The Little Match Girl (1928)

I first (and last) saw this at a short film night which, from memory, Brett Garten was running back in 2003 at Candy’s Apartments in King’s Cross… this was the second installment when he showed an assortment of French shorts (also including Lamorisse, Séchan and Resnais); I don’t recall there being a third, probably because the venue wasn’t great (the heinously expensive drinks didn’t help). Conditions were somewhat happier at home this afternoon, although Lionsgate’s print (which I assume is the best available) looks about as rough as the one I saw back then, and sounds nearly as rough as it looks; the DVD oddly credits Marc Perrone with the music but the soundtrack is clearly the one credited on the print itself which seems to have been recorded the year after the film’s French premiere… Anyway, the film adapts the Hans Christian Anderson story, with Mrs Renoir once again in apparently her last lead role for hubby, in which capacity she probably is way too old to be playing the girl selling matches (Mary Pickford might’ve got away with it better); Renoir himself somewhat jettisons the last bit of Anderson’s original story in favour of an extended fantasia of his own. Jean Tedesco is usually called the film’s co-director, though the print actually lists him and Renoir as “producteurs” and credits Renoir alone with “mise-en-scène”; Tedesco’s Theatre du Vieux-Colombier was one of the first repertory cinemas in the world, and also hosted avant-garde film screenings, and Renoir’s Little Match Girl appears to have been made to be shown at Tedesco’s cinema (as well as having been shot in his studio). It’s OK, but I still didn’t find myself blown away by it; there are those who think this is his best silent film but somehow I never found it as emotionally involving as Renoir presumably meant it to be. Interesting as an experiment without perhaps being an actual success.

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