Friday, June 01, 2007

Let me show off for a moment



As I think I mentioned a while back, when asked about my educational background, I was primarily trained as a translator. However, my life took a little turn, and I ended up caring for 3 handicapped kids, and never actually worked in my field. (I was quite good - I seemed to have a real knack for translating into legalese. My professors commented that I'd be great at translating insurance documents! Maybe it's just as well my career never took off.) But it's like driving, you never really forget how to do it, and over the years I've done odd translation jobs for friends and for myself.

Well, my love for silent movies brought me a little translation fun along the way. I'm very devoted to the Russian silent film star Ivan Mosjoukine - that's his picture at the top of my blog. Unfortunately, though he was a huge star in Europe in the '20s, he couldn't make the transition to talking pictures, and is now almost completely forgotten, except by a few oddballs like myself, and a man in England who collects his movies. I've bought a good number of Mosjoukine films from Tom Hamilton, and since many of them, from the peak of his career, were made in France, the intertitles are all in French. Very few have been translated - only one that I can think of, 'Casanova' (1928), because it was restored in the early 80s. So I started translating the intertitles myself. Tom was able to superimpose my translated titles over the originals, and now you don't have to speak French to enjoy Mosjoukine.

In tribute to this great actor, and to show off my one and only "credit", I managed (after hours of purgatory struggling with an editing program) to load onto YouTube the first 10 minutes of Mosjoukine's weirdest film, "Le Brasier ardent"(1923). This was the only film that Mosjoukine wrote, directed and performed in, so it offers interesting insights into how his mind worked, and what he wanted to do with film. The first 10 minutes show an utterly bizarre nightmare scene, where Mosjoukine plays at least 4 roles, and there are photos of him in a few more. He loved dressing up and playing multiple roles. This movie is a strange combination of comedy, surrealism, romance, horror, and poignancy. I'm going to try to put up another section, which is really bizarre - as I said in my IMDb review of it, sort of a combination of Kafka and Fred Astaire.

It's NOT restored, however, so one has to resign oneself to the less-than-perfect picture quality. But Tom added a soundtrack which I think fits really well, so it's quite easy to watch. There's nothing worse than watching a silent movie with some random music that doesn't match at all. I remember watching Fritz Lang's 'Siegfried' with some "greatest hits" classical music collection slapped on top. Siegfried was fighting the dragon while Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons' was twittering away.

UPDATE: I've added a second section here. It's a pity it's so dark, but the film hasn't been restored. At least it's the correct speed, and Tom added suitable music.

5 Comments:

Blogger Min O'Pause said...

I can't believe I am typing these words, but I have to say that is really cool!

I am a Tod Browning fan myself, and anything with Lon Chaney, Sr., Charles Farrell or Mae Busch is something great to watch. One of my favorites is "The Unholy Three."

It's actually nice to read about your background.

How great that you were able to translate the films!

Min

12:19 pm  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

What's the soundtrack? I'm a bit of a baroque junkie, and I really like the fugue that starts in at 6:52 left (although this is clearly not baroque- which makes it intriguing).

11:48 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I'll write to Tom and ask about that bit of music. It sounds a little Vivaldi-ish to me, which is odd, since I was just complaining about the Vivaldi I heard accompanying "Siegfried". If he can give me the name, I'll let you know.

9:49 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

I got an answer back from Tom:

"The piece of music you’re referring to is actually from the soundtrack of City Lights (I used a lot of this in BA) It’s from the Boxing Match scene towards the end of the film (hence the bell at the beginning)and is composed by Chaplin himself."

So there we go. I haven't seen 'City Lights' myself, but I think I might get a copy to hear some more of that music - I didn't know Chaplin had that among his other talents. But I've really seen his talkies more than his silent movies - must fill in that gap in my education.

7:06 am  
Blogger C. Andiron said...

Whoa - I didn't know he compose either. Thanks for the info.

12:46 pm  

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