ReFocus: The Films of Paul Leni

Edited by Erica Tortolani, Martin F. Norden

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Offers the first comprehensive English-language book on the life and career of Paul Leni
  • Covers many dimensions of Leni's professional creativity, including his early visual and theatrical work in Germany during the 1910s, collaborations with contemporary filmmakers, career in and experiments with set and stage design, and transition from German to Hollywood filmmaking
  • Engages with new historical, analytical, and theoretical perspectives on Leni's most influential films

Silent-era film scholarship has all too often focused on a handful of German directors, including Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau and Ernst Lubitsch, but little attention has been paid to arguably one of the most influential filmmakers of the period: Paul Leni. This collection – the first comprehensive English-language study of Leni’s life and career – offers new insights into his national and international films, his bold forays into scenic design and his transition from German to Hollywood filmmaking.

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List of contributorsChronologyFilmography

Introduction - Erica Tortolani and Martin F. Norden

1. Exploding the Cosmopolitan and Treating the Foreigners’ Foreignness: Paul Leni’s The Diary of Dr. Hart - Jaimey Fisher

2. The Unnatural in the Natural: Leopold Jessner and Paul Leni’s Early Weimar Film Backstairs - Jason Doerre

3. Cinema Panopticum: Wax, Work, Waxworks - Erik Born

4. The Proto-Horror-Comedy: Waxworks - Joel Westerdale

5. Intersectional Avant-Garde: Paul Leni’s Rebus-Film Series and the Confluence of Experimental Visual Styles - Erica Tortolani

6. Bravura Beginnings: Leni and the Art of the Prologue - Martin F. Norden

7. Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary: Adaptation into Genre - Rebecca M. Gordon

8. Specters of the Mind: Ghosts, Illusion, and Exposure in Paul Leni’s The Cat and the Canary - Simone Natale

9. Misfitting in America: Paul Leni, Conrad Veidt, and The Man Who Laughs - Gábor Gergely

10. Masculinity and Facial Disfigurement in The Man Who Laughs - Bruce Henderson

11. Cinematic Space and Set Design in Paul Leni’s The Last Warning - Bastian Heinsohn

12. The Last Warning: Uncertainty, Exploitation, and Horror - Shawn Shimpach

A highly welcome first volume in English on director, set designer, and graphic artist Paul Leni (1885-1929). The excellent essays collected here offer a multifaceted reappraisal of an astonishingly versatile film maker, highlighting the continued relevance of his groundbreaking work for the historiography of German and Hollywood film, and beyond.
Christian Rogowski, G. Armour Craig Professor in Language and Literature, Amherst College
The Films of Paul Leni is a welcome addition to Weimar cinema scholarship and a reminder that Leni’s films are worth a second – and definitely a first close – look.
Claus Tieber, University of Vienna, Early Popular Visual Culture
This book has brought Paul Leni research to a new level in one fell swoop.
Michael Wedel, Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg, Monatshefte
This excellent book fully reinstates Paul Leni’s status as one of silent German and American cinema’s most inventive filmmakers. The contributors of this volume offer fresh perspectives on his diverse oeuvre which encompassed war films and the avant-garde, horror and comedy, expressionism and naturalism.
Tim Bergfelder, Professor of Film and Director of Internationalisation, Southampton University
Erica Tortolani earned a PhD in Film Studies at the University of Massachusetts.

Professor Martin Norden is Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts

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