Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 14:30

PROTÉA / SERPENTIN FAIT DE LA PEINTURE / On the Trail of the Tigress

Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset

For PROTÉA, piano accompaniment by John Sweeney. Introduced by Emilie Cauquy

To follow, SERPENTIN FAIT DE LA PEINTURE e On the Trail of the Tigress with piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Introduced by Bruno Mesdagh (Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique)


Thursday 30/06/2022


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

The film was restored in 1998 from an interpositive struck from the incomplete original nitrate negative and a fragmentary Dutch copy, both of which are held in the collection of Cinémathèque française. A 16mm interpositive from Argentine was also used in the reconstruction of the film, which remains incomplete. In 2013, Cinémathèque française undertook a 2K digital restoration, adding tints taken from the Dutch nitrate negative. The original negative also provided usefulinformation regarding tinting, which had been overlooked at the time of the initial restoration work. The typeface used in the title cards by Francis Lacassin were reworked according to the 1913 Éclair intertitles, found on different copies.

If “the finest films are those we haven’t yet seen”, then Victorin Jasset’s Protéa has long been a hidden gem of cinematic perfection. Highly popular in its day (if proof were needed, it had its fourth sequel in 1919), it has held legendary status for eight decades, up to its initial restoration by Cinémathèque française in 1995. Unlike Nick Carter, Zigomar and Balaoo, Protéa owes nothing to literature or infra-literature and it spawned a strictly cinematographic myth, a character born out of and for cinema, (and hot on its heels came Musidora and the serials with Pearl White, Ruth Roland, Helen Holmes, etc). From that point, Protéa, among other prophecies, foretold a new genre in film: the spy movie. From Protéa through to GoldenEye; or from Protéa through to Black Widow, to continue the superwoman theme. Proteus, son of Poseidon in Greek mythology, had the dual gift of being able to predict the future and change shape at will. Following in his footsteps, Protéa is a worthy rival when it comes to nimble costume changes and showing her genius in matters of disguise, an art replicated by her partner, l’Anguille (The Eel), who is similarly adept. A dimorphic heroine, she was described by historian Francis Lacassin as an “interpreter of a dozen roles of both sexes: a business woman in the office of Messinia’s Chief of Police when he entrusts his mission to her; a woman of the world with two different guises travelling on the Orient Express to appropriate the diplomatic papers of the Count of Varallo; an acrobatic cat burglar in a night-time raid on the Celtie Ministry of Foreign Affairs; an elderly lady pleading her case to the minister; an aide-de-camp; a gypsy violinist at a grand ball; the ‘spouse’ of the Albanian ambassador; an arsonist turned firefighter; a lion tamer in a fairground menagerie; a peasant; an officer of Celtie”, etc. In an age when special effects were still known as ‘tricks’, Protéa, pioneer of transvestism, queen of cross-dressing and changing before our eyes, ushered in the promise of change in a bright cinematic future.

Bernard Benoliel

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset. F.: Lucien N. Andriot. Int.: Josette Andriot (Protéa), Lucien Bataille (l’Anguilla), Charles Krauss (il barone de Nyborg), Henri Gouget (Monsieur de Robertsau), Emile Chautard (il ministro), Mévisto (il locandiere), Jacques Feyder (un diplomatico). Prod.: Éclair. DCP. D.: 50’.
Bn e imbibito


Film Notes

Georges Méliès and Gaston Velle stopped making films in 1913; Victorin Jasset died that same year, and the Great War put an end to many lives and careers. We take it somehow for granted that early cinema and the 1920s productions are divided, separate worlds and only rarely wonder what the protagonists of prewar cinema did later in life.

When a name of one of our beloved film directors from around 1910 such as Mario Caserini, Albert Capellani or Alfred Machin pops up in a database while researching the A Hundred Years Ago section, it is a bit like meeting old friends. Serpentin fait de la peinture by Alfred Machin is a splendid comedy, well-flavoured with a lot of eroticism: a school professor flees reality by painting nudes. Although his model is only a bronze statue, his wife becomes jealous. She does not allow him to continue his ‘filthy’ hobby. So he decides to change his subject. His new models are cows. But this retreat is only brief and it triggers an extravagant series of funny and ambiguous situations.

Karl Wratschko


Cast and Credits

Sog: Marcel Lévesque, Alfred Machin. Int.: Marcel Lévesque (Serpentin), Louis Monfils. Prod.: Les Films Louis Nalpas. 35mm. L.: 649 m. 18 f/s. Bn


Film Notes

On the Trail of the Tigress is a silent American drama with a Belgian twist. The script was written by Olga Printzlau who also worked for Cecil B. DeMille and Clarence Brown, but the direction and the role of the hero were both in the hands of Paul Bourgeois (1888-1940). Bourgeois was also the big cat trainer behind the scenes. He was born in Brussels in 1888 under the name of Paul Sablon, but after his arrival in the US in 1912 he took on the name of Paul Bourgeois. A few years earlier Sablon/Bourgeois had launched himself into the film industry in the Netherlands He worked for Alfred Machin and Pathé as both cameraman and actor, appearing In Machin’s L’Or qui brûle as a young sailor who is ambushed in a burning ship. Because of his fearlessness and savoirfaire with wild animals, Sablon became the regular cameraman for Machin’s tiger Mimir. Once his work with Machin finished, he went to Paris and Hamburg and travelled for a while with the Circus Hagenbeck to improve his animal-taming technique. In the US, Bourgeois opened his own menageries in Detroit, Newark, Inglewood and Fort Lee. He remained active as animal trainer for various American film producers. Alice Guy, producer and scriptwriter of Beasts of the Jungle (1913) had fond memories of him: “Sometimes the studio resembled a menagerie, as wild animals furnished us with excellent material. The trainer Bourgeois brought me, one day, a magnificent tigress weighing 600 pounds. He assured me she was gentleness itself and begged me to caress her through the bars of her cage, to encourage the actors. I admit that I felt a certain hesitancy, but a director must not be a wet hen; I did the thing, and Princess received my advances very nicely, purring under the caress and rubbing against the bars like a great cat.”

Leen Engelen

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Olga Printzlau. Int.: Paul Bourgeois, Betty Schade, Rosita Marstini, J.J. Bryson. Prod.: Bison Motion Pictures. DCP. D.: 26’. Col. (from a tinted nitrate print)