Specialty DVD Supplier Flicker Alley Announces First United States Release of
Abel Gance’s La Roue (The Wheel)
A new restoration of almost 4 ½ hours, the most complete version of this monumental French film since 1923, La Roue makes its home video premiere on May 6th.
(Los Angeles, CA) Flicker Alley, LLC, a specialty supplier of fine silent films and classic cinema programming, in association with Film Preservation Associates, today announced that the company will release La Roue (The Wheel) by Abel Gance (Napoleon, J’Accuse). Of the film, Jean Cocteau wrote: “There is cinema before and after La Roue as there is painting before and after Picasso.” The home video release follows the film’s North American premiere on Turner Classic Movies by ten days. This marks the first occasion that this essential film has received distribution in the United States, and is the first home video edition to be released anywhere in the world.
Three years in production, and for its time unprecedented in length and complexity of emotion, La Roue pushed the frontiers of film art beyond all previous efforts. It became a source book of cinematic invention that reverberated in countless other classic films over the decades. It was hailed by artists and intellectuals, who recognized it as a stunning advance in modern art. German director G. W. Pabst, an ardent admirer of La Roue, was encouraged by Gance’s example to undertake his own remarkable explorations of human psychology in such silent films as Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Said Akira Kurosawa, “the first film that really impressed me was La Roue.”
This 2-DVD set, which has a retail price of $39.95, includes a new symphonic score composed and conducted by Robert Israel, a short film by poet Blaise Cendrars showing the great work in production, along with a booklet containing an outstanding essay by William M. Drew on the history and impact of La Roue, and comments by Robert Israel on the music score.
Taken to its bare bones, the story deals with Sisif, a locomotive engineer who saves infant Norma from a train wreck and raises her as his adopted daughter. Norma thinks Sisif’s son Elie is her brother, and when the two fall in love, she leaves to marry a virtual stranger. Sisif is also obsessed with her and the plot elaborates this triangular relationship. Abel Gance pioneered a dazzlingly innovative style of rapid montage that revolutionized filmmaking around the world, especially in the works of Eisenstein and his contemporaries in the Soviet Union. Almost every sequence was experimental; as Gance’s cinematographer, L-H Burel recalled, “I’d never come to the end of it if I were to list all the tests we did, all the special effects I invented and all the innovations we launched.”
La Roue was originally shown in France over three days, in 32 reels, with a running time of almost eight hours, but was soon shortened to 12 reels, the maximum length for a typical feature film at the time. This new restoration, produced by Eric Lange, David Shepard and Jeff Masino with invaluable support from Turner Classic Movies, began with a 35mm master positive of this 12-reel version, a Russian print of an 8-reel version, two incomplete tinted nitrate prints of a longer French version, and finally, for two short but critical scenes, a 4-reel abridged version released by Pathe on 9.5mm for home movie screening. Conflating all of this material, the Lobster Film Studios restoration team headed by Eric Lange was able to prepare and digitally restore a 20-reel version, by far the most complete edition of LA ROUE seen anywhere since 1923. This release possesses exceptional pictorial quality and English titles that use the type font and moving photographic backgrounds of the original film.
Flicker Alley: La Roue (1923) in May
Posted by David K. at 4/04/2008 09:22:00 AM