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THE SWALLOW AND THE BLUE TIT

France, 1983 (MIFF 1987)

Director: Andre Antoine

Realised in 1920, The Swallow And The Blue Tit is a silent film about love, treachery and smuggling among barge dwellers. "The Swallow" and "The Titmouse" are barges captained by Pieter Van Groot who, accompanied by his wife and her younger sister, traverse the canals of Belgium and France ferrying coal and construction material for areas devastated by World War I. On the side, Van Groot smuggles diamonds and his wife lays aside a cache of delicate Belgian lace.

The film turned out to be more of a documentary, which led the original distributor to think that it wasn't commercial enough. He demanded more action but director Andre Antoine refused. The cutting copy was lost but six hours of rushes were found a few years ago in the vaults of the Cinematheque. "In the midst of the debate about 'colourisation' of old films, it is a revelation to be reminded of just how eloquent some of those early black-and-white productions were." [San Francisco Chronicle 30/1/87). Henri Colpi, the French editor of Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year At Marienbad, was commissioned to produce a final print.

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