Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Report: The Max Linder Story

[post 109]

If I've convinced you in my recent posts that Max Linder is worth knowing about, then you might want to read more, no? But when it comes to books (you remember books) there's still nothing in English devoted entirely to Linder, and the two books in French are both by his daughter, Maud Linder. Luckily, they're excellent and it would be great to see them translated into English.

Max Linder Était Mon Père [Max Linder Was My Father]
by Maud Linder
Paris: Flammarion: 1992

So if you missed or forgot my unforgettable first post on Maud Linder, you may not know that in 1925, still in his early forties, Max Linder — the biggest pre-Chaplin international star — died in a double-suicide with his 21-year-old wife, callously leaving behind a 15-month-old daughter, Maud, who grew up not even knowing who her father was until the age of 20.  This book is less a bio of Linder père and more an account of Maud's rediscovery of her father and her subsequent efforts to rediscover his work and revive his artistic reputation. It's a unique tale of a highly intelligent and motivated woman who somehow managed to separate her deep personal pain from her respect for her father's artistic genius.  No easy thing, and quite admirable.

Les Dieux du Cinéma Muet: Max Linder 
[The gods of silent film: Max Linder]
by Maud Linder
Paris: Editions Atlas, 1992

This is a gorgeous book that every Max Linder fan should own, whether you read French or not. It's designed for the coffee-table at 11½' x 14", with144 glossy pages — 36 pages of text, the rest filled with well captioned, high-quality photographs, including 16 pages of color plates:  Linder on set, Linder on stage, Linder in newspapers and magazines, Linder in real life, Linder on film. Especially tantalizing are publicity stills of Linder from lost films, films whose names we no longer know. 

Here are a few shots to whet your appetite:

The Ciné Goes to Town
French Cinema, 1896–1914
by Richard Abel
(University of California Press, 1998)

Last but not least at a hefty 568 pages is this exhaustively researched and insightful academic study of early French cinema, in which Max Linder is a key player.  I have yet to read all of it, but enough to trust Abel's thorough knowledge of the subject. He is especially strong at tying together the growth of film technique, the social forces in France at the time, and the artistic geniuses involved in forging this new art form. While the French are often criticized for claiming they invented everything, they were in fact the main innovators in early cinema.

Although written before the release of the two Linder DVDs reviewed in my previous post, and only taking us through 1914, Abel did manage to see pretty much every early Linder film available at the time, many of which are still unavailable to the public outside of various European film archives.  It's a bit frustrating to read about films you can't see. Hopefully some day we'll be able to plow through this history with instant access to all of the films covered.


Jonathan Lyons said...

Is that a photo of Max Linder fighting a bull? I'd like to see that to compare it with Cantinflas.

hemmymission said...

A writer should always try to keep its writing very simple and clear. Always use facts which are easily acceptable by general people because they are very close to their assumptions and they welcome such kind of facts.