Cinema Lumiere - Sala Officinema/Mastroianni > 09:00


Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset
Piano accompaniment by

Donald Sosin

Léon Sazie’s adventure serial Zigomar appeared in Parisian newspaper “Le Matin” from 7 December 1909 to 22 May 1910. After this daily publication, it was also published as a brochure by the publisher Ferenczi, with catchy cover art drawn by Georges Vallée. Appearing every Wednesday at the newsstand, Sazie’s Zigomar became one of the most popular serials of this period and this popularity caused the appearance of the similar picaresque serials such as Fantômas by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. With an eye on its success, Éclair planned to adapt this long serial – 23 brochures in total – in cinematic form. Right from the start, Zigomar was planned as a trilogy. Victorin Jasset, the artistic director of Éclair, obviously aimed to achieve a cinematic equivalent to the popular serial story. It was an audacious project. Discussing the difficulty of adapting a serial novel for the cinema, he wrote that “the means of the serial novel and those of theatrical cinematography are absolutely opposed. The novel says everything, explains everything and does not shy away from length. The cinema must, without having recourse to words, make itself understood by the simple spectacle of the facts and never insist, the spectator being placed in front of the film like a curious person in front of a news item, at the corner of the street.” (“Ciné-Journal”, 5 August 1911) Therefore the storyline had to be made as simple as possible and visual pleasure was of the utmost importance. The psychological developments of the characters are scarce and the spectators witness the unbelievable and bold actions as if they are bystander witnesses. Accordingly, the story created by Léon Sazie was reduced to nearly nothing – if one forgives the exaggeration. In the first Zigomar, the bandit kidnaps Riri-la-Jolie, a charming young girl, and Paulin Broquet fights Zigomar in order to save her. Because this is a simple pretext for visual pleasure, the spectator’s concern focuses on the action and the strikingly beautiful mise en scène in each episode. The first Zigomar film was released on 14 September 1911 in Paris and about one month later in provincial cities in France. However, Éclair seems to have shipped the prints earlier to the foreign markets. “Ciné-Journal” reports that Zigomar was shown at a press screening in August in Russia and the audience praised the beautifully choreographed dance scenes (“Ciné-Journal”, 19 August, 1911). However, Zigomar left especially deep footprints in Japanese film history. The first Zigomar was released in November 1911 in Tokyo. It was a big hit. The trilogy was adapted into many novels. Also two film companies made their own Japanese Zigomar films. Fearing its impact on society, Japanese police banned Zigomar films in October 1912. It is interesting to see that, even after this decision, the first and second Zigomar films seem to be shown without mentioning the name of Zigomar everywhere in Japan. The third Zigomar Zigomar, peau d’anguille – was therefore shown under the Japanese title of The Triumph of the Detective. The National Film Archive of Japan owns three different Zigomar prints. Among them the print from Yukinobu Toba’s collection keeps the most integral version of the first Zigomar. Particularly it contains such important scenes as the dance of the will-o’-the-wisps at the Moulin Rouge, which was so much praised in 1911. This performance by the dancer Esmée has an echo of Loïe Fuller’s dances with its lighting effects. Such dreamlike scenes give this film a fantastic quality.

Hiroshi Komatsu


International Title
Director: Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset
Year: 1910
Country: Francia
Running time: 47'
Film Version

English intertitles