Polin Performs “The Anatomy of a Draftee” (1905)
Alternate Title: Polin, L’Anatomie du conscrit
This is another short sound-disc movie from Alice Guy, in which a singer performs his then-well-known song in front of the camera. Both the film and the necessary disc have survived, so we get to see it in synchronized sound, twenty two years before “The Jazz Singer” would change the game forever.
Once again, the action takes place on a small stage, with an obvious backdrop – in this case, a well-manicured park is painted onto the curtain. One interesting fact: the Gaumont symbol appears, rather small on my screen, over to the left of Polin’s shoulder. Polin sings his song with many typical hand-gestures. Even without the words, it is clearly a comedic performance from his body language. Looking up the lyrics and google-translating them, I was able to confirm that this is a slightly racy song from the perspective of a common soldier who does not understand the word “anatomy” when he hears an officer use it in reference to him. This seems typical of the style of music one would expect to hear in Vaudeville theaters at the time.
The appearance of the logo is interesting, because Gaumont has been much less aggressive about this than Edison or Biograph were. Putting the logo on the screen was generally an attempt to discourage pirating, sort of like putting a watermark on photographs or DVDs today. Although it would probably be bigger on a large screen, this is still a much more subtle example than what the US companies were doing. Also worth considering is that, unlike silent films or sound shorts with familiar themes like La Marseillaise and Cyrano de Bergerac, this would have a very limited market outside of France.
Director: Alice Guy
Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville
Run Time: 2 Min, 25 secs
You can watch it for free: here.