Prod.: Pathé 35mm. L.: 74 m. Bn
A genre: actualities
Today, when we use the term “actualité reconstituée”, we often mean that this genre of representation – relating a contemporary event by restaging it – is inherently false, and that it deceives the spectator. It is true that certain texts, half-serious, half-amused, or humorous drawings, dealt with this theme either from the angle of a commercial ruse, or as a play upon the public’s naïveté. However, maybe what we are dealing with here is a topos, a rhetorical theme all the more easily endorsed as the truth since it fits in so well with the idea of the first primitive reception of the cinematographic image. It looks very much like a variation on the well-known myth that the audience actually got up and shrank back when the train arrived on the screen at La Ciotat station.
We will therefore simply use the term found in the catalogues, vues d’actualité (“actuality scenes”) – an ideal definition for images filmed either en plein air or reconstructed in the studio, provided that they represent events that were reasonably recent, and reasonably sensational, and more or less relayed by other images and accounts. We will be showing both types of film, and some cases where both types of “actuality” share the same film. When we research the filmed events in the contemporary press, it is amazing to see how these vues d’actualité, to use the term of the sales catalogues, were familiar subjects to spectators who read “L’Illustration” or “Le Petit Journal”, to cite some French examples. Our programme will attempt to examine several methods of visual information that were in use before the era of the newsreel. Three or four years later, the founding of this new genre was probably the primary cause of the disappearance of what now seems so typical to us of the years 1900-1905: reconstructed or re-staged news, a form described as en passant, but which the tableaux at the Musée Grévin had been using for some time.