Slow-Burning Infidelity and Madness in A.W. Sandberg’s The Golden Clown / Klovnen (1926)

January 29, 2018 | By

Yesterday a rare Danish silent screened at the Revue Cinema as part of their ongoing series of circus-themed silents, all accompanied by live music.

A.W. Sandberg’s 1926 remake of his 1917 film Klovnen is a monster. At 128 mins., it’s a lot to digest, though not due to the length, but the gradual slope its characters take before a massive fall that makes up its epic finale.

This is either extraordinary melodrama or a lot of hot air – it really depends on one’s tastes for melodrama – but there’s no denying Sandberg’s power in stretching out how an act of indiscretion occurs, unfolds, ruins, and pushes an artist at the peak of his career to self-destructive depths; only when he’s lost everything does Joe Higgins, former fete of the French nation, think of murder.

Perhaps part of the film’s problem in attracting fans is its classification: it’s an epic tale of indiscretion; an epic tale of a once joyous clown ruined by anger; and a tale of contrasting relationships pure, too idyllic, and highly improper and finite. It’s not really a tale of a clown going batshit crazy or a film that is itself crazy – just insanely detailed in dramatizing a catalogue of highs and lows as one man loses almost everything.

The performances are strong, but star Gösta Ekman is extraordinary – which sounds like outright hyperbole, but it takes great skill to keep audiences on the side of an genuinely good man who makes a succession of terrible decisions and misses last chances after being embarrassingly cuckolded.

The Golden Clown was restored in 2006, and is ripe for a Criterion-styled edition, given it’s unavailability on home video, but its limited circulation also means any chance to catch it on the big screen is a great treat, especially with live music, as occurred Sunday January 28th at the Revue, with Jeff Rapsis performing his score for 128 mins. straight.

Check out the lengthy review, and coming soon are some podcasts related to the Revue’s silent film series. Upcoming entries include Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), Alfred Hitchcock’s boxing film (!) The Ring (1927), and the rare Lon Chaney thriller The Shock (1923).

Coming next: reviews of Woody Allen’s Bananas (1971) and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) on Blu from Twilight Time, plus a review of Peter Roffman’s tome Dear Guelda: The Death and Life of Pioneering Canadian Filmmaker Julian Roffman + reviews of several Julian Roffman features and short films.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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