Il Cinema Ritrovato on Tour: Béhula + Salomé


The Main 3 Thu, May 11, 2023 7:00 PM
Film Info
Program:Il Cinema Ritrovato On Tour
Runtime:127 min


Béhula + Salomé

Thursday, May 11 at 7:00pm

Highlighting restored, archival, and silent cinema from Il Cinema Ritrovato's annual festival in Bologna, Italy.

Video introduction for Béhula by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur (Film Heritage Foundation). Introduction for Salomé by Pamela Hutchinson (Silent London)

About Béhula
France, India | Directed by Camille Legrand | 1921 | 55 min | Courtesy Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé at L’Image Retrouvée laboratory

Original music composed by Keyvan Chemirani, performed by Keyvan Chemirani (percussion, Indian santoor, drum, udu, Persian zarb), Benjamin Moussay (piano), Sylvain Barou (Bansuri flute, Armenia duduk), Michel Guay (cithara, tanpura) and recorded by Léon Rousseau at L.E. Diapason laboratory.

From the prolific film production in India during the silent period, most of which has disappeared, we miraculously came upon Béhula, filmed in India by Camille Legrand in 1921 for Madan Theaters Ltd studios. As a camera operator for Pathé from 1905 to 1920, Legrand knew India well, having spent long periods in the country. In 1921 he joined forces with J.F. Madan, with whom he made at least five films in Calcutta. For Béhula, adapted from a Bengali legend in the Manasa Mangal—the epic cycle dedicated to the Snake Goddess, Manasa—he called in one of Madan studios’ Anglo-Indian stars, Patience Cooper. Born in Calcutta in 1905, her family were part of the Jewish-Iraqi diaspora. She was the best-known of the Cooper sisters (Patience, Violet and Pearl), and she started out as a dancer on the stage. Like Ruby Meyers (aka Sulochana), Cooper belonged to that generation of ‘modern girls’ whose European education and pale complexion made them more attractive to early Indian cinema. The exterior locations echo the context in which the film was shot, with swaying cardboard sets animated by the breeze and the impromptu presence of passers-by finding their way into the storyline. Béhula takes as its plot the rivalry between the goddesses Chandi, wife of Shiva, and Manasa, his daughter. The merchant Chand Sadagar is a faithful devotee of Chandi, and Manasa attempts to attract him. Rejected by Chand Sadagar, Manasa condemns his son, Lakhindar, to perish on the night of his marriage to the beautiful Béhula. The next morning, Béhula discovers her husband’s inanimate body after he suffers a snakebite. She sets out on a long voyage along the Ganges until she succeeds in bringing him back to life. Legrand returned the negatives to France and they miraculously survived in an excellent state of preservation in the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux-Pathé collection held at the CNC. –Pénélope Riboud-Seydoux

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur (Film Heritage Foundation) bio: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur is an award-winning filmmaker, producer, and archivist. He has produced and directed many films under the banner of his production house Dungarpur Films. His feature documentary films Celluloid Man (2012), The Immortals (2015), and CzechMate – In Search of Jiri Menzel have screened across the globe and won numerous awards. Passionately committed to film preservation and restoration, he established Film Heritage Foundation (FHF), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring India’s film heritage. FHF is the only non-governmental organization working in the field of film preservation in India. Dungarpur is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), a member of the Artistic Committee of the Il Cinema Ritrovato Festival in Bologna, and a member of the Honorary Committee of the Nitrate Picture Show, George Eastman House’s Festival of Film Conservation.

About Salomé
USA | Directed by Charles Bryant, Alla Nazimova | 1922/1923 | 72 min | Courtesy Flicker Alley and Kino Lorber

The post-naturalistic, consciously chosen artificial mode of performance reached its zenith with Alla Nazimova’s lead performance in Salomé. She also produced the film, which was directed by her longtime artistic partner Charles Bryant. He staged the Oscar Wilde play with lots of symbolist mannerisms, while Natacha Rambova’s décor and costumes were inspired by Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for the play. The acting is very physical, almost dance-like: gesture and posture are more important than mime. Louis Delluc noted in his review of the film (“Cinéa”, 18 May 1923): “We hardly have time to isolate individual gestures or poses. We can only fleetingly perceive that these gestures and poses are beautiful, intentional and normal, vivid and stylized, the one being complementary to the other. Everything is conceived toward a whole.” The unaccustomed aesthetic radicalism displeased most of the contemporary press and audience. The artistic and commercial failure of “this original and too intellectual work, ahead of its time” (Vittorio Martinelli, Le dive del silenzio) prompted Nazimova to turn her back on Hollywood and return to her stage career, which was never completely interrupted.

Because of their decidedly artificial style, diametrically opposed to later Hollywood conventions, Nazimova’s films were long considered outdated and were largely forgotten; in many film history books she is not even mentioned. In recent years, however, Salomé has been unearthed and celebrated as a queer cult film. Still to be discovered more widely is the extraordinary quality of Nazimova’s performance. –Martin Girod

Pamela Hutchinson (Silent London) bio: Pamela Hutchinson is a freelance critic, curator, and film historian based on the south coast of England. She writes for titles including Sight and Sound, Criterion, the Guardian, and Empire, and she regularly appears on BBC radio. In 2021, she delivered the Philip French Memorial Lecture at Cinema Rediscovered (Bristol, UK). She also edits Sight and Sound’s Weekly Film Bulletin and her website is devoted to silent cinema.

About Il Cinema Ritrovato On Tour–Minneapolis

Il Cinema Ritrovato On Tour–Minneapolis will feature recently restored archival films at The Main Cinema from May 11–13, 2023. Presented in partnership by Archives on Screen, Twin Cities, the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Cineteca di Bologna, the festival will screen eleven highlights from Il Cinema Ritrovato’s 2022 lineup. Il Cinema Ritrovato is an annual international film festival that exhibits new restorations and archival films in Bologna, Italy. Archives on Screen is proud to partner with Il Cinema Ritrovato and Cineteca di Bologna to curate selections from their festival for Twin Cities audiences.

About Archives on Screen, Twin Cities

Co-organized by Michelle Baroody and Maggie Hennefeld, Archives on Screen is dedicated to bringing rare, unseen archival films from around the globe to movie screens in the Twin Cities. Animated by a love of cinema and a commitment to making visible excluded images from the past, we work with international film archives and local film venues to expose students and audiences to the richness of film history. We program events that foster open dialogue and community engagement between university students and local film audiences across the Twin Cities. Our programming draws on local, national, and international film archives, and it spans the early history of silent cinema, studio feature films, experimental counter-cinemas, third cinema, amateur and non-theatrical films, short films, unfinished films, and contemporary independent filmmaking.