Steve McQueen (Sight & Sound) Top 10 Films

Steve McQueen is a British film director, producer, screenwriter, and video artist. For his 2013 film, 12 Years a Slave, a historical drama adaptation of an 1853 slave narrative memoir, he won an Academy Award, BAFTA Award for Best Film, and Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama, as a producer, and he also received the award for Best Director from the New York Film Critics Circle.

The Battle of Algiers 1966 Gillo Pontecorvo
Beau Travail 1998 Claire Denis
Couch (series) 1966 Andy Warhol
Do the Right Thing 1989 Spike Lee
Contempt (Le Mepris) 1963 Jean-Luc Godard
Once Upon a Time in America 1983 Sergio Leone
Rules of the Game 1939 Jean Renoir
Tokyo Story 1953 Ozu Yasujirô
The Wages of Fear 1953 Henri-Georges Clouzot
Zéro de conduite (Zero For Conduct) 1933 Jean Vigo

Lawrence Kasdan (Sight & Sound) Top 10 Films

Lawrence Kasdan is an American screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known as co-writer of the films The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. He has been nominated for three Oscars: twice for Best Original Screenplay for The Big Chill and Grand Canyon and once for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Accidental Tourist. Below are his ten choices for Sight & Sound’s 2012 Directors poll.

Army Of Shadows 1969 Jean-Pierre Melville
The Battle of Algiers 1966 Gillo Pontecorvo
Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb 1963 Stanley Kubrick
The Godfather 1972 Francis Ford Coppola
The Grapes Of Wrath 1940 John Ford
Lawrence Of Arabia 1962 David Lean
Out Of The Past 1947 Jacques Tourneur
Rules of the Game 1939 Jean Renoir
Seven Samurai 1954 Akira Kurosawa
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1947 John Huston

The Directors – Lawrence Kasdan (DVD)
LAWRENCE KASDAN – Star Wars AUTOGRAPH Signed 8×10 Photo
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Original Movie Script, Collector’s Edition

David Denby (Sight & Sound) Top 10 Films

David Denby is an American journalist, best known as a film critic for The New Yorker magazine. Below are his picks for Sight & Sounds critics poll for the Greatest Films of All Time 2012. His choices include some of the most influential films ever made.

L’Avventura 1960 Michelangelo Antonioni
Citizen Kane 1941 Orson Welles
The Godfather Part II 1974 Francis Ford Coppola
Journey to Italy 1954 Roberto Rossellini
The Life Of Oharu 1952 Mizoguchi Kenji
Règle du jeu, La 1939 Jean Renoir
Seven Samurai 1954 Akira Kurosawa
Sunrise 1927 F. W. Murnau
Tree of Life, The 2010 Terrence Malick
Vertigo 1958 Alfred Hitchcock

Do the Movies Have a Future? (Hardcover)
Film 70/71 (Hardcover)
Film 71/72 (Paperback)
Film 72-73 an Anthology by the National Society of Film Critics (Paperback)
Film, 73-74 (Hardcover)
Awake in the Dark: An Anthology of American Film Criticism, 1915 to the Present (Paperback)


Michel Ciment (Sight & Sound) Top 10 Films

Michel Ciment is a French film critic and the editor of the cinema magazine Positif. Ciment is a Chevalier of the Order of Merit, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters, and the former president of FIPRESCI. Below is his top 10 films chosen for Sight & Sound’s Critic’s greatest films of all time 2012.

2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 Stanley Kubrick
Fellini’s Casanova 1976 Federico Fellini
Earrings of Madame De. 1953 Max Ophüls
Persona 1966 Ingmar Bergman
Providence 1977 Alain Resnais
Règle du jeu, La 1939 Jean Renoir
Salvatore Giuliano 1962 Francesco Rosi
Sansho Dayu 1954 Mizoguchi Kenji
Sunrise 1927 F. W. Murnau
Trouble in Paradise 1932 Ernst Lubitsch

Kubrick: The Definitive Edition (Paperback)
Film World: The Directors’ Interviews (Talking Images) Hardcover
Kazan on Kazan (Directors on Directors) by Michel Ciment (Paperback)
John Boorman by Michel Ciment Hardcover
Conversations with Losey by Michel Ciment (Paperback)


Richard Peña (Sight & Sound) Top 10 Films

Richard Peña is the former program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center (organisers of the New York Film Festival and the New Directors/New Films Festival) and a Professor of Professional Practice at the School of The Arts at Columbia University. Below are top 10 choices for Sight & Sound’s Critics Film Poll 2012.

L’Eclisse 1962 Michelangelo Antonioni
Late Spring 1949 Ozu Yasujirô
Mirror 1974 Andrei Tarkovsky
Région Centrale, La 1971 Michael Snow
Règle du jeu, La 1939 Jean Renoir
Sansho the Bailiff 1954 Mizoguchi Kenji
Searchers, The 1956 John Ford
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her 1967 Jean-Luc Godard
Two Stage Sisters 1964 Xie Jin
Wind Will Carry Us, The 1999 Abbas Kiarostami

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Director: Stanley Kubrick Cinematographer: Gilbert Taylor
 Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) on IMDb

Showcasing Kubrick’s uncanny ability to mix drama and the grotesque, Dr. Strangelove is a sharp satire on Cold War paranoia and the pathology of sexual frustration. The story concerns an unhinged US Air Force general (Sterling Hayden) who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. It also follows the President of the United States, his advisers, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a Royal Air Force (RAF) officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. It separately follows the crew of one B-52 bomber as they try to deliver their payload. Along with Hayden the film also features great work from George C. Scott and Peter Sellers, who plays three pivotal parts. A radical and provocative gamble, the film is one of Kubrick’s most brilliantly realised productions and still considered one of the greatest comedies ever made.

Buy or Rent (watch online)
Stanley Kubrick Collection (Lolita / Dr. Strangelove / 2001: A Space Odyssey / A Clockwork Orange / Barry Lyndon / The Shining / Full Metal Jacket) DVD
Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (BFI Film Classics) Paperback
SteelBook [Blu-ray]
Calling Dr. Strangelove: The Anatomy and Influence of the Kubrick Masterpiece (Paperback)



  • Peter Sellers as:
    • Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British RAF exchange officer
    • President Merkin Muffley, the President of the United States
    • Dr. Strangelove, the wheelchair-using nuclear war expert and former Nazi
  • George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson, the USAF Chief of Staff
  • Sterling Hayden as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper, a paranoid SAC commander
  • Keenan Wynn as Colonel Bat Guano, the Army officer who finds Mandrake and the dead Ripper
  • Slim Pickens as Major T. J. “King” Kong, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber’s commander and pilot
  • Peter Bull as Soviet Ambassador Alexei de Sadeski
  • James Earl Jones as Lieutenant Lothar Zogg, the B-52’s bombardier
  • Tracy Reed as Miss Scott, General Turgidson’s secretary and mistress, the film’s only female character. Reed also appears as “Miss Foreign Affairs,” the centrefold in the June 1962 issue of Playboy magazine that Major Kong (Slim Pickens) is perusing just before he is notified of the radio message ordering “Wing Attack – Plan R” by Lt. “Goldie” Goldberg (Paul Tamarin).
  • Shane Rimmer as Capt. Ace Owens, the co-pilot of the B-52

Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Produced by Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick,Terry Southern, Peter George
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Anthony Harvey
Running time 94 minutes
Country United Kingdom, United States
Language English

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Director: David Lean Cinematographer: F. A. Young
 Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on IMDb

Winner of seven Oscars, Lean’s four hour epic depicts T. E. Lawrence’s experiences in Arabia during World War I, in particular his attacks on Aqaba and Damascus and his involvement in the Arab National Council. Propelled by a stunning central performance from Peter O’Toole (a virtual unknown at the time), the film shows Lawrence’s internal struggles with the violence of war and his divided allegiances between Britain and the Arabian desert tribes. With its mammoth scope, stunning cinematography and intelligent screenplay, Lawrence of Arabia remains one of the greatest and most influential films in the history of cinema.

Buy or Rent (watch online)
Single-Disc Edition (DVD)
Gandhi/Lawrence Of Arabia (Blu-ray)
Soundtrack – 50th Anniversary
POSTER Movie (27 x 40 Inches – 69cm x 102cm) (1963) (Style B)
The David Lean Collection (Lawrence of Arabia / The Bridge on the River Kwai / A Passage to India) (DVD)
Deluxe Edition (Original Soundtrack)




  • Peter O’Toole as T. E. Lawrence. 
  • Alec Guinness as Prince Faisal.
  • Anthony Quinn as Auda abu Tayi.
  • Jack Hawkins as General Allenby.
  • Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali.
  • José Ferrer as the Turkish Bey.
  • Anthony Quayle as Colonel Harry Brighton.
  • Claude Rains as Mr. Dryden.
  • Arthur Kennedy as Jackson Bentley. 
  • Donald Wolfit as General Murray.
  • Michel Ray as Farraj.
  • I. S. Johar as Gasim.
  • Zia Mohyeddin as Tafas.
  • Gamil Ratib as Majid.
  • Ian MacNaughton as Michael George Hartley, Lawrence’s companion in O’Toole’s first scene.
  • John Dimech as Daud.
  • Hugh Miller as the RAMC colonel.
  • Fernando Sancho as the Turkish sergeant.
  • Stuart Saunders as the regimental sergeant major.
  • Jack Gwillim as the club secretary.
  • Kenneth Fortescue as Allenby’s aide.
  • Harry Fowler as Corporal Potter.
  • Howard Marion-Crawford as the medical officer.
  • John Ruddock as Elder Harith.
  • Norman Rossington as Corporal Jenkins.
  • Jack Hedley as a reporter.
  • Henry Oscar as Silliam, Faisal’s servant.
  • Peter Burton as a Damascus sheik.

Directed by David Lean
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Screenplay by Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography F.A. Young
Edited by Anne V. Coates
Running time 222 minutes
Country United Kingdom, United States
Language English

Indian Silent Films

The history of cinema in India extends back to the beginning of the film era and its industry is one of the oldest in the world. Following the screening of the Lumière and Robert Paul moving pictures in London (1896), animated photography became a worldwide sensation and by mid-1896 both Lumière and Robert Paul films had been shown in Bombay.

In 1897 a film presentation by one Professor Stevenson featured a stage show at Calcutta’s Star Theatre. With Stevenson’s encouragement and camera, Hiralal Sen, an Indian photographer, made a film of scenes from that show, namely The Flower of Persia (1898). The Wrestlers (1899) by H. S. Bhatavdekar, showing a wrestling match at the Hanging Gardens in Bombay, was the first film to be shot by an Indian and the first Indian documentary film.

The first Indian film released in India was Shree Pundalik, a film in Marathi by Dadasaheb Torne on the 18th of May 1912 at Coronation Cinematograph, Bombay. Some have argued that Pundalik was not the first Indian film, because it was a photographic recording of a play, and because the cameraman was a British man named Johnson and the film was processed in London.

The first true full-length motion picture in India, Raja Harishchandra, was produced by Dadasaheb Phalke (1870-1944). Phalke was a scholar of India’s languages and culture and is often spoken of as the Father of Indian cinema.

Phalke employed elements from Sanskrit epics to produce Raja Harishchandra in Marathi, basing it on the legend of Harishchandra, recounted in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The film features Dattatraya Damodar Dabke, Anna Salunke, Bhalchandra Phalke, and Gajanan Vasudev Sane and, being silent, had English and Hindi language intertitles.

Phalke decided to make a feature film after watching The Life of Christ (1906) at a theatre in Mumbai. He went to London for two weeks to learn film-making techniques and founded Phalke Films. He imported the hardware required for the film-making and exhibition from England, France, Germany, and the United States. Phalke shot a short film Ankurachi Wadh (Growth of a Pea Plant) to attract investors for his venture. He published advertisements in various newspapers calling for the cast and crew. As no women were available to play female leads, male actors performed the female roles. Phalke was in charge of script, direction, production design, make-up, editing, along with film processing. Trymbak B. Telang handled the camera and Phalke completed filming in six months and 27 days producing a film of 3,700 feet, about four reels.

Only one print of the film was made and it premiered at the Olympia Theatre, Mumbai on the 21st of April 1913, and had its theatrical release on Saturday, 3rd of May 1913 at the Coronation Cinema, Girgaon, Mumbai. It was a commercial success and laid the foundation for the film industry in the country. The film is partially lost and only the first and last reels of the film are preserved at the National Film Archive of India. Some film historians believe they belong to a 1917 remake of the film by Phalke titled Satyavadi Raja Harishchandra.

Phalke made 95 feature-length films and 27 short films in his career, spanning 19 years, until 1937, including his most noted works: Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), Satyavan Savitri (1914), Lanka Dahan (1917), Shri Krishna Janma (1918) and Kaliya Mardan (1919). The Dadasaheb Phalke Award, for lifetime contribution to cinema, was instituted in his honour by the Government of India in 1969. The award is one of the most prestigious awards in Indian cinema and is the highest official recognition for film personalities in the country. A postage stamp bearing his likeness was released by India Post to honour him in 1971. An honorary award from the Dadasaheb Phalke Academy Mumbai was introduced in the year 2001, for lifetime achievement in Indian cinema.

The first chain of Indian cinemas, Madan Theatre was owned by Parsi entrepreneur Jamshedji Framji Madan, who produced Phalke’s 1917 remake of Raja Harishchandra. Madan oversaw production of 10 films annually and distributed them throughout India beginning in 1902. He founded Elphinstone Bioscope Company in Calcutta who merged into Madan Theatres Limited in 1919, which had brought many of Bengal’s most popular literary works to the stage.

The first silent film in Tamil, Keechaka Vadham was made by R. Nataraja Mudaliar in 1916. It was shot in five weeks at Nataraja Mudaliar’s production house, India Film Company, although no print of it is known to have survived, making it a lost film.

The screenplay, written by C. Rangavadivelu, is based on an episode from the Virata Parva segment of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, focusing on Keechaka’s attempts to woo Draupadi. The film stars Raju Mudaliar and Jeevarathnam as the central characters.

Released in the late 1910s, Keechaka Vadham was commercially successful and received positive critical feedback. The film’s success prompted Nataraja Mudaliar to make a series of similar historical films, which laid the foundation for the South Indian cinema industry and led to his being recognised as the father of Tamil cinema. Nataraja Mudaliar’s works were an inspiration to other filmmakers including Raghupathi Surya Prakasa and J. C. Daniel.

Raghupathi Venkaiah Naidu (1887-1941) was an Indian artist and a pioneer in the production of silent Indian films and talkies. Starting in 1909, he was involved in many aspects of Indian cinema’s history, like travelling to different regions in Asia to promote film work. He was the first to build and own cinema halls in Madras. The Raghupati Venkaiah Award is an annual award incorporated into Nandi Awards to recognise people for their contributions to the Telugu film industry.

Film steadily gained popularity across India. Tickets were affordable to the masses (as low as an anna (one-sixteenth of a rupee) in Bombay) with additional comforts available at a higher price.

Young producers began to incorporate elements of Indian social life and culture into cinema. Others brought ideas from across the world. Global audiences and markets soon became aware of India’s film industry.

In 1927, the British Government, to promote the market in India for British films over American ones, formed the Indian Cinematograph Enquiry Committee. Officially it was established to “investigate the adequacy of censorship and the supposedly immoral effect of cinematograph films”, and subsequently the Indian Cinematograph Committee Evidence and Report 1927-1928 was published in the following year. The ICC consisted of three Brits and three Indians, led by T. Rangachari, a Madras lawyer. This committee failed to support the desired recommendations of supporting British Film, instead recommending support for the fledgling Indian film industry. Their suggestions were shelved.

Romanian Silent Films

The first Romanian fiction films are wrapped in an aura of legend.

An investigation regarding the beginnings of Romanian cinema, published in an insert of the newspaper Cuvântul (The Word) in December 1933, mentions that in 1911 an “arrangement of a play for the cinema”, Păpușa (The Doll), was produced by the cameramen Nicolae Barbelian and Demichelli in collaboration with the head of the actors’ troupe, Marinescu. At the same time, Victor Eftimiu, in collaboration with Emil Gârleanu, wrote a film script which they offered for free to a certain Georgescu. The resultant film, called Dragoste la mănăstire (Love in a Monastery) or Două altare (Two Altars) and shown only in 1914, played for just eight days. This was despite the fact that the film was composed merely of shots taken during two rehearsals for the role, attended by Tony Bulandra and Marioara Voiculescu, the rest of the film being taken up by intertitles and long letters.

The first Romanian fiction film was Amor Fatal (Fatal Love Affair), starring Lucia Sturdza, Tony Bulandra and Aurel Barbelian, actors from the National Theatre Bucharest. The film was directed by Grigore Brezeanu, a director from the same theatre and the son of the great actor Ion Brezeanu. The film played between 26 and 30 September 1911 at the Apollo Cinema.

On 7 November 1911, the film Înșirăte mărgărite… (Spread Yourselves, Daisies) premiered. It was based on Victor Eftimiu’s poem, and in fact showed scenes filmed in different locations in the country for the completion of the play with the same name that was playing at the National Theatre Bucharest. It was what today would be called a magic lantern show. Aristide Demetriade and Grigore Brezeanu directed and Demetriade also appeared in the role of Făt-Frumos. This film/theatre hybrid was well received by spectators of the day.

In December 1911, the theatrical magazine Rampa published a note under the heading “The Cinema in the Theatre” (signed by V. Scânteie) indicating that “The Maestro Nottara is in the course of making a patriotic work re-creating the Romanian War of Independence on film, so that today’s generations might learn the story of the battles of 1877, and for future generations a live tableau of Romanian bravery will remain”.

As a result, the director of the Bucharest branch of the Gaumont-Paris studio, Raymond Pellerin, announced the premiere of his film Războiul din 1877-1878 (The 1877–1878 War), scheduled for the 29th December 1911. A “film” made in haste, with a troupe of second-hand actors and with the help of General Constantinescu, who commanded a division at Pitești, from whom he had obtained the extras needed for the war scenes, “Războiul din 1877-1878″ was screened a day before by the prefect of the capital’s police, who decided that it did not correspond with historic fact. Consequently, the film was confiscated and destroyed, Raymond Pellerin was declared persona non grata and he left for Paris, while the “collaborationist” general saw himself moved to another garrison as a means of discipline.

On 5 May 1912, the magazine Flacăra (The Flame) brought to its readers’ attention the fact that “as it is known, a few artists have founded a society with the goal of producing a film about the War of Independence… Such an undertaking deserves to be applauded”. The initiators were a group of actors: Constantin Nottara, Aristide Demetriade, V. Toneanu, Ion Brezeanu, N. Soreanu, P. Liciu, as well as the young Grigore Brezeanu, associate producer and the creative force behind the whole operation. Since a large amount of money was needed for the production, they also brought into this effort Leon Popescu, a wealthy man and owner of the Lyric Theatre. The group received strong backing from government authorities, with the army and all necessary equipment being placed at its disposal, plus military advisers (possibly including Pascal Vidrașcu). The cameras and their operators were brought from abroad, and the print was prepared in Parisian laboratories. Could Grigore Brezeanu have been the film’s director? No source from that time gives credence to such a hypothesis. On the contrary, they present him as “initiator”, producer of the film, beside members of the National Theatre and Leon Popescu. Furthermore, it appears that it was he who attracted the financier of the entire undertaking. In 1985, the film critic Tudor Caranfil discovered among Aristide Demetriade’s papers his director’s notebooks for Independența României, unequivocally confirming that he was the film’s director. Thus, the film’s production crew was as follows: Producers: Leon Popescu, Aristide Demetriade, Grigore Brezeanu, Constantin Nottara, Pascal Vidrașcu. Screenwriters: Petre Liciu, Constantin Nottara, Aristide Demetriade, Corneliu Moldoveanu. Director: Aristide Demetriade. Cinematographer: Franck Daniau. Makeup and hairstylist: Pepi Machauer.

On 2 September 1912, at the Eforie cinema, the largest movie theatre in Bucharest, the premiere of Independența României took place. Despite all its shortcomings as the theatrical game of the actors, the errors of an army of extras uncontrolled by direction which provoked unintended laughter in some scenes and rendered dramatically limp those of the beginning, the film was well received by spectators, being shown for several weeks. Through this realisation, through the dimensions of its theme, through the distribution method chosen, through the genuine artistic intentions, through its professional editing (for the time), the creation of this film can be considered Romania’s first step in the art of cinematography.

And yet he who had realised this work, the man who kept the whole team together, the theatre director Grigore Brezeanu, was left disappointed. The press of the time made ostentatious mention of Leon Popescu, who financed the film and made sure to distance the other financiers, buying their part; no such praise was heaped on the artistic makers of the film. This caused producer Grigore Brezeanu to say in an interview given to the magazine “Rampa” and published on 13 April 1913: “My dream would have been to build a large film studio. I have come to believe that this is impossible. First of all, we are missing a large capital investment. Without money we cannot rival the foreign studios…A studio, according to our financiers, is something outside art, something in the realm of agriculture or the C.F.R. Hence I have abandoned this dream with great regret.”

But Leon Popescu, after the appearance of certain products allegedly of the Romanian cinema, filmed by the Pathe-Frères studio and featuring second-hand actors, in fact, these were a mixture of foreign films with scenes shot in which Romanian actors appeared (they were presented on the stages of movie theatres, in the form of theatre productions played by actors “in flesh and blood” coupled with filmed scenes of the same actors), known as “cinemasketches”, responded with a wide-ranging offensive plan, forming the Film de artă Leon Popescu (Leon Popescu Art Film) society in 1913.

Collaborating with the troupe of Marioara Voiculescu, which included actors sympathetic to Popescu (C. Radovici, Ion Manolescu and G. Storin), they managed to put on the market the following films: Amorul unei prințese (The Love Affair of a Princess) (1913), Răzbunarea (Revenge) (1913), Urgia cerească (The Sky-borne Disaster) (1913), Cetatea Neamțului (The German’s Citadel) (1914), Spionul (The Spy) (1914), with all but the penultimate proving to be well below expectations.

Notably, in 1913, there appeared another Romanian film, Oțelul răzbună (Steel Takes Its Revenge), directed and edited by Aristide Demetriade, who that same year directed another film, Scheci cu Jack Bill (Sketch with Jack Bill). The film was financed by the director, with substantial help from Professor Gheorghe Arion (8,000 lei). The 40-minute film received favourable reviews and enjoyed great success. Today only one reel remains at the A.N.F., taking up a minute of projection time, but happily, all the actors can be seen in close-up. The film’s producer was Gheorghe Arion and Franck Daniau was the cinematographer, and it starred along with Demetriade, Andrei Popovici, Mărioara Cinsky, Țacovici-Cosmin, Nicolae Grigorescu, Petre Bulandra and Romald Bulfinsky.

At the end of 1914, the Leon Popescu Society merged with the Cipeto society with the aim of importing small-sized projectors and at the same time of renting films produced by the Marioara Voiculescu company to third parties.

During the First World War, film production was mainly directed toward documentaries and newsreels. The few Romanian cameramen were mobilised, and during the retreat to Moldova all film cameras in the country were saved. His Majesty Ferdinand I was filmed on the front, together with the generals Constantin Prezan and Alexandru Averescu, while Queen Marie was filmed in hospitals, easing the suffering of patients. Few sequences remain of the thousands of metres filmed. Some of these were later used in the film Ecaterina Teodoroiu, produced in 1930.

After World War I, internationally, film production developed in accordance with the interest of businessmen in the new industry. New studios endowed with good equipment and specialists well trained in the new technology appeared, directors and actors known to the public at large were attracted to work in the new industry, as were renowned screenwriters. Markets were opened for finished film products, which through a market-tested formula managed to bring profits and finance new productions. Film industries with lavish financial resources came to dominate the market, decimating weak national cinemas.

In this context, an active Romanian film industry was but a dream. The approximately 250 movie theatres then in existence in Romania could not even generate the amount of money needed for one film, with profits out of the question. Specialist training for film crew members was non-existent, and Romanian actors were unknown abroad so their work could not be sold outside Romania. Neither did the state accord any attention to film production. Its only preoccupation in this regard was to collect the tax on screenings, which provided a fairly consistent revenue stream, its proceeds at one time amounting to 2/3 of total revenue derived from this type of tax. (This also happened in Communist Romania, when the tax on screenings, collected from the film distribution network, covered all the expenses of the Council of Socialist Culture and Education, including film production.)

To all these were added two other catastrophes, Leon Popescu died in 1918, after which his “studio” (in fact some improvised sets in warehouses) on the grounds of the Lyric Theatre burned down and miraculously, of all the films, only one was saved, a copy of Independența României (this being incomplete, with about 20 minutes missing). According to other versions of the story told at the time, suffering from a crisis of nerves brought about by his films’ failures, Leon Popescu set fire to his own storehouse of films and died shortly thereafter.

In 1920, a film studio, Soarele (The Sun), began producing Pe valurile fericirii (On the Waves of Happiness), which starred the Hungarian actress Lya De Putti, and the Romanian actors Maria Filotti, Ion Manolescu, Gheorghe Storin, Alexandru Mihalescu and Tantzi Cutava-Barozzi. It was directed by Dolly A. Sigetti and the script was based on a play by K. Williamson. The film was never completed. Nevertheless, a few sequences were shown in the form of a trailer.

The year 1921 marked the production of the first Romanian animated film, more precisely of the first Romanian animated cartoon, conceived by Aurel Petrescu and called Păcală pe lună (Păcală on the moon). Surprisingly, all the animated films of this director and artist, which he was producing into the sound era, are lost. Showing foresight, Aurel Petrescu created an album with about 80 stills, today owned by the A.N.F. and from which we can get an idea of the techniques used by Petrescu in animating. Some stills have on their edge the black strip denoting recorded sound, which has led researchers to confirm that in his last phase, Petrescu produced sound cartoons.

Jean Mihail also entered the turbulent milieu called the cinema at this time. He was one of the pioneers of Romanian cinema and began his career through his participation as assistant director under the German Alfred Hallm, director of Țigăncușa din iatac (The Little Gypsy Girl in the Bedroom). The film, shot on locations such as Mogoșoaia Palace, Pasărea Monastery, and Minovici Vila, was based on a script by Victor Beldiman, in turn written after a novel by Radu Rosseti. It was a Spera-Film Berlin and Rador-Film Bucharest co-production. It starred Dorina Heller, Elvira Popescu, Ion Iancovescu, Mitzi Vecera, Tantzi Elvas, Ecaterina Vigny, Leon Lefter, Petre Sturdza, Petrescu Muscă and premiered on 30 December 1923. Sadly, the film is lost today.

The lack of a steady supply of financial resources was the constant obsession permanently plaguing Romanian film directors. The absence of a “Leon Popescu”, a wealthy man ready to invest his earnings in film production, caused directors and the few actors passionate about the new art to seek financiers who were equally passionate. This is how the young actor-director Jean Georgescu found a retiree in the year 1925 who, for more or less artistic reasons, invested his savings in the production of a film called Năbădăile Cleopatrei (Cleopatra’s Caprices). Ion Șahighian made his directing debut on this film, which starred Georgescu, Ion Finteșteanu, A. Pop Marțian, Alexandru Giugaru, N. Soreanu, Brândușa Grozăvescu and others. In the same fashion, Jean Georgescu produced the film Milionar pentru o zi (Millionaire for a Day) (1925) in a Bucharest cabaret, since the owner wanted to advertise the building.

Jean Mihail directed Lia (1927), on a screenplay by Mircea Filotti financed by a German businessman who wanted to fulfill the wish of his wife, well-known actress Lilly Flohr. Likewise, he made Povara (The Burden) at Vienna in 1928 with the money of a lady who wished to see her name listed in the credits as production director.

At the request of a firm that sold coffee, radios, etc., Marcel Blossoms and Micu Kellerman directed the film Lache în harem (1927) (The valet in the harem).

On other occasions, due to lack of money, film enthusiasts would form a cooperative where one would contribute the camera, the other the laboratory, the other the script, the other the direction and the actors were easily obtained due to their desire to see themselves on screen. Finally they had to find a creditor willing to lend them some money on the assurance that it would be returned to him after “the great success of the premiere”. This is how there appeared under Jean Mihail’s direction Păcat (Sin) (1924) and Manasse (Manasseh) (1925). The actor Ghiță Popescu directed Legenda celor două cruci (The Legend of the Two Crosses) (1925), Vitejii neamului (The Bravest of Our People) (1926) and Năpasta (The Calamity) (1927). Jean Georgescu directed Maiorul Mura (Major Mura) (1928), financed by collecting money from friends.

The attraction of the screen and the real desire to make a name for oneself in the new art led to the foundation of several film schools where students’ tuition fees paid for the production of certain films. Of course, the students were unpaid actors, which allowed for widespread distribution. The Clipa-Film studio produced, with this form of financing, the films Iadeș (The Wishbone) (1926), Iancu Jianu (1927), Haiducii (The Haiducs) (1929), Ciocoii (The Boyars) (1930) and, later, Insula Șerpilor (Snake Island) (1934), the penultimate one featuring an attempt at sound, and the last one being a talkie.

On the other hand, a film production society called Soremar, generally specialising in documentaries and newsreels, produced the 1928 film Simfonia dragostei (The Symphony of Love), directed by Ion Șahighian. With the director Niculescu Brumă they produced the film Ecaterina Teodoroiu, in which there appear clips filmed during the First World War of the great personages of the time with the mother of Ecaterina Teodoroiu appearing as herself. These films were produced in Vienna studios.

Other films from this period include Gogulică C.F.R. (1929) (unfinished), and Haplea (The Dullard) (animated by Marin Iorda in 1928), the first Romanian animated film preserved archivally.

From a technical point of view, making these films was very difficult. If a film camera could be obtained from newsreel photographers, the print was prepared with them also. The problem of finding a set to use was very difficult, with the director searching for a set among all nearby warehouses, granaries, stables or dance halls. Sometimes filming was done in different apartments or in homes owned by those willing to help. Lights were usually gathered up from photographers’ studios. Often, due to overcrowding in residences, films would accidentally display a light or the cameraman and his camera reflected in a mirror or a piece of furniture. The best locations were those offered by various theatres on occasion that work take place at night. Another solution was for them to shoot interiors outdoors. They built their “interiors” on sets exposed to sunlight (thus eliminating artificial lights) and built on a platform that could be rotated and thus make full use of sunlight. The technical crews, in contrast to those found abroad, had to be jacks-of-all-trades, yet ultimately workmen. The cameraman would also prepare the print in the laboratory, the director might be a make-up artist as well, the producer a prop-man, an actor an assistant director. As for distribution, this depended on the actors’ willingness to work for free. To all this was added the fact that negatives were scarce, meaning that sequences were filmed in one take only, regardless of the quality of the outcome.

The lack of innovation in the field, due to a lack of materials and sometimes of information, caused these suffering devotees to play things by ear, with many films showing weak artistry.

Even if the conditions in which these people worked and created did not allow them to reach a level equal to wider contemporary standards on a technical level, they still managed to record a pretty page in the annals of Romanian film history, despite all the inherent artistic lapses at the beginning.

On the other hand, the intellectuals of the day still considered cinematographic art to be a lowly sideshow, not according it its due importance. It is true that the specialty press was also rather thin on content and sometimes uninspired. In 1928 Tudor Vianu wrote in the article “The Movie Theatre and the Radio Broadcaster in the Politics of Culture”: “The cinematic press [was] created first of all in order to sustain the interests of cinematographic capitalism…There is no actor, no matter how mediocre, not to have been proclaimed a first-rate star by the cinematic press and there is no film, no matter how boring or mundane, not to have been declared an incomparable achievement”.

At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, cinema entered the consciousness of certain Romanian writers and cultural figures, such as Tudor Vianu, Liviu Rebreanu, Victor Eftimiu, Camil Petrescu and Dimitrie Gusti, who all became aware of this new mode of expression and culture. As Rebreanu observed in 1930,

“ …In the great haste toward the realisation of the art, of a true cinematographic art, Romanian efforts cannot be futile. As much as our material and technical means have not permitted us to participate in the peoples’ race toward the new art, I think the moment must come when we bring a Romanian contribution as well…Romanian talent would have a large possibility to manifest itself. ”

In this period the film critic and theorist D. I. Suchianu made his debut, first in newspapers, then in 1929 in radio. A member of the film censorship committee from 1929 to 1941, he held courses on cinematography and promoted the discipline through several books (Curs de cinematografie, 1930; Cinematograful, acest necunoscut, 1973; Nestemate cinematografice, 1980). For a decade, he wrote the film column for România Literară.

Later on the critic Ion Filotti Cantacuzino also started broadcasting.

It is worth noting what the princess-poet Elena Văcărescu (the princess who would have become Romania’s first native-born queen had King Carol I not forcefully intervened to stop her idyll with prince Ferdinand) said in 1930 about the importance of the seventh art: “Having great power at its disposal, the cinema should work hard…toward the greatest good of peoples and what brings them together, that is, toward peace”.

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