The Great Consoler (Hyperkino Edition) DVD
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Directed by Lev Kuleshov
Produced in 1933
Main Language - Russian with English subtitles
An innovative drama based upon the life of American author, O. Henry. Drawing on both silent cinema and early talkie techniques, the end result is consistently dazzling, says Anthony Nield.
Many a famous filmmaker has turned to the works of American author O. Henry for inspiration. Yasujiro Ozu did so early in his career, whilst Howard Hawks was among those contributing to the 1950s Hollywood anthology, O. Henry’s Full House. In 1933 it was the turn of the great Soviet director Lev Kuleshov, who responded with an audacious combination of biopic, adaptation and social critique.
The Great Consoler takes the years Henry spent in prison (accused of embezzlement, though he always maintained his innocence), the short story A Retrieved Reformation and a newly composed tale surrounding a reader. Together they create a multi-tier, overlapping narrative long before the likes of Amores Perros and Pulp Fiction made the approach fashionable.
Utilising both silent cinema and early talkie techniques, the end result is consistently dazzling. Available as one of Ruscico’s ‘Hyperkino’ editions, the viewer has the option watching alongside a wealth of accompanying information. Essays, illustrations and the director’s own notes are just a click of the remote away, there to further enhance our appreciation of this remarkable cinematic achievement.
Anthony Nield on 23rd March 2012
Author of 13 reviews
Addressing the question of the role that a creative person should play in society, The Great Consoler is a melodrama based upon the life of the American author, O. Henry, and the time he spent in prison for embezzlement.
It is set in America in 1899, Bill Porter – the ‘great consoler’ of the title – is in prison, where his writing skills earn him privileges from the governor and he is spared the inhumane treatment meted out to other prisoners. Porter is aware of the brutality around him but, mindful of his conditions, initially refuses to write about prison life, preferring instead to console his companions with romantic fantasies – until grave circumstances change his mind. The film was denounced at the 1935 Communist Party conference, effectively ending Kuleshov’s career.
The film is presented as a 2-disc 'hyperkino edition'. Disc 1 contains the standard film in the best available print, with optional subtitles. Disc 2 contains the film, plus numerous scene-specific annotations, video clips and documents (in Russian and in English). These can be viewed on screen, contextualising the film and enhancing the viewer’s understanding. This innovative format works extremely well and is one of the most exciting developments in DVD for years. It is especially valuable for important works of world cinema whose historical contexts crave further exploration.
Length: 91 mins
Format: DVD B&W
Released: 22nd December 2011
Cat No: HPK3
- 2 discs