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The Girl Without a Soul

Tuesday, September 29, 2015, 8 p.m., Dryden Theatre

(John H. Collins, US 1917, 80 min., 35mm)

Silent Tuesdays. John H. Collins is one of the great “What if . . . ?” figures of American cinema, a brilliantly creative filmmaker who went from being a costume department assistant to a major director within four short years before dying at the age of 31 in the 1918 influenza pandemic. Founding film curator James Card was a passionate devotee of Collins’s work, and it is through his influence that George Eastman House is the principal repository of Collins’s few extant films, which show both a subtle understanding of human nature and often breathtakingly daring cinematography and editing. The Girl Without a Soul stars Viola Dana (to whom Collins was married) in a dual role as twin sisters, one of whom is a gifted violinist and the other a deeply troubled girl jealous of her sister’s abilities and the love bestowed upon her by their violinmaker father. This jealousy and the violinist sister’s unworldliness lead both into turbulent moral conflict, which takes considerable fortitude from both to overcome. 

Live piano accompaniment by Philip C. Carli.