Cinema in the year


The Documentary

The popularity of the newsreel tended to further discourage any more serious reportage based on topical news The Gaumont film of the Portuguese revolution discussed earlier is actually quite unusual in the interesting "documentary" element it contains. The documentary "view", on the other hand, continued to flourish. For 1910, as for the preceding years, a great many of the Pathé documentaries are known from later home-view Pathé-Baby versions which were produced not on the standard 35mm film but on (uninflammable) 9.5mm film and were nearly always much abbreviated versions of the original. Here are some of the Pathé films from 1910 that were re-released in the new format during the 1920s:

Venise, Perle de l'Adriatique: ses mounuments and Venise, perle de l'Adriatique: ses canaux (Pathé-Baby, c. 1922)

Saint-Malo: antique cité des corsaires (Pathé-Baby, c. 1922)

Sad though it is not to have rather more of the films available at their original length or, in many cases, in their original colour, all film-lovers are greatly indebted to the "nine-fivers", who so assiduously collect and make available the home-view versions. These films are available to view in the splendid Princeton collection of Pathé-Baby films.

Pathé-Baby films had a worldwide distribution. Venise, Perle de l'Adriatique: ses mounuments and Saint-Malo: antique cité des corsaires both survive in French versions (above) and (below) in those produced by the British subsidiary, Pathéscope, with English intertitles.These films are from the collection of Stephen del Roser whose invaluable site is a veritable treasure-house of early Pathé documentaries, well presented and frequently with interesting, informed commentary.

Venice Jewel of the Adriatic: its Canals and Saint-Malo: Ancient City of the Corsairs, (Pathé-Baby, c. 1922)

Touristic Films

A. de Falticéni (ed.), Venise, Perle de l'Adriatique: ses mounuments (Pathé-Baby, 1922) (end) and Venise, perle de l'Adriatique: ses canaux (Pathé, 1922) (beginning)
Venise Venise

Since the films were almost invariably renamed for the Baby, it is not always easy to know from which original film the Pathé-Baby versions were taken and they could sometimes include edited footage from more than one film. The two short films shot in Venice, known in French as Venise, Perle de l'Adriatique: ses monuuments and Venise, perle de l'Adriatique: ses canaux (Venice, the Jewel of the Adriatic in the English versions) seem continuous, and the continuity is emphasised by the way in which the film is cut, with the first part leaving us at the quay where the tour by gondola that makes up the second half will begin. This may however just be a trick of editing, because the two films are in rather different styles. The first part is from the seven-minute 1910 film ), but the second part may be from Venise : le Grand Canal en gondole, filmed in 1908, but might possibly be the beginning of a different film made in 1910, Venise pittoreque, originally hand-coloured. We do not know the name of the cinematographer of either film, but the first film was edited for the Pathé-Baby by one A. de Falticéni, of whom (although presumably of Romanian descent) nothing further is known. Pathé took more pains than is sometimes appreciated in preparing versions for the "Baby" and it is perfectly possible that a frame from the second film has been transposed to the end of the first to give the impression of continuity. On the other hand, it was not uncommon for such Pathé films to be made as "films of two halves". Venise pittoresque itself began with a tour but ended with a spectacular gondola-race and parade. The uncredited cinematographer of the second film has introduced elements that are both more poetic (with suitable quotations from Alfred de Musset and Julia Daudet, wife of Alphonse, intertitled) and more cinematic (the film is, in part at least, a "ghost ride" with the camera evidently mounted on a gondola).

René Moreau (?), Venise : le Grand Canal en gondole (Pathé, 1908)

This more whimsical, less matter-of-fact approach became commoner as the decade progressed. Although Moreau is not credited and even though this time no editor is mentioned, it does seem probable on stylistic grounds that this film (whichever film it may be) was also by him.

René Moreau (?), Venise : le Grand Canal en gondole (Pathé, 1908)
Venise Venise

Pathé-Baby films were usually edited by the original cinematographer (when available) - occasionally credited in the films as « composition et cinégraphies » - and the work of editing usually only given to other photographers or photographic firms when the original cinematographer was, for whatever reason, no longer available (credited just as « composition ». The Venice films, especially that of the canals, bear a strong resemblance to a rather similar pairing shot in Bruges by René Moreau. Moreau was one of Pathé's principal (but uncredited) documentarists at this period but left in the early twenties to work for his own independent company (Films René Moreau). There seems therefore a reasonably strong probability that at least one (the second) of these films of Venice is also by him. He would go on to have a reasonably distinguished (albeit still little recognized) career, the earliest films of Paris that might be characterised as "city symphonies" and subsequently working as a cinematographer for Le Film d'Art (Les Cinq gentlemen maudits). He was a fine photographer, as witness the remarkable series (152 in all) shot in Cameroun, Congo, Tchad and Gabon for a sumptious work produced with writer and journalist Jean D'Esme (le vicomte Jean Marie Henri d’Esmenard), Afrique equatoriale, in 1931. A film of the expedition, Peaux noires, film de l'expédition Jean D'Esme à travers l'Afrique equatoriale française), was directed by Moreau, presumably, since nothing more is heard of him, not long before his death, and appeared in 1932.

René Moreau, photographs from Jean D'Esme and René Moreau, L'Afrique equatoriale (1931)
Tchad Tchad

Venise, la Ville de l’eau, émerge triomphante au-dessus de ses lagunes et de ses canaux sillonnés de gondoles, avec ses rues étroites, coupées de degrés d’escaliers et d’arches de pont et son invraisemblable éclosion de clochers, de campaniles, de dômes et de palais. (Pathé catalogue 1910)

René Moreau (?), Venise et ses mounuments (Pathé, 1910)

Venise, ancienne cite des Doges, ville enchanteresse, se découvre a vos yeux et vous émerveille par la magnificence de ses monuments : le palais des Doges, le lion aillé de Saint-Marc, l'enfilade des Palais sur le canal, etc. (Pathé-Baby Catalogue 1930)

Venice, the city of water, emerges triumphamt above its lakes and canals bristling with gondolas, with its narrow streets, dotted with flights of steps and bridge-arches and its incredible myriad of belfries, chimes, domes and palaces, (Pathé catalogue 1910)

Venice, ancient city of the Doges, enchanting city, reveals itself before our eyes marvelling at the magnificence of its monuments: the palace of the Doges, the winged lion of San Marco, the succession of palaces overlooking the canal, etc. (Pathé-Baby Catalogue 1930)

Charles Moisson, Pigeons sur la place Saint-Marc (Lumière, 1896)

Venice was as much a favourite of cinematographers as it was of tourists. The Lumières had very early on shot films of gondolas and of the pigeons in the Piazza San Marco and it was here, in October 1896, that Alexandre Promio had shot his famous Panorama du Grand Canal pris d’un bateau from a moving gondola, a film often cited, erroneously, as "the first travelling". Pathé had also made an earlier films there in 1905 (Venise en gondole).

Reneé Moreau (?),Venise : le Grand Canal en gondole (Pathé, 1908) and Venise en gondole (Éclair, 1914)
Venice Venice

Ricordi Ricordi de Venezia (1905)
These films are somewhat in the nature of animated picture-postcards. Tourism was itself another phenomenon of mass-culture that developed in parallel with the cinema. The picture postcard itself had only begun to become really popular in the 1880s and 1890s when private firms
Ricordi The Piazza San Marco from Ricordi de Venezia (1905)
wrested their production from the national postal services that had previously maintained a closely-guarded monopoly. So the variety of still images to be found at holday resorts and in indivudals' postbags was parellelled very precisely by the variety of moving images people could see on the screen. As tourist guidebooks became common, so contemporary films would often reflect the choice of "sights" they recommended and even attempt to replicate the same settings and angles of view to be found in the postcards and guidebooks. In French the « images d'Épinal » (a series of celebrated popular eighteenth- and nineteenth-century engravings) became (and remain) proverbial for the element of "cliché" involved in such mass-produced visual representtations. In fact the Imprimerie of Jean-Charles Pellerin at Épinal (founded 1796) produced a great variety of extremely attractive material that belie its proverbial reputations.

« Image d'Épinal » in more senses than one, rue Léopold Bourg in Épinal itself

In French the word « cliché » is itself commonly used as a synonym for "photograph" (a little like the English slang term "snap"), but even postcards in practice were of a bewildering variety.

Contemporary postcards of Venice
Venice TVenice

Nevertheless films, like postcards and guidebooks, did serve to some extent to reinforce the increasingly stereotyped images that people had of the world, particularly of those places at home or abroad that had already become, or, in the case of the great Italian cities, had already long been, favoured destinations for tourists. Before dismissing such stuff too lightly, one should however bear in mind that the "serious" art of the period reproduced images that were little different from those in the picture-postcards and the films. Giovanni Canal dit Canaletto (1697-1768) and his contemporary Franceso Guardi (1712-1793) were churning out "stereotypical" vedute of Venice not long after the invention of the sterotype itself (c.1700-1725) but long before films or postcards even existed.

Francesco Guardi, Ponte dei Tre Archi (1765-1770)

Three other films were made in Italy during the year, Florence, where Gaumont also filmed, and Das la baie de Naples as well as Ça et là en Sicile, shot in what the catalogue describes rather tweely as « ce riant pays » ("this laughing country").

Florence (Gaumont, 1910)

Apart from such obvious tourist locations, the Pathé films toured France and the world (very much following the pattern set by the Lumières in the pioneering years 1896-1900). In 1910 Pathé operators were filming in Boulogne, Brittany, Normandy, the Pyrenees, Nice and the Côte d'Azur, the Ariège, the Aveyron, the Landes but also in the Channel Islands (Jersey), in Antwerp and Bruges, Naples and Sicily, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Scotland, Norway, Finland, Russia, Australia, Tasmania and the Pacific Ocean, Egypt, China, Japan, Chile and even the Arctic. in various parts of the French Empire (the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa, French Indo-China). Imperial borders were no bar to the cameras and films were also made in British India, Burma, Malaya and Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies.

Jean Nédelec, À travers les fjords norvégiens (Pathé, 1910)

Another of the rare Pathé operators making documentary films whose name has come down to us was Jean Nédelec who worked for the company 1909-1914 and seems to have acted as their man with the movie camera in Scandinavia. Amongst several films that he made in 1910, the six-minute À travers les fjords norvégiens, originally hand-coloured, survives in an abridged form, not this time in a 9.5mm copy made for the Pathé-Baby but in a 28mm film made for the Baby's predecessor, the Pathé Kok, which was first marketed in 1912. This copy appears on another very useful youtube site specialising in films made for home-view projectors, THE SILENT MAN projecting into the past, where it is spliced with another Kok film, Barcelona and Its Park, edited highlights from Segundo de Chomón's Barcelone, principale ville de la Catalogne (1912):

Jean Nédelec, À travers les fjords norvégiens (Pathé, 1910)

Pathé-Baby released two companion films of the city of Bruges (Bruges-la-Morte (les monuments) and Bruges-la-Morte (les canaux). The two are seemingly drawn from different originals shot in different years. The first, the eight-minute Bruges-la-Morte was shot in 1910 and the second, Les Canaux de Bruges-la-Morte, a six-minute film originally hand-coloured. in 1915. Both are the work of René Moreau (credited as cinematographer for both Pathé-Baby films) and in reality both probably do in fact derive from the same original film of 1910. There was seemingly a third film called simply Bruges in 1917 but this would appear from the descriptions to be simply a slightly shorter (six-minute) hand-coloured version of the 1910 film, remade presumably because of its popularity but also to make a symmetrical pairing with the 1915 film, which included those scenes from the original film devoted specifically to the canals.

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

For the popularity of the 1910 film the notices in Moving Picture World when the film appeared in the US are eloquent even if the first is essentially publicity and largely just translated the description in the Pathé catalogue:

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

Quaint old Bruges is one of the Dead Cities of Belgium, and after the canals the mediaeval aspect of the town is its most striking feature. Interesting specimens of Flemish architecture of the Middle Ages are to be met with at every turn. The canals, which both surround and intersect the town, are always picturesque and interesting, and often very beautiful. The Minnewater or Lac d'Amour, a beautiful sheet of water, upon whose scarcely rippled surface the reflection of the bridge which spans it is always clearly outlined, is well known to tourists, as also is the Belfry with its famous chimes. Other objects of interest are the Beguinage Bridge, the Hotel de Ville or Town hall, the old King's Palace, and the Maison du France. A picture of one of the weekly markets held in the Grande Place beneath the shadow of the Belfry is included in the film, the lack of animation displayed being characteristic of the whole life of the town. The last picture of the film is a typical one of pillow lace-makers at their doors busily manipulating their bobbins in the manufacture of Bruges' lace.

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

A leisurely trip around this old city, delightful in its semi-calm and offering no end of picturesque opportunities for the tourist who cares for memories of the past. Some of the more important bridges are shown and there are glimpses along its canals which are attractive pictures. Another view is of the market place, reproducing the slow movements which are characteristic of the inhabitants of Bruges. It is one of the most delightful reproductions of city scenes which has come from any studio in months. The serenity of the people and the quiet of all the scenes are alike attractive and charming. Conditions in this city are so different from what they are in ordinary cities that it acquires additional charm. The work is well done and the selection of view points by the operator was admirably made. The picture will linger long in the memory. (5 November 1910)

These are the French catalogue descriptions for the 1915 and 1917 films respectively. It seems from these that the 1917 film simply omitted scenes of the canals (used for the 1915 film) and added scenes of the fortifications, not mentioned in the earlier description.:

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

Bruges, avec la physionomie du Moyen Âge qu’elle a gardée, présente des aspects très pittoresques et surtout des trésors artistiques qui lui donnent le plus haut intérêt. Parmi ses monuments, remarquons les Halles, le plus ancien monument de la puissance commerciale de Bruges et qui datent du XIIIe siècle. Sur le milieu de la façade principale s’élève le beffroi qui, haut de 80 mètres, renferme un beau carillon ; l’Hôtel de ville, reconstruit en 1376 ; le Palais de Justice, bâti en 1722, sur l’emplacement de l’ancien hôtel du Franc de Bruges etc. L’industrie la plus active est celle de la dentelle, dont on enseigne la fabrication dans une douzaine d’écoles spéciales. (1910)

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

Bruges est la ville de Belgique qui a le mieux conservé la physionomie caractéristique du moyen âge. On y rencontre presque à chaque pas de vieilles demeures féodales couvertes de sculptures d’une bizarrerie charmante. Ses rues propres, étroites, irrégulières, sont bordées de maisons de bois et de maisons dites « à l’espagnole »,ayant pignon sur rue et pignon à gradins ; les édifices anciens que l’on rencontre çà et là sont remarquables et communiquent à la ville un cachet archaïque très pittoresque mieux caractérisé encore par les fortifications, entourées de fossés datant du Xe siècle. Les bords du canal de Bruges offrent de jolis points de vue par les pittoresques constructions qui se mirent dans ses eaux. L’industrie la plus florissante est la dentelle, universellement renommée, dont on enseigne la fabrication dans une douzaine d’écoles spéciales. (1917)

Bruges, with the medieval look that it has retained, presents very picturesque aspects and above all artistic treasures that make it especially interesting, Amongst the sites, we notice les Halles (the market), the oldest reminder of the commercial power of Bruges, whose main façade is surmounted by the belfry, 80 metres high, containing the beautiful carillon; the town-hall, rebuilt in 1376; the Palais de Justice, built in 1722, on the site of the former mansion of Franc de Bruges etc. The most active industry is that of lace, the making of which is taught in some dozen special schools. (1910)

Bruges is the Belgian town that has most retained the characteristic look of the Middle Ages. Nearly At every turn one encounters old feudal mannsions, adorned with charmingly bizarre sculptures. Its streets, clean but narrow and irregular are lined with wooden houses and with houses in the style known as “à l’espagnole”, with gabled rooves overlooking the street and crow-stepped gables; the ancient buildings one encounters here and there are remarkable and give the town a very picturesque archaic feel, even better demonstarted by the fortifications, surrounded by moats, dating from the tenth century. The banks of the canal in Bruges offer attrative vantage-points for observing the picturesque buildings reflected in the water. The most flourishing industry is that of lace, for which it is universally renowned, and the making of which is taught in some dozen special schools. (1916)

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

The strategy pursued in linking the two films in the 1920s is exactly the same as in the case of the two films shot in Venice. The object of dividing films in this way was in part to give the customer a choice of viewing them together or separately as they wished. The first clip below has the two films combined as a "two-part" film while the second, although announcing still that it is a two-part film, has just the second part. The second part, like >the film of the Venice canals, highlights the poetic, evoking the work Georges Rodenbach (specifically mentioned in the catalogue), the symbolist poet and novelist whose 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte is the origin of the town's nickname used in the title of the film. It is also entirely conceived as a "ghost ride" aboard a boat (« parasseusement entrainés », "lazily carried along", as the catalogue has it).

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

The title and the evocation of Rodenbach mean also that this film has a certain political significance that is not obvious to a modern viewer. Rodenbach's novel was a passionate defence of the traditional and the identitaire against the tide of urban development and "cosmopolitanism" (a word frequently, but not invariably, used during the period as a racist, normally anti-semitic, euphemism, news being the most conspicuous representatives of a specifically urban - if scarcely altogether modern - population that could be seen as both alien and parasitic). Rodenbach had strongly opposed the building of the new town of Zeebrugge (Bruges-sur-Mer) and his novel remained an influential symbol of such resistance to change. In the same year that this film was made (1915), the Russian director Yevgeny Bauer produced his film Gryozy (Daydreams) based, partly at least, upon the Rodenbach novel.

Zeebrugge - La plage - het strand, contemporary postcards of Zeebrugge
Zeebrugge Zeebrugge

Pathé in its documentaries pursued two seemingly, but only seemingly, contradictory "politics" - one of "modernity" (associated particularly with modern farms, modern factories etc) and one of nostalgia (which is actually itself a kind of disguised modernity because of its association with tourism). In this film, there is a very deliberate pursuit of the nostalgic (and I would not be at all surprised if it involved a certain amount of fakery à la Flaherty). This nostalgic, politically reactionary aspect is often present in the more touristic films, contrasting with the reverse (the emphasis on machination and technological innovation) that is a marked component of the "industrial" films. This ambiguity about progress and social diversity (still of course very much with us today) is a constant subtext of virtually all documentary film-making, as it is equally of so many of the fictional photoplays, of the period. A film later (1922) shot by Moreau in Quimperlé in Brittany is another splendid example of this aesthetics of nostalgia.

René Moreau, Quimperlé (Films René Moreau, 1922) (my circling)
Quimperlé Quimperlé Quimperlé

There is a third Pathé-Baby film extant, Les Dentellières (Bruges) but this cannot be identified as any catalogued Pathé film. Although the Moreau film of 1910-1916 mentions the well-known lace industry there, it clearly does not show it in any detail (simply one brief shot at the end of the film). Even this brief shot does not appear in either of the Pathé-Baby films, omitted presumably because they knew they had another whole film available on that subject. This film is moreover a little different in style (more "magazine" in feel, more "close-up" in framing) and was probably made in the 1920s for Pathé Revue or Pathé Magazine, two regular film-compilations contemporaneous with the Pathé-Baby and then subsequently released, as was frequently the case with such films, as a separate short film on 9.5mm. The two Moreau films were also published in Pathé Revue, one for some reason in black and white and the other in colour, in July 1924.

René Moreau, Les Dentellières (Bruges) (Pathé, c. 1921-22)

Pathé was not the only company making films in Bruges at around this time. Gaumont, Pathé's benign shadow, made a similar pair of films there in 1911-1912, Bruges (1911), shown in the US as Panorama of Bruges the following February. This was "a dainty, delicate-tinted series of Flemish views", according to Moving Picture World "showing the principal sights of the ancient town of Bruges. Views of the picturesque canals, the lace workers, milk maids and men with their dog-driven mini-carts make this picture educationally valuable". A second Gaumont film, whose original title is unknown, appeared in the US in October 1912 as Bruges, the Venice of the North ("This film treats of the island city whose pretty canals and deep azure of its skies, rival the queen of the Mediterranean". The Italian company Cines also made a film there in 1914, shown in the US in 1915 (27 February), the same year as the 1915 Pathé film appeared there (13 September), distributed by The Photocolor Film Company (a Pathé front-company) as The Waterways of Bruges.

René Moreau, Bruges-la-Morte (Pathé, 1910-1917)

Bruges, Before the War, shown in the US on 20 January 1918 by Pathé Exchange in Pathécolor (simply a renaming of the familiar hand-colour/stencil process), is almost certainly yet another re-edition of the Moreau film(s), presumably the 1916 version, released on a split reel with one of Pathé's more sentimental natural history films In Blossom Time. The nostalgia was presumably rendered even more poignant by the horrors of the intervening war (in which Zeebrugge had played an important role). The recently-founded (1916) Educational Films Corporation of America's People of Old Bruges (1921-1922) presumably exploited the same rich vein, very possibly just recycling the French footage available. In 1920 the wunderkind Austrian composer Erich Korngold (1897-1957) adapted the Rodenbach novel as an opera, Die tote Stadt with text by his father Julius (under the name Paul Schott). To complete the cycle Belgian film-maker Paul Flon made a morbidly sentimental photoplay set in the town, Dans Bruges-la-morte, in 1924.

Coiffures et types de Hollande (Pathé, 1910)

On the principle that headgear, as much as clothes in general, makes the man (or woman), a notion truer during the belle époque than it is today, « Coiffures et types » (« Coiffes et types » in the Pathé-Baby version) was a favourite Pathé rubric. This film of Dutch girls in traditional costume playing ring-a-ring-a-roses is typical and the Dutch particularly were represented ad nauseam in this manner, despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the Netherlands was one of the most rapidly urbanising countries in Europe. Two other films (En Hollande, le port de Volendam and Enfants de Hollande (childen beating their way to school in wooden clogs and even using them as toy-boats) were shot in this particularly scenic little port-town as well as another film, Une journée à l’île de Marken in what the Pathé catalogue describes as « un pimpant petit village ». Vollendam, as can be seen from these contemporary photographs, was already well-known to tourists in search of kitsch reminders of a vanishing past. It is another example of how desperately Europeans clung to an "identity", an image d'Épinal that in practice was already something in the nature of a picturesque myth. Volendam was filmed over and over again by different companies and seems to have been kept "frozen in time" for the purposes of tourism, a fact that was no doubt often as tiresome as it was profitable for the local populace. The original film was about five minutes long and hand-coloured. At least in this abbreviated version we are spared the windmill and the tulips promised by the catalogue although the tulips would seem to have been put back for a colour version made (exceptionally) for Pathé-Baby in 1923 as a later Pathé-Baby catalogue refers gaily to "fields of multicoloured tulips."



The colour version of this film has apparently been "restored" - it sounds to me more like a tulipless, colourised version of the black and white copy - and been ascribed it to Alfred Machin, presumably on the rather slender basis that Machin would later make films for Pathé in the Netherlands but Machin, who had just returned from filming in Africa, was then sent by Pathé to shoot comedies involving animals he had collected there at Pathé's Comica studios on the Côte d'Azur in company with Roméo Bosetti. He did make a film in Belgium in 1909, between his two African trips, but may have had another motive for making a visit there (a Belgian film-maker who had also been working in Africa in 1908) and there is no doubt from the style that the film in question, Le Moulin maudit is by him, but there is no evidence that he went to the Netherlands until the end of 1911. This fine cinéaste produced a great variety of films during his career but "ring-a-ring-a-tulips" was not really his thing.

Zeeland, where this British Gaumont film was shot, was another happy hunting ground for the film-makers. Handomesly hand-coloured, it shows another batch of pretty clog-shoon Dutch schoolgirls. The war, far from from cooling the ardour for such nostalgia, seems, if anything, to have fanned its flames. Pathé was also filming both in Volendam (again) and Zeeland in 1915.

Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (Pathé, c. 1910?)

There is no certainty when this film in Luxemburg was shot. It appeared in Pathé Revue in 1922 and then on 9.5mm for the Pathé-Baby but is may well originally be a pre-war film and there is some reason to suppose it might have been shot in or around 1910. Whereupon hangs a tale that is quite revealing of the importance not only tourist documentaries but any film shot in a particular locale might have for the community there. Tourism was fast changing the world and the revenue it generated could transform the economy of any place, however insignificant or remote. The Grand-Duché de Luxembourg had a population fo 250, 000 in 1910, the town itself a population of just over 20,000. It was largely rural and not by any means the wealthy enclave that it is today. Its first permanent cinema had been established in 1907
by hotelier Nicolas Medinger-Kohner and his son Felix at the Hôtel de Luxembourg under the aeges of The Royal Bio Comp H. Hirdt (founded the same year by the travelling showman H. Hirdt). This cinema, Cinéma moderne, seated 350 but was rebuilt in 1910 as the 600-seater Kinematograph-Theater. Another Pathé film, not known from the catalogue, Sur les remparts de Luxembourg exists and has been restored, although I have not seen a copy, and, assuming this is a separate film from Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, the two may have been made at the same time, either in 1910-1912 (for reasons we shall now consider) or possibly during the war,
Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (Pathé, 1910?)

Le Guide
In March 1910 a Pathé film-team of about fifteen people arrived in the Grand Duchy, not however to film a tourist documentary but
Volkhaus The famous Volkshaus catholique
to make a series of four photoplays on and around « les ponts les plus pittoresques de Luxembourg ». Director Charles Decroix, who, being from Alsace, spoke perfect German, could address himself to the local population in both languages and evidently spent a good deal of time sweet-talking the luxembourgeois and persuading them that these films would be a most splendid advertisement (« reklame » for the town and duchy, and « excellente réclame pour notre pays, hélas peu connu des touristes », as one francophone newspaper put it, « la maison Pathé qui possède une renommée mondiale n'aurait pu rendre un service plus précieux à notre ville dans l'intérêt de la réclame ». Decroix enthused about the unspoilt natural beauty (Naturschönheiten) of the place, something, according to him, increasingly diffiult to find in Europe (« ist in Europa nicht mehr zu finden. »). The films, he assured them, would be seen « dans le monde entier » and bring international attention to the « Schönheiten dieses Landes » and would ensure an influx of foreign tourists.

After all this soft soap, when the four films were shown at the Royal Bio Comp. at the Hôtel Luxembourg in September-October, probably the swank new 600-seater Kinematograph-Theater built that same year by the Medinger-Kohler, they proved something of a disppointment to the asembled luxembourgeois.

The Royal Bio Comp. Kinematograph-Theater, Hôtel de Luxembourg
Royal Bio

Decroix and his unit had already long gone and the films were already on general release, although, curiously, all but one under different titles from those by which they were known in the Grand-Duchy. The luxembourgeois were pleased enough to see familiar landmarks on show in the films but dismayed to discover that there was no way by which the potential foreign tourists could know where it was that the films were set. One (Le Guide or Der Fremdenführer) was even supposed to be set in the Swiss Tyrolean Alps). Le Séducteur (actually released as Haine implacable) had been filmed in the most picturesque spots in the suburbs of Grund and Pfaffenthal;Le Tronc or Die Baumhöhle (actually released as Affaire d'honneur had been filmed in the fish-market, in the Trois Glands (a park and fort), in Pfaffenthal, by the river Alzette and around the très pittoresque chapelle de Saint-Quirin; Le Guide, the mountain murder-mystery set in Switzerland, had been filmed in the region of Müllerthal, on the place de Glacis, by the entry to the Volkhaus (a Catholic church), at those Trois Gands again and on the rocks of the Côte
Nick Winter
d'Eich. The press now talked a little mournfully in the conditional. It "would have been" (es wäre) a wonderful Riesenreklame, if only everybody in the whole world knew that it was made in Luxemburg.

Rather the same thing occurred in September 1913 when another Pathé film-unit came to shoot an epsiode in the Nick Winter detective series entitled Nick Winter et le mystère de la Tamise, shot this time in the towns of Bollendorf and Asembourg, at the château de Dommeldange and in the garden of the spa of Mondorf. It was enthusiastically received when shown in Luxemburg in December and the press waxed lyrical once more about its publicity-worthiness (« Reklamewert für die Naturschönheiten unseres Landes » but could not there be some indication that these places were in Luxemburg? The film company pointed out, perhaps a shade tartly, that this might detract somewhat from the desired illusion that he film was set in England.

Wendel Marzen
I rather doubt if either Decroix' film-crew or that presumably under Paul Garbagni, who directed the Nick Winter series, would have shot this particular film; that would have been a derogation from the strict director-unit system in operation at Pathé. But it does seem conceivable that another team was sent at this time as a means of smoothing the ruffled feathers of the luxembourgeois (and ensuring that future film-teams would be welcome). It is also perfectly possible that the film was the work of a local cinematographer bought in, an increasingly common practice, particularly for material to be included in the Pathé Revue (often also subsequently released on 9.5mm). In that case, there are at least two possible candidates, one Wendel Marzen, who had been making films in Luxemburg since at least 1902, and the son of the hotelier and cinema proprietor, Felix Medinger, who would go on make Das malerische Luxemburg, a very handsome five-minute tourist-portrait of the Duchy and other films in 1912. All his films were made for Royal Bio Comp., which had shown the Decroix films in 1910 but frankly this Pathé documentary has little of the elegance - painterly as the title implies - of Medinger's known work.

Le Grand-Duché de Luxembourg (Pathé, 1910?) and Felix Medinger, Das malerische Luxemburg (The Royal Bio Comp., 1912)
Luxemburg Luxemburg

Within France itself, Brittany was a favourite focus for such touristic films. In 1908 Pathé operators had filmed a traditional Breton wedding and the very touristic festival of « les pardons », part religious ceremony and part agricultural fair, and in 1909 they shot Fillettes de Bretagne, a particularly emetic concoction (or, as the Pathé catalogue puts it « une délicieuse série de tableaux animés » featuring clogs, babies, windmills and bagpipes that (the film is not known to survive) must have almost made the 1910 films in Volendam look like hard-nosed reportage. In 1910, they contented themselves with a film of the port of Saint Malo, although a further film was shot at Mont St. Michel in adjoining Normandy, where a horse-fair was also filmed. The Pyrénées were another similar focus with a film being shot during the year of the funiculaire between Lourdes and Gavarnie.

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo (Pathé, 1910)

The film of Saint-Malo is especially interesting. It is not really a touristic film in quite the same manner as those considered above. It has, certainly, touristic elements but it differs in two important ways. For one thing it contains footage of working life (fishing, sculpture), a brief shot of naval installations and it contains a little story of sorts concerning a local sailor who has returned from working in the cod-fisheries of Newfoundland to settle down with his sweetheart. The film in other words aims at giving a picture of the town - and the original film was twice the length - as well as mingling fact with semi-fiction. It also personalises (from the implied point of view of the two lovers) and subjectivises the viewpoint (as far as the viewer is concerned) by presenting « panorama » - a series of shots in a kind of "binocular" oval iris, as though viewed through « une jumelle marine » ("skipper's spyglass" in the English).

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo (Pathé, 1910)
Saint Malo

Here in effect we have an early example in miniature of what might be called "a city symphony", albeit somewhat whimsical and sentimentalised and on a much smaller scale, a genre that would become one of the most typical and most dynamic forms of the documentary film at the height of its glory in the 1920s. There are some signs that the 1910 film, although, at just five minutes, fairly short even for that date, was regarded as having some importance. As early as about 1912, it had already appeared separately as a 28mm film for the earlier Pathé home-view system, the Pathé Kok, probably at its original length, since Koks were a shade longer than the later Babies and for the Pathé-Baby in the twenties it was retitled Saint-Malo: antique cité des corsaires. This title does not really reflect the film - which makes no mention of corsairs - but is probably more to do with the fact that the Pathé-Baby catalogue also contained, at least by the 1930s, Surcouf, the 1925 Luitz-Morat serial-film (only just over an hour on the Baby but nearly eight hours long originally) about the famous corsair Robert Surcouf (1773-1827), who was born in Saint-Malo and, along with the writer and politician François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) and the explorer Jacques Cartier (1491-1557), who are both cited in the film, was one of the town's most famous sons.

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo (Pathé, 1910): the sailor calls for his sweetheart

None of the various accounts of the film, not even that in the Pathé-Baby catalogue, describes its unusual narrative element; precedence is given everywhere to the touristic aspects - the fortifications, the castle, "the quaint little houses" (US Pathécope catalogue) and the narrow streets of « la vieille Bretagne bretonnante » ("unadulterated old Brittany" in the English version). The 1918 Pathéscope catalogue (this was the US subsidiary that distributed the 28mm films, not the later British company of the same name that distributed the 9.5mm films) does however highlight the "panorama viewed through a field glass" but, in what would seem almost like a contradiction in terms, claims that this contributes to making the film "a genuine old world picture", whatever on earth that might be. Since the Kok had very definite educational ambitions, viewers are also directed to volume 20 of the New International for further reading about the French seaport.

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo (Pathé, 1910): the sailor and his sweetheart walk the strand

The cinematographer is unknown but this is another example of a film that was farmed out for editing in the absence of it original maker - in this case to Mlle G. Jousset, who ran a camera and phototographic company and did a great deal of editing work for the Pathé-Babies. Since René Moreau was evidently something of the man of the year at Pathé, and since we know he was no longer with Pathé after 1921, it is tempting to ascribe this film to him as well. The film starts with a quotation from Chateaubriad (born in the town), which is typical enough of a Moreau film and contains several of the nostalgic references to which he was prone. He also filmed in Brittany on his own account in the twenties and, although his name is not Breton, he may conceivably have been a native or more probably, like other later film-makers - Jean Epstein springs to mind - simply had a cinematographer's love affair with the place. On the other hand, this may be the work of yet another "unsung hero", or, who knows, "unsung heroine", of early film of whom we know nothing.

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo (Pathé, 1910)

This was not by any means the first film to be shot in Saint-Malo; Pathé had made films of boats coming and going in 1897 and of the famous « pont roulant » (rolling bridge) in 1898 nor was Pathé the only firm to film the Breton seaport. The British company Cricks and Martin filmed St. Malo and the Shrimpers of the Emerald Coast in 1909 and Gaumont, faithfully following in Pathé's footsteps, also shot a film in Saint-Malo that appeared in the US in 1911 as St. Malo and the English Channel and was described by Moving Picture World in fulsome terms: "An excellent travelogue presenting scenes familiar to most tourists to the British Isles and France. It is a picturesque French seaport town on the channel, situated on a granite island which is connected by a narrow causeway to the mainland of France." Neither of these films is known to survive.

René Moreau (?), Saint-Malo, Pathé, 1910

Pathé was of course far from the only company producing such touristic documentaries. Gaumont filmed during the year in Florence, Berlin,

There was a tendency for the various film crews to follow each other around, trying to outdo each other in rendering the best version of tourist destinations that were in vogue. Éclair sems to have been the first to film the castles of the Rhine in January 1910, a seven-minute film that appeared in the US in February as Castles on the Rhine from Bingen to Coblenz on a split-reel with Nick Carter acrobate. The description in Moving Picture World was suitably lyrical:

We have all listened on sundry occasions to the legends and tales of the wonderful Rhine. How enchanting the tradition of the beautiful Lorelei and how thrilling the innumerable stories of the iron willed Barons, and their honor of horrors, "Round Towers on the Rhine." We view, as we gaze, the strange blending together of one grand panorama, and the magnitude of the changeless beauty of old nature, and the glories find picturesque, yet transient splendor of the handiwork of man.

The six-minute film The Falls of the Rhine (known only by its English title) was probably made at the same time. This view, filmed at Schaffhouse (Schaffhausen) in Switzerland, has a historical interest because it was here that what is probably the first Lumière panorama from a boat had been filmed, by Constant Girel, pn 29 September 1896.

Pathé cameramen made the same trip in February, producing the eight-minute Le Rhin de Cologne à Bingen, a film released in colour and described in the catalogue as making the Rhine appear as described in the poems of Victor Hugo « avec sa vallée sinueuse et profonde couronnée des deux côtés par ses pittoresques vieux burgs, ses ruines et ses châteaux » (its deep, winding valley crowned on both sides by ancient townships, ruins and castles). This too appeared in the US the same month, released on a split-reel with The Runaway Dog and was described in similar terms:

This film takes you past all the most famous castles, each of which is the subject of hundreds of legends. First, we see Koenigswinter and the crumbling ruins of the Dragon's Rock. In quick succession follow Linz, Anderach and the Fortress of Ehren-breitstein. Next comes one of the most famous sights of the Rhine, the monument to Emperor William. And then the Lorelei, the Oberweisel, and the ruins of Schonburg, and, passing through the Rhine Palatine, we come upon Kaub and the Castle of Gutenfels. Amongst others we see the famous Rheinstein and Sonneck castles, and, finally, at Bingen itself, the Mouse, or Hatto's, Tower, and the vineyards of Redesheim. This film is pregnant with interest, giving a true representation of the splendid scenery of this magnificent and incomparable river, and calling to mind the innumerable tales and myths of quaint old German folklore, which spreads its misty veil upon the dark and mysterious waters.

Urban-Éclipse, now a French company, extended the journey to Coblenz in a film that appeared in English as A Trip Along the Rhine. The US, which produced hardly any films of this kind itself, seems to ave had an inexhausible appetite for such views and this appeared there, released on yet another split-reel with The Country Schoolmaster, in March 1910, just a month after the other two films, although it does not seem to have come out in France as Le Rhin (de Cologne à Cobllenz) until the autumn of 1912. It is this French version, translated into Dutch, that survives in part in the Desmet Collection in Holland, featuring just the trip from Bingen to Coblenz:

A Trip Along the Rhine (Urban-éclipse, 1910, 1912)

The French company Éclair made relatively few documentaries but made an attempt to choose subjects that were a little different and had more dramatic potential. This is most clearly seen in their travel films but Éclair was also begining to eye the "education" market, doubtless fully in the knowledge that this was an area that Pathé was keen to exploit. When the four-minute Alpine view A Trip to Berne, appeared in the US in March (on a split-reel with the drama Le trésor de Loie), it was described in the notice in Moving Picture World as "one of the Éclair educational gems". The Pathé-Éclair rivalry in this regard would become more pronounced in 1911-1912 as the moment approached fro the launch of Pathé's 28mm home-view system the KOK, a challenge that Éclair had no intention of letting pass without a response. Another Alpine view, the four-minute Ascending the Sea of Ice (also released in the US in March, coupled with another drama, Love, the Conqueror), which was filmed at Chamonix and was a tourist-attraction once greatly favoured by the Lumière operators, Antoine Lumière having a villa in the region but equally prized by Gaumont, where Léon Gaumont took a very personal interest in mountaineering films, and which made more than one film there in 1910 and by Pathé who had made the important 1907 documentary L'Ascension de Mont Blanc there.

It is worth noting that, relatively sparse though the Éclair production of documentary views might be compared to that of its two mighty rivals, there is a strong sense of connection between the films. While filming in the Alps, the operators also made the six-minute Vie des Chasseurs Alpins aux postes frontières (part of the series of "exposés" of the lesser known activities of the French army that had been begun way back in 1908. The ten-minute drama Le Trésor de Loie, although it has no relation whatever to the film with which it was coupled, is also of interest in illustrating the co-ordinated manner in which the Éclair camera-teams worked. Éclair, no less than Pathé, had interested itself in the dramatically beautiful scenery of Brittany. A notably successful documentary short of the previous year had been La Bretagne brettonante (shown in the US as The Real Brittany) and a further documentary was made in Sprin 1910 during the annual «&bsp;caravane » or wild oyster harvest at Cancale on the Côte Émeraude in Ille-et-Vilaine. But Éclair had seemingly improved on these occasions to prepare the way for various short dramas of 1909-1910 set amongst fisher-folk. Pretty Fisher-Woman (1909), Le Trésor de Loie (specified as Brittany) and La Sorcière de la grève (both 1910). It seems likely too that the Morgan le pirate serial (1909 with a spin-off drama Le Cage in 1910) also made us of the Breton landscape. A more lightweight, integrated structure and a greater awareness of the docufictional possiblities of its documentary-making made this a much easier strategy for Éclair to deploy (as to some extent did Feuillade at Gaumont) than was the case at Pathé where a more compartmentalised structure (with each team of operators assigned to a different director) led to jealouises that made such co-operation more difficult.

These Alpine scenes and the Les Grimpeurs des rochers (filmed in the Pyrenées). the four-minute Lugano et son lac Even more striking examples of this same co-ordination and this same interest in docufiction can be seen in the case of "colonial" films made by Éclair in the same year in North Africa.

Industrial films

In 1908 Pathé had decided to devote an entire section of its catalogue to « arts et industries » and the films are basically of two sorts - those dealing with more traditional pursuits (fishing. butter-making and so on) and those devoted to more modern industry. As one might expect, the tone of the former tend somewhat to resemble the touristic films (even when the intertitles are relatively matter-of-fact, the Pathé catalogue indulges in lyrical flourishes) while the latter are more orientated towards technological innovation, mechanisation and mass-production. The "traditional" films normally included some reference to the economic importance of the activity concerned and, in the "modern" films Pathé was quite prepared to slip in a fairly overt "advertising" element. As regards local firms, which rapidly saw the potential of such films, such films were often quite straightforwardly made to commission and this "advertising" element became the main focus. This alliance between film documentary and advertising very soon became, and has remained, crucial, gradually evolving towards the typical modern situation where commercial sponsorship is the main source of funding for documentary film-makers.

La Pêche aux harengs (Pathé, 1907, 1910)

Herring-fishing seems to have been an early Spring favourite. This Pathé-Baby film, shot at Boulogne-sur-Mer may be the 1910 film La Pêche aux harengs à Boulogne but there had been an almost identical film, the ten-minute La Pêche aux harengs released in 1907 and, to judge by the descriptions of the two films, the two may simply be the same film released, possibly already in a slightly abridged version, as part of the « Arts et Industries » section. This is reflected in the pointed, if vague, economic references one finds at the end also of the Pathé-Baby film.

La Pêche aux harengs (Pathé, 1910)

La Pêche aux harengs was produced on 28mm for the Pathé Kok. Known as Herring Fishing, it was described in the 1918 Pathéscope catalogue, which empasises the "close-up" view of the fisherman, a technical effect already becoming relatively common in documentary films, both in touristic films (where the concept of "types" tended to privilge a concentration of the camera on the faces of its subjects) and in "industrials" where the desirability of concentrating on hands at work was very obvious. The film reappeared in Pathé Revue in 1923 as well as on Pathé-Baby.

La Pêche aux harengs (Pathé, 1910)
harengs harengs harengs

Pathé made several films of deep-sea fishing between 1905 and 1911. There had been a film Pêche en pleine mer in 1905, the earlier film of herring-fishing, La Pêche aux harengs in 1907, La Pêche au chalut in 1910, very possibly a reprise of the 1905 film, the second herring-fishing film, La Pêche aux harengs à Boulogne also in 1910, and probably, as we have seen, a reprise of the 1907 film, La Pêche au thon en Sicile, also 1910 and Pêche à la morue à la ligne de fond en Islande and Pêche à la morue en Islande au chalut, both in 1911. Another five-minute film that survives, although I have not seen a copy, Pêche à la morue sur les côtes du Groenland is of uncertain date. The Pathé-Baby film La Pêche en mer is clearly a composite film, made c. 1922 for the Pathé-Baby « Série instructive » (intended for use in schools) and incorporating footage from several of the earlier films.

La Pêche en mer (Pathé, 1922 compilation 1907-1911)
Le chalutier Marc-Marie, immatriculé à Arcachon, se dirige vers la zone de pêche. Le chalut formé de filets à poche est jeté à l'eau par les pêcheurs et y reste pendant la marée. Il est ensuite retiré de l'eau et amené à bord par le treuil, la poche est ouverte et le poisson se répand à profusion, la morue inonde le pont. Un homme présente la morue qui subit sur le bateau une première préparation et les morutiers s'activent sur la chaîne de découpe. Le travail terminé, les hommes se lavent sur le pont à la lance à eau. Pêche à la morue sur les côtes du Groenland

La Pêche au thon en Sicile was very much an "industrial" film, one of three produced that year in Sicily. It appeared in 28mm on the Pathé Kok and was known in the US as Catching and Canning Tunny in Sicily and the 1918 Pathéscope catalogue places as much emphasis on the second aspect as the first. Tinned tuna was evidently not quite the banal product that it is today.

The tunny fish, or tuna, is very large and sometimes weighs as much as 1500 lbs. The fishermen show great skil in landing the catch. A view of the canning factory depicts the method of cooking and packing the fish in tins.

the eruption of Etna in March. A further film La Moisson en Sicilie was made in 1911. It rather looks as though Pathé had a cinematographer stationed for a time in the island, since further films were made there in 1912-1913.

John Grierson, Drifters (John Grierson, 1929)

Films of deep-sea fishing have a very special importance in the history of cinema, in the development of the documentary film (think for a moment of John Grierson's influential 1929 film Drifters and equally in the development of a naturalistic style of cinematography that would also serve to enrich the photoplay or fictional film (think, perhaps, of the remarkable scene of tuna-fishing in Roberto Rosselini's 1950 film Stromboli, terra di Dio. An absurdly lop-sided regard has been favoured by critics (from a surprisingly early period), privileging "fiction" over "non-fiction" and consistently relegating documentary, both as a genre and as a component of style, to a secondary role. The "Hollywood" myth seems to have required an unshakeable belief in the superiority of fictional (and generally escapist) entertainment, however trivial and uninteresting its actual content might often be, while documentary came somehow to be seen as a thing apart (which it is not), and as peripheral if not inferior, however impressive and interesting its actual content might often be. Anyone who has followed the history of cinema from its earliest days with attention, knows, or should know, how utterly false this perspective is, that fiction is not necessarily "the manifest destiny" of cinema, that documentary is, and has always been, absolutely integral to its existence, that it occupies a central role in its development and might reasonably be regarded as the real motor of the industry, the crucible of visual (and aural) ideas, the training-ground of cinemtographers, the prior source of nearly all technical innovation and the arena where cineastes have most earnestly tried to debate, understand and refine the complex relationship that the seventh art has with the real world.

Roberto Rosselini, Stromboli, terra di Dio (RKO Pictures, 1950)

If we wish to identify a clear predecessor to the work of Grierson and of Otello Martelli (cinematographer for Stromboli), that man is surely Jean Nédelec, although he would not have made the film shot in Sicily in 1910. Nédelec, as we have seen, was Pathé's operator in Scandinavia. In that capacity he not only made touristic films amongst the fjords but was almost certainly also responsible for a film of polar bear hunting, urgently required by Pathé for reasons explained elsewhere, but he was, to judge by his name, a Breton and therefore surely had the sea in his blood.

La Pêche au thon en Sicile was very much an "industrial" film, one of three prodcued that year in Sicily. It appeared in 28mm on the Pathé Kok and was known in the US as Catching and Canning Tunny in Sicily and the 1918 Pathéscope catalogue places as much emphasis on the second aspect as the first. Tinned tuna was evidently not quite the banal product that it is today.

Pêcheries de thon en Sicile (1907)
The tunny fish, or tuna, is very large and sometimes weighs as much as 1500 lbs. The fishermen show great skil in landing the catch. A view of the canning factory depicts the method of cooking and packing the fish in tins.

Amongst other « arts et industries » filmed in the year one finds trout-fishing, losbster-fishing, manufacture of sugar, metallurgy and coal-mining (« le royaume du Fer et du Feu » according to the catalogue), the cork industry, a marble quarry.

Watterson R. Rothacker founded the Industrial Moving Picture Company with Carl Laemmle of the Independent Moving Picture Company and R. H. Cochrane of the Cochrane Advertising Company in Chicago c. May 1910 (1909-1910).