ACTUALITÉ PATHÉ (Mobilisation générale le 2 août 1914 à Paris)

Film Notes

Gaumont celebrates 101 years of activity this year. Il Cinema Ritrovato pays homage with a selection of newsreels from 1914, the year that brought the Great War to the world.
Les Gaumont Actualités were, in 1914, five years old and already had a consolidated linguistic and narrative structure. The Cinémathèque Gaumont has restored them through preservation work on 35mm film and by cataloguing and making them available on the Web.

The greatest problem of this unique heritage is that, as they tell of events that have devastated history, they have been constantly used for other films and newsreels, so that the 1914 corpus seems like one of those votive stones that the faithful, with their constant passage, have worn away over the years.

There are all of the over fifty episodes from 1914, but often of the twenty or thirty stories, a good half are missing.
What are the Actualités about? A world that is already in some way global: from Japan, Italy, India, Egypt, Russia and Africa the whole world is presented on screen; but what really interests the Gaumont camera is the life of the affluent classes from Saint Moritz to Biarritz; and then the unusual performances and the surprising aspects in everyday life: a fire in a paint’s factory, a terrible flood and Gilbert the aviator landing on a roof.

The Gaumont Actualités show us, clearly, the aesthetic beauty of a world that doesn’t seem to know the war. A Euro centric world in which the United States are still a distant and exotic land. The anniversaries fill the newsreels and seem to regulate the world according to sacred laws. The twentieth century hadn’t begun yet. There are some signs of the preparations for war. The recurring military parades, the images of generals – real stars of the Actualités – and an extraordinary gymnastics display in Berlin that displays all the great Prussian organization. In the summer, without the audience realising it, war began. The crowds that packed the cinemas now march in front of the camera; but the Actualités never tell individual stories. Only crowds exist.

Gian Luca Farinelli