Gaumont Treasures: 1897-1913
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10 HOURS 75 FILMS 3 DISC
The invention of cinema and its growth into a sophisticated art form are vividly brought to life in this massive collection of films from the early years of the influential Gaumont Film Company. Each disc is devoted to one of Gaumont s artistic directors, who oversaw all film production at the studio, and profoundly influenced not only the identity of the studio but also the evolution of the cinema itself.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE FILMMAKERS PLEASE READ DIRECTOR BIO
ALICE GUY (1897) The Fisherman at the Stream / Bathing in a Stream / Serpentine Dance by Mme. Bob Walter
(1898) The Turn-of-the-Century Blind Man / At the Hypnotist's / The Burglars / Disappearing Act / Surprise Attack on a House at Daybreak
(1899) At the Club / Wonderful Absinthe
(1900) Avenue de l Opera / Automated Hat-Maker and Sausage-Grinder / At the Photographer's / Dance of the Seasons: Winter, Snow Dance / The Landlady / Turn-of-the-Century Surgery / Pierrette s Escapades (Hand-Tinted Color) / At the Floral Ball (Hand-Tinted Color) / The Cabbage-Patch Fairy
(1902) Serpentine Dance by Lina Esbrard / Midwife to the Upper Class / An Untimely Intrusion / Miss Dundee and Her Performing Dogs
(1903) How Monsieur Takes His Bath / Faust and Mephistopheles
(1905) The O Mers in The Bricklayers / The Statue / The Magician s Alms / Clown, Dog and Balloon / Spain / The Tango / The Malaguena and the Bullfighter / Cook & Rilly s Trained Rooster / Cake Walk, Performed by Nouveau Cirque / Alice Guy Films a Phonoscene / Saharet Performs the Bolero (Hand-Tinted Color) / Polin Performs: The Anatomy of a Draftee (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene) / Dranem Performs: The True Jiu-Jitsu (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene) / Dranem Performs: Five O Clock Tea (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene) / Felix Mayol Performs: Indiscreet Questions (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene & Hand-Tinted Color) / Felix Mayol Performs: The Trottins Polka (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene) / Felix Mayol Performs: White Lilacs (A synchronized-sound Phonoscene)
(1906) The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ / An Obstacle Course / Madame s Cravings / A Sticky Woman / The Hierarchies of Love / The Cruel Mother / A Story Well Spun / The Drunken Mattress / The Parish Priest s Christmas / The Truth Behind the Ape-Man / The Consequences of Feminism / Ocean Studies / The Game-Keeper s Son
(1907) The Race for the Sausage / The Glue / The Fur Hat / The Cleaning Man / A Four-Year-Old Hero / The Rolling Bed / The Irresistible Piano / On the Barricade / The Dirigible Homeland -- 225 Minutes - Full-Frame (1.33:1) - Music by Sorties d Artistes
LOUIS FEUILLADE - The Colonel s Account (1907, 4 min.) / A Very Fine Lady (1908, 3 min.) / Spring (1909, 7 min.) / The Fairy of the Surf (1909, 7 min.) / Custody of the Child (1909, 11 min.) / The Defect (1911, 41 min.) / The Roman Orgy (1911, 8 min.) / The Trust (1911, 24 min.) / The Heart and the Money (1912, 17 min.) / The Obsession (1912, 23 min.) / Tragic Error (1913, 24 min.) / Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant (1913, 9 min.) / The Agony of Byzance (1913, 29 min.) 217 Minutes - Full-Frame (1.33:1) - Music by Patrick Laviosa -- SPECIAL FEATURE: Louis Feuillade: Master of Many Forms - This collection of scenes from more than twenty films demonstrates Feuillade s mastery of (and influence upon) a wide range of cinematic genres.
LEONCE PERRET - The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador (Le Mystere des roches de Kador) (1912) Color Tinted 43 Minutes - The Child of Paris (L Enfant de Paris) (1913) Color Tinted 124 Minutes SPECIAL FEATURE: Leonce Perret: The Filmmaker s Filmmaker - Illustrated with rare film clips, this mini-documentary reveals the artistry and wit of French cinema s unsung hero.
About the Director
ALICE GUY - Few individual artists have exerted as profound an influence upon the evolution of cinema as Alice Guy (later known as Guy-Blache). With this collection of more than 60 films, culled from the world s leading archives and carefully mastered, Guy may no longer be seen as a (woman filmmaker.) These films, produced by Guy for Gaumont before she moved to the US, reveal her to be an unqualified pioneer whose work stands alongside that of the Lumiere Brothers, Georges Melies, and Edwin S. Porter, in cinema s rapid growth from an optical illusion to a storytelling medium to an art form. Among the highlights are a 19th-century serpentine dance, early (trick) films, experiments with hand-coloring and synchronized sound, comedies, social commentaries, and (as the collection s centerpiece) a 33-minute religious epic: The Birth, the Life and the Death of Christ (1906).
LOUIS FEUILLADE - Best remembered today for his espionage serials Les Vampires and Fantomas, Louis Feuillade had a more varied and profound influence upon French cinema than many of his followers realize. For more than a decade, he was the artistic director at Gaumont, encouraging the rise of such filmmakers as Abel Gance and Leonce Perret. This collection of films offers a wider view of Feuillade s directorial efforts -- but, admittedly, it is only a small portion of the nearly 800 films he is believed to have directed. These films run the gamut of ribald comedy (The Colonel s Account), charming fantasy (Spring), tragedy (The Heart and Money), social commentary (The Defect) and historical epic (the remarkably poignant The Agony of Byzance). No Feuillade collection would be complete without a sampling of thrillers. To that end, we offer The Trust: Or the Battles for Money and The Obses-sion, which are characterized by the brisk pacing and diabolical tone for which he would become famous.
LEONCE PERRET - Until now, the films of Leonce Perret have been virtually unseen in the United States, yet he was a hugely influential figure in the growth of the French film industry. As an actor, he appeared in more than 100 films from 1909 to 1916, including the long-running series of (Leonce) comedies. But his greater contribution was as a director. Working at Gaumont under the supervision of Louis Feuillade, Perret set the standard to which other French filmmakers aspired. His films had a technical mastery and aesthetic grace that allowed them to reveal subtleties of character and meaning. Perret s artistic maturity is beautifully represented in the influential feature The Child of Paris, a naturalistic drama reminiscent of Emile Zola. Of this film, critic Georges Sadoul proclaimed, Leonce Perret was able to render a graceful and lively story by using an extraordinarily refined cinematic repertoire: backlighting, low-angle shots, close-ups, moving shots and numerous other innovations, all of which Perret implemented with flair, in stark contrast to...the still somewhat primitive technique of David W. Griffith at that time. Perret made a number of self-referential films, in which the medium of cinema is a component of the plotline. In The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador, an amnesiac woman undergoes a sort of cinematic hypnosis as a means of recalling the details of a tragic crime.
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Yes, yes, very, well, ...interesting... I am sure that those of you who absolutely love silent films of all kinds and film history in particular will be wild about this Gaumont volume, and especially this first DVD in the set. Historically, it is a highly desirable release. But if you are looking for entertainment, you must know that Alice Guy just does not have the snap and verve, the panache, of a George Melies, nor his amazing artistic drawings and backgrounds, and his sharp sense of humour. Also missing is the continuity of having a recognizable troupe of actors and a strong sense of directorial style. Since Melies actually plays a character (if not the main character) in so many of his own films, part of the fun of the Flicker Alley release of Melies DVDs ("George Melies: First Wizard of Cinema") is watching him develop a cinematic presence out of his already highly-honed stage personae. He also develops a certain style of directing his films so that later in his oeuvres you can really tell when he stops directing his "Star" films and someone else is handling things, because the style of direction changes drastically. Alice Guy's films don't seem to develop much of anything until about 1906, when she does seem to "come into her own".
By 1905, Melies had completed his "Trip to the Moon" and other fantastic and enchanting featurettes. But according to this collection, Alice Guy is still doing exclusively short, cheapie and fake-looking substitution-shot trick films (at best). Her indoor sets look primitive in comparison to Melies', and in her outdoor settings the films often have a flavor of being a home movie, or an amateur production. In 1905 she does do some little sound films, an area which Melies never ventured into; but... there is no magic to them, in any sense of the word. The singers have little to no charisma, sometimes not even opening their eyes; the little "phonoscenes" are hopelessly static and boring to all but film-historians. If you're in love with film history, you'll enjoy these--the rest of us... probably not so much. I did not find the Alice Guy movies to be particularly engaging until reaching the year 1906, which had a couple of good ones.
This is not to say Alice Guy's filmmaking is unimportant. I'm just being honest and telling you that I personally did not find her movies that appealing. Whereas I show movies from my Melies DVD set to my friends and family all the time, there are only a couple of films by Alice Guy that I feel I would like to share, because most of them are just not entertaining. You may or may not want to consider this before purchasing. "A Sticky Woman" is one exception, being pretty entertaining; "The Consequences of Feminism" is amazing, and a few of the films from late 1906 and 1907, although with a lower budget, have an almost Jean Durand frenzy to them, which is endearing.
It does seem to me that better care could have been taken in choosing which of Guy's many films would be in this compilation. For instance, the film, "Cook & Rilly's Trained Rooster" is a total waste of time just showing a rooster sitting on a perch and doing nothing. Surely there were more interesting films they could have selected to take up space on this DVD. There are 60 films on the Alice Guy DVD, but the films are so short (except the one about Christ) that you're through it pretty quickly. If other Alice films of any interest at all are available, they should have been included. Of course the inclusion of even the worst films would be requisite if this was supposed to be a comprehensive set of early Alice Guy films, but that was not the intention here.
The musical accompaniments for the Alice Guy films are mostly quite good, although some of the music is repeated from film to film. After watching the Jean Durand films on Gaumont volume 2, I was worried about this, since so many of his films have ill-fitting musical accompaniment that kills the movies. But here I was pleased that the music seemed completely appropriate and satisfactory for almost every Alice Guy movie ("The Gamekeeper's Son" is an exception, with a terrible mis-matching musical score; there are a couple of other miscalulations).
The image quality of these films is neither very good nor horrendous. A lot of them are surprisingly free from scratches, but generally the image quality is variously soft and hazy, fuzzy or bleached out, and there are sometimes missing frames just when the story requires some explanation, as in "The Magicians Alms", which is a pretty good film but has missing a critical section right at the denouement. The Life of Christ movie would be good in color; in black and white as it is here, it's a long series of rather dreary tableaus (not without motion), accompanied by perhaps appropriately dreary music. Pixelation interferes with clarity on all films in this Gaumont DVD set.
I do wish that Gaumont volumes 1 and 2 had been combined by having both Alice Guy films and Jean Durand films in the same volume. After the Jean Durand, all the other movies of the Gaumont volume 2 just bored me to death, except the Emile Cohl animations, which unfortunately have such atrocious and inappropriate soundtracks that it was a struggle to watch them all. Ultimately, I was not converted to a Cohl fan.)
DVD2: Louis Feuillade
I can't say too much; these are very good films, but I'm not crazy about slow, straight drama in the silent era, unless the movie has engaging visuals such as in the 1927 film "Sunrise", or unflagging action AND interesting visuals such as with Melies' "A Desperate Crime" (a dramatic "reenactment"). The music is well synchronized to a few of these movies, such as "Spring", which is absolutely delightful thanks to Patrick Laviosa's enticing music; but I do object to having the exact same music repeated unsynchronized to later films, as is done here. In fact much of this music is repeated not only in this DVD, but, even less effectively, in volume 2's Jean Durand movies. "The Agony of Byzance" is an astounding high-budget film, and would be truly spectacular in color; the music by Laviosa is well synchronized and effective, if at times a little repetitious. It's much better than his music for volume 2's Jean Durand movies. Maybe he's more attuned to drama than comedy, although his light music for "Spring" is exemplary. I don't know why his music for many of the Durand movies is so gloomy! The image for "The Agony..." is excellent; you'd never guess by the film quality that it was made in 1913. "Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant" is very charming, and I would have liked to have had a lot more of this series and Feuillade's `Bebe' movies on this DVD. "The Colonel's Account" is quite funny making me wish this DVD had more of Feuillade's comedies, but that's just my taste. You may prefer the dramas and the spectacles, of which this DVD has plenty.
DVD3: Leonce Perret
The two films on this DVD are truly modern films in the sense that all the basic techniques we expect to see are there. Including being way, WAY too long. These films are miles and miles and miles ahead of Melies in the use of lighting, scene dissection, close ups, realistic settings, and more. Yet, I'll watch Melies' "Conquest of the Pole" over and over whereas I will never watch these two Perret films again. If you are really, really interested in film history, have a LOT of patience, can be captivated by leisurely paced dramatic storytelling, and don't mind the lifeless music (or watch in silence), you will probably like these films. Personally, I wish they had given us more short films and released a separate Gaumont Treasures volume with all the dramatic films of volumes 1 and 2. Maybe combined all the short films of Alice Guy and Jean Durand, and added the short comedies of Feuillade and Perret for volume 1, then volume 2 could have been the dramas and the long films.
This DVD set boasts "More than Ten Hours of Films", but because of my taste in movies, and I READILY admit that I am a Melies/Durand/Keaton/Chaplin enthusiast, I only found exactly 65:30 minutes of films that I care to see again. Considering that this is an $80 purchase, I have to wonder if I made a smart buy.
The image quality of the Perret films is excellent, the "L'Enfant de Paris" being particularly clear and clean. However, in both Gaumont volumes the pixilation is very disturbing. VERY disturbing. All vintage films with their common use of far-shots require high-definition reproduction, and Kino should offer this. Higher definition does NOT require Blu-Ray, by the way; I have a Laughsmith Entertainment set of Roscoe Arbuckle films that is not Blu-Ray, yet has sharp, clear images with no problem with pixelation. Also the Flicker Alley set of "Chaplin at Keystone" offers clear unpixilated pictures on a regular DVD.
This set is invaluable in many ways. For me the primary reason is that it contains over 3 hours of material by Alice Guy (later Guy-Blache'). Guy was the first woman pioneer of cinema and the short films collected here show her to not only have command of the new medium, but a willingness to experiment as well. There are comedies, trick films, dramas, even attempts to introduce color and synchronized sound. For too long she has been relegated to footnote status due to the unavailability of her output but this set changes all that. One invaluable film shows her shooting a synchronized sound short allowing us a glimpse into turn-of-the-last century moviemaking.
The other real discovery here are the two films of Leonce Perret. He began as an actor and then took over production from Feuillade shortly before World War One while still managing to appear in many of Gaumont's films including his own. THE MYSTERY OF THE ROCKS OF KODOR shows him using the new technology of movies to solve a crime. The full length feature THE CHILD OF PARIS from 1913 is as good if not better than any film I've seen from that time period. I'm astonished that in all my years of watching and reading about silent films, I don't recall ever having heard of Perret. I'm delighted to have that oversight corrected.
Although this set will be of primary interest to people interested in the history of film, others shouldn't have too bad a time of it as most of the material is comic and the music performed with it is highly appropriate. The visual quality of almost everything on display here is truly astonishing. The material was gathered from several different archives and the restoration work makes it look as if it had just been developed. We're talking films that are almost 100 years old and more so that is really saying something. First class in every regard, GAUMONT TREASURES belongs on the film historian's shelf right next to Kino's EDISON set. Between the two you can have an ideal history of the birth of cinema as we know it.