takes on a deeper meaning: recent research by Milestone Films in preparation for their release of the restoration has revealed that the title character was not, in fact, played by Ruspoli—she is instead portrayed by Valeria Creti.

Valeria Creti in Filibus (1915)

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Il cinema ritrovato 2018 in review

Me, my pal Matti, and Marcello

Six weeks after the fact, you say? From the Department of Better Late than Never comes my recap of Il cinema ritrovato 2018: a wonderful festival of archival film of all eras and countries. Spoiler alert: I had a blast! Continue reading

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Bologna-bound: Il cinema ritrovato 2018

In less than two weeks, the magnificent film festival Il cinema ritrovato (‘Cinema rediscovered’) kicks off in Bologna, Italy. And yes, I’m going to be there!

This will be my second time attending Il cinema ritrovato. I had a blast at the festival when I attended in 2016, and I’m thrilled to be returning. It’s probably the last time I’ll visit Europe for some years—living in such a remote part of the world as I do, international travel like this is a big deal for me, logistically, financially, and time-wise—so I will be making this holiday count!

So, what’s on the agenda for Cinema ritrovato? Although all of the details of the lineup are not finalised until shortly before the festival begins, a lot of information about the programme is on the festival website. Continue reading

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Buster on the big screen: a visit to the delightful Time Cinema

Yesterday again today’ is the slogan for the Time Cinema, one of Wellington’s true hidden gems. Located in the suburb of Lyall Bay on Wellington’s south coast, what looks like a typical suburban house turns out to include a 39-seater cinema out the back, along with a large lobby housing the Time Cinema’s museum displays.

As well as hosting private functions, the Time Cinema runs screenings four times a month on alternating Wednesday and Saturdays. Generally, the films shown come from the Cinema’s own collection of film prints, and the programming is heavy on American titles from the 1950s and 1960s. The screenings also often include a newsreel or other short from the NZ National Film Unit (NFU; 1941-1990), the governmental film-making body that issued regular newsreels between the early 1940s and early 1970s.

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The perilous camera-eye: El sexto sentido | The Sixth Sense (ES 1929)

The camera never lies. This cliché is now so discredited that even its antithesis is something of a truism: images are almost infinitely manipulable, via both technology, context, and human interpretation. Ultimately, El sexto sentido puts stock in both the idea of the camera as truth-recorder and that of the fallibility of human interpretation; as one of the opening intertitles of the film states, “To know [the truth], we must add the precision of mechanics to our imperfect senses.” Yet as the film shows us, images without context are all too easily misunderstood. Continue reading

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Coda to Valentine’s Day: silent film postcards

Flowers and chocolates and clichés, I don’t care, but I really like the idea of reclaiming Valentine’s Day as a time to express your feelings for the important people in your life. I have so many amazing friends, they mean the world to me—and sometimes you just have to say that! So, what better than to send out a bunch of film postcards to my best pals?

Several were silent film-themed: let me share them with you.

Die Asta at her gothic best as Hamlet

Anna Sten in the wonderful Девушка с коробкой | Girl with a Hatbox (USSR 1927)

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Power couples of Italian silent film

It may not be a surprise that the Italian silent film industry was chock-full of couples. Today, for the Feast of Saint Valentine, let’s take a look at these duos with lives spent in film as well as love—sometimes both at the same time.

Soava Gallone (née Stanisława Winawerówna) and Carmine Gallone

Polish-born Soava Gallone was an accomplished and successful film diva. Though several of her films survive, she is today most known for the delightful Maman Poupée | A Doll Wife (Olimpus-Film, 1919), the film of hers which has been most readily available to researchers.

Her husband Carmine, whom she married in 1912, was her key collaborator, directing her in almost all of her film appearances. The productive Carmine was one of the leading directors of the Italian silent era, notably directing almost half of Lyda Borelli’s film appearances. He continued to have a very successful career in the sound era, with a prolific filmography that includes the notorious Scipio Africanus (1937).

Emilio Ghione and Kally Sambucini

Partners in crime

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Pride and passion: Pina Menichelli in Il padrone delle ferriere (1919)

Aristocracy, hubris, and hauteur: these are the main ingredients in Itala-Film’s Il padrone delle ferriere | The Master of the Ironworks (1919), starring the majestic Pina Menichelli. I’d intended to cover another 1917 film in this Diva December entry, but when the Museo Nazionale del Cinema Torino uploaded this film a couple of months ago—for me, a longed-for title—my path was clear. In this tale, the course of true love is never smooth; but the ride is pure, unadulterated melodrama, and therefore a lot of fun.

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The dream and the myth: Il fauno | The Faun (IT 1917)

Do not flee from me, for I am love. In his character’s introduction, Febo Mari sets the tone for this phantasmic film in which desire and mythology intertwine. In a reverse Pygmalion scenario, an artist’s model, her sculptor-love unfaithful to her, dreams a faun into lifethe two fall in love, and escape to their own pastoral world, living outside civilisation. Yet they cannot remain undisturbed in their garden of Eden foreverthe outside world intrudes, as well as the messiness of human emotion. Can love be stronger than myth?

The model and the faun

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Diva December begins with a rainbow

It’s that time of year again! In Diva December, now in its fourth edition, I look at examples of the ‘diva film’, or the genre of decadent female-led melodramas that were a mainstay of Italian cinema of the 1910s. I’ve outlined the diva film genre here before—take a look, if you’d like the basics!

I’ll be covering two or three specific films, but first: some eye candy. A few months ago I posted some rainbow mosaic images I’d made, using a script I wrote that takes screencaps at regular intervals throughout a video file, arranges them in hue order, and then outputs a combinatory grid of the results. Well, I couldn’t resist to give diva films the same treatment – so here are a few of the best results.

The great Carnevalesca (Cines 1918), starring Lyda Borelli, makes a true rainbow:

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