Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cinema delle origini / Early Cinema

Teatro Verdi, Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, Pordenone (Early Cinema), e-subtitles in English and Italian, grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau, 10 Oct 2012.

AA: Because of the overlap with Torkell Sætervadet's seminar about digital cinema for the archives I missed one of the shows I was most looking forward to, the sixth presentation of the Corrick Collection (National Film and Sound Archive, Canberra), again reportedly terrific. The programme notes by Leslie Anne Lewis are worth reading even for the one who missed the films (the entire Le Giornate catalogue is online on their website, and for these notes see pp. 138-142). The print of Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (based on the comic strip by Winsor McCay) was reportedly superior. Gaston Velle's La Peine du talion provided the emblematic image of this year's Le Giornate, the four butterfly ladies celebrating their victory over an entomologist. I only managed to see four early cinema shorts preceding the Corrick show.

APRÈS LA BATAILLE (Paul Decauville, S.A. du Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, FR 1903). D: ?; P: Paul Decauville; DP: Clément Maurice Gratioulet; artistic dir: Marguerite Vrignault; C: ?; DVD (from 35 mm), 2'40", sd.; print source: Gaumont Pathé Archives, Paris. Restoration and reconstitution 2012, Gaumont Pathé Archives & Cinémathèque française.

"Not included in the main programme of the restored Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre, this is one of the company’s later and most successful examples of synchronization with a Céleste wax cylinder. So far the source of the song has not been identified; and there is doubt about the identity of the performer. The distinctive voice and vocal technique appear to be those of Mily-Meyer (1852-1927), a major star of French operetta throughout the last quarter of the 19th century. Yet the personage on screen is not readily recognizable as the Mily-Meyer we see in other Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre films, who was already 48, and was to retire in 1906: this performer looks distinctly younger. The technique of Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre involved shooting the film in synchronization with an already recorded cylinder: we are therefore left to speculate that this is an early – perhaps the first – instance of dubbing another performer’s voice to a more suitable screen presence. The practice would become common with the Gaumont Chronophone and its rivals." – DAVID ROBINSON

AA: A phono-cinéma-théâtre movie: a woman singing against a painted backdrop a nationalistic praise to the soldiers. The sound is quite thin, but the movie makes sense.

AUTOMABOULISME ET AUTORITÉ (Georges Méliès, Star-Film, FR 1899). D, P, SC, ED: Georges Méliès; C: Georges Méliès; 35 mm, 40 m, 2'11’’ (16 fps), col. (handcoloured); print source: Cinémathèque française, Paris. No intertitles.

"This film – no. 194-195 in the Méliès catalogue – has until now been considered lost, but, identified by Jacques Malthête, was found in the Olivier Auboin-Vermorel collection of films from the earliest period, deposited with the Cinémathèque française in 2011."

"Sadly this hand-coloured copy is fragmentary. The original scenario reads: “Two clowns arrive in a garden in a motor-car. After a rapid succession of very comic eccentricities, they knock the waiter of a café into a well. After many difficulties, he is rescued in pitiable state. To escape the consequences of this bad joke, they jump into their car and take flight; but many obstacles confront them on their way. A film full of action and very comic.”" – LAURENT MANNONI

AA: Based on a 4K scan, there was a digital nightingale feeling in this screening (slightly flat and over-clean). [The sound of the previous movie kept playing in the beginning, and Gabriel responded by playing the first bars of Beethoven's Symphony of Destiny.] Even so, always a pleasure to see an unknown Méliès movie.

DANSE DE L’ÉVENTAIL (Lumière, FR 1897). D: ?; 35 mm, c.15 m, c.1' (16 fps), col. (hand coloured); print source: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino (print deposited by the collector Fabrizio Pangrazi;  preserved 2012). No intertitles.

"“This scene represents a variety of the serpentine dance, in which the dancer raises her costume so as to represent the two parts of a fan. Butterfly Dance executed by a dancer on a stage decorated with bouquets of flowers.” (Catalogue of the Institut Lumière)"

"This film was identified by Carlo Montanaro as Danse de l’éventail (catalogue number 2011). It seems to have been shot in 1897, but was not programmed in Lyon until 10 December 1899. L’Association Frères Lumière, which attributes a length of 11 metres to the film, conserves the Lumière negative, two Lumière prints, and one Edison print. The Pangrazi print is however the only known coloured copy of the film." – CLAUDIA GIANETTO

AA: A colour-driven serpentine dance movie with glowing, gorgeous colour. In the conclusion: the tricolor.

EUGÉNIE, REDRESSE-TOI (Gaumont, FR 1911). D, SC: Jean Durand; C: Brunin (Eugénie), Édouard Grisollet (her father), Marie Dorly (her mother), Berthe Dagmar (maid); DVD (from 35 mm), 4'30’’, sd.; print source: Gaumont Pathé Archives, Paris. French intertitles.

"One of the many delights of Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre is the discovery of the transvestite comedian Brunin. Till now we have only known him from two classic posters of the Belle Époque, on which he appears as a fantastic figure in ballet shoes (or alternatively high heels) and tutu, with arms and legs of pipe-cleaner contours. An enthusiastic critic of the day rejoiced at Brunin’s “long arms and leers”. His story remains elusive: for the moment we do not know his actual name, or the dates of his birth and death. What is certain is that throughout much of the 1890s he was a star at Les Ambassadeurs, Avenue Gabriel, the most chic of Parisian music halls of the fin de siècle. In January 1900 he bought a brasserie at 77, Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple in the 10th arrondissemment to establish his own café-concert, which survived until 1907. The building subsequently became a cinema and is now a restaurant and club. In Phono-Cinéma-Théatre we can appreciate Brunin’s great charm, which saves Le Déshabillé de la mariée (The Bride Undressing) from any hint of vulgarity."

"We owe to the Gaumont-Pathé Archives the discovery of this only other known film of Brunin, made some 11 years later. Here he plays Eugénie, a young lady who is so tall and thin that she cannot hold herself up straight. Her collapses invariably result in massive destruction and injury to all within reach. When she wins a suitor half her size, his efforts to scale her lead to inevitable disaster. Sadly the end of the film, in which (according to a contemporary synopsis) a sword-swallower finds the final solution to Eugénie’s problems, is missing. Brunin is here supported by actors of the regular Gaumont comedy repertory company, including Berthe Dagmar, who was the wife of the director, Jean Durand, and later had her own short-lived comedy series, as Marie, partnered by Gaston Modot." – DAVID ROBINSON

AA: A catastrophe comedy starring the tall Brunin as Eugénie. She is too tall for the dinner table, she falls from a carriage, an entire store falls apart, and a carpenter builds a special case for her. The intrepid suitor needs to mount a chair in order to be able to kiss her.

No comments: