Prod.: Pathé 35mm. L.: 124 m. D.: 7′ a 16 f/s. Bn.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Five 1908 Pathé Flims

Cinémathèque Francaise and Fondation Jérome Seydoux-Pathé have joined forces in presenting five Pathé films from the 1908 catalogue.

The year 1908 marked a turning-point for the Pathé company: the world economie crisis, which had surfaced in the United States at the end of 1907 and in Europe in 1908, hit the film industry hard at the end of the first half-year. Charles Pathé, foreseeing the decline in busi­ness at beginning of the year, started to slow down activity; however, this did not prevent the figures from dwindling in his subsidiary companies, especially in New York. At the end of the financial year the profits had dropped by 10%. The gradual upswing in business would not start until 1909, and, in the meantime, the decrease in demand meant decisions had to be made: a decrease in print volume, projects for reducing film production with the help of contracts made with affiliated companies (S.C.A.G.L., Film d’Art), reduction of film deliveries to licensed French rental companies.

1908, a pivotal year, terminated a cycle of intense growth (1904-1907) before a shift in company strategy, which starting in 1909 would go in the direction of manufacturing film.

Cinémathèque Francaise has a wide collection of early Pathé film negatives. Henri Langlois rescued them after the government made orders for producers, distributors and labs to eliminate films on nitrate. In August 1951, Langlois also managed to salvage many films from destruction with the help of the CNC.

Restoring a film from that period with just a negative print is a particular kind of restoration. At that time negatives were assembled in bulk depending on printing needs and apparently without subtitles. Without having any other elements to work with, one of the main problems is reconstructing the story and the intertitles. Many screenplays of Pathé films, filed by the company at the time, are kept at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. These documents are often the only ones that allow us to reconstruct the films. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the original documents do not always contain all the information necessary for a thorough restoration, which sometimes means the restorer must work out the missing parts by following the narrative plot.

The five Pathé films offered in this program were recently rediscovered and restored this year as part of this special showing. The presentation of Cinémathèque Francaise’s selection will be accompanied by a presentation of iconographic elements kept at the Fondation Jérome Seydoux-Pathé, a brief presentation of the Pathé company in 1908 and the restoration work for the films here presented.

Camille Blot-Welles and Stéphanie Salmon

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