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Malcolm David Kelley,
The European aristocracy have had always a special fondness and interest in decadent sports; elegant hobbies the object of which is to avoid any physical effort that might cause sweat and thus spoil the rice powder on their pale faces.
Having in mind these special characteristics, only the scarce bold ones show an interest for, MEIN GOTT!!... intellectual sports!!... like chess, a very complicated sport for this German count. Chess is important in "Le Joueur d'échecs", together with European war disputes among Poles and Russians ( for once, Germans were not involved in such domestic affairs ) and a passionate and patriotic love story, all in a film directed by the French Herr Raymond Bernard.
"Le Jouer d'échecs" is a strange, interesting but failed oeuvre, a mixture of "fantastique" and historical film not well combined; it seems that Herr Bernard 's artistic ambitions eluded his grasp, in a film unevenly paced and over-long.
The successful elements of "Le Joueur d'échecs" are the historical events ( the resistance of the Polish nobility in front of the Russian omnipotence ) and the atmosphere, especially during the first part of the oeuvre in which a curious and vigorous camera captures carefully the different surroundings involved in those martial conflicts.
Another interesting aspect of the film are the bizarre robots designed by the Baron von Kempelen ( Herr Charles Dullin ), strange automatons that give to the film an eerie atmosphere, classicism entwined with early technology. This stands out very much at the end of the film depicting a phantasmagorical and peculiar revenge of the robots.
So we have a combination of historical film with powerfully and excessive patriotic Polish elements ( obviously, the Russian are again the bad ones ) together with XVIII century robots and a classical love story involving a revolutionary ( Herr Pierre Blanchar ) and the symbol of that revolution ( Dame Édith Jéhanne ) entwined with Russian court intrigues that involve Dame Catherine II of Russia herself and a machine that plays chess; certainly, Herr Bernard didn't like simple or easy plots The superb art direction of the film, in which set design, lavish settings and costumes gives the audience the feeling of the Centre European XVIII epoch is perhaps Herr Bernard's major accomplishment in the film but the Pole-Russian intrigues ( film narrative in standby ) sometimes seem a mere excuse for the décor . The love story is obvious and predictable and performed by uninspired actors. Particularly stiff is Herr Charles Dullin, who is surpassed by his own robots who show more emotion and facial gestures than their creator.
"Le Joueur d'échecs" is an ambitious film that aims for excellence but precisely due to those many various and diversified elements is not well assembled by Herr Bernard and must be regarded as a failure, a good example, as a German proverb said: "that you can bite off more than you can chew".
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must keep in check some Teutonic rich heiress.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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