Jolly Cinema > 12:00

Immagini dalla Cina / La Vie des noirs / Reassemblage

Introduced by

Hervé Pichard and Karl Wratschko

Piano accompaniment by

Stephen Horne


Wednesday 21/07/2021


Original version with subtitles

Immagini dalla Cina 1901-1904

Film Notes

In Yunnan, at the end of the Qing dynasty, Auguste François (1857-1935), a consul, photographer and amateur ethnographer, documents with a camera provided by Léon Gaumont scenes of daily life in the streets of Yunnanfu (now Kunming), but also more exceptional events such as a dragon dance or Chinese theatre performance (in which all female roles are played by men). The films were shot between 1901 and 1904 and the surviving footage runs to about an hour. Aware that he was witnessing things that his compatriots ignore, and that risked disappearing, François produced reports combining detailed stories, photos, films, and collections of objects. Interestingly, some of the footage was shot during or directly after the Boxer Uprising, which took place in China between 1899 and 1901. The Cinémathèque française and the CNC present a short selection of this ongoing safeguarding work. In the 1970s Jean de Mallmann, a nephew of Mme François, took the initiative to save these precious documents. On the advice of Henri Langlois, he instructed the Boyer laboratory to make several 16mm and 35mm security copies from the nitrate copy. Our thanks go to the Auguste François association, which since the 1990s has aimed to make Auguste François known and to work for the conservation and dissemination of his work, and also to Béatrice de Pastre and the CNC.

Marianne Bauer and Pierre Seydoux

Rue du Faubourg du Sud à Yun-Nan-Sen (n. 1203)
Retour à Yun-Nan-Sen du Général en chef Licou (n. 1285)
Le Barbier dans la rue (n. 1242)
La Chasse aux poux (n. 1235)
Le Jeu du dragon (n. 1236)
Fumeurs d’opium (n. 1224)
Repas chinois (n. 1225)
Danseuse (n. 1260)

Cast and Credits

F.: Auguste François. Distr.: Gaumont. DCP. Bn.


Film Notes

1921 is the first year in our series A Hundred Years Ago in which films of the classical avant-garde comprise part of our selection. The term avant-garde was probably first applied in film circles in the 1920s in France, Germany and other countries in Western Europe to describe films and filmmakers in opposition to commercial cinema. When we speak of the avant-garde in film today, we refer to the 1920s as the classical period. The strand of avant-gardist movies from 1921 already features some of the most famous protagonists of this movement, such as Ruttmann and Richter. Both artists will be ‘fore-guards’ in avant-garde and experimental filmmaking for years to come. Another groundbreaking work from 1921 is the short documentary film Manhatta by Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand, considered to be the first American avant-garde film by many scholars. It can also be seen as a precursor of the famous feature-length city portraits (eg Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov) by avant-garde filmmakers, which will pop up at the end of the 1920s.
Alongside films from this new genre we show ‘usual suspects’ in this section such as a travelogue from North Africa and a colonial film from Congo. Both films demonstrate the inability of most filmmakers to meet a foreign culture in an appropriate manner, while offering gorgeous cinematographic shots from African landscapes, an important raison d’être of the genre. A Movie Trip Through Filmland and Les Coulisses du cinéma focus on the world of cinema: the first on the production of film material at the Kodak factory in Rochester and the second on the life of film stars in Hollywood.

Karl Wratschko

Cast and Credits

Prod.: Éclair. 35mm. L.: 166 m. D.: 7’ a 21 f/s. Bn


Film Notes

“I do not intend to speak about, just speak nearby.” This is the central line in the debut film by filmmaker Trinh Minh-ha. Reassemblage is partly a work of ethnographic cinema: a filmmaker documents aspects of daily life in a small village in rural Senegal. But what Minh-ha is doing could be also named ‘anti-ethnography’ (clearly in a positive way) as she overturns the conventions traditionally employed in ethnographic or anthropological filmmaking. Her goal is to reconsider the premises and methods of ethnographic filmmaking and to force the spectators to rethink their expectations for a film about a culture they perceive as foreign. Minh-ha uses an asynchronous sound and image montage, an anti-authoritative voiceover loaded with self-criticism and scepticism, abrupt jump cuts, long passages with black leaders, silence on the track, disjunctive editing and unfamiliar framing. The filmmaker employs these techniques to express her own scepticism about documentary filmmaking. In an interview she stated that Reassemblage “is not simply aimed at the anthropologist, but also at the missionary, the Peace Corps volunteer, the tourist, and last but not least at myself as onlooker”. Reassemblage questions the position of authority in filmmaking. It proposes the concept of “speaking nearby” to free the filmmaker “from the endless criteria generated with such an all-knowing claim and its hierarchies in knowledge” and free the people who populate a documentary film (Achtung: hierarchy!) by giving them the chance to speak on their own behalf. With Reassemblage Minh-ha made an instant classic of essayistic filmmaking, which continues to have an enormous impact on postcolonial, feminist, and essay-film theorists. In this context the film is discussed and criticised in many different ways, which can be understood as an honour for a work that was intended to cause debates.

Karl Wratschko

Cast and Credits

Prod.: Jean-Paul Bourdier. 16mm. L.: 443 m. Col.