Banner photo for the post

Silent film „Ménilmontant“.
Director: Dimitri Kirsanoffi.
Live sound for the movie: Lê Quan Ninh and Rainer Jancis.
Event happened  on 9 of november at Tallinn Creative Hub.
Production: French Institute and Tallinn Creative Hub.
In 1923 Dimitri Kirsanoff made the film “Ménilmontant”, taking its title from a run-down Paris district where the story happens. Dimitri likes to express the symphony of city life, an industrial place with rushing people, cars and railways. “Ménilmontant” tells the story of two sisters who fall in love with the same young man (Guy Belmont). Nadia Sibirskaïa’s character gets pregnant, she wants to tell her beloved about her pregnancy, but discovers Guy and her sister going up to his apartment together. She goes away with pain and disappointment.
Later on, we see Nadia holding a baby, walking by the Seine, thinking about suicide. But the little baby, this new life, its positive energy changes her mind and gives her motivation to go on with life. Her sister (Yolande Beaulieu) becomes an easy woman, who gets paid for sexual services. Nadia meets her sister in the street; they forgive each other the past. They start a new life.
The film’s plot is simple but it’s beginning is a bit hazy. A couple gets murdered by a man. Later we see the same young sisters standing at the grave, so it can be concluded that this murdered couple are the sisters’ parents. Even though the exposition is unclear and every viewer can create their own version as to what happened, it is worth mentioning that Dimitri Kirsanoff made “Ménilmontant” after his first film “The Irony of Fate”. In it he shows his filmmaking talent very clearly, even though he is lacking experience in cinema. As it seems from his artwork his dramatic impulses stem from fate, life, love, difficulties, bad and good sides, struggling and victory.
“Ménilmontant” is a silent movie but the expressiveness and the characters’ artistic talent convey real emotions. Advanced editing decisions and tools make the storytelling clear and impressive.
Nadia, who was Kirsanoff’s first wife and appeared in a number of his movies has an extraordinary talent for screen presence, her emotional and expressive face leads the story in the film. Take for example the scene when Nadia is hungry at night, sitting on a bench holding a baby, next to an old man, who is eating bread. He hands her a piece of bread, her eyes become filled with tears, she is happy and ashamed at the same time; she had to swallow her pride and take food from a stranger like a beggar, like an abandoned woman. It is a very powerful scene.
Dimitri Kirsanoff was born as Marcus David Kaplan in Tartu, Estonia. He was influenced by Russian culture and then later by French culture. He moved to France in the 1920s and changed his name to Dimitri Kirsanoff. He combined Soviet montage with the techniques of the French avant-garde. The result is uncharacteristically narrative for avant-garde.
“Ménilmontant” is a great piece of silent cinema, taking a simple melodramatic plot and transforming it into a deeply affecting work of art with a poetic, intense visual and experimental narrative. Critics consider the film as part of the avant-garde for its technical experiments, dream imaginary, shock and wit elements. It experiments with narrative, uses rhythmic editing and camerawork, and places an emphasis on character subjectivity. The film was shot in 1923, which makes it very progressive as it was shot before the most experimental film of the time, Luis Buñuel’s and Salvador Dalí’s “Un chien andalou” (“An Andalusian Dog”;1929).
Overall, “Ménilmontant” is as actual and timely as it was in the past for its cinematic and narrative techniques as well as its eternal themes of life struggles, feelings and emotions.