1905: 5 movies

posted 2012 July 20

Lilas blanc
Directed by Alice Guy;
Starring Félix Mayol

   This movie is a phonoscene or, as we call them today, a lip-synched music video. Felix Mayol is the star, looking classy against a classy backdrop. Part of the greatness I see here is how Guy captured the look and feel of delivering a song that would stay through the 40s, 50s and could probably use a comeback. It's simple, elegant, and intimate.
   Guy made 39 movies in 1905, making it her second most prolific year, the first being the year 1900. The title of the movie and the song is "White Lilacs".

La polka des trottins
Directed by Alice Guy,
Starring Félix Mayol

   This is the second of four Alice Guy-movies we're including for 1905. It is also a phonoscene, and it also features Felix Mayol, but with a song that is bouncier and with gestures that are more rhythmic. It's a more comic song and the tasteful performance brings a smile to my face. Guy directed a handful of phonoscenes with different performers; Mayol is the only one I've seen in more than once.
   The title of the movie is also the title of the song, and translates as "The Errand Polka".

Alice Guy tourne une phonoscène sur la théâtre de pose des Buttes-Chaumont
Directed by Alice Guy;
Starring Alice Guy


   Fantastic! This movie takes us behind the camera to show us the making of one of Alice Guy's movies. That certainly must be a first: the first movie documenting the making of a movie. The title and the large phonograph cone indicate that the movie being made is a phonoscene, or a movie that was to be played in-synch with an a record, akin to modern-day music videos. Guy, who is the silhouetted woman in the center of the frame, next to the phonograph, made a handful of phonoscene movies in 1905, as well as at least one full-on sound movie, Le coq dressé de Cook et Rilly (1905). 
   The panning from left to right gives us a chance to see the busy-ness on the set of a movie at the turn of the twentieth century, as well as the level of sophistication when the camera picks up the lighting rig and the light-reflecting panels. I can only imagine the majority of audiences at the time being mind-boggled by this movie, but the fact that Guy invites audiences to understand what they're actually watching and how such things are made is an admirable feat which fosters smarter audiences and better movies.
   The title translates from French as "Alice Guy makes a phonoscène in the studio at Buttes-Chaumont".


Le tripot clandestin
Directed by Georges Méliès

   It's a comedy with a great set and great direction, but another reason it's still enjoyable is because there is no main character. It's the room of gamblers and the cops. It's a refreshing take that we surprisingly have seen little of in the more than a century since.
   The title translates as "Illegal gambling".

Polin, l'anatomie du conscrit
Directed by Alice Guy,
Starring Polin

   There were several wonderful songs performed by some wonderful performers, but the ones with Felix Mayol and Polin are the most enjoyable. The reason being that the songs are great, the set is fantastic, and the the performer is on a constant streak of expressing himself excellently. The background in this movie, in particular, stands out so much it had me scratching my head. At first, it looks like a painted backdrop, and then, on closer inspection, like a photographic backdrop, and finally I thought it looked mightily like a live setting. It is not until the next year, in a scene from Les résultats du féminisme, that we find the same backdrop looking a tad run-down and clearly being a painted background. But that's not the case here. Here, it is a feast for the eyes.
   The title translates as "Polin, Anatomy of a conscript".

No comments:

Post a Comment