Monday, June 27, 2011

Quatre-vingt-treize (1914) (restored in 2011 at La Cinémathèque française)

Albert Capellani: Quatre-vingt-treize (FR 1914) (released in 1921). À gauche, Henri Krauss ; au centre, Paul Capellani. Photographie originale de Quatre-vingt-treize, film d'Albert Capellani produit pour Pathé-Frères par la Société cinématographique des auteurs et gens de lettres (SCAGL). Tirage argentique d'époque sur cartoline, 1920. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Please click on the photo to enlarge it.

Albert Capellani: Programma 2: Quatre-vingt-treize. L'umanità in guerra. Monday 27 June 2011 at 10.00, Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Grand piano: Neil Brand.

Catalogue: "Quatre-vingt-treize - 1793 (1914) begins more or less like this: in a library, Henry Krauss (as tutor Cimourdain) is teaching Paul Capellani (the young aristocrat, Gauvain). We are in the Pathé studio, the actors are wearing wigs and gesticulating, as visual expression of the characters’ enthusiasm for the ideas of Rousseau. We summon up all the patience we can muster, to survive three hours of an old costume drama. But in a short while – at the latest by the scene with the old Marquis de Latenac in the boat taking him from exile in England over to Brittany, where he is to lead the royalist rebellion against the Jacobin Republic – we are in a great, enthralling, serious film. Just as Victor Hugo does in the novel, Capellani portrays the conflict of ideas embodied in the characters of Cimourdain, Latenac and Gauvain: he does it objectively, without setting up an antagonism between good and evil. Though finally coming down on the side of humanity (Gauvain), neither Capellani’s film nor Hugo’s source novel condemns the other two positions, the revolutionary Cimourdain’s adherence to his principles and the loyalty of the traditionalist Latenac; they too are endowed with heroic stature.""

"After a screening of Quatre-vingt-treize at the Cinématheque française in 1957, Philippe Esnault and Pierre Philippe wrote that “Capellani’s Quatre-vingt-treize (1914) allows us to judge, through the work of an important pioneer, the situation of our national cinema during the war. A Pathé director from 1905, the maker of L’Homme aux gants blancs (1908) began in 1909 a non-stop series of screen adaptations, of Racine, Hugo and Zola, as well as Richepin and Eugene Sue. One cannot ignore the filmmaker who has given us Germinal and Quatre-vingt-treize in quick succession. This is one of the few pre-war films dealing with a subject that can still interest viewers today. It was, more over, banned, and not released until 1921, with Antoine credited as co-director.” (Cinéma 57, no. 18, May 1957).""

"No complete original negative of this film has survived (unlike Germinal). Pierre Esnault (1930-2008) reconstructed Quatrevingt-treize in 1985, and his version is the basis of the 2010 Cinématheque française colour print. (The Esnault and Philippe quote, as well as information on the copy, are from Camille Blot-Wellens’ contribution to the booklet of the DVD Albert Capellani, Édition Pathé 2011, pp. 30-31)." (ML).""

QUATRE-VINGT-TREIZE (I-II). FR 1914. D: Albert Capellani. SC: based on the novel by Victor Hugo (1876) [in Finnish: Yhdeksänkymmentäkolme]; SC: Alexandre Arnoux; DP: Pierre Trimbach, Karémin Mérobian; Cast: Philippe Garnier (marchese de Lantenac), Paul Capellani (visconte Gauvain), Georges Dorival (sergente Radoub), Maximilien Charlier, Henry Krauss (Cimourdain), Maurice Schutz (Grandcoeur), Jean Liezer, Charlotte Barbier-Krauss (La Flécharde) P: S.C.A.G.L. Pathé Frêres No. 8760 (distribuzione 1921, Co-Regia André Antoine). 35 mm. 3408 m . 165’ a 18 fps. Tinted. Intertitres français. From: La Cinémathèque française. Earphone commentary in Italian and in English.

AA: A magnificent restoration of a powerful film adaptation of Victor Hugo's fascinating historical novel. I had neither read the novel nor seen this film before.

The first impression is that I have never seen an account like this on the French Revolution before, but I'm aware of film adaptations of Balzac's novel Les Chouans. Quatre-vingt-treize covers the roots of the Revolution (instances of social injustice), the spirit of freedom (Montesquieu's De l'esprit des lois is being discussed), and then focuses on the Chouannerie (the Royalists of the Northern mountains) and their battle with the Republicans.

There is a strong historical breath in the movie, shot largely on location. The milieux seem real, and the clothes look like the people have actually worn them. Still shot in early cinema style (long shots, long takes), it is constantly interesting. I saw the first part only of this movie, and I'm now looking forward to see the full film and to read the novel. The print is fine, including the toning and tinting effects.

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