The Adventures of Prince Achmed
A FILM BY: Lotte Reiniger
Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott | Co-presented by Chicago Film Society
Teenage scissor prodigy and self-described “primitive caveman artist” Lotte Reiniger began working in the film industry as a designer of animated title cards in 1916 and soon found herself mixing with a coterie of bohemian cartoonists. Reiniger’s big break came in 1923, as hyperinflation sent the value of the Deutschmark plummeting; one of her patrons, Berlin banker Louis Hagen, converted his liquid assets to the relatively “safe” currency of raw motion picture stock and built a small studio for Reiniger over the garage of his Potsdam vegetable garden. After three years, Reiniger emerged with THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED, a literally hand-made tapestry of silhouette animation that may as well have sprung from a magic lamp.
A free adaptation of several stories from the ARABIAN NIGHTS, this mythical journey from Bagdad to Wak-Wak, with plenty of witches, sorcerers, and flying horses along the way, conjures more wonderful sights from card stock and tissue paper than most modern blockbusters can scare up with the budget and computing power of a small nation-state.
PRINCE ACHMED is now recognized as the earliest surviving animated feature film, but that’s perhaps the least astounding thing about it. The craftsmanship of PRINCE ACHMED remains singular and undiminished, with its intricately designed puppets, its freely undulating backdrops, its otherworldly special effects, and its unstoppable narrative ascent to the clouds.
The original negative of PRINCE ACHMED was destroyed in World War II, but luckily a tinted nitrate print was safely ensconced at the British Film Institute; this copy served as the basis for the film’s 1999 restoration, which yielded an irreplaceable print produced with historically authentic tinting methods.
Tinted 35mm print courtesy of Milestone Films | Special introduction from members of Manual Cinema
Production Year: 1926
Country of Origin: Germany
Run Time: 66 mins
A FILM BY: Frank Borzage
WRITTEN BY: Monckton Hoffe (play), Philip Klein (adaptation)
STARRING: Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Natalie Kingston
Co-presented by The Chicago Film Society | Live accompaniment by Music Box house organist Dennis Scott
Frank Borzage reaches a resplendent apex in STREET ANGEL, in which Neapolitan urchin Angela (Janet Gaynor) turns amateur streetwalker after her mother falls ill. Fleeing the police, she joins a gypsy circus and meets romantic painter Gino (Charles Farrell). When the authorities finally catch up with the lovers, Gino's portrait of Angela becomes a transcendent conduit for two souls blooming in adversity's shadow. A follow-up to the smash 7TH HEAVEN, with a heavy helping of Expressionist visual finesse cribbed from F.W. Murnau, STREET ANGEL was a tremendous popular success in its own right.
Production Year: 1928
Country of Origin: United States
Run Time: 102 mins