Tarantellen af ‘Napoli’ (1903)

“Tarantellen af ‘Napoli'”  (1903)


the other option

Watching these old tries, the beginning of motion images is always a privilege, These fragile films had to live 100 years to get to me, so no matter what they contain, they are worth keeping as live documents of not so live documented times.

Yet there are fundamental questions one should pose when we watch these films. This was an art in its beginnings, though i suspect many of those pioneers wouldn’t guess they were starting more than a technical revolution. As an art, it had to deal with a relation between a creator, interfaced by his work of art, and an observer. So what were the themes? Nowadays, a vast majority of films start with the notion that it must tell a story. Much of the good things being made today deal with reinventing ways to tell those stories. But this rude primary films usually dealt with other thing: visual movement. Literally, with no other excuse. What i’ve been observing is that cinema was an art inherited and begun by those who were already visual artists or visually concerned technicians. Poets, not novelists. So they searched for themes that were visually adequate to the idea of movement. In that context, dancing was a highly used motive.

This little piece is such a movie. I watched it with another by the same director, as well as a film by Wenders which explores the work of 3 German pioneers, and a collection of films by the remarkable Paul Nadar. All these films share the presence of dancing numbers as the key to visual reaction. The incredible thing is that, although these films have added soundtracks, they all work totally silent, without the help of music. Dance, classic ballet in this case, works in the eye, more than it does with the hear. That’s great.

In this specific number, we don’t have a story apart from the context of the very dance which is of an infatuation between a couple. Instead we have feet, choreography, which is no longer made for a room, instead for a fixed point, and we understand how that affects dancing. That’s the interest of it for me. I suppose if you are a dancer or specially interested in classical ballet you may find here substance for analyzing what has changed in that area in the past century. I saw it for the sheer grace of watching abstract movement, as a living painting, this is not the best example i watched lately, but it’s quite graceful.

Strange to think that the “storytellers” won the battle for what would establish the conventions in the minds of the viewers. Well, strange but understandable. People like to be told stories and common viewers deal poorly with abstractions when they strike them as abstractions instead of disguised abstractions (stories!)

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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