Monday, April 28, 2014

La Naissance de Charlot

Charles Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Eric Campbell, and Albert Austin in The Rink. Click to enlarge.
Charles Chaplin, wie alles begann. Ein Tramp erobert die Welt. FR © 2013 Steamboat Films / Lobster Films / Arte France. Avec la participation de Roy Export S.A.S. Producteur délégué: Serge Bromberg. Productrice exécutive: Marianne Lère. Un film de Serge Bromberg & Eric Lange. Chef opérateur: Jean-Louis Sonzogni. Musique: Robert Israel. Musiques additionnelles: Eric le Guen, Frederic Hodges, The Mont Alto Orchestra, Tim Brock. Chefs opérateurs prise de son: Emile Mahler, Robert Sidoli. Chef monteur: Eric Lange. Avec la participation amicale de Kate Guyonvarch, Kevin Brownlow, and David Robinson. Et Antoine Lange dans le rôle de l'enfant. Archives films: Roy Export Company Est., Film Preservation, BFI National Archive, Lobster Films, Cineteca di Bologna. Adaptation français / anglais: Lenny Borger. Voice over: Kate Guyonvarch / Peter Hudson. 60 min
    A Lobster Films screener dvd viewed at home, 28 April 2014

A lovely documentary produced for Arte to celebrate the centenary of The Tramp.

The story has been often told, but I relish this version where all the participants are so clearly enjoying the task at hand.

There are several wonderful montages. The opening and end credit montages focus on Chaplin's balletic prowess. The early London montages are exciting (Mitchell & Kenyon?). The music hall montages help understand the great tradition from which Chaplin rose. The Keystone montages illustrate slapstick. The Essanay montages demonstrate the birth of deep feeling in Chaplin's comedy. And the Mutual montages display the freedom of invention. Included is some delicious Mutual outtakes footage which was celebrated in Kevin Brownlow's The Unknown Chaplin series.  

Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange make an interesting emphasis on the fact that the character of The Tramp evolved during the First World War. Significantly, this year, we are celebrating the centenary of The Tramp - and mourning the centenary of the First World War from which we have never really recovered. Chaplin realized early on that great comedy is not far from fear, danger, and horror.

Even rougher notes:

Clips: Mutual, Keystone. - How To Make Movies. - I: Kate Guyonvarch. - London 1890s footage, eloquent. - I: David Robinson. - Father and mother. - Early sonorized music hall number. - Models for inspiration. - When he was five, replaced his mother on stage. - Lovely montage of early music hall numbers. - A terrible life. At ten, goes to work. - Lancashire Lads. - The great period of music hall. - Little Tich. - A wonderful montage of music hall acts. - Fine vintage British footage (Mitchell & Kenyon?). - Sydney Chaplin, his half-brother. - The Hydro. A wonderful sense of comedy. - Mumming Birds. - Skating. - The Hydro. - 1908: Charlie into the act. - Three years, perfected his skills, show after show. - Just 19. - The great moment in 1910. Every year to America. This was a revelation. - Stan Laurel was there, too. Early Stan Laurel comedy, sporting a Chaplin like moustache. - October 1910. The excitement of New York. I was Charlie's roommate. A very eccentric person. Shabby in appearance. Unpredictable. - Second tour: 1912. Coast to coast. Always the same sketches over and over. Biggest hit: Mumming Birds = A Night in English Music Hall. - Charlie as the drunk who disturbs the show. The Inebriate. - Philadelphia. Alf Reeves. Keystone contact: offer of a contract. - I: Kevin Brownlow. - A working-class experience. - Vintage cinema viewing footage. - Thought he was going to be a dramatic actor. To play Hamlet at last. Bitterly disappointed. - Mack Sennett. Gag factory. - Clip: Showing a Keystone comedy. Lady pianist. - Discipline was the watchword. - Keystone Kops. - Slapstick: the most commercial kind of film made at that time. - The same basic formula. No time for the public to catch its breath. - Film-in-film parody. - A good slapstick montage. - Stories were elementary. - Until the final chase. - January 1914: Making a Living. Clip. Chaplin as an evil cad. A fake dandy, a penniless conman. - Directer by Henry Lehrman. -  The result a disaster. - Clip: Keystone studio. - Mabel's Strange Predicament. Chaplin to the wardrobe. The costume: everything a contradiction. Moustache adds age without hiding expression. - Another film was shot: Kid Auto Races in Venice. Documentary footage on the first audience that ever saw Chaplin as The Tramp. - 35 films in less than a year. - Even the least of them had moments. - A Keystone montage. - The Tramp became Keystone's favourite figure. - Chaplin's idea of comedy wasn't Sennett's. Could not stand vulgarity. - Realized how interesting the camerawork was. - The early directors wanted speed. - Four months: to direct his own pictures. - September 1914: Dough and Dynamite. Inspired by the bakers' strike. - Unprecedented gross for a short. - Keystone is his school. Discovering his character. - THE SECOND ACT: ESSANAY. Spoor and Anderson. - Creative control. Essanay Chaplin comedies. - Shot at Niles. Chicago studios too cold. - Comic art. - Chaplin business a phenomenon. - Chaplin merchandize started then. - Not a nice character. - Figurines, songs, cartoons. - Becoming a commodity. - Charlie as a conductor. - You just needed a cardboard Chaplin in front of the cinema and a billboard "he's here". - The Tramp lookalike contests around the world. - Like Pierrot, Harlequin. - What was unique was his walk. - Clip of Charlie walk imitators. - A montage of Charlie imitators. - Including female ones. - The films now in two reels. - Experience in live performance, the sense of audience reaction. - A Night in the Show, his film adaptation of the Mumming Birds. Now in two roles: the drunk and a tramp (not the usual one). Pie throwing. - Good bye to the theatre. - Edna Purviance. She knew nothing about movies. - Very different from the Keystone female stars. - Need to develop more sympathetically. - Looking for a more romantic woman. - First just a vulgar little man. Suddenly there is emotion, sentiment. - Bored in Niles. Majestic Studios in Los Angeles. - The Tramp in Niles, one of his signature films. Here for the first time his classic exit. - December 1915. - Clip: Chaplin on trampoline. - February 1916. - MUTUAL. Footage of the signing. The embodiment of the American Dream. - The contract was published in a newspaper. - Own staff and studio. The Lone Star Studio. - Newcomer: Eric Campbell. The better the villain the better the film. - The Floorwalker. Easy Street. etc. - Chpalin vs. Campbell montage. - His happiest years. - Virtually independent. - Candid Mutual backstage footage. - Expected to deliver a film a month. - Method now entirely different. - He knew what his public liked. - He was determined to give his best. - Chaplin did not know what he was doing. - He went on until it worked. - The genesis of The Immigrant. It began as a café comedy. - Clip: The Immigrant outtakes. Alternative footage with Henry Bergman as the waiter. Then, Eric Campbell replaces him. - Reshoot as many times as he found necessary. Film stock was cheap. Good ideas were not. - Campbell, Chaplin laughing. - Way of moving was unique. - Dancing sequence. Nijinsky. Watching him making Easy Street. - Chaplin Studio now a fashionable place. - Clip: Max Linder as a guest. Europe still at war. Linder's career in free fall. - Clip: The Rink. How "the uninterrupted laughter destroyed a theatre". - 1917. The US entered the war. Chaplin raising money for the war effort. The Liberty bonds. - Clip: The Bond. - WWI. - During it Charlie's character took form. - Now free and independent. - The apprenticeship was over. - What became of the comedies. Home movies, reissues. Chaplin had no control. They lost quality. Most prints are mediocre. The projectionists were not kind. Only recently the trouble to something approaching the original photographic quality. - Unique prints from original camera negatives. - Restoration frame by frame. - Piazza Maggiore. Burlesque on Carmen. Timothy Brock conducting the Bizet parody score.

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