Somewhere deep in my unconscious lurk two demons. Black and white bovine spirits haunt me. Visions of their wedding are burned into dark corners of my mind. Remnants from my first visit to Paris.
It was supposed to be a showing of the original silent era Phantom of the Opera movie, but somewhere, something went horribly wrong. Not speaking enough French to interact with the teller my girlfriend and I purchased two tickets to the evening show at a theater near Les Halles. The poster for the Phantom informed us that there would be a live pianist accompanying the film using the original accompanying score.
When we entered the theater the lights were up but the piano music already filled the room. We found seats near the aisle close to the door, near the back. The theater was full and soon the lights went down.
In the beginning we thought there was a free short film before the main show. Black and white Russian words filled frame after frame—with French translations. Then scenes of a farm, Russian peasants working hard to eek a living from the land.
After 10 minutes we wondered if perhaps we had made a mistake. The theater only had one screen and the tickets did not have the movie name printed on them. After 30 minutes we decide that we must have made a mistake. By now the peasants had received a gift from the communist party: a tractor. And a cow. Soon the nightmare began.
The peasants went to the authorities again this time they were after a bull. When they returned to their village they held a party. Soon the screen was filled with the image of the lowly village cow, a gift to the collective from the central authorities, draped in flowers.
Cut to an image of the bull with bells and flowers hanging from his horns. He turns his head.
Cut to the cow, she sees the bull.
Cut to the bull as he begins walking.
Now the cow is walking.
The bull begins to run.
The cow is running.
…and we’re running for the door.
Outside the theater we found the important detail we overlooked in our enthusiasm for the silent Phantom… the show dates were still a few weeks away. We left before our film was over and without knowing the name. But with memories of a bovine wedding that still haunt my dreams.
So I have decided to exercise these demons. After years of wondering what movie I walked out of I have embraced the wonders of the internet and discovered that the movie is called “The General Line” or “Генеральная линия” in Russian [imdb.com]. It was even released in the US under the title “The Old and the New” in 1930, interesting for a Soviet Propaganda film. Turns out it is by Sergei Eisenstein [wikipedia.org] who apparently is a good director, he has several films released by the Criterion Collection [criterion.com]. A bit more hunting lead me to the Yahoo store of International Historical Films [ihffilm.com]…
I await my package with sweaty palms…