Machin – A French Director in Belgium

Je vais me faire raser
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul. D: Darman. P: Pathé. Be 1914

“Alfred Machin (1877-1929) was a French director, cameraman, and producer. In 1907 he made his first films for Charles Pathé. A year later, he travelled to the Netherlands to shoot a number of short documentaries, including Comment se fait le fromage de Hollande and Coiffures et types de Hollande. These films were produced by Kinematograaf Pathé Frères, the Dutch subsidiary of Pathé Frères.
After having made a number of films in Africa, Machin returned to the Netherlands in the autumn of 1911. On a commission from the production company Hollandsche Film, he made a few short feature films for the foreign market. His films portrayed the clichéd image of the Netherlands, with traditional clothes, fishermen, windmills, and wooden shoes. In Volendam, he made films including Het vervloekte geld, a fishing drama starring Louis Bouwmeester. A year later, Hollandsche Film produced a second series of short feature films. It is unclear whether these were also directed by Machin (some sources mention Henri Adréani).
In 1913, Machin became the general manager of Belge Cinéma Film, the Belgian subsidiary of Pathé Frères. Before the First World War began, he made films including Het meisje uit de bloemenvelden (La fille de Delft) and Maudite soit la guerre. When the war broke out, Machin returned to France, where he served in the Army and shot footage of the battle on the Western Front.”

Saïda a enlevé Manneken Pis
R: Alfred Machin. K: Jacques Bizeul. D: Nicolas Ambreville, Balthus, Arthur Devère. P: Belge Cinéma Film. Be 1913

“The 61 cm tall bronze statue on the corner of Rue de l’Etuve and Rue des Grands Carmes was made in 1619 by Brussels sculptor Hieronimus Duquesnoy the Elder, father of the more famous François Duquesnoy. The figure has been repeatedly stolen: the current statue dates from 1965. The original restored version is kept at the Maison du Roi/Broodhuis on the Grand Place.
There are several legends behind this statue, but the most famous is the one about Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the troops of this two-year-old lord were battling against the troops of the Berthouts, the lords of Grimbergen, in Ransbeke (now Neder-Over-Heembeek). The troops put the infant lord in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.
Another legend states that in the 14th century, Brussels was under siege by a foreign power. The city had held its ground for some time, so the attackers conceived of a plan to place explosive charges at the city walls. A little boy named Julianske happened to be spying on them as they were preparing. He urinated on the burning fuse and thus saved the city. There was at the time (middle of the 15th century, perhaps as early as 1388) a similar statue made of stone. The statue was stolen several times.
Another story (told often to tourists) tells of a wealthy merchant who, during a visit to the city with his family, had his beloved young son go missing. The merchant hastily formed a search party that scoured all corners of the city until the boy was found happily urinating in a small garden. The merchant, as a gift of gratitude to the locals who helped out during the search, had the fountain built.”

>>>Machin’s M. Beulemeester, De medeminaars, and Le moulin maudit on this website

Science Fiction from Denmark

Verdens undergang (The End of the World)
R: August Blom. B: Otto Rung. K: Louis Larsen. Ba: Axel Bruun. D: Olaf Fønss, Carl Lauritzen, Ebba Thomsen. P: Nordisk Film. Dk 1916
Engl. titles

“An astronomer discovers a new comet and calculates that it will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause widespread death and destruction. A financier suppresses the news in order to make a killing on the stock market, but even riches cannot protect him when the apocalypse comes. (…)
When the apocalypse arrives, it’s surprisingly well presented, considering the vintage of the film. There are some big crowd scenes, flames in the sky and falling rocks. This is all supposed to be ‘fire and brimstone’ of course, as the presence of a local preacher throughout proceedings has left little doubt that the hand of god has been guiding the meteor in its wayward course across the heavens. And as our sinful duo host a wild party to celebrate Armageddon, complete with a banquet and dancing girls, while the poor miners run through the streets, it doesn’t take a genius to know how things are going to turn out for all our protagonists.
Throughout the film there are a surprising number of exterior scenes, and these are well composed and handled. These serve to sidestep the stilted appearance of many silent movies of the period and lend an air of accessibility to a modern audience. The sanctimony and religious subtext is pretty overt but it’s not overly preachy and doesn’t detract from the proceedings in general.”
Mark David Welsh

384-August Blom  August Blom

>>> Atlantis: A Danish Shipwreck Melodrama on this site

Naming the Federal Capital of Australia

Naming the Federal Capital of Australia, March 12th 1913
R: Raymond Longford. K: Ernest Higgins. P: Spencer Pictures Ltd. AUS 1913
Print: The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)
Duration of the circle pan shot at the end of the film: 3min 35sec.

“On the morning of Wednesday 12 March 1913, 500 invited guests, over 700 mounted and artillery troops and a public crowd of over 3000 locals came to witness the formal naming of Canberra. Foundation stones were laid by Governor-General Lord Thomas Denman, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher and the Minister for Home Affairs, King O’Malley. The national anthem was played and Lady Gertrude Denman announced the chosen name for the new-born federal capital. And so Canberra’s life officially began…
Directed by Raymond Longford and filmed by Ernest Higgins for Spencer Pictures Ltd, the film of the ceremony captures both the formality of the event and the bush character of Australia’s future capital (…). As part of the NFSA’s extensive collection of moving image works, it is among the early film images of Australia and allows us a glimpse into the cultural and social world of our country in 1913.
The recently completed digital restoration of the film highlights beautiful, clear images of finely dressed guests in Model T Fords, wagons, buggies and bicycles coming down from the Molonglo River to watch the ceremony. We see the grandstand erected for the official guests just below Capital Hill, facing north-east across the valley to Mt Ainslie; Lady Denman, elegant in an ostrich-plumed hat and pearls greeting guests; and the troops from the Australian Field Artillery, Light Horse and New South Wales Lancers.
The film ends with a dramatic panoramic sweep from Mt Pleasant taken the day after the ceremony. It starts roughly at Capital Hill, where both Parliament Houses now stand, moves east to west to Black Mountain and Mt Ainslie, before completing the circle with shots of Duntroon.”
Jennifer Coombes
National Film and Sound Archive

>>>  Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell on this site

Capellani, Former Theater Director

La Fille du sonneur
R: Albert Capellani. B: André Heuzé. D: Gabriel Moreau, Renée Coge, Ransart. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1906

“From his very first film on – the memorable Le chemineau of 1905, based on an episode from Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’ – Albert Capellani transports the contents and qualities of bourgeois culture to the cinema. He films Zola, Hugo and Daudet – his Arlésienne of 1908 has unfortunately been lost. His many fairy tale films (scène des contes), biblical and historical scenes reveal him as a great art director, who also adopted the latest developments in modern dance and worked with its stars Stacia Napierkowska and Mistinguiette. Highly versatile, he had an unerring sense of the best approach to a given genre.
Capellani had worked in the theater as a director and actor until Pathé recruited him in 1905. In a sense, he became a specialist in literary adaptations, especially after his appointment in 1908 as artistic director of S.C.A.G.L. Yet the films (…) include pure melodrama (such as Pauvre mère, “Poor mother,” 1906), crime-suspense films (L’Épouvante, “The Terror,” 1911), classic fairy-tales (Cendrillon, 1907), and historical/biblical costume pictures (Samson, 1908).
With his theatrical background, it is not surprising that Capellani was able to cast many old colleagues in his films, notably Henry Krauss, who played Quasimodo in Notre-Dame de Paris (1911) and Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (1912). Wherever his actors came from, however, Capellani was a master at directing performances. In many cases the acting makes characters who would seem completely conventional figures in most films of the day into people with whom the audience can empathize.”
Kristin Thompson
David Bordwell’s Observations on Film Art

Capellani in Paris:
The Ciné-Tourist

Albert Capellani

>>> Capellani: Two Deadly Romances on this website

Belgium around 1910

Antwerpen in de jaren 10
P: Actualités Gaumont. Be 1910

Round Brussels in Ten Minutes
P: Warwick Trading Company. UK 1908
German titles

>>> Bricolage: Toto et sa soeur en bombe à Bruxelles on this site


Police Action, Futuristic

La police en l’an 2000
D: Eugène Bréon, Clément Mégé, Marcel Perez. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1910
Print: Deutsche Kinemathek, Berlin

Cinema and Mass Ideology

An American in the Making
R: Carl Gregory. K: Carl Gregory. D: Harry Benham, Ethyle Cooke, Leland Benham. P: Thanhouser Film Corporation. USA 1913

From Thanhouser’s Narrative History:
An American in the Making, released on April 22nd, saw Harry Benham in the role of an immigrant from Poland. The origin of the film was told by Charles J. Hite:
About a year ago the United States Steel Corporation came to us and requested us to prepare a story in moving picture form, with the idea of circulating the same through our theatres, which would show the human side of this great company. They wanted to convey to the public in general that they had a heart; that they were interested in the education, health and safety of their employees. (…)
Whether Thanhouser’s immigrant was from Poland or from somewhere else was hard to determine by reading press clippings about the film. An article in ‘The Chicago Examiner’ suggested an entirely different national origin: ‘In the movie the young Frenchman of noble family comes to America and starts a new career in the Gary mills.’ ‘The Motion Picture World’ told its readers: “The story deals with a young Hungarian emigrant….”
The theme of success in America was not unique to Thanhouser films, and in an era in which Ellis Island served as the turnstile for countless Europeans seeking a better life in the United States, other film makers were quick to capitalize on the subject. For example, Solax’s Making an American Citizen, released on October 30, 1912, dramatized the arrival of a newly-arrived immigrant in New York City and the difficulty he had at first in adapting to life on this side of the Atlantic.”

“The film’s message is clear: the company protects those who cannot protect themselves and offers prosperity to those who follow it’s guidelines. Employers and state authorities are constantly concerned with the welfare of workers, both inside and outside the workplace. Workers, on the other hand, are childlike and dependent and show no initiative. Only through faithful obedience to external authority, rather than internally generated organizations like unions can success – shown here as a good job, pretty wife, large home, and happy family – be achieved. (…)
By the second decade of the new century, movies were entrenched as the nation’s most popular form of commercial entertainment and one of the most powerful weapons of mass ideology. Reformers, big business, and government agencies understood this and used the new medium to promote their interests.”
Steven J. Ross: Working-class Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America. Princeton University Press 1998, p. 85

>>> Making an American Citizen  on this site