From this stanza, the uncomplicated scenario follows a young woman shamed by loving and pursuing a man who’s more interested in her sister. Slight as it sounds, the triangle premise is nonetheless compelling, the minimalism of
story and storytelling allowing an unencumbered glimpse at everyday Balinese living, dances and gestures to the gods
, courtship, ancient games and sport, and spiritual ceremonies and customs — most of it steeped in lush color and pageantry. The islanders’ values and reliance on prayer and worship may be lost on jaded western eyes some seventy years after the fact, but Robert Snyder’s documentary, Gods of Bali
, thoughtfully included with Legong
on the DVD, is an excellent reference source. It explains and illustrates primeval Balinese practices, from the fixed training of their children all the way to public cremation services for the departed.
On location to shoot Legong
and faced with the language barrier and snags with translators, Gaston Glass, by that time an established performer, acted out scenes for the inexperienced native cast to emulate. Their lack of polish compliments the unobtrusive style of Henri de la Falaise, who was relatively green to the picture business himself. A decorated war hero, the Marquis moved from Europe to America, had been married briefly to Gloria Swanson, and then to actress Constance Bennett who set up a production company, most likely as a means to travel and keep hubby busy. For Legong
, they entrusted the photography — its pivotal ingredient — to William H. Green
when he was a second-unit journeyman and employee of the Technicolor Corporation. Fortunately the gamble paid off, and the combination of new and untried talent is as unpretentious as the setting itself.
The UCLA Film and Television Archive restored Legong
using prints from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Seen today, the two-strip Technicolor recalls the gentle yet defined color of pre-1960’s rotogravure printing. The original soundtrack music by Abe Meyer
sounds fine, but Milestone commissioned an alternate-track score composed by Richard Marriott
and I Made Subandi (both of whom are interviewed on the DVD), performed by Gamelan Sekar Jaya
and the Club Foot Orchestra. Purists may balk at such revisions, and the brilliant sound of the new recording juxtaposed with the older film may at first be a distraction. But it ultimately lends body and dimension, underlining the imagery and scenario with perhaps more compassion and understanding than Meyer would allow.
Henri de la Falaise continued exploring primitive civilization with Kliou, the Killer
. Filmed in two-strip Technicolor in Vietnam, it follows a young hunter tracking down the tiger responsible for killing villagers and livestock. Although not as elaborate as the earlier picture, Kliou
is equally as valuable. Milestone has included it on the DVD as well, albeit struck from a less-than-pristine 16mm black and white print. (Complete color versions are believed to be gone forever.) Together these films form a rare portrait of regions and people who stood within reach of the Neolithic Age — less than one hundred years ago.