A Hundred Years Ago: European Films of 1910

With 12 programmes in the 2009 festival, the “Cento anni fa” section had reached its upper limit. The 1909 cinema year proved to be a turning point: some genres and structures which had been central now disappeared or drifted to the margins, while others came to the fore.

The clear signs of impending change led us to set the section up differently for the 2010 edition. The number of programmes has been reduced to one a day and the programmes have become rather longer so that now and in future we can – in line with historical practice – combine longer films with a supporting programme of shorts. We have also limited the focus to European production. (Even so, the number of preserved films was so great that we could not view everything and had to make a preselection beforehand)

We were able to add an extra one-off programme, “The Colours of 1910”, into the “Colori” section (Cinema Arlecchino) and other selected films of 1910 featuring athletic and adventurous women will be shown in the context of the “Fearless and Peerless. Adventurous Women of the Silent Screen” section.

1910: Stars and Names

In the topography of 1910 cinema certain aspects become prominent. After Cretinetti’s groundbreaking productions at the Itala studio in 1909, numerous comedian-based series were launched, and it was in 1910 that Pathé opened its Comica Studio in Nice, headed by Roméo Bosetti. With series featuring Léontine and Bébé, Rigadin, Robinet and Max and many others, 1910 saw the first seeds of one of the strongest generators of audience engagement: the star system. Among cinema-goers’ new favourites were some of the most successful stars of the Paris vaudeville stage, such as Mistinguett and Charles Prince, alias Rigadin.

Film historians have traditionally seen (and still see?) 1910 as the end of the short film era and the birth of the long film. But too many long films were made before 1910 and too few longer films dated 1910 are known for us to continue to assert this demarcation. Another transition, however, does seem to me un-ambiguous and significant: 1910 as the end of anonymity, 1910 as the first year of names. Names of actors, names of directors. 

Not all made their debut in 1910 – many had been in films for some time – but what was new and would remain with us was the stream of names which from now on accompanied the films. The names of 1910: Falena, Feuillade, Novelli, Bertini, Perret, Jasset, Denola, Monca, Capellani, Napierkowska, Mirval, Sylves- tre, Numès, Fabre, Guillaume, Lepanto, Robinne, Delvair, Maggi, Fromet and so on, and so on, and so on.

1910: Landscapes, Travelogues and A Tale of Three Cities

The curator of this section has always conceived it as a travel agency, organising excursions into the past. But in the case of 1910 the travelling is no longer purely metaphorical: it is itself a dominant theme. The landscape appears differently, in novel ways, in the films of 1910, no longer as backgrounds or views, but instead permeating the writing. For the first time landscape and plot are perfectly integrated, be it in adventure films or romantic dramas.

And as if this weren’t enough, the four programmes of the section form a long journey, from Paris (“Gaumont 1910”, curat- ed by Dominique Païni) via Vienna (Nikolaus Wostry) and Prague (Blažena Urgošiková) to Italy (Giovanni Lasi and Luigi Virgolin) and from there on a royal expedition to the Himalayas (Giovanni Lasi). I thank all my fellow-curators for the knowledge, the ideas and the films which they have so generously placed at our disposal and for their unswerving commitment.

(Mariann Lewinsky)

Section curated by Mariann Lewinsky