Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 11:45


Maurice Tourneur
Piano accompaniment by

Gabriel Thibodeau


Film Notes

1918 was the most glorious year for the collaboration between Maurice Tourneur and Ben Carré. They produced three masterpieces of the highest calibre that made Tourneur a star in the firmament of filmmakers. If The Blue Bird and Prunella are often talked about, Woman remains undeservedly in the shadows. Produced by Tourneur’s newly formed company, Carré said the film would have been his favourite if the production had not been marred by a terrible tragedy, the death of cinematographer John van den Broek who drowned near Bar Harbor. Woman allowed Carré to display his incredible range: Adam and Eve straight out of a Gustave Doré engraving, Heloise and Abelard’s gothic cloister, the Rome of Claudius and Messalina and a traditional Breton interior for the mermaid sequence. Carré recreated a whole Roman street correct in every detail with flat stones on the roadway and frescoes on the walls with signs in Latin. A journalist visiting the set felt he was transported back to Pompeii. Such painstaking art direction mixed with Tourneur’s clever casting of dancers instead of actresses gives the film a genuine sense of atmosphere. Cinematographers van den Broek and René Guissart (who replaced van den Broek after his death) brilliantly captured this tongue-in-cheek study of woman through the ages. Tourneur offers a sensuous and graceful answer to the vampire craze of the time. His Messalina (Flora Revalles) seduces a soldier by simply brushing against him. Eve slaps an inquisitive Adam, and Heloise only needs to gaze at Abelard to make him her slave. The film was celebrated as an artistic masterpiece when it came out. However, the misogyny of its script was also mentioned, particularly relating to the Civil War episode where a Southern girl gets a Yankee soldier shot. Nowadays we can only admire how Tourneur managed to produce such an entrancingly beautiful film. Carré left Tourneur for good in 1919. The filmmaker never managed to find another art director of his calibre.

Christine Leteux

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Charles E. Whittaker. F.: René Guissart, John van den Broek. Scgf.: Ben Carré. Int.: Warren Cook (l’uomo), Florence Billings (la donna), Ethel Hallor (Eva), Henry West (Adamo), Flora Revalles (Messalina), Paul Clerget (Claudio). Prod.: Maurice Tourneur 16mm. L.: 567 m. D.: 68′ a 18 f/s. Bn. 16mm print struck in 1975 from a duplicate negative