Don Quixote (France-Great Britain, 1933):
(The Adventures of Don Quixote)

Another finicky object d'art adaptation by G.W. Pabst, giving the Cervantes material the same almond-flavored pictorialism plastered all over The Threepenny Opera. Made primarily as a record of the legendary Russian basso Feodor Chaliapin, the film was shot simultaneously in German, British and French versions, each with its own supporting cast. I saw the British and French versions, though except for the varying degrees of music-hall grouchiness in the Sancho Panza incarnations of George Robey (Cockney pushiness) and Dorville (Gallic shrugging), Pabst relies largely on identical shots, angles, camera movements and bits of business. (One jazzily edited windmill sequence is tossed in to appease any cultists searching for links to Pabst's silent-movie roots.) Whatever the language, though, the movie should have been subtitled The Chaliapin Show -- already in his sixties, stomping around in tattered armor and fracturing phonetic English, he is less overwhelming than galvanizingly overripe, theatricalizing the space around him as surely as Garbo over at the MGM lot. Jacques Ibert wrote five songs for the score, though for the life of me I can't remember one. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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