Flesh and the Devil Silent Cinema Rerun of the cycle "Melodrama and the star system"

Flesh and the Devil

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Román Gubern

Flesh and the Devil (El demonio y la carne, USA, 1927) by Clarence Brown, featuring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. (116 minutes)

Presentation: Román Gubern

Flesh and the Devil by Clarence Brown was the North American film that turned Greta Garbo into the "Divine". She played a femme fatale, a devastating vamp capable of ruining masculine loyalties, but her erotism as very stylized. She starred together with John Glbert and in two famous scenes they reinvented the technique of kissing in front of the camera.

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  1. Román GubernRomán Gubern

    Catedrático emérito de Comunicación Audiovisual de la Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicación de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, de la que ha sido decano. Ha sido presidente de la Asociación Española de Historiadores del Cine y pertenece a la Association Francaise pour la Recherche sur I'Historie du Cinema. Miembro de la Academia de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas de España, de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, y de la New York Academy of Sciences. Ejerció la docencia y la investigación en la Universidad de Southern California, en el MIT (Instituto Tecnológico de Massachusetts) y en el Instituto Tecnológico de California. Fue director del Instituto Cervantes en Roma.

    Asimismo ha escrito los guiones de películas como Mañana será otro día (1967), España otra vez (1968) y Un invierno en Mallorca (1969), todas de Jaime Camino, Ensalada Baudelaire de Leopoldo Pomés (1978) y Espérame en el cielo de Antonio Mercero (1991).

    Entre sus libros figuran: Historia del cine (1969), Godard polémico (1969), El lenguaje de los comics (1972), Mensajes icónicos en la cultura de masas (1974), Literatura de la imagen (1974), Cine español en el exilio (1976), El cine sonoro en la II República (1977), La caza de brujas en Hollywood (1987), Del bisonte a la realidad virtual (1996), Proyector de luna (1999) Máscaras de la ficción (2002), Patologías de la imagen (2004), Los años rojos de Luis Buñuel (2009, con Paul Hammond), Metamorfosis de la lectura (2010) y el libro recopilatorio Cultura audiovisual. Escritos 1981-2011 (2013). En 2014 ha publicado actualizada su Historia del cine.

Flesh and the devil (1927), directed by Clarence Brown and starring the Swedish actress Greta Garbo, is one of the most captivating portraits of love passions and treasons offered by Hollywood during its silent film period. Its exaltation of the passion of the so called amour fou, beyond any rule or social and moral conviction, moved the surrealists of the time, including Luis Buñuel. Based on a fin du siècle novel of the German Herman Sudermann, and set in the Central European aristocratic environment, the author did not get to see it finalized, as he passed away in 1928. Garbo played a devastating femme fatale, stylized by an elegance that put her beyond carnal eroticism. In an even bigger paradox, her name in fiction was Felicitas, and years later she would confirm that she played Felicitas "with every muscle of my body", in anticipation to the drama technique of the Actor's Studio after World War II. It might have helped her that at that time she was the lover of the director John Gilbert, who shared the cast and dressed her love scenes with a torrential reality. The publicity of the time cunningly assured that the film offered the first "horizontal" love scenes in the history of cinema, and as a matter of fact, in two famous moments the tape by Clarence Brown reinvented with the starring couple the kiss technique in front of the camera. The independence in the private life of the actress -she refused to get married regardless of the interested pressure of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer- and the haughty dignity of her roles in the screen made equally admired by men and women, who saw in her an envied model of autonomy and personal liberation.

Román Gubern