Félix Mayol Performs “Indiscreet Questions” (1905)
Alternate Title: Félix Mayol, Questions Indiscrète
Once again, a singer walks onto a small stage and performs a single tune for us. In this case, the backdrop is a curtain, and the performer is shot in mid-shot, from the waist up. We never see his feet or the floor of the stage. The more intimate distance allows us to see his handsome face and expressions more clearly. He does not move around or dance, however, because the tight shot doesn’t give him room. This time, there is no Gaumont logo visible in the background. The image is in color, which looks to me not like hand-tinting, but some form of early two-color process.
Having read up a bit more on Phonoscènes, I am beginning to understand that they are not “sound” films in the sense of having the sound and action recorded at the same time, but rather an early form of lip-synch. In the case of “Alice Guy Records a Phonoscène,” that large sound device I saw her playing with actually was a gramophone, not a recorder. This does make more sense, but I believe that in the case of “Cyrano” we may have heard live sound recorded experimentally; the “Dickson Experimental Sound Film” definitely does have it.
The performance does strike me as more modern, even without movement or cutting, and that’s largely due to the camera angle. It somewhat reminded me of the old “Lawrence Welk Show,” with the fancy curtain backdrop. Being able to see the actor’s face makes a huge difference. I’d noticed with Dranem and Polin that they seemed to close their eyes while they sang, but with Mayol I could be sure. This might have been because of the bright studio lights, or maybe it was just the style at the time. The song appears to be rather suggestive, but unlike the broad comedy of the other singers, Mayol handles it with occasional smiles and winks, which would have been harder to catch at a distance.
Director: Alice Guy
Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville
Starring: Félix Mayol
Run Time: 2 Min, 50 secs
You can watch it for free: here.