film: Feuillade: Juve contre Fantômas (1913)

I was wrong about the Fantômas series–this film is fantastic. What shines through, above all else, Feuillade’s level of confidence. The first in the series, which bored the hell out of me, had very little movement, scenes were drawn out, stereotypical mime pageants, and it felt like silent theatre. Juve is a bumbling detective who gets lucky in catching Fantômas, who seems to be a passing clever criminal. [spoiler begins here] In the same year as the first film, this was produced, and all is different. Juve takes action as he and Fandor show some slight ingenuity, doing things like climbing into  barrel and rolling themselves down to the ocean to escape a fire–indeed, the sets are greater. There’s humor, as Fantômas is arrested while at a party, escapes the police, and goes immediately back to the party. There’s more of the characteristic attempts at murder, including an enormous snake, whose guts we get to see. And the end is shocking–as Fantômas blows up an entire police force, including the main characters, and we’re left wondering what the hell happened. It takes confidence to do all this–because it is not only Fantômas or Juve’s ingenuity, but Feuillade’s, and although the camera remains still in all its shots, there are many, many more shots, whose lengths are beginning to take on the pace and movement of the film.  If only I could understand all the inter-titles! After seeing four or five of his films, I can say that this is the one that makes me a fan of Feuillade.

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