Watching Movies with the Lights On

I’ve been looking at lots of newsreel material lately for my documentary (untitled) with Paul Duane.

Newsreels are something I’ve paid little attention to at Shadowplay, apart from the clip of Legs Diamond’s girl (still possibly the greatest film ever made) and the one about the filmmaker, Willy Rozier, who challenged a critic to a duel (and won).

Well here’s some France-Actualite-Pathe-Gaumont stuff. Despite the name, these newsreels were German controlled and showed in the cinemas of Vichy France with the lights turned up, to discourage booing during the overtly propagandistic bits.

Watching movies with the lights on from David Cairns on Vimeo.

Here you will see —

Fur coats paraded at a zoo, which seems tactless to say the least.

Hats made from artificial materials, of which more later.

Newspaper hats. Which are excellent, especially if you’re a Womble (and if you are, kindly remember that fact).

Superb handbags.

Utterly brilliant shoes. Fiona was hyperventilating by this point. A fascist takeover seemed a small price to pay for such footwear.

Cost-saving stockings made from human skin. Not in a gruesome way, mind you.

But speaking of gruesome, about those hats. The work of a collaboration (and the word seems apt in all its resonances) between a Paris designer (who would later be happy that s/he goes unnamed, I bet) and the German chemical company I.G. Farben… manufacturers of, among other things, Zyklon-B gas…

History is a particularly querulous rattlesnake, it bites without provocation and when you least expect it.

9 Responses to “Watching Movies with the Lights On”

  1. It’s all about recycling crap! Taking junk and making it “chic.”
    The zoo opening scene is beyond revolting.

  2. Yeah, even the voice-over guy seems at a loss to put any favorable spin on the idea of parading animal skins in front of animals. Reminds me of Udo Kier showing somebody the face he’s just removed from them in Jess Franco’s Faceless.

    You don’t hear much about “Fibrana” these days.

  3. Fascists are masters of bad taste. I read about Chabrol’s The Eye of Vichy recently, that’s apparently comprised of newsreels of similar content to this. Maybe he took some of the clips from here.

  4. Well, those fancy clogs are something else.

    This actually came from a feature called Le Guerre d’un homme, which combines the memoirs of a German officer with the newsreels of the occupation.

  5. Not many film-makers make good use of actual newsreels. Eric Rohmer’s TRIPLE AGENT while not as bold in its selection as the La Guere d’un Homme, being pre-Occupation is an incredible example of that.

  6. Triple Agent is one of Rohmer’s very best, and most unusual films. One doesn’t think of him as a maker of thrillers, but that’s what this one is. In fact it accomplishes much of what Hitchcock tried and failed to do in Torn Curtain and Topaz

  7. It’s high on my to-watch list.

    But now — Pierre Chenal!

  8. david wingrove Says:

    Alas, I don’t think Udo Kier tears off anybody’s face in FACELESS, due to the simple fact that he’s not in the movie. Is it not Helmut Berger that you’re thinking of? Still, it’s an easy mistake to make.

    Just remember…

    Helmut was prettier and had a far more influential sugar daddy.

    Udo was more talented, and aged a lot better in the long run!

  9. Good lord, you’re right. Apologies to both German gents.

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