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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

DAVID GOLDER (1930)

Probably the biggest revelation in Criterion’s JULIEN DUVIVIER IN THE ‘THIRTIES set, DAVID GOLDER is all but transformed in a restoration that lets you see the film anew.* Duvivier’s debut Talkie (released nearly in tandem with his final silent, AU BONHEUR DES DAMES/’30, his modern take on Zola’s great mercantile novel), there’s nary a technical limp in the film, with Georges Périnal’s roving camera literally gilding past the mobility limitations of the early sound era, allowing Duvivier to refine his images in depth, darkness & constricted frames to fit the dramatic moment. Even the acting, though richly theatrical, largely comes across in this powerful, if not so original story of a wealthy Jewish money manipulator/investor surrounded by friends & family who only prove loyal to his earning power. Suddenly in failing health, Golder at last can question what it is he’s been working himself to death for. As Golder, Harry Baur could be Emil Jannings’ yiddisher cousin, with a large-scaled perf that gains once he’s set things up with some very broad character strokes. The rest of the cast splits between the men (mostly good) and the women (misogynist screechy). In particular, Golder’s putative daughter is hard to read/hard to take, suffering for tru-love & Papa’s largess. Was she meant to come off quite so unsympathetically? Fascinating stuff all the same on many levels: social, political & as film history.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY/DOUBLE-BILL: The David Golder of Irène Némirovsky’s novel seems less Rothschild than Serge Alexandre of STAVISKY fame. Yet that financial scandal (filmed in ‘74 by Jean-Paul Belmondo & Alain Resnais) was a few years off.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Those who only only remember this film from back in the day thru subfusc art-house prints with limited subtitles that had you guessing at much of the plot should definitely give the film another go in this stunningly successful restoration.

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