Sunday, June 30, 2013

Les Épingles / Unprotected Hairpins


Unprotected Hairpins [the title on the print]. FR 1913. D: Léonce Perret. DP: Georges Specht. C: Léonce Perret (Léonce), Suzanne Grandais (Suzanne), Émile Keppens (il dottore). P: Gaumont. 35 mm. 269 m. 13' a 18 f/s. Col. English intertitles. Da: EYE - Film Institute Netherlands(Desmet Collection). Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), earphone translation in Italian, grand piano: Antonio Coppola, 30 June 2013

Mariann Lewinsky: "Any industry is constantly optimising its product line-up: successful lines remain in production and are further improved and what does not appeal to customers, or no longer appeals, will disappear from the shelf or screen. And every season something brand new comes onto the market."

"Thus in 1913 the earliest standard length for a film format was still a valid norm for newsreel items. These were about one minute long and consisted of one or just a very few shots, exactly like the earliest films of 1895-1903."

"But the very latest thing in 1913 was the mega-film of 3000 m. or more. Les Misérables (3445 m.), it is true, was shown in four parts in January 1913 and Les Trois Mousquetaires (3800 m.) over two evenings in October, but Germinal (3000 m., i.e. two and a half hours) ran, also in October 1913, full length in a single session."

"Films of around 2000 m. such as Quo Vadis?, L'Enfant de Paris and Ma l'amor mio non muore! became box office hits worldwide and the long feature film now had a great future before it. The average length, however, for a 1913 film, was 318 m., or about a quarter of an hour."

"And only 3% of the films produced in 1913 were 1000 m. or longer. (See Thierry Lefèbre's analysis of 3660 films that ran in France that year, L'année 1913 en France, in "1895", hors serie 1993, pp. 205-216)."

"Who would have thought it? 1913 was a golden age for short films, with 120 m.-150 m. the norm for documentary and comedy scenes and the one-reeler of about 300 m. the standard length for both light-hearted and more serious fiction films. It is most certainly in this format, which had been used for some years and was therefore finely honed, that the most elegant films appeared, for the filmmakers had the necessary experience and knew how to pack a great deal of action, beauty and narrative into 15 minutes." Mariann Lewinsky

Les Épingles was a representative of the typical length (ca 15 minutes) of a 1913 movie and a part of an inbuilt Léonce Perret in 1913 retrospective inside the A Hundred Years Ago 1913 series.

It is a funny marital comedy. Léonce pretends to be a victim of an unprotected hairpin. Through the keyhole the deception is revealed. Soon the wife, too, pretends to be injured - in her legs: "the blind and the lame". There are goofy receipts, kisses to "where it hurts"... Outside the door the maid is aghast at what she thinks is soon going on inside.

The toning is beautiful; might this be a colour duplicate from an original colour print? For a while the colour is fading and disfigured.

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