L’Inhumaine, silent, Blu-ray (1924/2016)

by | Mar 16, 2016 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

A path-breaking 1924 French film which brought together many leaders in modern art and design.

L’Inhumaine, Blu-ray (1924/2016)

Cast: Georgette Leblanc, Jaque Catelain
Director: Marcel L’Herbier
Titles & some sets: Ferdinand Leger
Studio: Hermes/CNC/ Lobster/Blackhawk Films/ Flicker Alley FA0045 (3/1/16)
Video: 4:3 black & white, silent
New musical scores by: Aidje Tafial, The Alloy Orchestra
Audio: PCM stereo
Choice of: French or English intertitles/subtitles
Extras: Behind the scenes of L’Inhumanine – 15 min. featurette, About the recording of Aidje Tafial’s Music, Ill. printed booklet with behind-the-scenes photos and information about the film
Length: 122 min.
Rating: ****

This was a very important early French film which featured the artistic collaboration of some of the top names in Paris at the time, such as the painter Leger, architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and directors Albert Cavalcanti and Claude Autant-Lara. Among the attendees playing an unruly audience at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees (but not visible in the film) were Picasso, Man Ray, Erik Satie, James Joyce and Ezra Pound. They are supposed to be booing the opera singer because she was thought to be the reason for a young devotee’s suicide.

It is a visual display of the most modern-looking design of the moment, as part of a fantasy sci-fi melodrama that is close to an operatic structure to fit the star of the film who was a French opera singer who had paid half of the film’s financing. She had a one-of-a-kind persona. She plays an “inhuman woman” who lives just outside Paris and draws important men to her. The young devotee has only faked his death and returns to show the Leblanc character his futuristic laboratory – designed by Leger. It includes what he calls “television” – whereby she can sing and be seen and heard all over the world – evidently the first reference to this in history.

The opera singer is bitten by a venomous snake planted by a jealous suitor and dies. The young devotee eventually brings her back to life with gadgets in his laboratory, with the help of several men running around madly in ridiculous costumes. Catelain, who plays him, was a prominent French silent movie actor.

The film, which had been thought lost for over 90 years, has been beautifully restored from the original nitrate film, complete with individual tinting of the images (sometimes even frame-by-frame) plus a choice of two new percussion-heavy scores.

—John Sunier

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