Manon Billaut (Fondation Jérôme Seydoux- Pathé), Noémi Jean and Hervé Pichard (Cinématheque française)
Recorded music performed by the Octuor de France directed by Günter Buchwald
L’Arlésienne, based on the short story by Alphonse Daudet, was André Antoine’s last film and the only one in his filmography to be produced by Société d’éditions cinématographiques. He was well-acquainted with the text, which had been performed several times at the Odéon Theatre under his direction. In 1918, Antoine travelled for the first time to the Camargue to put the finishing touches to his screenplay in the same place where the action was set. He returned there to scout for locations in the summer of 1921 with his cameramen, Pierre Trimbach and Léonce-Henri Burel, and his assistant, Georges Denola. Filmed entirely in natural settings, the film benefited from the favourable Provençal weather. Nevertheless, artificial light had to be used for the interior scenes.
As usual, Antoine showcases cultural and natural heritage, filming the anphitheatre, Saint-Trophyme cathedral, the Alyscamps and the surrounding countryside. The story alternates between the city of Arles town centre, where l’Arlésienne resides, and Castelet farm, close to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, where Frédéri lives. The cast included actors from the theatre (Gabriel de Gravone, Berthe Jalabert, Lucienne Bréval), music hall (Marthe Fabris) and an amateur (Maguy Deliac), and their acting style was very naturalistic. With hairstyles and costumes typical of the region, they merged into the sets and became part of the locations. The film, accompanied by a soundtrack specially composed by Gabriel Diot, was a resounding success. There was widespread enthusiasm for Marthe Fabris’s interpretation and the faithful adaptation of Daudet’s work.
Nevertheless, on viewing the rushes, Decourcelle was disappointed with the results and demanded that some supplementary scenes to be filmed. The film director withdrew from the project, riled by this reworking. Antoine decided at that point to put an end to his short cinematic career, solemnly declaring: “If I were 20 years younger, instead of talking, I would do Cinéma-Libre, free from routines, free from schemes, corporations and idle layabouts who have brought things to this pass.”
Cast and Credits
Sog.: dalla novella e dalla pièce omonime (1969, 1872) di Alphonse Daudet. Scen.: André Antoine. Ass. regia: Julien Duvivier. F.: Léonce-Henri Burel, Pierre Trimbach. Int.: Marthe Fabris (l’Arlésienne), Lucienne Bréval (Rose Mamaï), Berthe Jalabert (la Renaude), Maguy Deliac (Vivette), Gabriel de Gravone (Frédéri), Louis Ravet (Balthazar), Charles de Rochefort (Mitifio), Léon Malavier (Francet Mamaï). Prod.: Société d’éditions cinématographiques. DCP. Bn.
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