Image Entertainment presents
The Affairs of Anatol (1921)
"It's remarkable, isn't it, how tight a shoe can pinch when it's on the other foot?"- Vivian (Gloria Swanson)
Stars: Wallace Reid, Gloria Swanson
Other Stars: Wanda Hawley, Bebe Daniels, Elliott Dexter
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sexual situations)
Run Time: 01h:57m:08s
Release Date: 2000-09-26
DVD ReviewIf you say the name "Cecil B. De Mille," all that one is likely to think of is extravaganzas such as The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Show on Earth. But DeMille also made much smaller scale films earlier in his career. One of those has just been released on DVD, The Affairs of Anatol, a 1921 film based on the play of the same name by Arthur Schnitzler. Kubrick fans will remember Schnitzler as the author of Traumnovelle, the basis for Eyes Wide Shut.
Much as in the 1999 Kubrick film, we here are focused on the relations between husband and wife and the people who come between them. At center is Anatol, or Tony, deWitt Spencer (Wallace Reid), a well-to-do young married man, who finds himself drawn to women whom he sees as needing rescue. Unfortunately for him, his wife Vivian (Gloria Swanson, a long ways from the gaunt harridan of Sunset Boulevard) doesn't quite appreciate the attention that he gives to these fallen women. He takes on these little projects one too many times for her, leaving him to the wiles of the wickedest of all, an actress by the astonishing name of Satan Synne (Bebe Daniels).
The film takes a wildly cynical tone toward Anatol's idealism and crusades to help the flower of womankind (one of the intertitles even features a windmill, commenting on his quixotic crusade). To make matters the worse for Anatol, nearly all of the women besides Vivian are presented as cruelly misogynistic caricatures; the women he attempts to rescue are all calculating, materialistic, deceitful sluts of one stripe or another. One women he rescues from a suicide attempt at drowning picks his pocket and even counts the money (unseen by Anatol) as he comforts her!
Politically incorrect as this may be, the film is evenhanded in its mockery of men as well. Anatol is a naive boob setting himself up to be taken advantage of by women at every turn. The older and wealthy "Man of Iron" (or "Man of Dough" as his lady friends call him) is coldly calculating; he knows full well that the women love not him but his money, but he recognizes the fact and takes full sleazy advantage of it. At a stage show, the Indian hypnotist (who later reappears as a hypnotist ex machina) entrances Vivian just for purposes of getting her to disrobe. No one is safe from the jabs of this movie, which is a real comedic gem for the misanthropic among us. Even at the end, where one would expect a happy Hollywood ending, matters are left more than a little ambiguous; perhaps all that Anatol has managed to do is corrupt his wife!
A great deal of the appeal of the film comes from its gorgeous production design, costumes and titles. These are all done in a florid Art Nouveau style by the noted artist Erte. One gets the distinct flavor of the Roaring 20s from this picture, complete with decadence. The visual flair alone of this film makes it worth checking out. Affairs of Anatol is quite funny (the inept first aid scene for the drowning victim is truly hilarious) and doesn't deserve the oblivion that it has fallen into.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The picture is quite good for a 1921 vintage film. There are the usual flickerings and contrast problems, and frequent indications of damage. However, the original intertitles with their delicate hand coloring are intact and quite beautiful. There are also several instances of stencil-coloring of particular scenes (such as Satan Synne's dark red cigarette) which almost give the impression of an early Technicolor. The tinting is appropriate and not too dark or thick so as to hide detail. An impressive range of blacks and greys are visible here. In all, a very nice transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a new musical track by Brian Benison. The audio is clear and distortion-free, without hiss. It quite nicely accompanies and comments upon the action on the screen without being obtrusive. Quite a solid silent film score, although I'd prefer it be performed by live musicians rather than a synthesizer.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues
Extras Review: Nothing at all. Chaptering is adequate, but that's it.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsA unjustly forgotten film that has nice dashes of humor and cynicism, given a pretty transfer that emphasizes the visual glory of the picture. Worth a look, especially for the misanthropic viewer.
Mark Zimmer 2000-09-28