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Lyrical Nitrate & The Forbidden Quest
Lyrical Nitrate The Forbidden Quest
Actors: Lyda Borelli, Henny Porten, Anni Timm, Joseph O'Conor, Roy Ward
Director: Peter Delpeut
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Classics, Documentary
NR     2004     2hr 1min

A pair of landmark films by found-footage maestro Peter Delpeut that showcase the inimitable beauty and fragility of the cinematic medium. Comprised of deteriorating turn-of-the-20th-century clips recovered from the attic ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Lyda Borelli, Henny Porten, Anni Timm, Joseph O'Conor, Roy Ward
Director: Peter Delpeut
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Classics, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Silent Films, Documentary
Studio: Zeitgeist Films
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 03/30/2004
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 2hr 1min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Dutch, English

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Movie Reviews

Real Ghosts
R. Epstein | USA | 04/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm giving this a perfect score because of the amount of imagination and creativity that went into making both beautiful art and thrilling storytelling, simply from bits of films that are nearly a hundred years old. Lyrical Nitrate is the 'art' film; a mental collage of the people and landscapes of our past. I say 'mental collage' because as the title suggests, some of the nitrate of these antique filmstrips have melted away, leaving us ghostly images that at times seem to look like ectoplasm, forcing us to imagine what is now unseen. That with the incredible music (mostly scratchy 78 recordings of Caruso and the like) give us that eerie feeling like we are not so much looking at history, but at ghostly images of our ancestors. Most of the imagery is so stunning that - especially with the slow-motion effects - we feel we are looking at impressionist paintings that are literally breathing. This stuff is INCREDIBLY beautiful! Not all of it is fascinating, but it leaves as deep an impression in one's mind as any dream

"Forbidden Quest" is the 'thrilling storytelling' film. Once again we have bits of real footage, but director Peter Delpeut has integrated them with a story that is told by J.C. Sullivan (really an actor playing Sullivan), the only survivor of a tragic expedition to the South Pole. His story is sort of a mixture of the real-life trials of the Shackleton expedition, Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth" and TS Eliot's "The Wasteland". Joseph O'Conor (Sullivan) is a brilliant storyteller in fact, at times I wanted to close my eyes and imagine I was listening to a radio play, but of course then I would be missing the amazing real images! I was all welled up with emotion by the time this thing was over because it was done with so much care and imagination: like a novel come to life. I was also done in because this DVD has probably only been seen by a proverbial handful of people. Permit yourself to take up the quest to try something you've never seen in cinema: a mixture of the real and the imagined married to a haunting score and meticulous attention to detail.

Ancient images
Steven Hellerstedt | 11/13/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"A pair of films from Dutch director Peter Delpeut. LYRICAL NITRATE (1991) is a 50-minute compilation of old (1905-1915) silent films, not quite a documentary, not quite a coherent narrative, with a soundtrack comprised of songs recorded during the same period. The film contains short scenes and shots from feature films and documentaries from that period. According to the dvd jacket information, the movie was compiled with "nitrate films found deteriorating in the attic of an Amsterdam cinema." Like all found art this will knock some peoples' sock off, leave others completely cold, and moderately interest the rest of us. I'm one of the moderately interested ones. Much of what we see is too short to make much sense of - children smiling for the camera, traveling shots of Amsterdam - or some European city - taken from a boat or a car. There are some longer scenes - a color-tinted Passion Play, a deteriorating sequence featuring Adam and Eve, a four-or-five minute mini-movie about a man and a woman castaway on a deserted island - but for the most part there isn't much story here.

FORBIDDEN QUEST (1993) is a little more ambitious. It's a fictionalized account of a doomed voyage to the South Pole, recounted in 1941 by an Irish ship-carpenter who is still haunted by the event. Irish character actor Joseph O'Conor plays the now old man with the bad memories. The movie is build like one of those head-on interviews with an off-camera interviewer. The gag here is that the old man's narrative is framed by period (circa 1910) documentary film of Eskimos and polar bears and tall-masted ships stuck in ice. For the most part FORBIDDEN QUEST works a lot better than the other film on this disk. The plot is an adventure story in the style of Jack London, Joseph Conrad and Jules Verne. The ending's a little confusing, and there's disturbing footage of a polar bear hunt, and the momentous puzzlers (human's living on the South Pole, polar bears in the Antartic) don't quite come off as they should. O'Conor is quite good as the old carpenter, though. Had me convinced, anyway.

Both LYRICAL NITRATE and FORBIDDEN QUEST were more interesting than entertaining. The `found' footage in each is pretty mundane, for the most part, and Delpeut probably dresses it up as much as anyone might. Much more entertaining are the "Treasures" and "More Treasures from the American Archives" boxed sets of complete movies from this era.