A Recorder of Contemporary Reality

Bandits en automobile
Épisode 1: La bande de l’auto grise
Épisode 2: Hors-la-loi
R: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. K: Lucien Andriot. D: Henri Gouget, Camille Bardou, Karlmos, Josette Andriot. P: Eclair. Fr 1912

“After a short period working for the Éclipse film company, Jasset (1862-1913) was engaged in 1908 by the new Éclair production company to make film series beginning with Nick Carter, le roi des détectives. The detective hero Nick Carter was based on the series of popular American novels which were then being published in France by the German publisher Eichler. Jasset kept the name of the character but invented new adventures with a Parisian setting. The first six sections that Jasset directed were released at bi-weekly intervals in late 1908, and each one narrated a complete story.
Following another short period working for the small Raleigh & Robert company, Jasset returned to Éclair and travelled to North Africa to produce a series of fiction films and documentaries in Tunisia, taking advantage of its natural light and spectacular locations such as the ruins of Carthage. In the summer of 1910 he returned to Paris to become the ‘artistic director’ of the Éclair studio, having oversight of all the company’s production as well as his own film-making unit. In 1911 he made Zigomar, taking his title character from the popular newspaper and magazine stories of Léon Sazie about a master-criminal. This feature-length film was so successful that a second title, Zigomar contre Nick Carter (1912), was made ready within six months, and a third instalment followed in 1913, Zigomar peau d’anguille. Jasset adapted other popular novels such as Gaston Leroux’s ‘Balaoo’ in 1913, and in the same year Protéa, a spy story in which for the first time the title character was a woman, played by a long-time favourite actress of Jasset, Josette Andriot. The Protéa series continued after Jasset’s death.
In 1912 Jasset turned from fantasy and spectacle to realism in making the first of two Zola adaptations, as part of Éclair’s new series of social dramas. For Au pays des ténèbres, based on ‘Germinal’, he took his crew to Charleroi in Belgium to film in authentic locations, and although he updated the story to the present, he went to great lengths to recreate in the studio the detail of the actual mining galleries, exploiting the ability of film to be a recorder of contemporary reality. In the following year, Jasset filmed Zola’s ‘La Terre’ (1913).”

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