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Telling the tale of a slyly villainous anti-hero who goes by the code name Filibus, Filibus is a super-oldie from the Silent Era of films, 1915 to be more exact. The Italian movie, directed by Mario Roncoroni and written by future science fiction scribe Giovanni Bertinetti, takes a mildly futuristic tone as Filibus flies about in a specialized dirigible doing crimes.
Starring long-necked, thin-lipped Valeria Creti as Filibus, a character with three identities in this movie, Filibus is an early cinematic depiction of the anti-hero, a style of movie fiction popular at the time, with other such entries like Fantomas achieving success. Filibus is really the Baroness Troix Monde, (clever name, that) a powerful high society woman. Apparently her station in life is not enough, however, as she delights in robbing people of their treasures. There's a bounty on Filibus' head, which her nemesis, the detective Kutt-Hendy hopes to score. Filibus has other ideas, hatching a scheme to frame Kutt-Hendy as the burglar himself!
Filibus employs various high-tech means in her schemes: a heliograph, quick-acting sedative, palm-print gloves, and more. She's aided by a number of seemingly para-military men who pilot her airbus, available at a moment's notice. The most noticeable tools in Filibus' kit are those ‘three worlds' she straddles. She's a wealthy, powerful woman who controls her man-servants easily, she's an androgynous master-criminal, and she masquerades as the nobleman Count de la Brive in order to further her schemes. As de la Brive she even romances Leonora, love-object of Kutt-Hendy's friend, the antiques dealer Leo Sandy.
Filibus at a brief 75 minutes, will of course move more slowly than modern audiences, not wise to the ways of silent cinema, can handle. Nonetheless it's brisk and thrilling by the standards of the day. It's oddly more thrilling by today's back-sliding social standards. The Baroness now feels a revolutionary character, a powerful, self-possessed woman employing gender-fluidity to her own personal ends. She passes easily as a man, her romancing of Leonora hints at lesbianism in a casual way, and Filibus the master criminal tends toward non-binary status with nary a raised eyebrow. As a progressive fiction without an agenda (Filibus just is, unapologetically) Filibus is thrilling.
Filibus, a silent era, proto-sci-fi crime caper, finds the title character moving easily between worlds. She's a powerful Baroness, a master criminal, and more! Notable for employing a quite progressive, though non-aggressive, social platform featuring gender-fluid tropes, it's a movie that for today's audiences sheds its antique origins casually, providing old-fashioned crime caper fun courtesy of a high-tech airbus. While your average movie fan will likely be put off by any silent film, cinema scholars will find this release of Filibus Highly Recommended.
Filibus is presented in a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1.33:1 ratio image, a 2K scan from a restored negative. At 106-years-of-age it's not looking too shabby. It's somewhat marvelous that it still exists at all. The image features various tints to deliniate darkness from light and interiors from exteriors. Overall, you'll see plenty of film damage and every so often extreme softness in multi-layered images of the airbus flying along while hoisting Filibus in its bucket. A sequence in Leo Sandy's mansion features heavy damage to the center of the image, bubbling and nitrate deterioration that is profound, but doesn't extend very long. No doubt this is the best image possible, and details are often nicely sharp for their age.
Filibus comes with three audio tracks, the first a new score from the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, as well as an old-timey piano score composed by Donald Sosin, and lastly Sosin's piano score augmented by a theme song with vocals. All sound quite period appropriate and are presented well, with nice dynamics and range.
Milestone Films and Kino Lorber provide quite a few extras for Filibus. These include short features shown before the 1916 Netherlands premier of the film. (The restoration of the movie is provided by the Eye Filmmuseum of the Netherlands, from the Jean Desmet collection.) The shorts include contemporary Newsreels, one of Canadian soldiers marching (a nod to the World War raging at the time), and one of a capsized boat in Chicago. There is a travelogue of Rapallo Italy, a comedic short about a ruined dress, and a longer short sci-fi subject about a futuristic video-phone and more cross-dressing fun. Kino Lorber has also graced this release with another complete film, Signori Giurati