Movie Diary 3/26/2018

Striving (aka Fen Dou, Shi Dongshan, 1932). Attended the delightful Hippodrome Silent Film Festival in Bo’ness, Scotland, on Saturday, where this recently re-discovered Chinese film had its European premiere. This one’s a fascinating cultural artifact, with the early action set almost entirely within an apartment building, where a young woman (Chen Yanyan) is abused by her adoptive father, courted by a neighbor (Zheng Junli), and increasingly bothered by the neighbor’s roommate (Yuan Congmei). Halfway through, the patriotic demands of China’s response to Japanese military aggression kick in. That’s a pretty weird shift, but it allows for a few haunting glimpses of battle. A fine live score, with lots of booming drums during the warfare, was provided by Stephen Horne and Frank Bockius.

The Treasure (aka Der Schatz, G. W. Pabst, 1923). Pabst’s first feature is about the rumor of hidden treasure within a bellmaker’s household, and what the rumor does to the people within the house. A house, by the way, that is splendidly bent and bowed in the Expressionist style. The most obsessed of the seekers is played by Werner Krauss, lately Dr. Caligari himself, whose zonked-out performance here makes him look like a sleepwalker. At the Hippodrome festival, the scintillating electronic score by Alois Kott was largely pre-recorded and partly played live (on electric double-bass) by the composer.

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