Capellani’s “L’Arlésienne”

R: Albert Capellani. B: Albert Capellani, Alphonse Daudet (novel). D: Jean-Marie de l’Isle, Jeanne Grumbach, Henri Desfontaines, Paul Capellani, Mademoiselle Bouquet, Mademoiselle Bertyl, Henry Krauss. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1908
Engl. subtitles

“In his own films, Capellani brought the ‘Pathé’ style to its highest level, directing adaptions from the classics of popular literature. Among the earliest were L’Arlésienne (1908), adapted from Alphonse Daudet‘s novel, and L’Assommoire (1909), adapted from Emile Zola, which, at 740 meters, could be considered the first feature film in French cinema. His later multiple-reel films were characterized by a strong sense of verisimilitude, an unusual skill in deploying a variety of editing techniques, and a particular adeptness of staging in depth, which often involved deftly choreography characters and crowds of extras in deep outdoor spaces. Many of these films received very favorable reviews from both the public and the press: among them Le courrier de Lyon (1911), Notre-Dame de Paris (1911), Les mystères de Paris (1913), and Germinal (1913). The most famous of these, of course, was Les Misérables (1912), whose four parts (totaling nearly 3500 meters) brought wordwide recognition.”
Eric le Roy in: Richard Abel: Encyclopedia of Early Cinema. Taylor & Francis 2005, p. 103-104

L’Arlésienne was shot almost entirely on location in Arles. In it we discover the old streets, the Roman amphitheater then used as a bullring, and the vast olive groves. Capellani shows a remarkable sense of pictorialism in his camera angles and lighting effects. The film even contains an astonishing 180-degree panorama. He uses double exposures with amazing virtuosity. Capellani manages to make us feel Frédéric’s torments as he is haunted by the image of the Arlésienne, which appears constantly by his side, even in the presence of his bride. The film captures the poetry of Daudet’s work. This first adaption of a classic was a masterstroke.”
Christine Leteux: Albert Capellani: Pioneer of the Silent Screen. University Press of Kentucky 2015, p. 25


Lea Giunchi – Matchless in Italy

Lea e il gomitolo
(aka “Lea und ihr Knäuel”, German version)
R: Unknown. D: Lea Giunchi, Giuseppe Gambardella, Lorenzo Soderini. P: Società Italiana Cines. It 1913

About Lea Giunchi
During her comic career, Lea partnered with such important comedy actors as Ferdinand Guillaume (Tontolini), Raymond Frau (Kri Kri) and Giuseppe Gambardella (Checco). But her personality as an actress was so exuberant and her physical ability so effervescent that she soon became the principal of a comedy series entitled after her own name: produced by Cines, the ‘Lea’ series counts a dozen titles, covering the years between 1910 and 1916. (…) Giunchi’s acting peculiarity consisted in her ability to combine two different aspects in one single characterization: she made use of her body in a very free way, yet at the same time she also managed to be extremely charming and feminine. (…) Lea made use of both the free and unprejudiced movements of her body and a coquettish femininity: this was quite a revolutionary combination of elements for the time, and Giunchi was the first, and probably the only actress to introduce it in Italian cinema.

Lea’s comedies were made in the same period when the Vamp and the Diva myths were being established, when even a small piece of skin revealed on the screen was enough to intrigue and scandalize both women and men. Just at the same time, Lea’s performances were made of jumps and somersaults and funny circles in which she appeared not just as a beautiful woman, but as the one and only owner of her charming, as well as fairly undressed body. In Lea e il gomitolo (1913) Giunchi destroys her parents’ whole apartment by desperately searching for a lost ball of wool: her frenzy movement, quite similar to a demoniac possession, is a metaphor for Lea’s desperate search for the only female identity she knows and can imagine; by destroying the apartment, she conquers both her right to read in peace and the possibility of an alternative female identity.”
Marzia Ruta: Lea Giunchi: The Story of a Lost Comical Body. Women and the Silent Screen VI Dipartimento di Musica e Spettacolo – Conferenze. 12.5.2010.

605-Lea Giunchi

Méliès’ Adventurous Automobile Trip

Le raid Paris-Monte Carlo en deux heures
R: Georges Méliès. B: Georges Méliès. D: Fernande Albany, Antonich, Blondet, Séverin Cafferra. Victor de Cottens, Harry Fragson, Félix Galipaux, Louis Maurel Georges Méliès. P: Star Film. Fr 1905

“For the 1904 Folies Bergère cabaret revue, the director Victor de Cottens approached Méliès — then at the height of his fame as a filmmaker — with the idea of combining theatre and cinema by presenting a short film as one of the fourteen segments of the stage production. The two directors worked out a scenario that would parody the motoring adventures of King Leopold II of Belgium, who was famous for driving, and often crashing, fast cars. In the stage-screen amalgamation devised by Méliès and de Cottens, the segment began as a sketch with live performers before continuing as a film; at the end of the film, the actor playing the King, as well as other actors playing cheering spectators, returned to the stage to finish the sketch live.

Méliès drew the cast of the film from various sources. Harry Fragson, a London-born singer and comedian who was one of the stars of the Folies Bergère at the time, played the lead role of King Leopold. Louis Maurel, a Paris singer and comedian who had worked with Fragson in the 1903 Folies Bergère revue, was the chauffeur. In the scene in front of the Paris Opera, the celebrities assembled include Jean Noté, a singer at the opera house; the short actor Little Pich, whose persona was a close imitation of the better-known British comedian Little Tich, and who also acted in films by Pathé Frères and the Gaumont Film Company; the tall actor Antonich, known as the “Giant Swede;” Félix Galipaux, who had been a popular music hall monologuist in Paris since the 1880s and who acted in several Méliès films; Jane Yvon, a Folies Bergère entertainer; Séverin Cafferra, a popular mime; and de Cottens himself. Fernande Albany, who also appeared in Méliès’s films The Impossible Voyage, Tunnelling the English Channel, and The Conquest of the Pole, played the plump lady in the Dijon scene, and the Folies Bergère entertainers Blondet and Raiter also made appearances. Méliès himself plays two roles in the film: a mailman who gets knocked over by the car, and the octroi official who explodes. Méliès also cast more extras in the film than was usual for him, sometimes staging them in layered arrangements for visual clarity, and sometimes letting them move at whim to create more disorganized, naturalistic groupings. (…)

‘An Adventurous Automobile Trip’ premiered at the gala opening night of the Folies Bergère revue on 31 December 1904. It ran for six months at the Folies Bergère, lasting more than 300 performances. Méliès also intended for the film to be shown by exhibitors elsewhere, outside the context of the revue. Thus, after its Folies Bergère run, it was released as a standalone item by Méliès’s Star Film Company and numbered 740–749 in its catalogues, where it is advertised as a grande course fantastique funambulesque. As with at least four percent of Méliès’s output, the film was available both in black-and-white and in individually hand-colored prints sold at a higher price.”

A coloured version of this film:

Furious Women

La fureur de Mme. Plumette
R: Unknown. D: Ellen Lowe. P: Éclipse. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles

Alice Guy – prolific filmmaker and subject of the recent documentary Be Natural [2018] – terrorizes the polis with her maternity cravings in Madame a des envies (1907), which include pickled herring, sweet lollipops, and potent absinthe. More than hungry, Madame Plumette is absolutely furious. La Fureur de Mme. Plumette (1912) opens with a sight gag about menstruation but unfolds as a hilarious celebration of unrepressed female anger. (…)”
Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak
Antti Alanen: Film Diary

Non! Tu ne sortiras pas sans moi!
R: Jean Durand. D: Ernest Bourbon, Gaston Modot. P: Gaumont. Fr 1911
Engl. subtitles

Cunégonde femme crampon
R: Unknown. D: Little Chrysia. P: Lux. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

“(…) Wives continue to play the roles of domestic tyrant in Non! Tu ne sortira pas sans moi! (1911) and Cunégonde femme-crampon (1912). Non! features a male actor in drag as the rebellious housewife. In contrast, Cunégonde flips the script by forbidding her husband to go out alone. Thanks to the brilliant archival sleuthing of Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi, we now know that Cunégonde was played by Little Chrysia, who starred in about 24 episodes of this series from 1911-1913 and also worked as a traveling circus performer in the U.K. and France.”
Maggie Hennefeld, Laura Horak
Antti Alanen: Film Diary

Another Cunégonde:

Cunégonde est trop curieuse
R: Unknown. D: Little Chrysia. P: Lux. Fr 1912
Print: EYE
Dutch titles
Engl. subtitles

The First Hillbilly Movie

The Moonshiner
R: Wallace McCutcheon. K: G.W. Bitzer D: Wallace McCutcheon, Harold Vosburgh. P: American Mutoscope & Biograph. USA 1904
Filming Locations: Scarsdale, New York

“By the summer of 1904, the Edison Company had abdicated its position as America’s foremost motion picture producer to the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company. Biograph had recognized the importance of fiction headliners and had begun regular ‘feature’ production by mid 1904. With Wallace McCutcheon acting as producer, Biograph’s staff made Personal in June, The Moonshiner in July, The Widow and the Only Man in August, The Hero of Liao Yang in September, and The Lost Child and The Suburbanite in October. These headliners were all enthusiastically received by the vaudeville-going public. They were not offered for sale, however, but kept for exclusive use on the company’s exhibition circuit. Biograph was perhaps the first company, certainly the first company in America, to make regular ‘feature’ production the keystone of its business policy.”
Charles Musser: Before the Nickelodeon. Edwin S. Porter and the Edison Manufacturing Company. University of California Press 1991, p. 276-277

“Indeed, the first film produced explicitly about mountain people, Biograph’s 1904 short The Moonshiner, proved to be such a success that the company was still advertising it four years later as its biggest money maker – ‘the most widely known and most popular film ever made’. The success of The Moonshiner led to such a steady increase in the number of mountaineer-themed films that film studios released seventy such films in 1914, averaging more than one new movie a week.”
Anthony Harkins: Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon. Oxford University Press 2005, p. 58

“Isolated opportunities for (…) the democracy of violence were fairly plentiful for individual women. For example, in the final scene of the earliest known hillbilly movie and pioneer in the field, The Moonshiner (Biograph 1904), the moonshiner’s wife seizes a gun and shoots the lawman in the back, a display of wicked but invigorating potentiality that made early urban nickelodeon patrons cheer and call for more.”
Jerry Wayne Williamson: Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and what the Mountains Did to the Movies. UNC Press Books 1995, p. 232