Albert Capellani: Two Feeries

A Film Director of Two Centuries

“As a 20th century director Capellani works with stories rooted in the present of their times: he achieves a wonderful Effet de Réel with Paris street scenes (Les deux soeurs,  L’homme aux gants blancs). He weaves his characters and plots into continuous narratives consisting of photographic evidence of the sequence of events. He shows cinematographic images of great immediacy, which grab and hold the audience. This is the cinema of empathy, of feelings, the cinema of the now-past 20th century.
Capellani is a director of this 19th century. His films allow us to participate in the cultural life of the ‘800: they give us access to its imaginary worlds, its entertainments and its fantasies. There are féerie subjects, with special effects and apotheoses (La légende de Polichinelle, 1907). There is the fascination with the ancient world and its decadence – veil dances, shimmering colours, goblets of hemlock (Amour d’esclave, 1907)– and the ‘local colour’, be it Cuba (Feast of Life, 1916), Elizabethan England (Marie Stuart, 1908) or Paris, recreated in Studios in the U.S.A (The Virtuous Model, 1919). There are realistic reconstruction of events that took place in 1796 (Le courrier de Lyon, 1911), and monumental frescoes of war and social struggle. (Quatre-vingt-treize and Germinal).”
Mariann Lewinsky
Il Cinema Ritrovato XXV edizione (2011)

La légende de Polichinelle
R: Albert Capellani / Lucien Nonguet. B: Albert Capellani. D: Max Linder. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1907
Engl. titles

“Born to well-to-do parents in the wine region of Bordeaux, Max (Linder) was fascinated at an early age by the fairground shows and circuses that passed through the area and took up acting at age 16, when he entered the prestigious Bordeaux Conservatoire. A minor star of light comedies on the Paris stage by 1904 (around which time he adopted the name ‘Max Linder’), he was recruited for the movies by Louis J. Gasnier, a theater casting coordinator who moonlighted as a director at Pathé, and he appeared in his first film in 1905. For four years, he played both leads and extras, and not all of his films were comedies. In 1907, for example, Linder was directed by Albert Capellani in a strange rescue-revenge féerie entitled La Légende de Polichinelle (Harlequin’s Story), which is undoubtedly more interesting for Capellani’s direction than for Linder’s capering in the lead role of a mechanical toy in love with a doll.”

Le pied de mouton
R: Albert Capellani. B: Alphonse Martainville / César Ribié. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1907
German titles, Engl. subitles

“After the French Revolution, theater began to focus on pleasing the bourgeoisie. One of the most popular forms of light entertainment was the whimsical and elaborate féerie, child of the former opulent court ballets. The first official féerie we can point to was ‘Le pied de mouton’ (The Sheep’s Foot),  written by Alphonse Martainville and first staged on December 6, 1806. It was the model for all the plays that followed throughout the 19th century: hero Guzman goes on a quest to rescue his lover Leonora from a villain, and encounters many obstacles and strange sights along the way. Not too far removed from today’s road films, but more in favor of the imagination and the timeless showdown of good vs evil.”
Lea Stans

>>> Timeline of Historical Film Colors: Le pied de mouton

>>> The Tableau System of Presentation and Capellani’s Aladin ou la lampe merveilleuse

Further reading:  Albert Capellani in America: 1915-1922