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Ménilmontant (1926)

A couple is brutally murdered in the working-class district of Paris. Later on, the narrative follows the lives of their two daughters, both in love with a Parisian thug and leading them to separate ways.

Director:

Dimitri Kirsanoff
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Cast

Credited cast:
Nadia Sibirskaïa Nadia Sibirskaïa ... Younger Sister
Yolande Beaulieu Yolande Beaulieu ... Older Sister
Guy Belmont Guy Belmont ... Young Man
Jean Pasquier Jean Pasquier ... The father
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
M. Ardouin M. Ardouin ... The mother
Maurice Ronsard Maurice Ronsard ... The lover
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Storyline

A couple is brutally murdered in the working-class district of Paris. Later on, the narrative follows the lives of their two daughters, both in love with a Parisian thug and leading them to separate ways.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

France

Release Date:

26 November 1926 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

Les cent pas See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Pauline Kael said this was her favorite film of all time. See more »

Connections

Featured in Edge Codes.com: The Art of Motion Picture Editing (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Menilmontant constitutes a forceful avant-garde re-cutting of the melodrama. Cuts are central. Violence is visceral!
11 November 2008 | by Ziggy5446See all my reviews

Menilmontant (1926) was, in the modest context of the alternative cinema circuit, a smash hit. It's great success allowed filmmaker Dimitri Kirsanov to go on making films, and also helped Jean Tedesco to stay in business as an exhibitor.

Like Kirsanov's first film, Menilmontant (again starring Kirsanoff's first wife, the beautiful Nadia Sibirskaia) tells a story without the use of inter-titles. It is often said that the filmmakers cinema is poetic, but one must add that in his second film he explored the poetics of violence and degradation.

The story begins and ends with two unrelated, but similarly filmed and edited murders. In each case, the grisly event does not grow organically out of the plot, but seems to surge out of a world welling with violent impulses.

Menilmontant uses practically all of the typical stylistic devices of cinematic impressionism, but it is hard to consider it as in any way representative of the movement. It's overwhelming, virtually unrelieved violence and despair seem to infect its own storytelling agency, upsetting what in other filmmakers' works would be clearly delineated relations of parts to the whole.

The film contains several bursts of rapid editing, for example, but they are not rhythmic in any simple, narratively justified way (in the manner of Abel Gance, for example); their meter is complicated and unsettling, worthy of an Igor Stravinsky. The film offers several notable examples of subjective camera work, but typically these become slightly unhinged, with no absolute certainty as to which character's experience in being rendered.

Menilmontant is, quite deliberately, a film in which the formal center cannot hold, because it is about a world in which this is also true. Although certainly not a Surrealist work, it shares with Surrealism no only a fascination with violence and sexuality, but also a display of forces and transcend, and question the boundaries of, individual human consciousness.

Kirsanov concluded his Menilmontant with a shot of impoverished and exploited young women fashioning artificial flowers in the poorest district of Paris, he provided us the most comprehensive image, aesthetic and social, of this form of cinema. Through a panoply of stylistic experiments and through glorious close-ups of the incomparably fragile face of Sibirskaia, Kirsanov thought he had shaped a harsh milieu into an exquisite flower. But a flower for whom? Menilmontant would become a major film on the cine-club and specialized cinema circuit, but never played to the people of the working class quatier that gave it its title. This was not Kirsanov's public anyway, for he came from the Russian aristocracy. In 1919, having fled the Revolution, he was reduced to playing his beloved cello in movie houses just to be able to eat. He must have been tempted to imagine himself and his music as an unappreciated flower in the crude milieu of mass art.

Seen this way, Menilmontant becomes a personal triumph of art over industry, of the icon of Sibirskaia over the brutal world of plot and spectacle that constitutes ordinary cinema. That triumph is signaled in the miracle of the film's narration, the first French film without titles, a tale told completely through the eloquence of its images. The dark alleys of the nineteenth arrondissment, the streetlights listening on the Seine, and the pathetic decor of shabby apartments are all redeemed by art. No silent film more clearly bewails the fate of art in our century, more obviously appeals to connoisseurs of the emotions roused by artificial flowers.


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