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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ALICE GUY: GAUMONT TREASURES (1897-1907)


The Lumiére Brothers projected the world’s first film program in 1895. The next year, Alice Guy began producing @ Gaumont. This Kino-DVD (beautifully curated by Pierre Phillippe) begins with enchanting 1897 actualitiés of swimmers and street scenes & dancers in Spain, interspersed with less enchanting single-shot stage acts. As Mlle. Guy’s technique evolves, she begins to film comic sketches out of doors and to add marvelous hand-coloring. 1905 brings PhonoPhone experiments with Music Hall turns filmed & acoustically recorded on disc. The difficulties of amplification & synchronization would defeat these novelties, but we can now see (and hear!) them under optimum conditions. 1906 includes a half-hour Life of Christ, which isn’t as dreary as you expect. But the real treats are the short comedies and melodramas of 1906 & ‘07. Guy now edits within scenes, yet there’s a delicious three minute single-shot comedy about a maid who licks so many stamps at the post office that a gentlemen becomes uncontrollably amorous! He impulsively kisses that delightful tongue and finds himself GLUED to her! And the penultimate short, ON THE BARRICADES, a heart-tugging motherlove drama D. W. Griffith would have killed for. Under Guy, this story of mother, son, revolution, a bottle of milk and a firing squad is a small masterpiece of honor, suspense & sentiment. Essential stuff.

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