Friday, July 01, 2011

A Hundred Years Ago: Programme 8: 1911: The Mirror of the Times

Cento anni fa: Programma 8: 1911: Lo specchio del presente. Programme and notes by Mariann Lewinsky. Sala Officinema / Mastroianni (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato), 1 July 2011. Grand piano: Günter Buchwald. Presenta Mariann Lewinsky.

Catalogue: "In the auditorium it is 2011 and on the screen 1911; and while we watch the films of the past they start to merge into our present. The George V whom we see here crowned in 1911 is the very same that we saw recently in the cinema, the unfeeling father of the stammering George VI. And just as the bride and groom in the Cretinetti film are mercilessly pursued by the insurance agent as potential customers, so are we pursued by advertising, for similar reasons. Current events give to films showing specific areas of the world (Arab lands, China) – an enhanced actuality. The generation of nuclear power led to Chernobyl and Fukushima: a hundred years ago in Europe the most terrible man-made catastrophes were mining accidents. In 1911 Victorin Jasset not only made Au pays des ténèbres (two years before Capellani’s Germinal) and the first episode of Zigomar (Le Roi des voleurs): he also wrote an essay on the history of the development of cinema, ending (or at least breaking off) with the success of the Vitagraph comedies in about 1910. “Around 1909 to 1910 the first Vitagraph comedies appeared. Up to then, all production [of the American school] was bad, banal. Suddenly masterpieces started to appear. A new school was born and made its presence felt everywhere, not only among actors but among the general public, which welcomed it with open arms. The American school differed from ours in three main ways: 1. The camera range 2. The interplay of the actors 3. The plot structure » (V. Jasset, “Étude sur la mise en scene en cinématographie”, Ciné Journal no. 170, 25 November 1911, p. 26.)."

[CAMEL CARAVAN]. (?), 1911. P: Scientific Film. 35 mm. 79 m. 4’ a 16 fps. [not B&w] Tinted. English intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. Nomads of the desert. 1994 print from the Alan Roberts collection.

LE THÉÂTRE POPULAIRE ARABE / [the title of the print:] El teatro popular arabico. FR 1911. P: Éclair. 35 mm. 125 m. 6’ a 18 fps. B&w. Intertítulos en español. From: CNC- Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. An arab circus with monkeys and dogs and a primitive touring cinema. A print with toning effects.

LA PEUR DES OMBRES. FR 1911. D: Roméo Bosetti. Cast: Léontine; P: Pathé Frères (No. 4588). 35 mm. 64 m. 3’ a 18 fps. B&w. Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: Cineteca di Bologna, EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: Comedy thriller. Scared by shadows, the people call the police. A Jan Olsson moment: a fine extended triple-screen telephone sequence. The police are farcical. Nice. Print: beautiful in black and white. +

FESTA PIROTECNICA NEL CIELO DI LONDRA. GB [not 1911, but:] 1902. P: Urban Film. 35 mm. 80 m. 4’22'' a 16 fps. Col. No intertitles. From: Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Digitally restored in 2011 by L’Immagine Ritrovata. - AA: A beautiful colour-driven fireworks spectacle. Almost like abstract film. Fine colour effects on the print. *

CHEZ LES MURUTS, PEUPLADE SAUVAGE DU NORD DE BORNÉO. FR 1911. P: Pathé Frères (No. 4616). 35 mm. L. or.: 160 m. 97 m. 5’ a 18 fps. Pochoir. No intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). - AA: Non-fiction. Ethnography. Fine. Print from the Alan Roberts collection.

EXCURSION EN CHINE / Een Uitsapje door China. FR 1911. P: Éclair. 35 mm. 80 m. 4’ a 18 fps. B&w. Nederlandse tussentitels. From: EYE Film Instituut Nederland. - AA: Non-fiction. Travelogue. A religious procession on the ice of the Yangtze River. A fine visual quality, fine toning effects in the print.

CRETINETTI AGENTE DI ASSICURAZIONI / Gribouille agent d’assurances. IT 1911. Cast: Andre Deed (Cretinetti); P: Itala Film. 35 mm. L.: 191 m. 10’ a 16 fps. B&w. Intertitres français. From: CNC Archives Françaises du Film. - AA: Comedy. A comedy of hyperbole: Cretinetti is a supernaturally persistent insurance agent, who pops up even during a honeymoon trip, walks through a grille, levitates in the air, appears from a small jug, but acquires the signatures first during the final cliffhanging sequence when the newlyweds are at his mercy. One of the best Cretinetti films. *


AU PAYS DES TÉNÈBRES / [the title of the print:] Gluck auf!. FR 1911. D: Victorin Jasset. Cast: Charles Krauss, André Liabel, Marcel Vibert, Cécil Guyon; P: Éclair. 35mm. 517 m. 25’ a 18 fps. [catalogue: B&w, but actually:] Toned. Flemish intertitles. From: Cinematek (Brussels). There was no translation for this film. - AA: Tragedy. Milieu: a mine, like in Germinal. There is a gas explosion in the mine, and a flood. The main action of the film is the prolonged death agony of two survivors. The rescuers come too late. There is a wake for the two victims of the explosion. "Maybe the future will bring consolation". The visualization of the cave milieu is challenging, and it has been realized successfully. The composition is effective. The print has been struck from a partly damaged source, but the toning is successful, and the overall visual quality is fine.

THE TIRED ABSENT-MINDED MAN / [the title of the print:] Ein Junggeselle [...] zu heiraten. US 1911. Cast: John Bunny, Edith Storey, Lillian Walker; P: Vitagraph. 35 mm. 150 m / 7’ a 18 fps. [According to the catalogue: B&w, but actually:] toned. [According to the catalogue: English intertitles, but actually:] Deutsche Zwischentitel. From: CSC Cineteca Nazionale. - AA: Comedy. John Bunny plays a suitor prone to falling asleep. He falls asleep even on his wedding day. (Another instance of the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding, here only the threat of it.) The honeymoon trip starts, and John Bunny forgets to take the bride with him aboard the train and starts to read a book instead. A nice comedy.

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