film: Feuillade: Fantômas – À l’ombre de la guillotine (1913)

Reminds me of sitting in that fucking theater, twice a week, through the lengthy art films, trying not to sleep, sometimes sleeping, eating candy, eating candy, eating candy…this one was “murder” to sit through. Hahahahah. No, the last fifteen minutes got me to perk up slightly, and say “ah hah! brilliant, Fantomas!” and then worry for the innocent. So, what did I notice? First, I had a difficult time following the film since it’s in French, and I do know some basic nouns, pronouns, and verbs, and then a few other words that look like English, and a few others I’ve picked up along the way, and I found myself able to generally decipher the meanings–sometimes due to knowing what the detective genre turned into. The acting, of course, was as if on stage, and very descriptive in itself; I even laughed at Valgrand’s expressions as he tried to drink his drugged tea while attempting to remain polite despite the taste. I read this comment on it mentioning “this active space of film no need special effects or even camera travelings”–and, like noticing that The Who’s Live at Leeds doesn’t have hi-hat, it struck me that indeed, the camera doesn’t move at all in this film. There is a scene during which one watches the people step into an elevator, the doors shut, and the elevator moves, and then one watches as the elevator moves past the next floor, and the next, and the next, each with its own cut. I wondered why this was shown at all, and if there were perhaps better ways to show it? First, I thought, perhaps it’s just trying to exploit something a bit fancier than people usually see. Then, I decided that it was the only way to show how many floors high the room was. How else, without sound, without movement? The sets are remarkably like ones on stage: there’s the center, there’s the hidden areas to the left and right and rear, concealed by doors and curtains, and the audience is always in the place of the camera–there’s never any “practical” area of that part of the set. So, in words, I can describe this well, however, it didn’t hold me like Cabiria did–thus I can see now why the epic Cabiria so influenced Griffith, a film so much more animated and mature, and only one year later.

26 april 07

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