'Finis terrae': Jean Epstein Classic + Rank Gong Man Ken Richmond Dies

Finis TerraeFinis Terrae.

Finis terrae (1929): Jean Epstein classic at London's Barbican

Jean Epstein, best known for his 1928 Gothic silent classic The Fall of the House of Usher, was also responsible for the naturalistic semi-documentary Finis terrae (1929), which will be screened at 3 p.m. on September 17 at London's Barbican Centre. According to the Barbican website, Curt Collective will provide musical accompaniment to Finis terrae, featuring a “daring” new score that “uses oboe, clarinet, trombone, guitars, percussion, electronics and voices, spoken and sung.”

Shot on the coast of Brittany, Finis terrae portrays the hardships faced by Breton fishermen and coastal kelp-harvesters. The cast is composed of non-professional actors: as per the IMDb, François Morin and Jean-Marie Laot, among others. The Latin phrase Finis terrae, by the way, means “the end of the world” or “where the land ends.”

Jean Epstein movies

Jean Epstein directed nearly forty films, including both shorts and features, narrative and documentary works, from the early '20s to the late '40s. Besides The Fall of the House of Usher and Finis terrae, Epstein's movie credits include the 1923 film version of Honoré de Balzac's The Red Inn / L'auberge rouge, with Léon Mathot and Gina Manès; La châtelaine du Liban (“The Chatelaine of Lebanon,” 1934), with Jean Murat and Spinelly; and the mix of adventure, fantasy, and drama La femme du bout du monde (“The Woman from the End of the World,” 1938), with Charles Vanel, Germaine Rouer, and Jean-Pierre Aumont.

Dmitri Shostakovich movies at the Barbican

Also at the Barbican: From Sept. 23-Dec. 10, the Barbican Centre will screen “the biggest season of Shostakovich's work on film ever presented” in the United Kingdom. Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the most renowned Russian composers of the twentieth century, created scores for numerous films.

Among those to be screened at the Barbican are Sergei Yutkevich and Fridrikh Ermler's 1932 political propaganda-cum-love story The Counterplan / Vstrechnye (Sept. 23); Albert Gendelshtein's 1935 post-Revolution civil war drama Love and Hate / Lyubov i nenavist (Oct. 8); and Alexander Faintsimmer's 1955 drama Ovod / The Gadfly (Dec. 10), the tale of a nineteenth-century Italian revolutionary who rebels against both church and state.

Jean Epstein's Finis terrae image: Barbican Centre.

Ken Richmond: Rank's Gongman

The 6-foot-5 wrestler Ken Richmond, 80, the fourth and last bulky man striking the gong before the opening credits of the British Rank Studio films, died of a heart attack on Aug. 3 at his home in Christchurch, on England's south coast.

In 1954, Richmond was paid £100 (approximately US$280 at the time) to bare his chest and take a slow swing at a gong about 5 feet across. (Rank's first gong-striker was bombardier Billy Wells, who struck the gong three times in 1935. The synchronized sound heard by audiences, however, was provided by percussionist James Blades striking a 30-inch Chinese tam-tam.)

Richmond was born in London on July 10, 1926. An amateur heavyweight wrestler, he appeared as an extra in British films, and had a small role in Jules Dassin's film noir Night and the City (1950), in which Richmond, hardly cast against type, played a wrestler.

In 1952, the 265-pound athlete won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, and two years later, he won a gold medal at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.

During World War II, Richmond, a Jehovah's Witness, was jailed as a conscientious objector. In later years, he became a door-to-door missionary for his church.

For his role as Rank's last gong-striker, he was interviewed for Tom Gutteridge's 1985 British TV documentary The Golden Gong, an exploration of Rank's impact on the British film industry. The Rank Studios had closed in 1980.

And by the way, Rank's gong never really rang. It was made of papier-maché.

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