Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ménilmontant (1926, France)



Kirsanoff's best known work is Ménilmontant (1926), which takes its name from the Paris neighborhood of the same name. The film is a silent, but does not contain any intertitles. It begins with a flurry of quick close-up shots depicting the axe murder of the parents of the protagonists, two girls.[1] As young women, they are portrayed by Nadia Sibirskaïa, Kirsanoff's first wife, and Yolande Beaulieu; their mutual love interest is played by Guy Belmont.[4] The film uses many other techniques that were relatively new at the time, including double exposure.
Director: Dimitri Kirsanoff
Writer: Dimitri Kirsanoff
Stars: Nadia Sibirskaïa, Yolande Beaulieu and Guy Belmont
There is an old German proverb that says that size doesn't matter ( well, size does count for this count having in mind the perimeter of his Teutonic heiresses… ) and the saying rings true with "Ménilmontant" a medium-length silent film directed by Herr Dimitri Kirsanoff, and a striking, disturbing masterpiece.
Herr Kirsanoff's direction is astonishing in every aspect of the film, particularly in its technique. It's a mixture of drama, avant-garde, experimental film and hyper realism. The story depicted in the film ( the terrible life of two orphan sisters ) doesn't allow any concession to the audience; to watch "Ménilmontant" today still invokes amazement, distress and an infinite sadness.
From the very start of the film ( superb, striking and masterful editing by Herr Kirsanoff himself ) the director shows power and imagination and a strong control of film narrative ( there is no need of intertitles ). Kiransoff's use of imagery is thrilling and brilliant. Images emphasize a ruined happy childhood and the duality and dangers of a big city ( flashbacks, imaginative camera angles, dreamy and poetic shots ) not to mention the sorrowful life of the two orphans, an existence of loneliness, abandonment and despair that broke the heart of a heartless German aristocrat, especially the superb scene in which the younger sister ( touching Dame Nadia Sibirskaia ) ,alone and hungry on a bench park with her baby, accepts some bread from an old man, a moving and lyrical scene, that summarizes the spirit and achievement of this oeuvre.
"Ménilmontant" is a work of art, a striking experimental style in the service of a tragic and sad story, brilliantly and disturbingly balanced.

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