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Foreign Invasion

4 minute read

Eye-worthy, last week in the U. S., were several cinemas imported from foreign shores:

Carmen. Made in Spain and directed by a Frenchman, this is the best of a half dozen film versions of Prosper Merimée’s mighty story. The reason is Raquel Meller (pronounced May-aire), the sorceress whose rich voice, ink-black locks, hands like moonstruck faces bewitched Manhattanitesat $27.50 a head, two springs ago (TIME, April 26, 1926). She is a Carmen incarnate, and not a little carnal. No wonder poor Don Jose (Louis Lerch) became a thief and a murderer! No wonder the audience forgot that the photography was a trifle blinking!

Raquel Meller has been the object of much myth. However, it is generally agreed that she was born in Saragossa, in Aragon, Spain, between 30 and 40 years ago; that she sang in a convent, in fishermen’s cafes, before the King of Spain; that she has acquired three maids, eight dogs. 42 trunks of fine clothes; that she smokes cigarets tantalizingly. Her one-time husband, Gomez Carillo, South American journalist, once thought she was insane. But the Pope annulled that marriage.

The Raider Emden. Under the auspices of the German Admiralty, the World War exploits of the famed German cruiser, Emden, have been put into a breath-taking film. It shows how the Emden swooped down upon and sank two dozen British ships in southern seas, before the Sydney put her beneath the waves off Cocos Island. It contains no propaganda.

The Woman Tempted. Vera Countess Cathcart, who was ousted from the U. S. by the Department of State because she was full of “moral turpitude,” once wrote a novel called The Woman Tempted. It has now come to the U. S. in the form of a British film. It is not immoral, though it depicts a very bad London society woman who steals a friend’s fiance and drives him to suicide. In the end, justice is done.

Sealed Lips. Dignified, beautiful in settings, is this Swedish film about an Italian girl who emerges from a convent to encounter an almost devastating love. Guy de Maupassant wrote the original story.

The Veil of Happiness. Sacred peacocks, fairyland gardens, a blind poet-philosopher hopelessly in love, figure in this Chinese fantasy based on a novel by war-time Premier Georges (“Tiger”) Clemenceau. It was filmed in Paris.

Berlin: The Symphony of a Big City. Here is a film without plot, without subtitles. A pool of limpid water is transformed into a mechanistic ripple like the swift succession of a hundred thousand railroad ties. A train shoots out of the country and into BERLIN in hard, square letters. It is 5 a. m. A sheet of newspaper flutters in the gutter of an empty street. A cat creeps across the sidewalk. On another street a man tacks up a sign. Four revelers waddle home, one of them dragging a balloon. Shutters go up. A factory gate rolls open. The tempo increases. People thicken the streets and the subways. It is 8 a. m. A hand seizes an electric switch. Machinery gleams in a maddening rhythm. White-hot balls become bottles. Typewriter keys dance. Faster and faster until noon. A lull. Sausages and beer. Chicken and silver platters. An elephant yawns and wags his tail slowly. Machinery moves again. So do feet, taxicabs, street cars, the arms of traffic officers. There is a suicide at the river, a bubble in the water. Workmen wash their hands and the factory gates roll shut. Rowboats on the river, tennis, golf, a kiss in the dusk on a park bench. . . . Headlights and signboards glitter. At the cinema the feet of Charles Chaplin are shown. Bare arms and bare legs at a revue move like machinery. A bit of Beethoven. A bar and an arm tightening about a waist. A swirl of skyrockets. A sudden end.

This superb experiment in photography was made by the German branch of the William Fox Co., and Carl Mayer. One of the men at the cameras was Karl Freund, who was largely responsible for the shooting of Variety. Spectators of Berlin were made a little dizzy, but they hated to close their eyes.

The Light of Asia. Ten thousand natives and not a few elephants figure in this life of Gotama Buddha filmed in India by the Emelka Co. of Munich. The acting and photography are uneasy but as curious as an old snuffbox.

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