Sunday, October 04, 2009

The Corrick Collection 3: Programme 1

Presented by Meg Labrum, e-subtitles in English + Italian, grand piano: [Philip Carli announced] in reality Antonio Coppola. Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone, 4 Oct 2009.

J'ai perdu mon lorgnon
(Pathé, FR 1906) D: Charles Lucien Lépine; DP: Segundo de Chomón; 35mm, 259 ft, 4'19" (16 fps); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #70). No intertitles.
Hilarity ensues after a man unwittingly drops his eyeglasses into his morning tea and is forced to go about his daily business with drastically impaired sight. Advertised by the Corricks as The Short-Sighted Man, this is one of several collaborations between director Charles Lucien Lépine and special effects master Segundo de Chomón produced while they were with the Pathé company. Two more can also found in the Corrick Collection: Appartement à louer (1906) and Le Tour du monde d’un policier (1906). – Leslie Anne Lewis. - A farce based on short-sightedness. Finally the spectacles are found in the coffee cup. A passable visual quality.

La Métallurgie au Creusot
Creusot’s Metallurgy [title of the print] (Pathé, FR 1905) D: ?; 35mm, 506 ft, 8'26" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original stencil-colour and tinting); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #23). English intertitles.
This early industrial film detailing the forging process at Schneider and Co.’s historic steelworks factory in the town of Le Creusot in France’s Burgundy region is remarkable for its strikingly detailed coloring evoking the dark, close interior of the plant, at times lit only by the glowing-hot metal as it is guided by the skilled hands of shadowy workers. A report on the factory published in Scientific American (9 May 1885) described the sheer, overwhelming power of its machine-works: “If we remark that a power of one horse does in one hour the equivalent of a man’s labor per day, we conclude that these machines (which run night and day) represent an army of 160,000 men that lends its gratuitous aid to the workmen of the forge. This is what is called progress in industry.” The film effectively expresses the full scope of this power with shots of the burning coals and raging fires, billowing smoke, the massive steam hammer, and other machinery as it follows the “fiery blocks being taken to the rolling machines in order to be given the most diverse forms, according to the requirements of commerce”. Hardly a dry depiction of a commercial enterprise, La Métallurgie au Creusot evokes a hellish landscape of modern industrial processing. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Non-fiction. Like an educational film on metallurgy. Ok print, impressive stencil colour.

La Belle au bois dormant
(Pathé, FR 1902) D: Lucien Nonguet, Ferdinand Zecca; AD: V. Lorant Heilbronn; 35mm, 761 ft, 12'41" (16 fps), col. (printed on colour stock, reproducing original stencil-colour and tinting); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #111). English intertitles.
Pathé released their first version of Charles Perrault’s classic 1697 “Sleeping Beauty” story in 1902, telling the tale of a beautiful princess, a sharp spindle, and a 100-year-long curse. Similar to other early Pathé dramas such as Marie-Antoinette (1904), Le Règne de Louis XIV (1904), and Don Quixote (1903), the narrative is organized as a series of tableaux, relying on the viewer’s familiarity with the story to hold the onscreen narrative together. Each of the 11 tableaux is a single shot, filmed from a distance on a theatrical stage-type set with painted backdrops. The last scene, “Fairy Land End”, is vibrantly colored and stenciled in great detail. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - A féerie in the early cinema's tableau style, with several independent episodes, including dance numbers. Monkey island, mysterious oak, fairy grotto. Impressive stencil colour in the fairy-land scene.

[The Day-Postle Match at Boulder Racecourse, Western Australia]
(Leonard Corrick, AU 1907) D: Leonard Corrick; DP: Leonard Corrick; 35mm, 378 ft, 6'18" (16 fps); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #19).
After purchasing a motion picture camera in February 1907, the Corricks began making their own films under the direction of son and designated “Kinemato Expert” Leonard. The Day-Postle Match was the third produced in their first month of filming, following Street Scenes in Perth, Western Australia and Bashful Mr. Brown (screened at the Giornate in 2007 and 2008 respectively).
The film (also known by similar titles such as The Day-Postle Race, The Postle-Day Running Race, etc.) features the 200- and 300-meter championship races between Irishman R. B. Day and Australian sprinting champion Arthur Postle, who was known as “The Crimson Flash.” Held on 10 April 1907 at Boulder racecourse in the goldfields of Western Australia, this was a reprise of the famous 5 December 1906 race held at that same track outside the town of Kalgoorlie, where Postle beat then-champion Day to secure his status as the world champion.
When the film premiered in Kalgoorlie soon after the event, Postle came to see the race onscreen and was invited onstage to address the crowd. The Day-Postle Match was one of the Corricks’ most heavily promoted films over the next year and throughout their international tour, though it isn’t clear if they informed audiences that this was not a recording of the original world record-setting race. The film received favorable reactions not only from Australian viewers, but also from the colonial audiences that made up the majority of attendees at Corrick concerts throughout South and South-East Asia. When a new program was announced for the family’s next performance, ads assured potential audiences that this racing film would remain on the bill.
Some flavor of the excitement in the air felt at the film’s premiere comes through in a detailed account published the next day in the Kalgoorlie Miner (13 April 1907): “The people were not kept long in waiting for the reproduction of the views which had been taken on the afternoon of the Postle-Day championship match by Mr. Leonard. Prior to the picture being thrown upon the screen, Mr. Corrick announced that the management had not had an opportunity to judge the quality of the presentation. He therefore craved indulgence if any defects were visible and promised they would be remedied in future productions. When the operator had had time to fix his film in the machine and threw his first picture upon the screen, cheers arose from all parts of the theatre. Although one or two of the views will require slight touching up, the general verdict of those who had the privilege of witnessing the display was one of unqualified approval and unstinted praise.
“The picture of the grandstand, the Leger stand and enclosure, thronged by the public, with parts of Boulder City and the mines of the Golden Mile in the distance, were particularly bright, clear, and distinct. Numberless faces and figures were easily recognizable by their acquaintances. The scene in the straight when Postle came out to take his part in the 200 yard event was especially fine, and no difficulty was experienced in picking out the counterfeit presentment of the Australian champion ready to do battle for the pedestrian supremacy of the world. Officials upon the track were clearly outlined, this more especially being the case with a resplendent figure in white, who in ordinary attire attends to his duties as a member of the Kalgoorlie Council. … Postle breasting the tape and slowing down was the occasion for the spectators in the theatre building to renew the cheers and other forms of approbation which marked his victory on the Boulder Racecourse.
“…When the film had unrolled to the end, the pleasure of the audience was made manifest by the rounds of cheers that were set up to mark the public sense of the skillful way in which the company’s photographer had completed his task and transferred the results from the negatives to the films.”
The account did note that some scenes “were not quite successful” and that the awards ceremony was “enveloped in shadows”, but it seems the enthusiasm of the crowd at the novelty of seeing an on-screen replay of such a recent high-profile event was enough to make up for any of these shortcomings. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Non-fiction. Long pans on the audience. Visual quality ok, not great.

Who Stole Jones' Wood?
(Lubin, US 1909) D: ?; 35mm, 286 ft, 4'46" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting);from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #135).
Advertised by the Corricks as Who Stole Casey’s Wood, this is one of the most extensively decomposed films still remaining in the NFSA Corrick Collection. Luckily Lubin’s advertisement for the film contains the following detailed description that provides modern audiences with the means to make sense of the at-times obscured action: “Jones had a nice little wood-pile ready for the cold weather. Mike, his neighbor, steals the wood in the night time. Jones is bound to find out where his wood went. He points a gun toward the door, puts a string on the door-knob and lies down to await developments. He falls asleep, however. As soon as Mike sees his neighbor asleep he jumps over the fence and hands the wood to his wife. He then turns the gun towards Jones, the door opens and Jones is rudely awakened from his sweet dreams. Jones tries again. He fills an empty log with gunpowder and put [sic] this log on top of the wood-pile. Night time. Mike comes for a new supply. Unfortunately he takes hold of the powder filled log. There is an explosion and the guilty one and his wife are thrown into Jones’ yard.” – Leslie Anne Lewis. - A display of massive decay on the source print. Antonio Coppola reacted to the view of visual abstraction dancing on the screen by starting to play jazz.

"And a Little Child Shall Lead Them"
(Biograph, US 1909) D: D.W. Griffith; DP: G.W. Bitzer; cast: Marion Leonard (Mother), Arthur Johnson (Father), Adele De Garde (Daughter), David Miles (Lawyer), Anita Hendrie (Maid), Mack Sennett (Servant); 35mm, 354 ft, 5'54" (16 fps); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #11).
“This is one of the most pertinent proverbs ever propounded, for the tiny hand of the babe has power to turn the universe.” (Biograph Bulletin No. 224) Such is the case in this melodrama, showing the strain on a marriage after the death of a baby, which could only be healed by the innocent question of another young child. The Corrick Collection contains original release prints of two D.W. Griffith films: “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them” and The Lonely Villa (1909). Though a small detail, it is worth noting a discrepancy between the film’s Biograph Bulletin entry, which describes 7 years passing between the death of their first child and the couple’s imminent separation, and the intertitle in this print, which reads that in fact 8 years have passed. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - A rare instance of a Griffith film with the original intertitles. The little girl who brought her parents back together again. Ok print.

How Jones Lost His Roll
(Edison, US 1905) D: Edwin S. Porter; 35mm, 442 ft, 7'22" (16 fps); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #63).
A parable demonstrating how a fool and his money are soon parted. To his surprise, Jones is invited to dinner at his usually stingy neighbor’s home. The friendly gesture, however, proves to be a ruse to get Jones drunk and cheat him at cards. What sets this amusing little tale of neighborly discord apart is the inclusion of cleverly animated title cards created using a stop-motion technique. Each card begins with a collection of jumbled-up letters and simple objects which twist and turn around the frame, eventually organizing themselves into words. The uniqueness of this presentation serves to make the written word as much of an attraction as the actual images of Jones and his wily neighbor – if not more so. Advertisements indicate that the producers were well aware of this reversal of the traditional relationship between word and image, as they completely ignore the narrative and focus solely on potential audiences’ reactions to the “interest and novelty” of the animated titles. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Funny animated intertitles, where the alphabets move to find their new places. The mirror behind the card-player. Ok print.

Comedy Cartoon
(Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1907) D: Walter R. Booth; 35mm, 285 ft, 4'45" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original tinting); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #31). No intertitles.
In this follow-up to Walter Booth’s legendary 1906 film The Hand of the Artist (screened at the Giornate in 2008), the Artist has returned to torment a new set of characters drawn from his imagination. Unlike the previous film, in which the Artist manipulates entire scenes, here his work is restricted to the chalkboard and takes a more predictable path. After the portraits are sketched in chalk, they come to life and interact with their creator – he lights a cigarette for one, pours a cup of tea for another, and so on. Also in contrast to the earlier film, here we are shown more than just the Artist’s hand – we see the Artist himself (perhaps Booth making a rare on-screen appearance, demonstrating the skills he honed as a magician and performer on the vaudeville stage?) standing next to the chalkboard, grinning at the camera before starting to work. One thing that hasn’t changed from The Hand of the Artist, however, is that ultimately the Artist proves that he is the one in control: no matter how much his animated doodles misbehave, he alone wields the power of the eraser. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - From a battered source. Chalk drawings come alive. A mix of animation and live action. The clown cut-out turns into a live clown.

La Poule aux œfs d'or
(Pathé, FR 1905) D: Gaston Velle; DP: Segundo de Chomón; cast: Julienne Mathieu; 35mm, 873 ft, 14'33" (16 fps), (printed on colour stock, reproducing original stencil-colour); from: NFSA (Corrick Collection #39). English intertitles.
Although the Corricks were likely not aware of it, their collection contains a number of films featuring the handiwork of one of cinema’s earliest and most innovative special-effects artists, Segundo de Chomón. At least 11 films from his stint at Pathé were purchased by the family. These titles were among the most frequently and best reviewed films in the entire collection, from the subtle effects seen in Appartement à louer (1906), to the grand adventure of Le Tour du monde d’un policier (1906) and clever imagery of Les Invisibles (1906), to the fantastic extravaganza of films such as this one, La Poule aux oeufs d’or.
This fable of wealth and greed is told in 4 acts: “The Conjurer’s Lottery”, “The Fantastic Fowls’-House”, “Ephemeral Fortune”, and “The Miser’s Fate”. The familiar story of the hen who laid golden eggs provides plenty of opportunities to pause and revel in fantastic displays, such as when the golden hen turns into a lovely woman, who in turn transforms her fellow chickens into a troupe of elegant dancers. The magic and the mood turn dark when thieves try to steal the eggs and the farmer is driven mad by greed, his paranoia arrestingly depicted as he is surrounded by surreal disembodied eyes. The film’s epilogue is a fanciful display of magic as the barnyard turns into a fairyland and golden eggs hatch to reveal beautiful women, made even more so through the use of intricate stenciling and liberally-applied, still vibrant dyes. – Leslie Anne Lewis. - Beautiful colour on this print of the well-known féerie. A film of surreal transformations.

No comments: