BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
If you want to catch a glimpse of Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and the Prince of Monaco, plan to attend the inaugural silent film screening of Facets Cinémathèque’s Silent Sundays series on June 19. The first flick on the Silent Sundays roster of extraordinary – and often rare – motion pictures that preceded the “talkies” L’Inhumaine (The Inhuman Woman).
Called one of the most absurd of the great movies ever made, L’Inhumaine, originally released in 1924, features sets by Fernand Léger, costumes by Paul Poiret, and objets by René Lalique. The film follows Claire, an icy opera singer with a penchant for showing the men around her the power she holds over them. We meet her many admirers, all invitees to her grand residence just outside of Paris. And let’s not forget all of those legendary celebrities mentioned above – they all appear in the film, decked out in evening dress, as a hostile audience as part of a key scene in the film. It is in this moment that Claire decides only the most chilling of revenge against her detractors is in order.
It will be a special treat to see this film on the screen again this month – it had been unavailable until just last year, when it was thankfully rediscovered and restored. Facets Director Milos Stehlik reports that the film will be shown in Chicago for the first time and will have also have an entirely new musical score.
He took a moment to explain to us a little bit about the film’s director, the film itself, and his own passion for silent pictures:
“Director Marcel L’Herbier is an amazing filmmaker. His imagination knows no boundaries, and he was willing to reach out and embrace the extreme. There is no other film in the world quite like L’Inhumaine. It’s the story of an unfeeling woman incapable of love and emotion. She lives in a modernistic world, which reflects her emotional state. The director gave Léger and Robert Mallet-Stevens, thought to be the most influential French architect between the two World Wars, free rein to create an abstract universe.
“Despite the fact that over 90 percent of our silent film heritage has been lost, really great silent films remain. I believe in British film historian Kevin Brownlow’s observation that everything that was to be achieved in film was already done during the silent era. The sheer excitement, energy, inventiveness, and genius of so many filmmakers in so many countries make this truly the greatest era in film history. It’s a history that most people have no chance to know. Silent films are marginalized in favor of what? Pure shock-value delivered with sound effects that make your head hurt, if not damage your eardrums.
“So many good films, so many great filmmakers lost…and now, hopefully, thanks to Silent Sundays and with Chicago’s support, will be found again.”
Milos will introduce the film, with discussion and a wine reception to follow directly after the showing.
L’Inhumaine will begin at 4:00 pm and will be presented with English subtitles. Tickets are $10 per person and are available at the door, by visiting the Facets website at www.facets.org, or by calling 773-281-4114.