1912: 2 movies
posted 2012 August 11
Le mystère des roches de Kador
Directed by and co-starring Léonce Perret
Starring Suzanne Grandais
Cinematography by Georges Specht
Production design by Robert-Jules Garnier
This movie represents one of the peaks in movie-history, before the transitional year of 1913 when movies became longer, more commercial, and formulaic. At 45 minutes in length, this movie is longer than most of the pieces that preceded it and shorter than most of the movies shown in theaters after it, including director Perret's own next movie which runs two hours. There is a great deal of text in the form of intertitles and close-ups of writing that fills in the details of the plot, and the plot itself is fairly elaborate for its time and less reliant on special effects, so it isn't exactly as snappy as many of the pieces that came before it. But where it shines is in its crisply beautiful photography of its gorgeously decorated sets and natural settings, in its sustained novelistic feeling, and in its self-reflexive claim that movies can be a spiritual balm for the viewer. The composition, alone, with the way the furniture juts out from the indoor scenes, the staircase juts out from the front door scenes, and the rocks from the beach scenes, gives the production a fresh and vivid feeling that sets it apart from other movies from this era.
It's interesting to see the prominence of psychology both in the movie's story and in its visual imagery. The scene of the woman watching a movie version of a part of her life makes it prominent in movie-history as a pioneer of movies that use movies to tell their stories, and also that depict them as a medium to elicit truths about humanity. How do movies differ in this purpose from the stage? Apparently because the reality is enhanced in a movie by its ability to show actual settings, as well as by the way movies are a document of a reality that is not present. The source of the image has been recorded and is playing but it is no more. In other words, theater on the stage is a representation of the present. Movies are a representation of the past, and good movies are a representation of our past.
The title translates as "The mystery of the rocks of Kador".
A gorgeous feast for the eyes. A woman who might be pregnant seductively pulls back some stage curtains, and puts on a show of various dances in the most lush and changeable set imaginable. The cut that fades into a shot of dripping water and then back to the set makes it clear that this movie is about overwhelming the senses with a succession of nature's delights. It's also ahead of its time.
The title translates as "The fantastic iris".