Friday, July 01, 2011

Alice Guy Programme 6: Cinema and the Arts

Alice Guy Programma 6: Il cinema e le altre arti. Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky. Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), Friday, 1 July 2011. Earphone commentary in Italian and English. Grand piano: Maud Nelissen.

ALICE GUY EN ESPAGNE. FR ca. 1905. P: Gaumont. Beta. ca. 60 m. 3’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. In autumn 1905, from mid-october to late november, Alice Guy and her cameraman Anatole Thiberville travelled through Spain and shot many films - gipsy dances, phono-scenes and views from Madrid, Sevilla, Cordova and Granada. (Monica dall’Asta, in Alice Guy, Memorie di una pioniera del cinema, Cineteca di Bologna, Bologna 2008, p. 111). - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. Spanish scenes. Beta video.

ALICE GUY TOURNE UNE PHONO-SCÈNE. FR ca. 1905. P: Gaumont. Beta. ca. 60 m. 3’. B&w. From: Gaumont Pathé Archives. “The voice of the artist, singer, speaker or the music for dance were recorded in the studio. The actors then rehearsed their roles until they had obtained a perfect synchronization with the phonographic recording. Then the cinematographic record was taken. The two instruments, photo and phono, were united by an electric contrivance which assured their synchronization.” (Alice Guy, The Memoirs of Alice Guy Blaché, a cura di Anthony Slide, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, 1981, p. 44). - AA: Non-fiction. Making of. A remarkable glimpse from behind the scenes of early film production on a big studio. Alice Guy is undoubtedly the boss. She is directing the film, probably also producing at Gaumont. An important piece of evidence for the discussion of job descriptions in early cinema before the credit title "director" was established. Beta video.

LE TANGO. FR 1905. D: Alice Guy. P: Gaumont. 35 mm. ca. 60 m. 3’. Col. From: Cineteca di Bologna. “In passing I had noticed a small stage on which six guitar players were seated. It was too tempting... Soon the guitars introduced the dancer, who leaped forward, castanets in her fingers. I did not regret my evening. Her talent, grace and beauty would have conquered Paris at once.” (Alice Guy, The Memoirs of Alice Guy Blaché, a cura di Anthony Slide, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, 1981, p. 51). - AA: Non-fiction. A record of a dance performance.

THE EMPRESS. US 1917. D: Alice Guy Blaché. Cast: Doris Kenyon (Nedra), Holbrook Blinn (Eric) William Morse (De-Baudry), Lyn Donelson; P: Pathé Exchange. 1010 m. 24 fps. 36’. B&w. No intertitles. From: La Cinémathèque française.

"The film does not only present the usual contrast of woman as the pure innocent victim of masculine aggression but also an astonishing expression of the sensuality and clearly sexual desire of the woman. The only surviving element of this beautiful film is a negative, so the print is unfortunately missing intertitles. But the plot is easily followed and the aid of the copyright description helps clarify the missing parts and lacuna.""

“To celebrate the sale of The Empress, De Baudry took his model, Nedra, to the country for a vacation; he registered as Mr. and Mrs. De Baudry, but engaged separate rooms. The proprietor of the Inn, Peterson, had a seemingly foolish hobby for photography. Shielded by some shrubbery, he snapped the unsuspecting De Baudry and Nedra. That night De Baudry forced his way into Nedra’s room and his true intention of the “vacation” dawning on her, she crept to the room of the proprietor’s daughter for protection and returned to town in the morning. When Eric Bruce, a wealthy art patron, saw The Empress, he vowed to seek and marry the original. Fortune favored him and after a short courtship they were married. Then a shadow crept into their happy home. Peterson makes Nedra a visit, shows the photo of herself and De Baudry’s arms, mentions the Inn register and demand money for his silence. She complies and Peterson continues his bleeding regularly. Nedra’s actions arouse Eric’s suspicions and he makes investigations that lead to the Inn, where he discovers the apparently black evidence. In a fury he seeks De Baudry. He finds Nedra there imploring him to tell her husband the truth. Eric refused to believe either of them. Desperate, Nedra ascends to the roof. Suddenly, from De Baudry’s room emerges the woman in the dark who gives proof of Nedra’s innocence. His heart sinking that he may be too late to save Nedra, he dashes madly to the roof after her arriving in time.” CLL 10366 The Empress March 14, 1917, Copyright Pathe Exchange, Inc., U.S. Amusement Corp. p. 221.

AA: A drama. As stated above, the intertitles are missing, and as also stated above, it is still possible to follow the narrative. A rather lavish production. An interesting aspect of the plot is the theme of photography. Another interesting feature is the theme of the friendship between women (Nedra and the innkeeper's daughter). A fine print based on the negative with occasional marks of nitrate damage.

Camille Blot-Wellens: Some issues affecting the restoration and reconstruction of silent films from negatives alone

"La Cinématheque française conserves many negatives of early films. Even if the negative is the best element we have in terms of photographic quality, this does not always enable us to restore the original work, and there are several reasons for this."

"The system used for editing negatives during the silent period was different. Unless they have been altered subsequently (by the production company or the archive), negatives are edited into small blocks ready for shooting, with a leader often identifying the title of the film and the order of the shots. But identification can be complicated by the fact that the same studio would often shoot several versions of the same title, a few years (or months) apart, and producers would sometimes copy each other’s films. Sometimes, therefore, it is necessary to consult an original catalogue, and specifically an illustrated catalogue, to identify the film correctly."

"The leaders can also carry indications for tinting and toning. This information can be undecipherable without the manufacturer’s documentation (in the case of Pathé films, it is in code) or a contemporary positive print of the film in question as a reference."

"Furthermore, negatives can sometimes be edited with no indication of the original title-cards – for these would be edited directly into the prints, as the language would vary depending on which country they were going to. The same was true of the inserts. In the total absence of title cards we have to search for the information in related documents. From 1906, the most important French companies, Pathé and Gaumont, started to deposit scripts in the Bibliotheque nationale de France. This practice became more systematic between 1908 and 1914. These documents sometimes enable us to find the original text of the title cards, but more often they simply give us extra information (such as the names of characters), but without actually enabling the re-creation of the intertitles. This is often the case with literary adaptations, as scriptwriters allowed themselves greater freedom in their treatment of the original text. Censor cards can also be a reliable source, because the documents submitted for censorship often reproduced the entire text of the title cards. Sadly, however, these documents are not always preserved. Thus, every year the film collections department of La Cinématheque française identifies and conserves many films that can nevertheless not be seen in their original form, for they cannot be reconstructed. This year, in the context of the Albert Capellani and Alice Guy sections, some unique elements from films will be shown in the form of work prints." (Camille Blot-Wellens).

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