l'herbier

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Obscure Films: “L’Inhumaine” (1924)
When I find myself not liking a film, it’s usually because it just isn’t my taste, or because I find it boring. Maybe the subject matter doesn’t interest me, maybe it’s poor…

“And now, for something completely different!” Here’s a review of one of my LEAST favorite silent films (and there aren’t a lot of ‘em), the ambitious, pretentious slog known as L’INHUMAINE. 

3

ELDORADO (1921)

Dir: Marcel L'Herbier

France, 100m

IMDb

BLUE ANGELS, BLACK SWANS

An ethereal creature from a dream like only L'Herbier knew how to make at the time, painted with light and shadow. Elegant with motions, like a calligrapher’s hand drawing from the beauty of enlightened heart. The man was one of the first visual masters of the medium.

Yet a visual prowess, and this is what’s so important for me, that understands the double perspective that gives shape and size to life around us, with the ability to restore it back in its proper dimensions. There, from outside the cabaret stage, the woman performing on stage for an indifferent world of organized cruelties, itself operating from behind the norm of social appearances. Here behind the stage, more pertinently for us, closer, the distraught mother tending to her sick child. Seeking absolutions, prostrating herself.

From our end we get to reconcile both, how the woman funnels profound sadness into public performance.

There is a painter involved, looking to capture evanescent beauty. At first it flees from him in the maze of Islamic architecture, but soon he finds it. As it turns out, love dawns on him from painting.

Eventually she has to let go a part of her heart to be mended again, and return to the mixed blessing of that stage where suffering can be sublimated into dance.

It is a small film but precious. It’s recommended you seek it out.

★★★★☆