The Oubliette (movie review)

I have to admit I have problem to watch silent movies. Well, I guess it‘s quite hard for a guy, watching sound movies from the very early age, to switch and get used to the lack of dialogues, with the only sound provided being the orchestral score.

But for the sake of getting acquainted with some early actors of the cinema, one can escape the quest of finding the obscure short movies made a century ago, when the cinema was still a novelty viewed with gasps and a fascination. But doesn‘t that fascination last to this very day?

It‘s just amazing to see people long gone made immortal by capturing them on the celluloid, and although some might wonder – OK, so what‘s the big deal, there are many of those – you know, The Oubliette was released 104 years ago, in 1914. That‘s a very very long time ago, and when I think about those actors of old, they appear like from a totally different world.

Even more amazing is the survival of the print, being found in 1983 by a couple rebuilding their front porch steps in Georgia, U.S.A.

Lon Cheney as Chevalier de la Pagne (right) and Murdock MacQuarrie (left) as Francois Villon

The movie is the first episode of the series „The Adventures of Francois Villon“and for the fans of cult cinema and B-movies it‘s of interest because of the small role of Lon Chaney, as the Chevalier Bertrand de la Pagne. His role is just brief, because he is killed in a row with our main character, Francois Villon.

I‘ve almost written „main hero“, but considering the actions of Villon (played by Murdock MacQuarrie), I don‘t know…well, let‘s see what has actually happened:

A poet and a philosopher Villon and his friend Collin are on their way to Paris, when they see an elderly couple being evicted from their home, so they help them by giving the money to bailiff to help them. But, alas, being hungry, they jump a duo of monks and stole their purses.

Being as it is, usually, they are arrested and thrown to prison. Our guys murder the prison guard bringing them the food and Villon, dressed as the guard, escapes the prison. Collin, on the other hand, sacrificing himself to help Villon escape, is hanged.

Millard K. Wilson, left, as Chevalier de Soissons enounters Francois Villon

While weeping under his hanged body, Villon gets into the row with Chevalier de Soissons (Millard K. Wilson) and he kills the knight with the big stone. He dons his armour and sets off.

Pauline Bush as Philippa

On his way he stops at the inn, where also stops Philippa de Annonay (Pauline Bush) and her no-good guardian Bertrand de la Pagne (Lon Chaney). Well, upon hearing Philippa screams for help, Villon tries to get to her and in the row he kills de la Pagne.

Villon is arrested again and thrown to a prison cell. There he meets King Louis XI (Doc Crane), called Little, who has entered via secret door in the wall masked as a priest, and he tests Villon‘s loyalty trying to bribe him with freedom in exchange to helping him overthrow the King (i. e.himself). Villon refuses, being loyal to the King and for his loyalty he‘s knighted by Louis.

Doc Crane (left) as the King Louis XI.

Well, that‘s the 29 minutes of The Oubliette, a fascinating short movie (although I guess the length of the movie was probably a standard back then). It deserves to be seen, if for nothing else than an experience of the age long gone. And the beginning of the cinema as we know it.

A father to two little perpetuum mobiles called kids, Rudolf is a main force behind The Rubber Axe webzine, a bookworm, musick lover and a movie fan - not to mention his virgin forays into the comics and board/card games.

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Woman in a Twilight Garden (movie review)

What I like in my movie odyssey is the pleasant find now and then of a movie I would never think of looking for, but found because I was looking for something completely different. Woman in a Twilight Garden (or, in its original title, Een vrouw tussen hond en wolf, A Woman between dog and wolf, a 1979 movie) is one example of it.

Can you find young JCVD here?

I’ve found this nice flick while looking for a first movie Jean-Claude Van Damme was in, and that’s the movie. He’s in just for a few seconds as one of the moviegoers in the cinema, but hey, if you want to cover good ol’ JCVD’s career, it’s important one. We all have our start somewhere.

I haven’t expected this co-production between Belgium and France (although Dutch spoken) drama being of any interest to me, actually, I was more like “OK, let’s get through with it” to tick “seen” in JCVD filmography. To my surprise, I’ve found more than a decent drama, and came to like it a lot.

The setting of the story is Belgian city of Antwerp, where Lieve (Marie-Christine Barrault) lives with her husband Adriaan (Rutger Hauer). It’s 1940s and he is a proud Flemish nationalistic idealist, standing for his country and nation, eventually going to the Eastern Front to fight against the Communist Russia as a part of Belgian Waffen SS. Lieve stays at home and try to just go by until she is forced to take in a Resistance fighter François. As it’s quite often a case, she eventually falls in love with him, which – in turn – helps her to avoid the fate of many of those deemed Nazi colaborators in then newly liberated Belgium (and we can have a glimpse of the fate of some). Adriaan returns from the Eastern Front and after spending some time in the prison, he’s back home.

Lieve is still torn between the love for Adriaan and the love for François, but she decides to stay with Adriaan.

What the movie describes really well, is not only a woman in love with two men, or the idealistic nature of Flemish nationalists, but also the hypocritical attitude of many ordinary folks. Those who suddenly became “resistance fighters” straight after the war has been over, the revenge seeking crowd turning on the women whose only crime was to be a lover of some German soldier, the hypocrisy of Lieve’s own family (the great scene in her uncle’s house about food), the (usual) hypocrisy of the Catholic clergy… many things one could – and would – see in times like those.

I liked it a lot. It might be slow pacing, but I could really relate to all the persons in the movie. And to see Rutger Hauer in one of his early roles was also a bonus.

Yeah, sometimes one stumbles upon an unknown gem. This one is definitely a gem for me.

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