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Menilmontant 1926)

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Released in France in 1926: The avant-guard story of a young girl's hapless life in a working class neighborhood of Paris.

Directed by Dimitri Kirsanoff

The Actors: Nadia Sibirskaia (the younger sister), Yolande Beaulieu (the older sister), Guy Belmont (the young man), Jean Pasquier (unknown), Maurice Ronsard (unknown).


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Dimitri Kirsanoff (1899-1957) lived in Paris and made a living by playing violin in a Paris movie house. Motion pictures were in their infant experimental mode, and after watching the silent movies that appeared in that movie house he must have decided that he had a better eye for film composition than the directors of the movies that he played for. In 1923 he made a silent picture called 'The Irony of Fate' which I cannot find a copy of. But then in 1926 he made his second silent film, and it is regarded as one of the finest avant-garde motion pictures of all time. Without one word of dialogue, and no text cards explaining what is happening or what is being said, he tells a gripping story that anyone speaking any language can understand and enjoy even today, many years later.

Ménilmontant is a neighborhood on the East side of Paris, France, and at the time was a poor working class area.. In 37 minutes the genius motion picture director Dimitri Kirsanoff spins a story about the hapless life of a young girl in Paris. Using the motion picture camera with avant-garde precision we live the life of a young girl in Paris living with her older sister. The movie opens with the young girl and her sister joyfully playing in the forest near their home. Meanwhile at their home a crazed mad man is killing their parents with an ax. The young girls, now without parents, make their way to Paris and grow up to get jobs in the big city. The younger sister meets a young man and a romance begins. He pushes her for more love, but being a 'good girl' she playfully refuses his advances. But then we watch her in deep reflection as she is marking off each day with a chalk line on a wall and remembering her childhood in flashbacks - what in the world is she counting? Next we see her as she goes to her boyfriend's apartment to share some news with him, but as she approaches she watches him take another girl into his apartment for a good time. But just as we are thinking, 'good riddance to bad rubbish,' we next see the young girl on a lonely park bench with a baby wrapped in blankets, and our heart breaks for her as she accepts scraps of food from a stranger to keep from starving. I won't take you any further down the path of this young girl in the Menilmontant neighborhood in 1926 Paris, except to tell you that once you get into this story you won't tear your eyes away from the screen for one second as the plot pulls you in. Pop a little bowl of white kernel popcorn for this short but powerful story from a genius pioneer of silent films . . . oh, and one more thing. I noticed that the best and most artistic close-up shots are of the young girl Nadia Sibirskaia . . . but seeing her incredible beauty I figured that any director would include as many great shots of her, but this director also had a personal reason for showing off her beauty . . . she was his wife :~)

Nadia Sibirskaia
Nadia Sibirskaia, born 'Jeanne Brunet' in Redon, France
Nadia Sibirskaia and Guy Belmont
Nadia Sibirskaia enters Guy Belmont's apartment for the first time
Guy Belmont
Guy Belmont in Menilmontant
Guy Belmont with another woman
Nadia Sibirskaia watches Guy Belmont take another woman into his apartment
Guy Belmont and Nadia Sibirskaia
Guy Belmont woos Nadia Sibirskaia in his apartment
Guy Belmont
Guy Belmont
Nadia Sibirskaia
Nadia Sibirskaia counts the days and remembers her childhood
Nadia Sibirskaia
Nadia Sibirskaia in her boyfriend's apartment
Nadia Sibirskaia
Nadia Sibirskaia in Menilmontant