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Muelsch on Camerman Boris Kaufman

November 28, 2018

Dr. Elisabeth Muelsch, professor of French and Film Studies Chair, has just published an article on the cameraman Boris Kaufman in France’s leading film history journal 1895 Revue d’histoire du cinéma no. 85.

1895 cover

Boris Kaufman received an Oscar for his cinematography for Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954).  He was one of America’s famous cameramen of the 1950s and 1960s (12 Angry Men, 1957; The Pawnbroker, 1964).

He began his career, however, in France, and Dr. Muelsch’s article “Les Halles (1929), une oeuvre charnière dans le développement du jeune opérateur et cinéaste Boris Kaufman?” focuses on his early short film Les Halles, a film that she and Angelo State Russian instructor Ewa Davis have co-taught in their “French, German and Russian Film in the 1920s” classes.

The writing of this article involved much archival research, and Dr. Muelsch extends her gratitude to Ewa Davis for translating some of the Russian sources.

From the publisher’s notes:

In 1929, Boris Kaufman and André Galitzine made a film about the city’s central market, Les Halles.  For many years, the first part, lasting roughly 9 minutes, was considered to be the entirety of the film, or what was left of it.  However, the actual film lasts more than 22 minutes.  It was rediscovered in 2000, in the apartment of the Swiss Ambassador August Lindt in Bern, who had passed away earlier. A relative, Jakob Lindt, gave the film to David Landolf, director of Lichtspiel/Kinemathek in Bern, who gave it to the CNC for restoration.  Dr. Muelsch seeks to trace the history of this lesser known Kaufman film, while at the same time illuminating the little-known personality of Boris Kaufman, Dziga Vertov’s little brother, who became a co-director and cameraman for Jean Lods and Jean Vigo, and later on a well-respected cinematographer in the USA.  The article analyzes the structural relationship the film has with Zola’s novel The Belly of Paris, highlighting Kaufman’s stylistic choices, those that can be related to the French Avant-Garde, and those that echo the Vertovian theory of Cine-Eye.

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