Pssst, want to check out Ménilmontant in our new look?
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A short French silent forever blessed (or cursed) to be forever connected to Pauline Kael - she stated in an interview that of everything she'd ever watched it was her favourite film of all time. A curse because that might raise some unlikely expectation in some minds, a blessing because it probably wouldn't be as much sought out today if she hadn't given it that lofty accolade - even so it currently still only has a meagre 820 ratings on IMDB. Luckily for us it's readily available on Youtube and it is definitely worth the watch.
Nadia Sibirskaïa is radiant as the wronged woman, the youngest to two orphan girls, following the violent murder of their parents, without guidance lured into a man's bed and then cast aside for her elder sister, leaving her pregnant, alone and desperate. She performs her sorrowful part with admirable naturalism, expertly captured with innovative camera work by director Dimitri Kirsanoff - the scene of her tearfully accepting food given by an old man on a park bench is rightly acclaimed: it's a beautiful piece of acting.
Although some of the early scenes where the sisters play children are a little dubious, the events of the conclusion are oblique and it can be slightly confusing in places without any inter-titles, even for a slight story, the performances and marvellous location cinematography make this a neglected 20s classic deserving of wider rediscovery.
The soundtrack to this film is just fantastic. Love the improvised jazz.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #51 in Brief Encounters
This movie ranks #57 in Silent but not Forgotten: The best silent films
This movie ranks #175 in The Top 300 Silent Era Films
This movie ranks #251 in Anthology Film Archives' Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #674 in Doubling the Canon