Did you happen to record Monty Python’s Flying Circus
when it was shown on PBS back in the 1970s?
Do you still have the tapes?
Is there a
If so, please write to me. Thank you!
THE WORKS OF TINTO BRASS
(a.k.a. Marc Chagall, 1952–1962)
Henri Langlois, the semi-insane chief of the Cinémathèque Française, started work on this documentary about his friend Marc Chagall (1887–1985), in 1952 or thereabouts. The IMDb has the story, though a bit garbled:
The above is correct in regard to Joris Ivens and Tinto Brass. As soon as Tinto began with the Cinémathèque, he was apprenticed to Ivens, and it was Ivens who taught him the arcane mysteries of of editing, which became Tinto’s first love. It’s a terrible shame that the movie seems no longer to exist. I can’t believe it just disappeared. Somebody disappeared it, for reasons we cannot know.
Hans Schoots tells us a little more in his book Living Dangerously: A Biography of Joris Ivens (Amsterdam University Press, 2000). On pages 263264 we read:
The above two indented quotes tell us pretty much all we know about this movie. A web page about David Perlov indicates that Chagall was never completed, but, then, that page is not too accurate, as it wrongly posits that Langlois was merely the producer, while Ivens was the director. Another web page about Perlov is looser with the phraseology, leaving needed wiggle room. A brochure about Ivens repeats the incorrect claim that it was he who directed the film. The brochure goes on to mention that “only a few unclear rushes” of Chagall were discovered after a long search. I would like to see those rushes.
The rumor about Langlois supplying Schiffrin with the materials could well explain why various sources confusedly treat the two Chagall films as one. As you plug this info into Google and similar engines, you will find correct claims that among the camera operators were Frédéric Rossif and Jean Guynot, and that the assistant editor was David Perlov, but some of these references continue with the claim that the producer was Simon Schiffrin, that the director was Lauro Venturi, that the music was by Joseph Kosma, and that the narration was by Vincent Price. Those latter credits refer to the the Oscar-winning short film made in 1963 (released in New York City on 17 September 1964) also called Chagall. Actually, the situation is even a bit more confusing. Vincent Price’s narration was for the English-language version. We can see from this clip that the original French version had narration by Claude Dauphin. The French, English, and Spanish versions were issued on DVD in France in 2010. That’s all a bit of a tangled tale, isn’t it?
Here are some links about this most obscure of movies:
The Films of Joris Ivens
Filmografie; de films van Joris Ivens
George Henri Anton Ivens — politischer Dokumentarist oder ethnografisher Filmer?
La Cinémathèque Française
Film de krant: De geruchtenmachine, no 251, January 2004 (Could someone send me a translation please? Thanks!)
The Joris Ivens Papers
Poster by Chagall for the Cinémathèque
Schoots’s story combines several names of monumental importance: Jean and Krishna Riboud, Henri Langlois, Joris Ivens, and Tinto Brass. There is one more name that goes unmentioned in Schoots’s text: Roberto Rossellini, who was also at the Cinémathèque at the time, putting the finishing touches on India matri bhumi and J’ai fait un beau voyage. Neither could be finished on location since Rossellini had been kicked out of India for having scandalized his government sponsors by carrying on an affair with his married scenarist, Sonali Sen Roy Dasgupta, who was also now living in Paris and pregnant with their son Gil. This is almost certainly how and when Roberto Rossellini met Riboud’s ombudsman, Claude Baks (yes, a real name in Latvia), who arranged to help finance La lotta dell’uomo per la sua sopravvivenza and who appeared on camera portraying René Descartes in Blaise Pascal. Baks also apparently had a business arrangement with Rossellini for a project called Caligula, though no paperwork relating to this contract is known to survive.
A thought: If the rumor about Langlois giving Schiffrin materials is true, then it would follow that, at one time or another, Schiffrin had at least portions of Langlois’s version of Chagall. It would follow also that Venturi, as director, would have had access to at least some of the material in Schiffrin’s hands. Schiffrin died in 1985. Lauro Venturi died in 2010. Might their executors know where the source materials are stored?
Shall I tangle this tale even more? Courtesy of a friend in Antwerp, on Wednesday, 4 May 2016, I received the DVD of the Schiffrin/Venturi Chagall, which includes a brochure consisting of excerpts from Venturi’s unpublished autobiography, Lauro’s Movie Time. Venturi quotes a letter from Schiffrin to publisher Albert Skira:
So there you have it! Mystery solved! Chagall, difficult to please, felt bound to Skira and Venturi. He had probably tired of Langlois, and I presume he demanded all the footage, which would explain why it vanished from the Cinémathèque. Chagall may have allowed a few snippets of Langlois’s film to be incorporated into Venturi’s. So if anybody has the Langlois version, it would be the Chagall estate. Who wants to search for it? It is imperative that we locate and rescue this lost film. I’m not going to try. I don’t speak French, Russian, Yiddish, Dutch, or Hebrew. I am not in any way connected with the art world or the film world. I am certain that nobody would listen to me or even acknowledge receipt of my query, not even if paid to do so. (With the rarest exceptions, people in the arts and in showbiz for some reason refuse to deal with the rest of us. Ask the simplest question, for instance about the availability or condition of preprint materials, and you get shot down with a barrage of inquiries about your credentials: “Who sent you? What have you done? Where have you performed? What have you published? Where? What kind of car do you drive? Who do you work for?” and the aggressive interrogation goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. No matter how you answer, you fail the test, with a grade of 0%. I have no idea why this is. People in the arts and in showbiz talk only with others in the arts and showbiz, and only on recommendation of people with whom they already do business. Bizarre. Historians don’t behave that way. Physicists don’t behave that way. Archæologists don’t behave that way. Showbiz and the arts, though, yup.) This is a job for somebody else to do, somebody who does have connections. If you find the film, though, please let me know. This is vitally important to me, and not only to me.
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