L’ Uragano (IT, 1911)

When I get bored, I turn to the Desmet collection, and it never fails to give me something interesting.

L’Uragano is an early drama by Pasquali film, an important and influential early studio.

Gretha/Renata has to get a job after her parents die, but gets mixed up with human traffickers who force her to work in an upscale brothel, the “Salon”.

Rudolf/Andrea is a fuckboy who has been seeing Agatha/Clotilde, whom he does not love (why see her, then, Rudolf?). He sees Gretha and falls in love with her but loses track of her on the street; he ghosts Agatha to try to find her. Agatha finds out he’s ghosted her and vows revenge.

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Gretha runs into Agatha when Agatha saves her from a car accident. Rudolf finds out Agatha knows Gretha and asks her for help.

Agatha presents Gretha to him as a virgin girl. Gretha vows she cannot marry Rudolf if he doesn’t know she’s been a prostitute. She writes him a letter but Agatha hides it from Rudolf until after the wedding, hoping the shock of finding out her secret will turn Rudolf against her.

Rudolf’s friend, the marquis, who knows Gretha from her prostitution days, finds out about this and hides the letter. Agatha, fed up, just tells Rudolf. Rudolf gets angry, but Gretha is all “I wrote you a letter, I never lied!”. He doesn’t believe her, until the marquis produces the letter. Rudolf forgives her.

1911 is an interesting year for film, as studios get established and they start experimenting with longer and longer films. At 40 minutes, this film is average in length for a feature; several movies of over an hour were produced that year, and a greater number of two and three reel films.

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Very early cinema is a feast of visual experimentation and interest, more like meme videos are now than modern ideas of cinematic film. But with the rise of longer features, it seems to me that the style became more torpid. L’Uragano is pretty boring visually, with everything shot statically and mid-range. On the other hand, the plot is interesting, if misogynist, and the pacing is excellent.

Lydia de Roberti  is deliciously melodramatic and wild-eyed as Agatha, the clear anti-hero of this movie. I think Gretha is played by Annita d’Armero, whose idea of playing tragedy is to jerk her arms around and look mildly annoyed. I don’t know who plays Rudolf but he’s got the looks and acting skills of a two bit vaudeville player.

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The best thing about this movie is the fashion, which is AMAZING. You could watch this just for the hats and dresses. The weirdest thing about 1911 fashion is how much formal sexy dresses of the era look like formal sexy dresses of 2019. Make them see-through and you could wear all of them right now.

This is a pretty accessible early feature; easier (and better) than one of the epics from this time that are more part of the canon.

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