Le coeur et l’argent
R: Louis Feuillade / Léonce Perret. D: Suzanne Grandais, Renée Carl, Raymond Lyon, Paul Manson. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
“In an effort to find his voice, Feuillade often experimented stylistically, as in the two mystical fantasies, Spring and The Fairy of the Surf. Spring is the weaker of the two, though superimpositions and transitions of angels frolicking atop water are impressive. The Fairy of the Surf presents a moody, selectively-tinted pictorialism, exemplified by the boat scenes on rocky water that were later presented in Victor Sjostrom‘s, A Man there Was (1917). The historical films Roman Orgy (1911) and The Agony of Byzance (1913) have strong social/moral messages. Roman Orgy is weaker in composition and narrative structure, although slow, lengthy takes freeze into magnificent paintings, encouraging viewers to reflect on the film’s content. The use of long shots visually weakens The Agony of Byzance, although Laviosa’s score for the film is compelling. Feuillade also neglected to inform viewers that Emperor Constantine was such a devout Catholic that he executed his unbelieving wife and son.
A Very Fine Lady (1908) is Feuillade’s comic, X-rated response to Guy-Blaché‘s risqué Madame’s Cravings; a well-endowed Renée Carl walks down the street, wreaking complete social disruption in her wake. Feuillade excels in moral tales and social-injustice dramas such as The Defect (1911), The Trust: Or the Battles for Money (1911), and The Heart and the Money. Moodily melodramatic and pictorially striking, The Heart and the Money is a seamless split-screen gem that concerns a young woman’s fatal lesson that marriage for money leads to destruction. The Trust: Or the Battles for Money initiates the realism of Feuillade’s Life as it Is series. Again, issues of greed are frowned upon. Rich in close-ups, point-of-view shots, noir lighting, angle shots, and suspense, this film introduces the character of the private detective.
The Obsession (1912) is Feuillade’s timely psychological response to the Titanic disaster. There is some nitrate damage toward the end of this film about obsessive premonitions but not enough to disrupt the story. It is notable for its combination of noir-like pictorial beauty and documentary style, as when the Titanic departs Cherbourg at night, with steam and fog foreshadowing the fatal iceberg. Feuillade’s interest in the architectural integrity of lines is depicted in this film in high-angle shots of train tracks, which also appear in The Defect and other films. Feuillade’s Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant (1913) concerns an impoverished little boy, lost in large clothing, who manages to traverse the upper class through the friendly theft of an elephant. Successive Bout de Zan and Life as it Is installments led Feuillade to create additional series, including his best-known works such as Fantômas (1913), The Vampires (1915), and Judex (1916).”
Army R. Handler