Sunday, August 27, 2017

What Happened to Rosa (USA,1920)

Mabel Normand made a name for herself for her slapstick comedies for Keystone studios in the 1910s, even though she had worked for other studios both before and after that.  And even had her own modelling career before becoming an actress. Normand was a real pioneer of early cinema because she was brave, did her own stunts with competence and got a really spontaneous and relaxed screen persona back to an era when the helpless damsels in distress were so popular. Furthermore, she also directed her own films already at the time when she worked at Keystone (consequently, before this film was shot).
At the time this film was made, Normand was inclined to make more situational-oriented romantic comedies, without the frantic rhythm, broad gestures and physical gags of slapstick comedies, similar to those by her real-life friend Mary Pickford. This shift in her career could show the audiences that Normand was also a very good, natural actress, who could be funny and emotional in all kinds of films.
Produced by Goldwyn studios, this film is not usually considered one of her best, it is entertaining and in touch with cinematic trends of its era, including those of exotic environments being portrayed in the most stereotypical way possible.
A hard-working saleswoman in a department store with a boring life, looking forward to some excitement, once met a clairvoyant woman while working. Although it was clear that the clairvoyant was a charlatan, Mabel ended up scheduling an appointment and ended up being told she was a Spanish dancer in a previous life. Mabel got carried away with this story and started acting like a Spanish dancer, which made those around her think she was losing her mind.
The appointment`s scenes are among the funniest of the film. The clairvoyant`s house was full of exotic objects from Egypt and at the same time that Mabel was scared, she was also fascinated for being there. The more exaggerated acting of the clairvoyant is also a good contrast to the more self-contained acting by Mabel, which highlights the awkwardness of the entire situation.
Although Normand`s acting is not as groundbreaking as it was back to 1910s, her talent was still there and she got to be entertaining and the audiences can even see pathos in the poor working girl who was stuck in a life of hard work and boredom and only wanted some excitement and distraction from routine. Things would be even more complicated to Normand after she fell in love, especially because she was often more awkward than seductive towards her love interest.
It is sad to think that Normand would pass away circa 10 years later, but her versatility could be seen in her 1920s output in films that could be modern fairy tales of the ordinary next-door girl with a heart of gold who only wanted to find some happiness in life. It is impossible not to see similarities with the role played by Clara Bow in It (USA, 1927), starting with the similar occupations of characters of both films. The difference was that Bow had a touch of innocent seduction in her character, was Normand was a romantic, optimistic girl.
It is also noteworthy that actor Adolphe Menjou can be spotted in some scenes. His career would still continue throughout the talkie era. 

No comments:

Post a Comment