Friday, October 08, 2010

Corrick Collection 4 Programme 2

Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM) with e-subtitles in Italian and Neil Brand on the grand piano, 8 Oct 2010. The films were shown in a different order from that printed on the schedule and in the catalogue. GCM Catalogue programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis in italics.

LE RÈGNE DE LOUIS XIV (Reign of Louis XIV) (Pathé, FR 1904) D: V. Lorant Heilbronn; cast: Vincent Denizot (Louis XIV), Gabriel Moreau (The prisoner), Camille Bardou (Cardinal Mazarin); 35 mm, 796 ft, 13'16" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #94). English intertitles.
"This series of tableaux-style vignettes taken from the much-storied life of France’s Louis XIV includes “Musketeers Fight”, “The Camp at Flanders”, “La Vallières’ Elopement”, “Louis XIV and the Iron Mask”, “Entertainment of the Court”, and “Night Festival in Versailles”, which features views of the palace’s Grand Fountains. As with other historical and literature-based films in this period (such as Marie-Antoinette,1903, and Guillaume Tell,1903), the film relies on viewers’ knowledge of well-known stories to make sense of the leaps between episodes (or assumes a narrator will be present), and the stage-like scene arrangement and single-shot structure still has much in common with traditional live theatre performances. In order to highlight the fact that some of the filming actually took place at Versailles, Pathé released this film with an onscreen credit (not present in the Corrick print) describing the difficulties of gaining access to the sites, and in particular getting the Palace’s caretakers to run the famous fountains especially for their filming. The filmmakers took best advantage of this opportunity, producing another film focused on the fountains and palace grounds, Les Grandes Eaux de Versailles (1904; Corrick Collection #43, shown at the Giornate in 2008). In contrast to the dramatic multi-hued hand-coloring of Les Grandes Eaux de Versailles, views of the fountains in Le Règne de Louis XIV are tinted more traditionally, a single color at a time. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS". - Ok print of a early cinema style suite of vignettes on the reign of Louis XIV - swordfights, court etiquette, and so on.

CHASSE AU SANGLIER (Boar Hunting) (Pathé, FR 1904) D: ?; 35mm, 308 ft., 5' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #6). No intertitles.
"This dynamic actuality film documents the hunting of a boar from the first bugle call to the distribution of the spoils. The hunters congregate, then depart their camp on horseback, streaming past the camera surrounded by baying dogs eager to begin the chase. The action cuts to their prey, with a close-up of the ill-fated boar rummaging in the forest before the dogs arrive and the skirmish begins. A long shot from above the path tracks the hunters’ arrival on the scene, where eventually one steps in to end the fight. All that’s left is to return to camp and celebrate a successful day of hunting, presenting one man with the honor of receiving the boar’s right foot. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS". - A modest, soft print. Non-fiction.

BICYCLETTE PRÉSENTÉE EN LIBERTÉ (Riderless Bicycle) (Pathé, FR 1906) D: Gaston Velle; 35mm, 188 ft., 3' (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #91). No intertitles.
"Pathé’s fantasy and special effects master Gaston Velle is the force behind this little film about an animated bicycle with a mind of its own. Unlike the lavish, full-color fantasies such as La Peine du talion (1906), La Poule aux oeufs d’or (1905), Les Fleurs animées (1906), and Les Invisibles (1906) which Velle made around the same time, this black-and-white film focuses on exploring the possibilities of a single premise, a lively bicycle that leaps and prances seemingly on its own, much to the amusement of the two on-screen spectators. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - A fair print. Two clowns present their act with a magic bicycle.

THE WAIF AND THE STATUE (Charles Urban Trading Co., GB 1907) D: Walter R. Booth; 35mm, 226 ft., 3'46" (16 fps), b&w [not tinted]; from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #130). No intertitles.
"Though perhaps best known for his special effects and animation, Walter R. Booth limited his use of such techniques in this film, instead foregrounding the narrative over his trademark cinematic tricks as a statue of Hope comes to life to find a home for a poor waif. Booth’s collaboration with Charles Urban produced a number of films famous both for their innovative techniques and the positive reaction of audiences, the Corricks’ patrons included. The Waif and the Statue is a striking contrast to the other films acquired by the family from Urban’s company at the same time, namely the series of naval films shot that year in Portsmouth and the broad physical comedy of The Short-Sighted Cyclist (1907). – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - A fair, incomplete print. The rich man saves the little girl from freezing to death.

[PROCESSION OF BOATS ON RIVER, BURMA] (Charles Urban Trading Co., GB, c.1905) D: ?; 35mm, 218 ft., 3'38" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #10). No intertitles.
"In the second of these two unidentified films from the Charles Urban Trading Company, highly decorated boats float down a river away from the camera. Male and female Western tourists(?) are shown on board enjoying the view. In the distance the silhouettes of ornate structures can be seen on the riverbank. It has been suggested that this may be Scenes on the River Jhelum from Urban’s 1903 “India, Burma, Cashmere” series, but that identification remains uncertain. This film and [Travel Scenes] would have been shown as part of the Corricks’ staple “Trip Round the World” program, where footage from a wide variety of sources was spliced together into one series aimed at taking the audience on a sight-seeing tour covering the world “From Pole to Pole”. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - Ok print. Non-fiction.

LE DÎNER DU 9 (The Dinner of January 9th) (Pathé, FR 1909) D: ?; SC: Adrien Vély; cast: Charles Prince [“Mr. Prince of the Variétés Theatre”], Paul Landrin [“Mr. Landrin of the Nouveautés Theatre”], Albens [“Mr. Albens of the Gaieté Rochechouart”], Louise Willy [“Miss Louise Willy of the Capucines Theatre”]; 35mm, 649 ft., 10'49" (16 fps), col. (tinted); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #25). English intertitles.
"An amusing story of a forgotten dinner date, a pair of slightly cruel friends, and the unfortunate consequences for one well-meaning man forced to eat three meals in a single evening. Adrien Vély, the story’s author, and the actors are credited in a title at the head of the film, identified not only by name but also their theatre company. Among the performers are Louise Willy, the woman credited with the first on-camera striptease in Le Coucher de la mariée (1896), here in a much more sedate role. Le Dîner du 9 is Paul Landrin’s second credited film; he would go on to direct and/or act in more than 50 films for Pathé over the next 7 years. This is also an early appearance for Charles Prince, who is also featured in the early French comedy series at this year’s Giornate. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - A fair to good print from a slightly damaged source. A funny comedy about a chain of misremembered dinner dates.

DEUX BRAVES COEURS (Kind Hearted Men) (Pathé, FR 1909) D: ?; 35mm, 295 ft., 5' (16 fps), col. toned [not tinted]; from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #65). English intertitles.
"A sympathetic story of a moral dilemma set at the turn of the 19th century. A Frenchman joins the Chouannerie – a Royalist uprising in opposition to the French Revolution, led by a group of guerrilla warriors known as the Chouans – to provide for his wife and two children. While on duty he receives word that his youngest son is gravely ill, and so deserts his post to return home. He is condemned to death as a deserter, but his wife uses her own body as a shield against the executioner’s bullet. The executioner refuses to carry out the poor man’s punishment, lowering his gun and allowing the family to remain intact. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - Good image quality from a source with some damage. Big gestures in a drama where the fearless wife saves her husband from the firing squad.

LIFE OF A COWBOY (Edison, US 1906) D, DP: Edwin S. Porter; 35mm, 952 ft., 16' (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #64). No intertitles.
"Billed also as A Romance of the Prairie, Edison’s Life of a Cowboy is in line with the producer’s use of Western themes as a staple since his earliest pictures, from Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley actualities to Edwin S. Porter’s The Great Train Robbery (1903). The first part of Life of a Cowboy is essentially a series of Wild West spectacles that showcase riding and roping tricks and several amusing “taunt the tourist” gags – including a “make the tenderfoot dance by shooting at his feet” scene similar to that in Porter’s seminal film. Halfway through, however, it transforms into a chase film, as a stagecoach is held up by a band of Indians, the main character’s fiancée is kidnapped, and the local cowboys rush to her rescue. One Corrick reviewer wrote: “Quite a drama was enacted in the representation of events in American backwoods existence. The tragic interest was well maintained, whilst the spectators found something to engage their attention to a series of rough practical jokes perpetrated at the expense of a party of ‘tenderfoots’ who had ventured into the wilderness.” (Kalgoorlie Miner, April 1907)
The producers evidently recognized the complexity of the film’s narrative, as the catalogue provides an extremely detailed description – over a full page – mentioning twelve different individual characters (along with “a dozen cowboys”, “a band of Indians”, “the rancher’s family”, and a stagecoach full of passengers) and a detailed-filled plot – not all of which translated well to the screen. Indeed, much of Life of a Cowboy is staged in a way that makes it difficult to follow the storyline and tell the characters apart, a challenge accentuated by the absence of intertitles. For the most part the action is passively recorded – quite unlike The Great Train Robbery and Porter’s Life of an American Fireman (1903), both of which use camera placement and editing to guide the viewer.
Despite these issues, Corrick audiences responded favorably to the film. This was one of the most frequently mentioned and promoted films in Corrick Family Entertainers’ advertisements and advance articles, and patrons were assured that it would play each night, even as the rest of the films in the program changed. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - Ok print with some especially good instances of a beautiful definition of light. A clumsy film with occasional exciting shots and instances of a good composition, but it is not well edited.

FUNERAL PROCESSION OF NEW ZEALAND PREMIER R.J. SEDDON (?, NZ 1906) D: ?; DP: Franklyn Barrett; 35mm, 289 ft., 4'49" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #47). No intertitles.
"Though they spent most of their careers in Australia, the Corricks were New Zealanders, the children having been born and raised in Christchurch before heading out on the road in 1901. When New Zealand’s longest-serving prime minister, Richard John Seddon, suddenly took ill and died during his voyage home from a diplomatic trip to Australia, the country went into mourning. A national hero, Seddon had presided over New Zealand’s decision not to join the Australian Federation in 1901, was responsible for the institution of old-age pensions, and was a champion of miners and the native Maori people. Thousands lined the streets of Wellington for his funeral cortège on 21 June 1906. Led by a brass band playing a specially composed funeral march, the horse-drawn carriage was followed by Seddon’s family, along with various dignitaries and government officials, as it made its way through the capital to St. Paul’s Cathedral. A sense of the occasion was communicated in the film of the procession, screened by the Corricks not long after the event: “The [biograph picture] of the late Premier of New Zealand’s funeral was particularly good. What an impressive affair it must have been. The New Zealand legislators looked quite a smart contingent all in their high hats and frock coats. The Premier’s three sons, walking bare-headed behind the coffin, contributed a pathetic touch to the picture.” (The Critic, Adelaide, 8 August 1906)
This film appears to have been shot by Franklyn Barrett, a British cameraman, film exhibitor, and violinist who had moved to New Zealand 10 years earlier. Barrett began making his own movies in 1901 (including a fake boxing match and a science-fiction story) and by 1903 was taking scenic films of New Zealand for Charles Urban’s company. In 1908 he joined Pathé’s New Zealand offices and continued to film New Zealand scenics, becoming known as a daring cameraman willing to take physical risks to get the best shot. This included filming while suspended off the side of a ship crossing the Cook Strait in order to capture images of a famous dolphin and chartering a boat to take him as close as possible to an erupting volcano. In the 1910s and 1920s he became a feature film director in Australia and eventually managed a series of theatres there, including Canberra’s famous Capital Theatre. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - An ok to soft image quality with b&w and tinted shots. Non-fiction.

LES FLEURS ANIMÉES (Pathé, FR 1906) D: Gaston Velle; DP+FX: Segundo de Chomón; 35mm, 359 ft., 6' (16 fps), col. (stencil-colour); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #67). No intertitles.
"Described in Corrick ads as “The finest ‘Color’ Film of the Twentieth Century” (albeit a century only halfway through its first decade), Les Fleurs animées is quite stunning in its detailed hand-coloring and stage-like framing. In this story of angry flowers exacting revenge on a man who wantonly destroyed their garden, the use of simple camera tricks creates a magic fairy story. Like many of Segundo de Chomón’s masterful works – such as La Poule aux oeufs d’or (1905) and La Peine du talion (1906) – the chief focus of several scenes is the colorful display of a chorus of beautifully dressed women performing for the camera. Also familiar is the stage-like set-up, which goes a step further than most by using a floral garland or rafters hung with colorful paper lanterns to mark the edges of the frame. These films contain an interesting contrast between form and content: while the stage-like setting clearly draws from centuries of tradition, the effects presented on this “stage” could only be achieved through a mastery of that newest of technologies, the motion picture. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS." - A good print. A beautiful féerie.

not shown (at least not as a separate film): [TRAVEL SCENES] (Charles Urban Trading Co., GB, c.1905) D: ?; 35mm, 73 ft., 1'13" (16 fps); from: National Film and Sound Archive, Australia (Corrick Collection #106). No intertitles. Though we know that this film and the one that follows are from the Charles Urban Trading Company and can estimate their years of release, we have been unable to concretely identify them in the Urban catalogues. It is unclear if this and [Procession of Boats on River, Burma] (see below) were two separately released films, a single title divided by the Corricks in their original programs, or separated at a later date by John Corrick, donor of the Corrick Collection to the NFSA and son of Leonard, the family’s projectionist. – LESLIE ANNE LEWIS

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