Durand: Camargue Westerns (2)

Pendaison à Jefferson City
R: Jean Durand. B: Joë Hamman. D: Joë Hamman, Berthe Dagmar, Gaston Modot, Edouard Grisollet, Mégé Cadet, Lucien Bataille, Carlos Avril, Vesta Harold. P: Gaumont. Fr 1911
Print: Cinémathèque française, Paris
Engl. subtitles

Filming locations:  Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France (exterior scenes)

“This is a rather elliptical story of three miners, one of whom is accused falsely of killing one of his friends and can only be saved from hanging by the other friend. The mine owner entrusts Bill with a payroll bag that he is to deliver to a distant post (why is unclear), and he asks Burton to accompany him (which the owner overhears). After Burton goes off with Joë instead (why and where is unclear), Bill slips and falls into a deep pool of water and drowns. Rumors begin to circulate in the saloon that Burton is guilty, and, just before being arrested, he desperately asks the female saloon owner to find Joë, who alone can exonerate him (where he has gone also is unclear). In a series of skillful horseback rides, she is successful, and Joë rides up to the scene of the hanging in time to save his friend.
The film is notable for several deep-space exterior shots, and especially for Dagmar and Hamman’s horseback riding. One scene relatively smoothly tracks her horse through a dry gulch, over a narrow bridge (in a low-angle shot), and from the bridge up a steep hillside (in a corresponding high-angle shot). The next depicts Hamman’s ride, capped by an expert sideways descent down another steep hillside. In the end, he fires a single revolver shot like the heroine in Selig’s later Sallie’s Sure Shot, (…)  which miraculously severs the rope from which his friend is hanging.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

La prairie en feu
R: Jean Durand. B: Joë Hamman. D: Joë Hamman, Berthe Dagmar, Ernest Bourbon, Gaston Modot, Pollos, Folco de Baroncelli, Vesta Harold. P: Gaumont. Fr 1912
Print: Gaumont Pathé Archives
Engl. subtitles

Filming Locations: Camargue, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

“This film anticipates several of the later BISON 101 Indian pictures produced by Thomas Ince (e.g., The Massacre, The Lieutenant’s Last Fight) in that it tells a story about how American Indians were treated badly by the United States government. In South Dakota (where Hamman had lived among Sioux Indians), Chief Yellow Fox gets into a dispute with a government agent over compensation owed to his tribe, and the agent shoots and wounds him in the hand. After the agent’s wife (apparently also an Indian) bandages the wound, Yellow Fox reports the humiliation to his tribesmen, and they vow revenge. At night they set fire to the small town, and the settlers there flee on horseback and in carts and wagons. As the Indians attack one wagon, Yellow Fox is shot, and he goes off to die alone on a hilltop.
The second film that Durand and Hamman shot in the Camargue region, La prairie en feu makes more use of its flat, marshy landscape for both the Indians and white settlers to travel across. The town of Sioux Falls, however, is little more than a few wooden buildings (with a barely visible bank and saloon, side by side), and the only evidence of the Indians’ fire comes in distant plumes of smoke and then the smoke engulfing the buildings. Tinting and toning helps overcome these limitations, especially in the concluding scenes. In the first, purple toning enhances the settlers’ herding of cattle across the watery plain, most notably in a painterly image of two bare trees reflected in the foreground water as horsemen and cattle come forward in the background. In the other, red tinting heightens the scene of Yellow Fox’s ironic death, as he staggers to the top of a burning hilltop, wraps himself in a robe, and lays down in the swirling smoke.”
Richard Abel
Le Giornate del Cinema Muto

>>> Durand: Camargue Westerns (1)

The Conspiracy of Pontiac

The Conspiracy of Pontiac
R: Sidney Olcott. Based on: “The Conspiracy of Pontiac” by Francis Parkman (1851). D: Gene Gauntier, Robert G. Vignola, Jack J. Clark, Arthur Donaldson. P: Kalem Company. USA 1910
Print: EYE
Dutch and German intertitles

“The story, which is well known to every school child, is taken from Parkman‘s History and is presented without alteration or embellishment, and in the number of people employed and in the character or the scenic mountings is by long odds the greatest Indian production yet offered under the Kalem trade-mark. It will be remembered that Major Gladwynn, Commandant of Fort Detroit in 1763, had declared his love for a young Indian girl and she had become much attached to him. At this period Pontiac was at the height of his power and had sent emissaries about the villages of the Ottawas inciting war against the whites. The final plan involved the entry to the fort of a number of picked chieftains, each carrying a shortened gun beneath his blanket. The mission was ostensibly to be one of peace, but at a signal from Pontiac the chieftains were to drop their blankets and to massacre the whites. However, Major Gladwynn was informed of the plot by the Indian girl and when Pontiac presented himself with his delegation on his treacherous mission, Major Gladwynn was well prepared and the fort was saved.

Throughout this story is woven a love romance involving an Indian girl and Lady Jane Amherst, a young English girl visiting the fort at the time. The Conspiracy of Pontiac is so accurately and beautifully done that it will stand for a long time as an Indian classic and will unquestionably appeal very strongly to the school authorities as an educational subject worthy of close study.”
Moving Picture World synopsis

More than Simple Shades of Grey

Raggio di Sole
R: Unknown. B: Arrigo Frusta. D: Sig.a Schneider, Mario Voller Buzzi, Cesare Zocchi, Lina Gobbi, Antonio Grisanti, Ercole Vaser, Giuseppina Ronco, Bianca Schinini, Paolo Azzurri. P: Società Anonima Ambrosio, Torino. It 1912
Print: Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino
Span. titles

“Prince Ghiacciolino is depressed. Wise men’s advice, the jester’s jokes or the delicacies that march in prepared by an army of cooks are of no use. Enchanted by a glowing reflection, he sets out to find the only thing he claims he really wants: a ray of sunshine. Or maybe he is just looking for an excuse to get away from his apprehensive royal parents. Whatever the reason may be, at the end of his journey he finds love. According to Arrigo Frusta’s notes, an enchanting and graceful cinematic fairy tale with a hint of caricature. The narration is developed through a succession of visual ideas directly related to the story: the astronomers at work, the bright spot, and the appearance of Raggio di sole crowned by Schneider’s lions, which in actual fact were rather tame. Eventually spring returns to the ice country as well. It is almost a shame that the incredible royal sled pulled by penguins cannot be used anymore.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

“Raggio di Sole is a simple story, shot almost entirely inside a studio, and it expresses itself with remarkable charm. The costumes are richly detailed. The performances are broad, as suits the format, and it tells a compact fairy tale in the space of seven minutes. The film was produced very early in the history of narrative cinema, and there is still a delightful sense of novelty about seeing the adventure unfold on screen. The coloured tinting is a wonderful touch, creating a more stimulating picture than simple shades of grey.
Then there are the penguins. There is no reason given, or excuse made, but the melancholic prince’s sled is pulled through the snow by a small waddle of penguins. They are not portrayed by actual penguins, of course, but by adult actors in large and wonderfully naïve costumes. It is a bizarrely pleasant touch, one that lifts Raggio di Sole from a simple children’s film to a genuinely weird little distraction.”
Grant Watson
FICTION MACHINE

The film restoration:
“The preservation of Raggio di sole is part of a project to valorize the collection of Italian silent films that are conserved at the Filmoteca de Catalunya in Barcelona; the project is promoted by the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna, the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino and the Cineteca del Friuli of Gemona. The screenplay by Arrigo Frusta, which is conserved at the Museum in Torino, made it possible to identify the film and confirmed that the preserved copy is almost complete. Raggio di Sole was printed on safety film, from a 278-meter-long tinted nitrate positive print with Spanish intertitles belonging to the Pere Tresserra collection. The colors were reproduced using the Desmet method.
The preservation work was carried out in 2007 at the L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in Bologna.”
Museo Nazionale del Cinema

>>> MYTHS, MYSTERY, FANTASY

Early Sitcoms: Max Linder (2)

“Before Charlie Chaplin duckwalked into the hearts of early movie goers, there was the innovative Max Linder, the internationally renowned French comic whose slapstick scamperings reigned supreme until the onset of World War I. Born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuviefle in Caveme, France, he began studying drama at 17 and made his on-stage debut in Bordeaux. By 1904, he moved to Paris where he played supporting roles. One year later he was working in movies for Pathe films during the daytime while still continuing his career on stage at night. For his movie gigs he adopted the name Max Linder, but on stage he used his real name. Three years later, Linder opted for a full-time film career. In his silent shorts, Linder usually played a well-dressed dandy from the upper class. In 1910 he began writing and supervising his stories; one year later he was directing all his work. His career reached its apex in 1914. He was then drafted.

While serving, he was gassed and subsequently suffered a major breakdown from which he never completely recovered. After his military stint, he attempted to return to French film, but he found himself a has-been. In late 1916 Essanay made him an offer and Linder went to the US where his poor health continued to hinder him. He managed to produce three films before double pneumonia forced him into a Swiss sanitarium for a year. In 1921, he returned to the States, created his own production company, made three more films, and then returned to Europe to marry. In 1925, after making two more films, the despondent Linder, realizing he would never again be a star, made a suicide pact with his wife. They died together in a Paris hotel. His funny films lay forgotten until they were rediscovered by film historians in the ’60s.”
Sandra Brennan
Silent Hollywood.com

Amoureux de la femme à barbe
R: Unknown. D: Max Linder. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1909

“Dans Amoureux de la femme à barbe, Max Linder fait la cour à une femme dont la pilosité s’avère factice. Le personnage fait preuve des traits de caractère qui lui sont associés, de dandy coureur, dans une structure qui emprunte au film de poursuite une part de sa charpente narrative. Le travestissement y joue un rôle important dans la mesure où la femme à barbe perd sa virilité avec sa barbe, alors que Max affublé d’une peau d’ours fuit celle dont il s’est épris quand elle apparaît pour ce qu’elle est.”

Jean Antoine Gili et Pierre-Emmanuel Jaques, Il cinema ritrovato, XXIIIe édition, Bologne 2009 

L’ingénieux attentat
R: Louis J. Gasnier. B: Max Linder. D: Max Linder, André Urban. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1910

Max Linder pratique tous les sports
R: Max Linder. B: Max Linder,  Armand Massard. D: Max Linder, Lucy d’Orbel, Charles de Rochefort. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1913

“Max reads a newspaper ad, in which a rich American wants to marry an all-around sportsman. WIth an eye to the main chance, he enters, and competes with four other applicants in a decathlon. In the course of this two-reel film, Max — or his stunt double — engages in several of the sports he had performed in earlier comedy shorts: ice skating, boxing, rowing, auto racing, and so forth. The jesting does not begin seriously until the end, but it is still an engaging little comedy from the world’s first comedy superstar.”
IMDb

>>> Early Sitcoms: Max Linder (1)

“Japonaiseries”

Japanese Dancers
P: Thomas A.Edison Inc. USA 1894
Print: BFI

“Twirling and swinging cloth strips, three Japanese demonstrate a dance from the Mikado for the earliest Western filmmakers. This is the oldest surviving moving image featuring Japanese people from the BFI National Archive’s collection. It was produced for Edison’s Kinetoscope not in Japan but in W.K.L. Dickson’s studio in New Jersey. It is a film of the Mikado dance by the Sarashe sisters who were performing at the 5th Avenue Theater. The three Japanese dancers perform with their kimono sleeves tucked up for vibrant movement, they shake paper fans and strips of sarashi (gauze), which represent the dyed cloth being rinsed in the river. The fluttering movement of the cloth parallels the sensual flapping of the skirt in the Western serpentine dance, a popular subject in early films.”
Kosuke Fujiki & Bryony Dixon

Japonaiserie
R: Gaston Velle. P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1904
Print BFI

“Stencil colour and exotic décor add dazzle to a magic show conducted by white performers in yellowface.
Three Westerners, two men and a woman, dress up as Asians to perform a series of magic tricks. Their gaudy ‘Japanese’ costumes and yellowface make-up seem more a device to evoke a sense of exoticism than an accurate representation of the oriental culture. The male assistant wears a wig with a braided queue; a Manchu-derived hairstyle more closely associated with Qing-dynasty China than with Japan. The film employs editing and superimposition for its special effects. The film is produced by Pathé and is credited to Gaston Velle . After working for the Lumière brothers, Velle was hired by Pathé Frères to make a number of ‘trick’ films, a popular staple of early cinema. Like many such films, Japonaiserie features a magician; Velle himself had been a stage illusionist, as was his father.”
Kosuke Fujiki

Among the Japanese
Original title: L’après-midi d’une japonaise (?)
P: Pathé Frères. Fr 1911
Print: BFI

“Upper-class Japanese ladies dress up for an open-air afternoon tea, to appreciate the shortlived cherry blossoms.
This film introduces the young women as a particular social type – ‘M’lady’ – as can be discerned from their clothing and coiffure. With cherry branches in hand, they stroll about a well-maintained Japanese stone garden. Their luxurious kimono is highlighted by the film’s stenciled colourisation, which involved manually cutting an area of each frame to enable tinting. The film appears designed explicitly for a middle-class female audience, addressed in an intertitle as ‘dear lady’. Hanami (flower viewing) is a Japanese traditional practice of open-air luncheon parties during the season of cherry blossoms. In Japan, the delicate beauty of cherry blossoms, usually lasting only a week or so, is considered a quintessential symbol of transience. Distinct from the previous scenes, the final, interior scene features another woman admiring elaborate ivory figurines. The footage is likely included to show she belongs to the same affluent class as the other two ladies.”
Kosuke Fujiki (Film Studies, King’s College London)

BFI silent film curator Bryony Dixon adds: This film may be a clip from the French cinemagazine Pathé-revue, originally titled L’après-midi d’une japonaise.

>>> Japan – a Travelogue

>>> Japan – Labour and Leisure

>>> Gaston Velle