A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Rex Ingram, 1921)

Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Julio Desnoyers: Rudolph Valentino
Marguerite Laurier: Alice Terry
Madariaga: Pomeroy Cannon
Marcelo Desnoyers: Josef Swickard
Etienne Laurier: John St. Polis
Karl von Hartrott: Alan Hale
Doña Luisa: Bridgetta Clark
Chichí: Virginia Warren
Otto von Hartrott: Stuart Holmes
Tchernoff: Nigel De Brulier
Lt. Col. von Richthosen: Wallace Beery

Director: Rex Ingram
Screenplay: June Mathis
Based on a novel by Vicente Blasco Ibañez
Cinematography: John F. Seitz
Art direction: Joseph Calder, Amos Myers
Film editing: Grant Whytock

Nobody reads that whopping bestseller of 1919, Vicente Blasco Ibañez's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, anymore, but Rex Ingram's film version, adapted from the novel and shepherded through production by June Mathis, has helped keep it in print for a century. It's an impassioned reaction to the horror of World War I as well as the film that helped establish Rudolph Valentino -- who was discovered by Mathis -- as a superstar the moment he stepped onto the dance floor with Beatrice Dominguez for a sizzling tango. Granted, some aspects of Valentino's appeal have gone out of style: the flared nostrils and lowered eyelids and the oil-slicked hair that glistens like an LP record. But late in the film, when he appears with a few days' growth of beard, he could vie with any contemporary stubble-enhanced leading man. And he was not an inconsiderable actor, more than holding his own in a company of scenery-chewers. Just standing there, he had the quiet self-assurance of someone like Gary Cooper, an actor who draws the eye without begging for it. There is much that's preposterous about Ibañez's story, especially the mysterious Tchernoff, who lives in the attic above Julio Desnoyer's studio and descends at the start of the war to deliver a sermon about the four horsemen in the book of Revelation, illustrating it with Dürer's woodcuts. There are some characters and incidents brought over from the novel that could have been cut, like Julio's sister, Chichí, and the married couple across the way from Julio's studio, a Frenchman and a German woman. The latter falls to her death from her window after her husband marches off to war, a blatant symbolic moment. But Mathis's adaptation is on the whole solid, and John F. Seitz's cinematography makes the most of the expensive sets. 

No comments: