Saturday, October 02, 2010

French Clowns 1905-1914, A-Z, Programme 1

Cinema Verdi, Pordenone, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, 2 Oct 2010. Grand piano: Philip C. Carli. E-subtitles in English and Italian.

Copying the GCM Catalogue in italics. Biographical notes by David Robinson. Film synopses supplied by the Archives Françaises du Film du Centre National de la Cinématographie, Bois d’Arcy.All prints from the Archives Françaises du Film (CNC), Bois d’Arcy. Programme 1 ca 97 min

ANATOLE. Actor unidentified.

LE TRUC D’ANATOLE (Gaumont, FR 1911).D: ?; 35mm, 170 m., 8' (18 fps), tinted. Italian intertitles.While his wife is sleeping, a husband leaves the conjugal bed to go to the café. Discovering his absence, the wife decides to leave him. The returning husband is crestfallen to find a pillow in the place of his wife. Desperate, he tries to kill himself. - From a source that is battered in the beginning but gets better. Farce about a drunkard husband. Husband and wife in turns replace themselves with a human-sized pillow on the conjugal bed.

BABYLAS (Louis-Jacques Boucot). When Roméo Bosetti left the Comica Studios to return to Paris and take over comedy production at Lux Film, Alfred Machin (1877-1929) took command of the Nice studio, and inaugurated the Babylas series. Babylas himself seems variously to have been played by Boucot and Sablon, but the real stars of the series were animals, and in particular Mimir, the pet panther of Machin, who was a specialist in travel films and had made films about big game hunting.

BABYLAS VIENT D’HÉRITER D’UNE PANTHÈRE (Pathé Comica, FR 1911). D: Alfred Machin; cast: Louis Boucot, Mimir (the panther); DP: Paul Sablon, Maurice-André Maître ; 35 mm, 82 m, 3' (18 fps). Sous-titres français. Babylas inherits a superb panther, recently arrived from the forests of Africa and still untamed. His new master allows the beast to escape. It spreads terror from top to bottom of the house. In a painter’s studio, seduced by the bright colours of a painting, he licks the still-wet paint and starts to fight with a rabbit, whom he pursues through the skylight onto the rooftops, and then chases down a chimney, bursting into a bedroom where peaceful bourgeois are asleep. The panther leaps on them, and the wakened sleepers flee desperately. Happily, he abandons them to leap up a palm tree, which recalls his native land. Then he ravages a dress shop, putting the shopgirls to flight. After further exploits in the street, the pretty puss is finally reunited with his trainer, who joyfully welcomes him back. - "Bringing up Baby". From a battered 28 mm source. The panther chases Babylas in the staircase.

MADAME BABYLAS AIME LES ANIMAUX (Pathé Comica, FR 1911). D: Alfred Machin; DP: Paul Sablon; cast: Louis Boucot, Mimir (the panther); 35mm, 169 m., 8' (18 fps). Sous-titres français. For want of conjugal affection, Madame Babylas feels herself the mother of all animals. Birds, cats, and monkeys overrun the drawing-room and the chairs, driving Monsieur to distraction. His nerves break when his wife introduces the pig which she has just brought home in a cab. Babylas buys a panther from a menagerie and lets it loose in the apartment… - Fine cinematography, fine quality of the image in the print. When Madame buys a pig as a domestic animal, that's the last straw. The leopard Mimir chases the pig.

BÉBÉ (Clément Mary, 1905-1974). Discovered at the age of 5 by Louis Feuillade, Bébé (sometimes “Bébé Abelard”) achieved huge popularity in the 74 films of the Bébé series made between December 1910 and January 1913. Bébé was always depicted as the child of well-off bourgeois parents (played by Renée Carl and Paul Manson) with a patient maid (Mme. SaintBonnet) whom he persistently tormented. Turning out the films at a rhythm of three each month, Feuillade cast the little boy in the repertory of comedy situations that regularly served the adult clowns, though it seems that sometimes he simply instructed the child to do all the things that were not allowed at home. Problems with Bébé’s parents – no doubt due to their demands for higher payment – began to smoulder in Autumn 1912, and Feuillade fore-armed himself by introducing a new child comic, 3- year-old René Poyen, whom Bébé himself seemed to have nicknamed “Bout de Zan”. The two briefly and charmingly acted together; but in October 1912 the programme of the Gaumont-Palace ominously announced, side by side, Bébé se noie (Baby drowns himself) and “Bout de Zan, âgé de 3 ans – le plus jeune comique du monde”. Bébé, after a brief flirtation with Pathé, was retired at the age of 7. He reappeared on the screen 21 years later, under a new name, René Dary, and was to enjoy a busy career in films until his death.

BÉBÉ PÊCHEUR (Jimmie the Sportsman) (Gaumont, FR 1910) D: Louis Feuillade; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 115 m., 5' (18 fps), pochoir. Sous-titres français. Bébé arms himself with a fishing rod and makes a professional fisherman jealous. - A duped pochoir colour print from a scratched source.

BÉBÉ TIRE À LA CIBLE (Jimmie Pulls the Trigger) (Gaumont, FR 1910). D: Louis Feuillade; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 146 m., 7' (18 fps), tinted. Sous-titres français. Bébé’s uncle gives him a rifle as a present. To prevent a catastrophe, his father confiscates the bullets, which Bébé slily hurries to retrieve. Taking advantage of the absence of the grown-ups, he practices shooting in the drawing-room, and demolishes the chandelier. Father thereupon decides to paste up cardboard targets in the garden. But Julie the maid accidentally sits on one of them, and, while busy in the kitchen, receives a load of lead in the behind. This greatly amuses Bébé and his parents. - Rather sadistic.

BÉBÉ MARCHAND DES QUATRE SAISONS (Gaumont, FR 1911) D: Louis Feuillade; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 205 m., 11' (18 fps). Incomplète (manque la fin). Manque intertitres signalés par une croix. Bébé flirts with a little costermonger girl, who gives him an apple. The little girl is knocked down by a motor-car. Bébé rushes to her aid. The passers-by take her to hospital. Bébé takes his friend’s place with success, and gives the day’s takings to the hospitalized girl. The next day he recognizes the car which knocked the little girl down, and reports the driver to his boss, a respectable old doctor, who takes an interest in the story. Bébé takes the doctor and his wife to the hospital. The old doctor takes over the sick girl’s case, and employs the two young friends in his office. - A good visual quality, realistic cinematography. A comedy with empathy.

BÉBÉ FAIT CHANTER SA BONNE (Gaumont, FR 1911). D: Louis Feuillade; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 131 m., 6' (18 fps). Deutsche Untertitel. Bébé is studying a catalogue of costume accessories, and goes into the kitchen, where he spills a bowl of chocolate. The maid takes him to his room and gives him clean clothes; Bébé however wants to dress up as a soldier, but doesn’t have the necessary accessories. Meanwhile the maid entertains a soldier – who later claims to be her brother – and hides him in the kitchen. Bébé takes the soldier’s helmet and sword and parades into the drawing-room in front of his astonished parents… - A fair duped print from a damaged source. A light farce.

BÉBÉ VEUT PAYER SES DETTES (Gaumont, FR 1912). D: Louis Feuillade; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 140 m., 6' (18 fps), tinted. Incomplet (manque le début du film). Sous-titres français. Ordered by the grocer, account book in hand, to pay off debts accumulated for the purchase of candies and itching powder, Bébé has recourse to a trick. He pretends to be blind, posting himself at the street corner. A passer-by and a compassionate couple are followed by a man who, scenting the deception, reports him to two policemen. Taken to his home, Bébé explains the circumstances which have led to this extremity. His parents laugh heartily at such resourcefulness, and his father rewards him with a coin. - A sepia colour duped looking print from sources of variable quality. A flashback structure.

BÉBÉ N’AIME PAS SA CONCIERGE (Cosmopolitan Films, FR 1912) D: ?; cast: Madeleine Guitty, Clément Mary; 35mm, 182 m., 8' (18 fps). Sous-titres français restored using material in the BNF. - One day Bébé visits the Salon d’Automne with his family. Faced with the artistic manifestations of Cubism, Futurism, and other modern styles, he at once feels an irresistible vocation for pictorial art. He manages to trace parallel lines on the concierge’s dog, transforming him into a sort of zebra. The concierge does not approve… - An ok, slightly duped looking print. Rather sadistic how B. torments the lady concierge at night.

LE SUICIDE DE BÉBÉ (Eclectic Films, FR 1913). D: ?; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 147 m., 7' (18 fps). Sous-titres français. Following a quarrel between his parents, Bébé employs a stratagem to prevent their divorce. Simulating suicide, he succeeds in making them feel guilty, and, when he returns to life, effects their reconciliation. - Restored from a 28 mm Pathé-Kok print. An effective comedy vignette.

LE PORTRAIT DE BÉBÉ (Eclectic Films, FR 1913). D: Henri Gambart; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 145 m., 7' (18 fps). Didascalie ? / Intertitles ? Accompanied by his father, Bébé goes to an artist’s studio to have his portrait painted. While posing, Bébé will not keep still. He yawns, sneezes, blows his nose, scratches his head… The exasperated artist complains to the father. The sitting must be interrupted. Back home, mother, disappointed, finally finds a means to obtain what she wants: she takes her son to a photographer. Finally, in the drawing-room, both parents are proud to present Bébé’s portrait. - Restored using a 28 mm Pathé-Kok print.

BÉBÉ ET JEANNE D’ARC (Eclectic Films, FR 1913). D: ?; cast: Clément Mary; 35mm, 161 m., 7' (18 fps). Spanish intertitles. Bébé’s father wins a painting of Joan of Arc in the lottery. Bébé offers to collect the prize. It is stolen from him as he is sitting on a bench. After a chase, the thief is taken to the police station. Confronted by the thief’s self-confidence and the hesitation of the police inspector, Bébé describes the wrapped-up object. The thief is exposed. - Fair or pretty good visual quality.

BIGORNO (René Lantini). Lantini appeared in a score of Bigorno films between 1912 and 1914 at the Comica Studios in Nice, where the series had been inaugurated by Roméo Bosetti.

BIGORNO COUVREUR (Pathé Comica, FR 1914). D: Roméo Bosetti; SC: Louis Z. Rollini; cast: René Lantini; 35mm, 162 m., 7' (18 fps). Sous-titres français. A slight leak from the ceiling falls on Bigorno in his bed. He puts up an umbrella – always sure to bring bad luck when done indoors. The trickle becomes a cataract. Bigorno runs to the concierge, who runs to the plumber, who runs to Bigorno’s apartment pushing a cart full of gear. Making a hole in the roof, Bigorno provokes a cataract in the apartment of a lodger, who also emerges onto the roof. General fracas. Police intervention. Collapse of the roof. - An ok print. A funny farce with successful time lapse effects. Crazy slapstick where the ultimate conclusion is that things perish utterly. +

BIGORNO FUME L’OPIUM (Pathé Comica, FR 1914). D: Roméo Bosetti; SC: Louis Z. Rollini; cast: René Lantini; 35mm, 157 m., 7' (18 fps). Manque les intertitres signalés par une croix. Bigorno is visited by a relative returning from a voyage in the East, who presents him with exotic souvenirs and proposes that he should smoke opium. Hallucinated by the opium, Bigorno finds himself in a marvellous world, surrounded by scantily clad beauties. But the dream turns to nightmare, and the awakening is painful, with headache, fever, etc. - A duped look in the print. A fast farce about the miraculous Oriental souvenirs. A funny parody of opium delirium, a bit in the style of Méliès, the walls start turning, and each object in the room starts turning (stop motion animation). *

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