Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Before The Lonely Villa: tracking down the origins of the telephone thriller and alternating editing and crosscutting / parallel editing.
E-subtitles in Italian, grand piano: Stephen Horne, viewed at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone, Cinema Verdi, 8 October 2008.
The Lonely Villa. US 1909. PC: Biograph. D: D.W. Griffith; DP: G.W. Bitzer, Arthur Marvin; cast: David Miles (husband), Marion Leonard (wife), Mary Pickford (daughter), Gladys Egan, Adele De Garde, Owen Moore, Mack Sennett; 850 ft /16 fps/ 14 min; print: LoC. - Tom Gunning: "Mr. Cullison has responded to a false note telling him to meet his mother-in-law at the train station, and left his wife and daughters alone in their large country house. The note was sent by a gang of thieves to draw him out, and they have proceeded to burglarize the villa. The wife and daughters hear unexplained noises and discover the attempt to break into the house. At that very moment, the husband calls to say he has car trouble and learns of their plight. As he speaks to his wife, the burglars cut the telephone wires. Desperate, the husband enlists the aid of a policeman and, his car still out of commission, commandeers a gypsy wagon for a race to the rescue. Meanwhile, the burglars have broached the doorway and penetrated into the various rooms of the villa, and burst through the doors the wife has barricaded. They clear the last obstacle and are snatching the pearl necklace from Mrs. Cullison’s throat when the father arrives with the policeman and the family is saved." – Tom Gunning [DWG Project # 150]. - A brilliant image, no titles in this print.
Le Médecin du château / Der Arzt des Schlosses / The Physician of the Castle [GB] / A Narrow Escape [US]). FR 1908. PC: Pathé. D: ?; 367 ft /16 fps/ 6 min; print source: BFINA / Josef Joye Collection. Deutsche Titel (in the beginning?), English titles (in the end?). - Not a top print but from a source with a good definition of light. - Henri Bousquet: "Dr. Amy is unexpectedly called to the castle by a message delivered by an unknown person. No sooner has he left than two thieves break into his house. The doctor’s wife seeks refuge in the study; from there she calls her husband by telephone. She piles some furniture against the door, well knowing that this will only briefly keep out the malefactors. But on receiving the call the doctor has leapt into his car and returns home at full speed. On the way he meets two game-keepers and takes them along with him. They arrive just as the two bandits enter the office. After a brief struggle they capture the two villains.” – Henri Bousquet (Catalogue Pathé)
Terrible angoisse. FR 1906. PC: Pathé. D: Lucien Nonguet; 78 m /16 fps/ 4 min; print: AFF/CNC. - (Pathé catalogue supplement, March 1906): “A brilliant lawyer, on holiday, is suddenly called to the Palace of Justice. During his absence, burglars break into the house and the lawyer’s wife has only time to run to the telephone to call her husband. While she is telling him about the presence of the malefactors, they leap at her throat and strangle her, together with her little son. Hearing nothing from the other end of the phone line, the unhappy lawyer guesses what is happening, and, crazed with grief, rushes home; he throws himself upon the corpses of his beloved spouse and his child.” (Pathé catalogue supplement, March 1906). - AA: a soft image in this print (digimastered?).
The Watermelon Patch. US 1905. PC: Edison. D: Edwin S. Porter, Wallace McCutcheon [Sr.? Jr.?]; cast: Florence Auer?; 35mm, ?? ft., ?’ (16 fps); fonte copia/print source: Museum of Modern Art, New York. No intertitles. - André Gaudreault, Philippe Gauthier: "The Watermelon Patch contains one of the rare prototypes of cross-cutting (in early cinema). The film’s storyline can be summarized as follows: two whites chase a small group of blacks caught stealing watermelons from a field. The film’s action is so convoluted, and its narrative secondary to attraction to such a degree, that it is not easy to identify the alternating structure present in it. But this structure truly is present in the film, even if it is far from jumping out at us. Alternating editing is a discursive configuration whose minimal form is the recurrence of each term in two series. In other words, it is impossible to speak of alternating editing when only one of the terms recurs (A-B-A). At a minimum, it requires that each series recur (A-B-A-B). Cross-cutting, for its part, is only one of the forms of alternating editing within which series of events supposedly unfold simultaneously in the narrative universe suggested by the film. Thus, in our view, The Watermelon Patch is a true example of cross-cutting. (...) Here, then, is a film which demonstrates a degree of narrative planning and sophistication quite rare for 1905. It is the true prototype of cross-cutting, for which film historians of every generation have been searching for many years now. And it is the prototype of cross-cutting despite the fact that it is just as much a worthy representative of the paradigm of attraction." – André Gaudreault, Philippe Gauthier. - An important discovery in the research of alternating editing (montage alternant), and crosscutting or parallel editing (montage alterné) as illuminated in Gaudreault and Gauthier's essay in The Griffith Project 12 book. - Also a disturbingly racist film.

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