Viatcheslav Tourjansky

F.: G. Leclerc, Albert Samama Chikli. Int.: Nathalie Kovanko (Goul-y-Hanar), Nicolas Rimsky (Soliman), Paul Ollivier, Nicolas Koline. Prod.: Alexander Kamenka per Ermolieff Films. 35mm. L.: 1760 m. D.: 70’ a 22 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

Les Contes des Milles et une nuits, originally a mini-serial in three episodes, survives in the reduced American distribution version as a feature-length film. Its success greatly helped to consolidate Ermolieff, the new production company (renamed Films Albatros in 1922) Russian emigrants had established in Paris. With his remarkable acumen the producer Alexandre Kamenka had opted for a fairy tale set in the Orient, knowing the French adored the Russian brand of orientalist extravaganzas they knew from Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  (Look at the costume sketches for Shéhérezade and Le Dieu bleu by Léon Bakst and you can see why.) He cleverly combined in Les Contes des Milles et une nu-  its the contrasting attractions of opulent studio sets and costumes designed by Ivan Lochakoff (also responsible for the art direction of Le Brasier ardent and La Maison du Mystère in the 1923 strand) and the light and landscapes of Tunisia. Roy Armes mentions in his book African Filmmaking North and South of the Sahara (2006) that Albert Samama Chikli was the cameraman for the scenes in Les Contes des Milles et une nuits shot on location in Tunisia, without citing any source. The Samama archives contain no conclusive information about what function he might have had in the Ermolieff production. Only in late 2022 did the identification of Samama acting in the film [En marge du film “Les Contes des Milles et une nuits”] and the discovery of a 1921 newspaper clipping in the private home of Samama’s grand-daughter give confirmation that he was indeed one of two cameramen on the Ermolieff film and also the local coordinator for the scenes shot in Tunisia: “Cameramen were Mr. Leclerc, a veteran camera operator for Pathé, and Mr. Samama-Chikli, who has been of great help to all of these screen artists” (“La Dépêche tunisienne”, 4 December 1921).

Mariann Lewinsky

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Restored by MoMA – Museum of Modern Art.