source : http://www.nytimes.com/
By Vincent Canby
Published: April 1, 1988
Cinema students who missed »The Man in the Silk Hat » when it was shown on Channel 13 a year ago can catch up with it at the Public Theater, where it opens today.
The film is Maud Linder’s homage to the art of her father, Max Linder (1883-1925), the dapper, innovative French film comedian whose work is often cited for its influence on Chaplin and Keaton. »The Man in the Silk Hat » contains clips from several dozen rarely seen one-reelers made between 1906 and 1916.
In addition, there are clips from his features, including the Hollywood-made »Three Must-Get-Theres, » a parody of Douglas Fairbanks’s »Three Musketeers, » photographed, with the cooperation of Fairbanks, on the sets for the original film. »The Three Must-Get-Theres » was also seen in Miss Linder’s earlier homage, »Max, » shown at the Film Forum in 1980.
»The Man in the Silk Hat » is best when it presents the clips straight, and somewhat less effective when it uses the clips as if they were illustrations of Linder’s life, which was far more troubled than this film cares to acknowledge. At the age of 42, Linder died with his young wife in what has sometimes been described as a suicide pact, and sometimes as a murder-suicide, when his daughter was less than a year old.
Linder’s dapper screen presence -he looks like a cross between Marcello Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini – and his imaginative use of the camera can be fully appreciated only when seen in the context of the time in which he worked. Most of Linder’s finest work was completed by the time Chaplin and Keaton hit their strides. Though he was accepted by the Hollywood community in the early 1920’s, his films were not successful at the American box office.
»The Man in the Silk Hat » is charming as far as it goes. Linder’s work has yet to be explored in relation to his life and to the films being made by others at the same time and afterward. OPERA HAT COMIQUE – THE MAN IN THE SILK HAT, written, produced, directed and narrated by Maud Linder; edited by Suzanne Baron and Pierre Gillette; music by Jean-Marie Senia; production company, Films Max Linder; a Media Home Entertainment Release; a Horizon Releasing Film; released by Kino International Corporation. At the Public, 425 Lafayette Street. Running time: 96 minutes. This film has no rating. Featuring: Max Linder