Spain (1905)

by popegrutch

Alternate Title: Espagne

This travel film from Alice Guy is stylistically different from most of what I’ve reviewed by her so far. It is twice as long as the next-longest movie I’ve seen by her, relies heavily upon camera movement, and is shot on location, not on a studio sound stage. The result is interesting enough, but a surprise discovery early in the film makes it even more valuable.

Crowded Madrid

Crowded Madrid

The movie is a travel documentary, showing a series of panoramas captured in tourist locations in Spain. Our first stop is Madrid, the capital, where we see a crowded street at the Puerta del Sol, the fountain of Cybele at Prado, the front of the Palacio Real, and the outskirts or “environs of Madrid,” where peasants go about their daily routines. Next stop is Granada, where we see a panorama of the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra, as well as views of the Albaicin Quarter. Then, a quick stop in Seville for a look at the Guadalquivir River. And the last location is Barcelona, where we see the Monastery at Montserrat. The rest of the film (about half) shows “Gypsy” dances with people in colorful traditional dress. The first dancer is a girl of about twelve, who seems to greatly enjoy the attention, the second is an older woman in perhaps her forties, who is more businesslike.

Who's this?

Who’s this?

I mentioned a “surprise” in the film, and it comes with the visit to Granada. At the beginning of the view, there is a woman with a cluster of children around her. An Intertitle tells us that this is “Alice Guy, surprised by her cameraman Anatole Thiberville!” This is followed by a zoom in on that part of the film. Obviously, this was added by Gaumont for the DVD release, so this isn’t exactly as audiences saw it in 1905, but it is fun for us! The especially exciting part for me is that they (finally) ID’ed the cinematographer. It’s quite possible that he has shot many of her movies to this point, but since there’s no definite record, I’m not going to go back and change them all, I’m just going to include him as “possible” for any that are left to review.

Spain2Travel movies were very popular, especially when it was possible to capture locations that many movie audiences (mostly working people) would never see. The movies were a way to imagine travel without the expense. Spain was within the reach of many French travelers, but by the early Nickelodeon era, US sales were becoming increasingly important for French film companies, and images of Europe would sell well overseas. Going to Spain was a moderate cost for Guy, and the profit was probably great. As I’ve mentioned, most of these shots (except for the dancers) are slow pans, trying to show up to 360 degrees of what was at each location. The locals often become fascinated by the camera, and in the first crowd scene in Madrid they rush to keep ahead of it, keeping certain people in the image for almost the entire time. The dancers are more typical of the kind of stage performances we see in other Guy films, but shot on location with backup from the rest of the community, who clap in time to the dances.

Spain3What I enjoy about these movies is seeing the appearance of places and people from so long ago, yet moving. We see the distinction between working class and wealthier attire, we see the complex and heavy dresses women wore in public, and we see common modes of transportation, like the many streetcars in Madrid or the carriages in the “environs” area. We, too, get to be vivacious tourists, tourists in time as well as space, with these Century Films on hand.

Director: Alice Guy

Camera: Anatole Thiberville

Starring: Unknown

Run Time: 10 Min

You can watch it for free: here (no music).