Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Corrick Collection 4 Programme 1

Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and Philip C. Carli on the grand piano, 6 Oct 2010.

The films in this show were in a completely different order than on the printed schedule and in the catalogue.

LE SINGE ADAM II (The Celebrated Ape Adam II) (Pathé, FR 1909) D: ?; 35 mm, 301 ft., 5' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #17). English intertitles.
The tradition of filming vaudeville, circus, and curiosity acts that began with the very earliest films is alive and well in this graphic example of “monkey see – monkey do”. Professor Dubois introduces the viewing audience to Adam II, an ape who in both name and action invites speculation as to just how closely humans and their evolutionary ancestors are related. Adam II alternately imitates and taunts his trainer, from politely shaking hands and mimicking the use of human implements to stealing and smoking the professor’s pipe. This fascination with man’s Darwinian ancestors proved a popular film subject, not surprising in a period when finding the “missing link” between the species had become Science’s new Holy Grail. For example, in 1905 Pathé released Le Singe “August”, while four years later, Great Northern ran several full-page ads in Moving Picture World featuring a chimpanzee wearing a suit, hat, watch-chain, and dress shoes to promote their film The Human Ape, Or Darwin’s Triumph (1909). – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - A good print of a funny documentary about "aping".

THE ARRESTED TRICAR (?, GB?, c.1905) D: ?; 35mm, 399 ft., 6'39" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #14). No intertitles.
In August 1904 motoring enthusiasts’ magazine The Motor declared: “The tri-car has reached such a very high state of reliability and all-round efficiency that to the man of limited means who cannot afford a car and yet desires something beyond a motor-bicycle, it forms an ideal compromise. As a touring vehicle it is a delightful conveyance, and that it can stand the racket of severe and continuous strain has been demonstrated again and again, both by private users and in competitions.” While definitely enthusiastic about the tri-car, it’s unlikely that those at The Motor ever envisioned the extremes to which The Arrested Tricar’s producers would push the vehicle’s abilities in this charming trick film. In this film by an as yet unidentified British or American producer, special effects are used to make a tri-car – a three-wheeled motorized vehicle – repair itself after a wreck and journey to retrieve its incarcerated owners. The Corricks’ first reported screening of the film was in June 1909, soon after they returned to Australia from their international tour, suggesting they acquired it while in London. The film’s subject suggests it was likely produced after 1903, the year the tri-car began to gain in popularity, thus making it a ripe target for such cinematic treatment. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Weak visual quality in this print from a tinted source. A comedy chase story.

PAUVRES VIEUX (Poor Old Couple) (Pathé, FR 1907) D: ?; 35mm, 372 ft., 6'12" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #81). English intertitles.
Hoping to get the medication needed to save her dying husband, an old woman tries to borrow money, only to be turned away. She attempts to earn the money by selling flowers in the park, but a “Thoughtless Youth” snatches them and throws them in a lake. Desperate, she turns to charity to get the life-saving medicine, but it’s too late: her husband dies just as she arrives home and the sobbing woman is left alone with her grief. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Good print. Strong composition. The visual style is reminiscent of Griffith at Biograph, made before Griffith. There is a stark Biblical-Tolstoyan quality in this story. The tragic sense is memorable.

DU CAIRE AUX PYRAMIDES (From Cairo to the Pyramids) (Pathé, FR 1905) D: ?; 35mm, 357 ft., 6' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #123). English intertitles.
While Pathé’s La Vie indigène au Soudan égyptien (1908) (Corrick Collection #75, screened in 2008) focused on the often invisible lives of the native Egyptians, Du Caire aux pyramides showcases the traditional views on the checklists of every Western tourist who trod the Cook’s Tours and Baedeker guidebook trails. This prototravelogue perpetuates the 19th-century view of Egypt as a theme park for Western tourists, the local people playing only a supporting role in the Westerners’ experience of this ancient land. Views include the bridge of Kassirel- Nil, the Sphinx, the Pyramids approached by train, and the Nile. Though released by Pathé as two separate films, the Corricks screened this title and Fantasias arabes (1902; see below) as one film. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - In the beginning ok visual quality, in the shot on the nocturnal Nile a beautiful tinting-toning effect. Fine travelogue non-fiction.

DON QUICHOTTE (Don Quixote) (Pathé, FR 1904) D: Lucien Nonguet, Ferdinand Zecca; AD: V. Lorant Heilbronn; 35mm, 802 ft., 13'22" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #26). English intertitles.
The most famous of Don Quixote’s adventures are told here as a series of individual stories, the film’s episodic structure highlighted as each vignette is introduced by a shot of one man telling another a story. Camera tricks are used to heighten the humor of scenes like “Fight against Leather Wine Bottles”, the hero’s battle with the windmills, and the drama of “Imaginary Enemies”.
This is Pathé’s 1904 re-release of their 1903 film Aventures de Don Quichotte, now reduced by almost 200 metres (from over 24 minutes(!) down to a more manageable 14 minutes), printed in black and white rather than full color (though still with the typical red Pathé intertitles), and without four of the original 15 segments. The Corrick print also includes a striking illustrated head title featuring portraits of Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho below the film’s title, a feature which the Pathé Catalogue advertised was available upon special request. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Ok visual quality. The novel of Cervantes reduced to vignettes in early cinema style. Don Quixote left hanging from the maid's hands, the fight against the windmills, the attack on the herd of sheep, the ingratitude of the liberated convicts, Sancho's ass replaced with a sawhorse, the leather wine bottles, smashing the marionettes, Princess Dulcinea, the tournament, the death of Don Quijote.

FANTASIAS ARABES (Arabs’ Fantasia) (Pathé, FR 1902) D: ?; 35mm, 123 ft., 2' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #123). English intertitles.
Corrick advertisements list this film being shown with Du Caire aux pyramides (1905) as part of their staple “Trip Round the World” program. In these ads the films are listed simply as a series of sights rather than by release title, using descriptions taken straight from the intertitles of the larger films. For example, one of the programs detailed in their advertisements included (among others) “Gondola in Venice”, “Modern and Ancient Rome”, “Vesuvius near Naples” (all from Excursion en Italie, Pathé, 1904), “City Hall and Surroundings”, “Nob Hill and Ruins of Millionaire Residences” (from Edison’s 1906 San Francisco earthquake series), “The Sphinx”, “The Pyramids”, “On The Nile” (from Du Caire aux pyramides), and “Arabs’ Fantasia”, together working to create a “round the world” viewing experience for audience members right in their own backyard. The action in Fantasias arabes centers on a parade of men on horseback moving down a street towards the camera. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Ok print. Acrobatics of horsemen.

SPORTS AT SEA ON THE S.S. RUNIC (Corrick, AU 1909) D: Leonard Corrick; cast: The Corrick Family Entertainers, passengers and crew of the S.S. Runic; 35mm, 739 ft., 11' (18 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #48). English intertitles.
Using their Edison camera, the Corricks filmed Sports at Sea during their return trip to Australia on the White Star Line’s S.S. Runic following their international tour. The film features the family and other passengers enjoying various on-board entertainments, including staged wrestling matches, blind boxing, and a costume parade – “Father Neptune’s Pageant” – which shows the family playing their musical instruments. While their time in England provided a bit of a break, the multiple-week ocean voyage was the longest period of time since they began touring in 1901 that the family did not give nightly performances, although likely as not they played for the Runic’s other passengers at some point in the trip. The Corricks achieved much on their world tour: Alice and Ruby received specialized training from renowned music teachers in Paris, and they picked up a new comedic act, new equipment, and a large number of motion pictures, all the while gaining international exposure and garnering rave reviews. Mention of these accomplishments was quickly incorporated into advertisements trumpeting their “Triumphant Return to Australian Shores.” After landing in Perth, Western Australia, in June 1909 the family began touring again almost immediately, and would continue to do so for the next five years.
Although the film was evidently shown as part of some Corrick programs, Sports at Sea never received the same level of promotion as their other films. This more casual depiction of the family offers a closer glimpse of the Corricks at play – a relatively rare occurrence in the hard-working life of this family of professional entertainers. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Good print. Important as a Corrick documentary, otherwise rather crude and boring.

A WINTER STRAW RIDE (Edison, US 1906) D: Wallace McCutcheon, Edwin S. Porter; DP: Edwin S. Porter; 35mm, 409 ft., 6'49" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #132). No intertitles.
This winter-themed variation on Edison’s Down on the Farm (1905; screened as part of the 2009 Corrick program) begins with snowy scenic shots as a group of women set off on what will prove to be an eventful bobsleigh ride. In typical chase-film fashion, the two dozen women pursue a handful of men through the winter landscape, over a fence, down a snow bank, etc. Each time they catch one he is buried in a drift and has snow rubbed in his face until, as the Edison catalogue describes, “he cries for mercy”. In addition to creating “the beautiful moonlight snow effects produced by appropriate mono-tinting [blue toning]”, the Edison Catalogue highlighted the practical nature of the color effect, claiming, “the blue mono-tinting throughout the entire picture completely obscures all defects due to wear ordinarily so prominent in snow pictures, and greatly increases the life and value of the film.” This, along with the novelty and beauty of the images, ensures that, “This is a picture that will last and stand the test of time.” (Edison Catalogue #6241) – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Heavy tinting does not look good. A winter farce with crude snow gags.

COME CRETINETTI PAGA I DEBITI (How Foolshead Pays His Debts) (Itala Film, IT 1909) D: André Deed; cast: André Deed; 35mm, 380 ft., 6'20" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #52). No intertitles.
How does Cretinetti (or here, Foolshead) pay his debts? He doesn’t – instead opting to evade his creditors by using a bit of cinematic magic. The white-suited André Deed is ghost-like, gleefully appearing and disappearing through a series of double exposures and strategic camera stoppages, while fast-motion photography is used to create an amusing sequence as he leads (or more accurately, drags) his pursuers around the city. The final shot is a medium close-up set in front of a plain black background as two victims fruitlessly try to punch a semi-transparent Cretinetti, who simply smiles and blows smoke in their faces. As it is set after the narrative’s conclusion, this final display is apparently there to make the most of the amusing effects created by the double-exposure camera trick. This is the second of two Cretinetti films in the Corrick Collection, the other being Cretinetti lottatore (1909). – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Pretty good print. A good Cretinetti comedy with fine special effects around Cretinetti's magic bag where he can hide from the creditors. The lightning speed of his escapes is funny.

LE SCULPTEUR EXPRESS (Pathé, FR 1907) D: ?; cast: Les Yost; 35mm, 298 ft., 5' (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #51). No intertitles.
One Corrick critic appears to have been quite taken with Le Sculpteur express, describing the film in detail in his post-performance review: “One of the most marvelous exhibitions was the reproduction of a ‘lightning sculptor’ at work. The artist takes a lump of clay, passes his hands over it rapidly two or three times, and the head of a man, complete in all its features is presented. Two or three more rapid passes, and the face is transformed into one entirely distinct from the first, and so on, the whole being achieved with such astonishing speed and dexterity that it is impossible to follow the movements of the operator’s hands. Lightning picture painters are common, but this seems to be a new departure to this line of art, and it certainly eclipses all former performances of the kind.” (Unknown newspaper, Tasmania, Australia, c.1910) Glimpsed at the beginning of this print is a spangled sign identifying the act as “Les Yost.” Yost was a Parisian sculptor who made a name for himself on the Parisian stage creating sculptures out of colored clay before spending years touring Europe and North America. Joined by his female assistant in an act described as “novel, amusing and surprising” (Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 30 September 1913), in person the performance was probably not as “magical” as when the pair could take advantage of effects made possible through motion picture technology to enhance their unusual vaudeville stage act. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS - Ok print. The instant sculptor is a good early cinema subject.

[KING EDWARD VII AND QUEEN ALEXANDRA LEAVE A UNIVERSITY GRADUATION CEREMONY] (?, GB, c.1907) D: ?; 35mm, 121 ft., 2' (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #28). No intertitles.
The Corrick Family Entertainers’ flair for showmanship is seen in their use of this film to open their 1 October 1907 program in Ceylon, tying together their musical act, the cinematograph and a keen understanding of their audience, many of whom were British subjects living far from home: “The Corricks know how to advertise, and how to boom their own show, and, what is always the practical test, how to justify the high expectations which have been formed of them… The first of ‘Leonard’s Beautiful Pictures’ – for once the adjective is justified – represents the King and Queen, and before their Majesties can make their appearance the accompanist plays the National Anthem and weird and eerie figures dimly outlined in the wings join in singing the National Anthem with a fullness and richness which speaks of an ample treat in store, and then as the singers retire the cinematograph flashes the closing incidents of some state function connected with some University gathering…presently the portly figure of England’s King appears walking a little in advance of the Queen (dressed in black) and touches his helmet in answer to the salutation of the spectators…the carriage drives off amidst profound bowing and one can almost hear the hurrahing. It is the audience applauding.” (The Ceylon Independent, 3 October 1907) This is one of several films of the British monarchs originally in the Corrick Family Entertainers’ repertoire, although only two films now survive. The exact location of the filmed event is uncertain, but Oxford and Dundee Universities were possibilities suggested by reviewers. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS. - A fair print. A basic record.

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