Wednesday, October 06, 2010

[Madagascar 1898]

(Louis Tinayre, FR 1898) D+DP: Louis Tinayre; 35 mm, ca 265 m, ca 14 min (16 fps); source: La Cinémathèque française, Paris. Newly created French intertitles.
Viewed at Teatro Verdi, Pordenone (GCM), [without translation] with Malgache music and songs performed by Touve Ratovondrahety, 6 Oct 2010

David Robinson in the GCM Catalogue: "Louis Tinayre (1861-1941) was the son of deeply committed Communards. His father probably died in the semaine sanglante of 1895. His mother Victoire Tinayre (1831-1895), a teacher who had served on the education commission of the Commune, fled to Hungary with her children, though Louis, her second son, with his sister Caroline, seems to have preceded the others, in 1873. Louis studied painting at the Budapest Academy and returned to France following the general amnesty of 1880. He rapidly found a place in French artistic society and was an habitué of the Cabaret du Chat Noir in Montmartre, with its famous and exquisite shadow shows. He attended meetings of the Positivists, where he met his future wife and the mother of his five sons, Adèle Jacomet.
A pioneer artist-reporter, he had a long association with Le Monde Illustré, for which in 1895 he went as a war correspondent to Madagascar, where a French force had arrived to suppress resistance to France’s protectorate. Fascinated by the country, in six months he sent back numerous illustrations, sketches, and photographs, and on his return to France embarked on a series of eight giant paintings, “dioramas”, each 5 x 4 metres.
In 1898 he returned to Madagascar with his wife to prepare studies for his great project for a painted panorama of the surrender of Antananarivo. The panorama and dioramas were exhibited in the Malagasy pavilion at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.
Probably as a consequence of the success of the exhibition, Tinayre was engaged by Prince Albert I of Monaco as official painter to his scientific explorations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and to the North Pole.
On his 1898 visit to Madagascar, Tinayre had with him a Lumière Cinématographe. How he came by his camera, and why he sought moving images for (presumably) the preparation of his panorama is not clear.
Eighteen films survive, and were presented to the Cinémathèque française by Tinayre’s grandson, Alain Tinayre, in late 2009. They have since been digitally restored by the laboratories of L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna.
The subjects are predominantly the working life of the Malagasy –building and making roads, agriculture, work in the rice-fields, collecting minerals, working iron, market days. The distinction of Tinayre’s filming is his use of very wide shots, with large horizons and generally very large groups of people – characteristics which would be appropriate to planning a gigantic painted panorama.
Thirteen of the films are shown in this selection: the subjects, as identified by the Cinémathèque française, are: (the titles are from the original boxes according to the information on the print)
(1) Chantier de terrassement à Marorangotra [Construction of terraces at Marorangotra]
(2) Femmes chargeés montant et descendant une colline [Laden women going up and down a hill]
(3) Environs de Tananarive. Marché à Alatsinainy [Environs of Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar. Market at Alatsinainy]
(4) Labour de rizières par les boeufs [Ploughing in the paddy fields with oxen]
(5) Chantier d’empierrement à Marorangotra [Constructing a road at Marorangotra]
(6) Vallée [Valley] (the title on the print: Sluice de vallée)
(7) Forge malgache à Marorangotra [Malagasy forge at Marorangotra]
(8) La route d’Ambohimanara. Un jour de marché à Tananarive [The Ambohimanara road. A market day in Antananarivo]
(9) Labour de rizières à l’Angady [Ploughing the paddy fields at Angady]
(10) L’artère principale du marché à Tananarive [The main road of the market at Antananarivo]
(11) Jeunes garçons fabriquant des briques [Boys making clay bricks]
(12) Femmes transportant paniers près d’un ruisseau [Women carrying baskets near a stream] - (the title on the print is something else: Mines de fer...)
(13) Hommes travaillant sur un chantier [Men working on a construction] (the title on the print is something else: Chantier de terrassement...)
The subjects of the films not included in this selection are: Two men working in the fields; Valley. Unidentifiable work activity; Women washing ore or gold, 2 shots; Ceremony with French flag prominent. – DAVID ROBINSON, with acknowledgement to a La Cinémathèque française press release and Touve R. Ratovondrahety."

The visual quality is mostly good, although one can sense the digital intermediate look. The standard of the cinematography and sense of composition are fine. Documentary film-making of great value.

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