Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Hundred Years Ago: Programme 5: Gaumont Palace, "The Biggest Cinema in the World"

Cento anni fa: Programma 5: Gaumont Palace, "il più grande cinema del mondo". Programme and notes by Agnès Bertola, Pierre Philippe. Tuesday 28 June 2011 at 17.45, Cinema Lumière - Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Gabriel Thibaudeau. Presenta Martine Offroy.

Catalogue: "In 1911, Léon Gaumont bought the immense hippodrome on Place de Clichy, so as to give his company the showcase it needed at this period, when competition with the Pathé brothers was at its height. Up to then this venue had only housed massive spectaculars, including a celebrated Vercingétorix, which featured a Roman chariot race master-minded by Victorin Jasset (whom Gaumont had already employed as assistant director to Alice Guy on La Vie du Christ). The auditorium was rapidly furnished with a screen appropriate to its size, over a thousand seats and all the advantages offered by entertainment venues at the time: comfortable seating, a vast promenade area with small shops, bars and, in front of the (backprojection) screen, an orchestra of 40 players, conducted by Paul Fosse. The organ would arrive later, but right from the beginning variety acts formed a major part of the programme of this complex – which was already calling itself “the biggest cinema in the world”."

"The variety acts alternated with the short and medium-length films that the studio – or théâtre de poses – in the Buttes Chaumont park was turning out at speed, just to feed the voracious appetite that was the Gaumont Palace – besieged as it now was by crowds seduced by its ostentatious luxury and the variety of its attractions. On screen were the whole range of what this company with the daisy trade-mark considered the very essence of the new art: humanitarian dramas and anarchic farces, testimony to what this new technology allowed ordinary people to enjoy at first hand: popular singers filmed as if they were present in the flesh (the Phonoscènes), and the documentaries and current affairs that this period considered to be the school of the future. Not to mention the live interludes with performances of the most beautiful parts of works currently playing at opera houses."

"Later still it would offer the wonders of cinema in natural colour, Gaumontcolor’s famous “trichromic” system: its high point, in 1919, would be the triumphant La Revue, an exclusive report on the 1918 victory parade."

"Thus, from the very beginning, the legend of this mythical venue grew, until, alas, it was destroyed in 1972, its place taken by a depressing hotel and shopping complex. But in its time the Gaumont Palace did indeed become “the biggest cinema in the world”, with 6,000 seats, its look entirely revamped in 1930, its multi-purpose screen and its variety acts by then ever more sophisticated. Most of the films in the programme “An Evening at the Gaumont Palace” date from 1911, the year this liner set off on its dream cruise. We hope they will bring you too on board, for a grand voyage in images." Pierre Philippe

L’ECOLE DES PUPILLES DE LA MARINE. FR 1911. P: Gaumont (No. 5290). 35 mm. 155 m. 7’ a 18 fps. B&w. No intertitles. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: Non-fiction. The students march and perform gymnastics. Ok print.

LES CHALANDS. FR 1911. D: Georges-André Lacroix. P: Gaumont (No. 3549). 35 mm. 260 m. 12’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: Non-fiction. Another contribution to the French barge genre (Antoine, Renoir, Grémillon, Vigo...), wonderful plein air cinematography. A beautiful 1993 print.

ANNA, QU’EST-CE QUE T’ATTENDS? FR 1911. Fonoscena; Testo: Alexandre Trébitsch, Henri Christiné; M: Clarence W. Murphy, Harry Fragson; P: Gaumont (No. 760). 35 mm. 64 m. 3’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: A phonoscene: a filmed song. The family goes out on a picnic. Funny, humoristic, the audience was laughing. A fine print does justice to the beautiful cinematography.

LA MUSICOMANIE. FR 1911. D: Emile Cohl. P: Gaumont (No. 3235). 35 mm. 110 m. 5’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: Animation / live action. Metamorphoses on the basis of a simple drawing. Nice.

BÉBÉ EST NEURASTHÉNIQUE / [{The title on the print:} Fritsje et nit zoo dom]. FR 1911. D: Louis Feuillade. Cast: Clément Mary (Bébé), Paul Manson (il padre), René Carl (la madre), Jeanne Saint-Bonnet (la balia); P: Gaumont (No. 3634). 35 mm. 215 m. 10’30'' a 18 fps. B&w. Nederlandse tussentitels. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: A comedy. Fritsje has hypochondria and loses his joy of life. A nice film and a good print.

QUESTIONS INDISCRÈTES. FR ca. 1905. D: Alice Guy. Fonoscena; Cast: Félix Mayol; P: Gaumont (No. 154). 35 mm. 100 m. 3’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: A phonoscene (a filmed song) starring Félix Mayol. A nice film, I wish I could have understood the lyrics better.

L’INTRUSE. FR 1911. Cast: Clément e Alphonsine Mary; P: Gaumont (No. 3503) 16 mm. 113 m. 13’30'' a 18 fps. B&w. From: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek. - AA: A beautiful print (but duped / digimastered?).

ATTUALITÀ GAUMONT / NEWSREEL GAUMONT. FR 1911. Selezione di 7 estratti dai cinegiornali Gaumont:
- France. Départ du paquebot France pour New York
- Paris. Manifestations du 1er mai
- Les Londoniens donnent à manger aux mouettes sur les bords de la Tamise
- Moscou. Bénédiction des eaux de la Moskova
- Chamonix. Sports d’hiver
- Milan. La Foire la plus ancienne
- France, mode. Présentation de manteaux et robes du soir dans un salon
35 mm. 4’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives.

NON, TU NE SORTIRAS PAS SANS MOI. FR 1911. D: Jean Durand. P: Gaumont (No. 3695). 35 mm. 140 m. 7’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. - AA: A comedy. A catastrophe comedy, a family comedy. The hyperbolic principle is followed with a wonderful dream logic. Wild, crazy, funny.

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