In France, 1906 is the year of Alfred Dreyfus’ rehabilitation, of the adoption of the Sunday holiday, of the vote for the separation of Church and State, of the deaths of Jules Verne and Pierre Curie, of the catastrophic mine explosion at Courrières. In Paris the first motorbus line is inaugurated in June; at Le Mans, in La Sarthe, the first circuit race is held, since the city- to-city race has been the cause of too many accidents. And at Gaumont, things are going so well that it is necessary to draw up new articles of association for the flourishing enterprise: the Société des Établissements Gaumont (SEG) is created in December, and the factory in the Rue des Alouettes at Villette
grows until it becomes “the Elgé city” (“Elgé” being the initials of the company’s founder, Léon Gaumont). Here, all together, are all the technical and artistic services which the cinema industry demands, from the production of cameras to the printing of release prints: carpenters’ shops, property stores, printing presses for posters, and studios which are still called “theatres”. Alice Guy, who arrived as secretary to the director in 1895, by 1906 is one of the most prolific metteur en scène of SEG. With experience and also luck, she has discovered a thousand little tricks, like supermiposition and dissolves, and supervises the phonoscènes dear to Léon (who is passionate about colour and sound), ancestors of the videoclip, courtesy of the Chronophone.
Agnès Bertola, Archives Gaumont-Pathé
The Gaumont Passion, titled La Vie du Christ [The Life of Christ], was made to rival Pathé’s recently completed Passion. The film was largely inspired by the then-celebrated watercolours of the painter James Tissot, and consisted of 25 tableaux. The mise- en-scène in the studio, or in natural settings such as the forest of Fontainebleau, was extremely opulent for the period. The attribution of the direction is in doubt, with Alice Guy and Victorin Jasset as rival claimants.