Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 16:30

Le Sang des bêtes / La Première nuit / Le Métro

Georges Franju
Introduced by

Bernard Eisenschitz


Wednesday 26/06/2019


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

“The existence of slaughterhouses made me want to make this film; it was not wanting to make a film that took me to a slaughterhouse”. Le Sang des bêtes is known for the brutality of its images of slaughter, but its theme is first and foremost banality. Before he shows the reality of killing, Franju, with his experience in scientific films, shows the landscape and the instruments. Then it has to do with mass murder. As a co-founder of the Cinémathèque française, he couldn’t help bearing in mind the finale of the first grand work of cinema with a collective protagonist, Eisenstein’s Strike. But Le Sang des bêtes is a product of its time. Three years before, news footage showing the liberation of concentration camps had shocked audiences. The voiceover refers to it: the animals “follow like men, their lowing like the singing of hostages” and concludes: “they shall not hear the sound of prison gates closing upon them… tomorrow’s victims”. Words that the final lines of Night and Fog seem to echo.

Bernard Eisenschitz


There is not one shot that does not move us, almost without reason, solely through its stylistic beauty and great visual writing. Of course, the film is hard to bear. It will undoubtedly be accused of sadism because of the way it grabs hold of the drama with both hands without ever avoiding it. It shows us the killers without hate of which Baudelaire spoke. He shows us the sacrifice of innocent beasts. Sometimes it manages to generate tragedy with the terrible surprise of unknown gestures and attitudes that it brutally pushes us to face. The horse struck right on the head that falls onto its knees, already dead. The reflexes of decapitated calves that convulse and seem to struggle. In short, a noble and ignoble world that spills its last wave of blood on to a white tablecloth where the epicure is to think no longer of the suffering of the victims in whose flesh he plants his fork. Around the sacrificial table lies the city made up of several cities and villages, the city we think we know, and yet don’t know, its maritime and lugubrious sky over the disquieting setting of the Ourcq Canal.

Jean Cocteau, Sur Le Sang des bêtes, “Paris-Presse l’Intransigeant”, 8 September 1949; tr. eng. The Documentary Film Reader, edited by Jonathan Kahana, Oxford University Press, Oxford-New York 2006

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Georges Franju, Jean Painlevé (commento). F.: Marcel Fradetal. M.: André Joseph. Mus.: Joseph Kosma. Int.: Georges Hubert, Nicole Ladmiral (voci narranti). Prod.: Paul Legros per Forces et Voix de France. 35mm. D.: 22’. Bn.


Film Notes

It needs only a little imagination for our most habitual actions to become charged with a disquieting significance, for the décor of our daily life to give birth to a fantastic world. Monsters and fairies lie within our grasp. This film is dedicated to those who have not betrayed their childhoods, who at the age of ten discovered both love and separation.

Boileau-Narcejac, introduction to the film


All of Franju’s documentaries comprise a strong fictional element and often dramatic scenes. But this last short, made before he turned his hand to feature films, constitutes his first 100% fictional production, based on a screenplay co-written by the singer Marianne Oswald with that literary jack-of-alltrades, Remo Forlani. La Première nuit is about finding freedom. A child from a prosperous neighbourhood emerges from school and escapes his everyday routine (the driver waiting to take him home) to plunge into a new world: the metro with its crowds and its emptiness, its fabulous décor and its promise of implausible encounters. In 1937, Franju had written a pioneering essay, Notes sur le style de Fritz Lang. Here he transfigures this subterranean world with the help of another master of light and shadow, Eugen Schüfftan, who went on to shoot both Franju’s La Tête contre les murs and Les Yeux sans visage. La Première nuit is also a film dream, which has been compared to Buster Keaton’s stepping through the screen in Sherlock Jr.

Bernard Eisenschitz

Cast and Credits

Sog.: Marianne Oswald. Scen.: Marianne Oswald, Remo Forlani. Scen.: Georges Franju. F.: Eugen Schüfftan. M.: Henri Colpi, Jasmine Chasney. Mus.: Georges Delerue. Int.: Pierre Devis (il ragazzo), Lisbeth Persson (la bambina). Prod.: Anatole Dauman, Sammy Halfon, Phillippe Lifchitz per Argos Films. 35mm. D.: 23’. Bn.


Film Notes

An impressionistic essay on the Paris metro, more the above-ground section than the underground part. Franju and Langlois shot it with a fixed-focus lens, on three rolls of 16mm reversible film paid for by Langlois’ mother. (Langlois soon declared that he mustn’t touch the camera, because it would bring bad luck.) The camera stares up at passengers as they charge down stairs. Women in skirts and businessmen rush past, seen from feet to waist. Tracking shots show a metro train flying above the river between Bir-Hakeim Station and Passy. The Eiffel Tower, the Seine and sweeping pans across trees and buildings follow. A young man is seen on a platform, then seated in a carriage. Elevators, shafts, escalators, steam, a map of the Metro, railings… More steam rises off trains as they enter and leave a station. The film was discovered and preserved in 1985.

Bernard Eisenschitz, based on Glenn Myrent, in Tirages et restaurations de la Cinémathèque française II,
La Cinémathèque française, Paris 1987

Cast and Credits

Scen., F., M., Prod.: Georges Franju, Henri Langlois. DCP. D.: 8’. Bn