Archive for Pathe

The Sunday Intertitle: Babylas Zoo, AKA Menagerie a Deux

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2020 by dcairns

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MADAME BABYLAS LOVES ANIMALS is from the age when intertitles were optional (1911), it seems, or maybe they got lost. But it does have an attractive main title card, which has been removed from the porno English-language version, MRS PUSSY LOVES ANIMALS ~

I sought it out because I was impressed by LE MANOIR DE LA PEUR (1924) and wanted to see more from its two directors, Alfred Machin & Henry Wulschleger, but there’s not much available. Wulschleger is only represented by CAPITAINE FRACASSE, which I’d seen but only because his co-director was the great Alberto Cavalcanti. I rather ignored HW.

This one is a very short Machin comedy with a childishly simple premise: Madame Babylas loves animals so much she adopts everything she sees. Since she lives in the country with her exasperated husband, her household is soon exploding with livestock.

A panther chases a pig out of the house in one striking (and concerning) moment.

Madame Babylas ends the film consoling her poor porker, bandaging it and kissing its ear. Pig looks very chill.

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It’s a very, very simple plot but the movie manages to make it quite incoherent. Maybe there’s an hour of lost footage. There was apparently a whole series of shorts about M. Babylas (Louis-Jacques Boucot) but Madame (uncredited, identity unknown) and her dumb chums have taken over this one entirely.

Machin was a hot-shot young producer who set up Pathé’s production base in Belgium, then in Holland. But prior to that he’d been their man in Africa, and he was fond of placing animals in his movies thereafter, particularly the panther Mimir. (The IMDb says, “Mimir is an actress…”)

LE MANSION also has a displaced African beast, but I’ll tell you about that next week…

Slippery Jim

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 5, 2015 by dcairns

Watch this! Reputedly inspired  by Harry Houdini’s recent Parisian dates, this 1910 trick-film by Fernand Zecca, made for Pathe Freres, uses inventive special effects and animation to depict impossible feats of escapology and indeed resurrection. Christ popping out of his cave-grave has nothing on Slippery Jim, who disassembles his own body, cycles through the skies like Elliot and ET, and bisects a policeman with the wheel of his magic bike. Even if you’re very familiar with Meliés and all the subsequent developments in effects artistry, I think there are likely to be some tricks in here you haven’t seen done quite like this…

There’s no real way to end a film like this, since all the characters are indestructible and there’s no real logic beyond the generally accepted (but often unreal) antipathy between cops and crooks. So, like one of the simpler cartoons, the film just rings changes on a basic situation and then stops arbitrarily. I was kind of glad to see the forces of anarchism triumph, though — it would seem hypocritical to spend ten minutes celebrating the violation of every law of man and nature and then impose some kind of moral ending.

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Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , on November 26, 2014 by dcairns

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To the newly-opened, lushly-appointed Fondation Seydoux, a museum/cinema commemorating the history of Pathe and Gaumont. Phoebe Green and Christine Leteux introduced me to the exhibition of old movie cameras and projectors, and posters currently themed around WWI. There was Abel Gance’s J’ACCUSE and Raymond Bernard’s CROIX DES BOIS, currently screening elsewhere in its new 4K restoration. Naturally, there were a few stills on display I wish we’d had copies of for our documentary on that movie’s producer.

The screenings are similarly slanted towards the Great War, so we experienced one of Leonce Perret’s relatively few American films, UNKNOWN LOVE, a kind of epistolary war romance in which a society lady falls in love by mail with a soldier in the trenches, one of Perret’s few American films (produced by Pathe’s American wing).

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Stunning cinematography: Perret stages nearly all his interiors by open windows and exposes for outdoors, so the characters are backlit, their faces boldly modelled by the light. A scene at a shrine to the war dead, with silhouetted woman, flowers and cross against the setting sun, which is also reflected in a lake, was almost too beautiful. All those elements are traditionally photogenic, so slapping them altogether could have gotten tacky, but it certainly didn’t. Christine, who has written the first book on Perret’s long and fascinating career (from the early 1900s to the early 30s making operetta-films at Pathe-Natan), pointed out that he wasn’t working with his usual DP on this film, so the consistency with the rest of his work shows how much of the visual style was his own doing.

The Fondation hire in students from the Conservatoire to act as accompanists, a policy which has proved so successful that the Cinematheque has followed suite. No longer, I am told, do silents unfold to the solo whirring of a projector at M. Langlois’ palais de cinema.

Afterwards, I toyed with the idea of a Charley Chase retrospective, but my energy is flagging and my feet hurt, so I retired early and am typing this instead. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the big day: Bernard Natan returns home, honoured at the studio he built, which is now France’s national film school.