The Films of Henri Storck
Henri Storck, like Dekeukeleire, is one of the pioneers of the Belgian cinema; his film career is itself a “history of cinema.” From 1927 through the seventies he has created a vast work which includes both fictional and anthropological films. In 1927, Storck organized a “Club de cinema,” where he met René Clair and Eisenstein. The great cameraman Boris Kaufman, later Storck's collaborator, taught him film technique. In Paris Storck became Jean Vigo's assistant for Zero for Conduct, after which he worked with documentarist Joris Ivens. All the while, he was making experimental shorts and features of enormous originality.
Une Idylle à la Plage (Idyll at the Beach)
Storck's first fiction film is a poetic comedy that explores the beach, tide pools, sand castles, and revolves around painters James Ensor, Felix Labisse and others.
• Directed by Henri Storck. Written by J. Teugals. Photographed by Gerard Perrin. With Raymond Rouleau, James Ensor, Felix Labisse, Leon Spilliaert. (1931, 35 mins, 35mm, Print courtesy of Belgian Government)
Histoire d'un Soldat Inconnu (Story of an Unknown Soldier)
In 1932, Storck took a condemnatory look at professional politicians, putting together a montage of newsreels from 1928, the year of the Briand-Kellogg pact which had as its goal a renunciation of war. Four years later (the year of Briand's death) a feverish atmosphere of rearmament reigned - of which the images of 1928 already gave evidence. The structure of the film derives from the conflict between a utopian ideal (peace) and the inordinate expenditures on defense (which would prove negligible in 1940). Storck focuses on the betrayal of the citizen and veteran, for which the symbol was indeed the miserable “unknown soldier.” The film is a gallery of politicians and chiefs of state in which the images speak for themselves.
• Directed by Henri Storck. (1932, 10 mins, 35mm, sound added 1959, Print courtesy of Belgian Government)
Le Monde de Paul Delvaux (The World of Paul Delvaux)
In this extraordinary study of the artist Delvaux, Storck amalgamated an entirely original synthesis of the painter's images, a poem by Eluard, the music of André Souris, and the discussions of René Micha. The film was made for the Paul Delvaux retrospective of December 1944 at the Fine Arts Museum.
• Directed by Henri Storck. Written by René Micha. Photographed by Storck. Poem by Paul Eluard read by the author in French. Music by André Souris. (1944, 11 mins, 35mm, Print courtesy of Belgian Government)
Sur les Bords de la Camera
“Storck opened another avenue when already, in 1932, he edited non-political extracts from 1928 newsreels and changed them into a reconstitution that today... we can look at again and again.... Between the shots is woven a secret and sly relationship in which appear certain indelible characteristics of the era, this the more so because of having been autocaricatured and stylised. What does one see? Well, the astronomer and the skier, rhythmic dances and little girls playing ball... beauty contests, acrobats... and near the end a large number of scientists exiting from a taxi in opera hats, crowds rush about, factories explode, smoke fills the sky. Everything happens as though Storck foresaw the war (which is confirmed by his Histoire d'un Soldat Inconnu)....” -Jean Queval
• Directed by Henri Storck. (1932, 35mm, silent, Print courtesy of Belgian Government)
Fêtes en Belgique (High Holy Days)
“Storck dedicated Fêtes en Belgique to James Ensor, whom he knew intimately from childhood, and to Michel de Ghelderode. The film is a large fresco in thirteen tableaux. This work of a joyous maturity owes as much to the artistic universe as to European folklore. Storck depicts an explosion of colors, carnivals and processions without falling into the trap of facile (and insignificant) impressionism. Curious about the last vestiges of a folk culture, with which his roots communicate, he celebrates the pagan triumph of the Gilles, the Chinels, and the giants, the mystery of the planting of the May tree.... He has made a long and exemplary ethnographic investigation, surrounding himself with the best informed advisors. But he deliberately avoids didactic commentary, leaving us to enjoy the image without restrictions.” -Luc de Heusch.
Three episodes will be shown tonight: The Carnival of Ostend, The Carnival of Malmedy, The Gilles of Binche.
Notes translated from the French by Hilary Radner.
• Directed by Henri Storck. (1972, Print courtesy of Belgian Government)
Total running time of program approximately 2-1/2 hours. Films may have French subtitles, and translation will be provided when necessary, but most of the films are clearly understandable by the visual material.