Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Christiane Mandelys

Custody of the Child (1909)

Custody of the Child

Alternate Title: “La Possession de l’enfant

This is another of Louis Feuillade’s early works for Gaumont studios in France. Although this is largely similar to Progressive Era morality dramas being made in the United States, there are some interesting differences. First of all, the very act of basing a film on the premise of divorce is unusual for American pictures anytime before “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979), or at least “The Parent Trap” (1961). It’s also interesting that the it is the father who is awarded custody, making the conflict of the film the natural love between a mother and child, and the harm done by divorce to this institution. The child, although well-taken-care-of, quickly becomes melancholy, and the father takes him to his maternal grandmother. She, of course, immediately turns him over to the mother, who absconds and then tries to raise the child in poverty. The father goes to the police, and we seem to be set up for a tragic of ending, but the child brings his parents together. Modern audiences may be confused by the long hair and petticoats of the male child, but this would have been typical in Europe at the time. Again, Feuillade makes good use of Paris exteriors intercut with generic, cramped stage-like sets for the play.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Renée Carl, Christiane Mandelys, Maurice Vinot

Run Time: 11 Min, 34 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Spring (1909)


Alternate Title: “Le Printemps”

This is a more sophisticated example of Louis Feuillade’s early work than the movies I’ve reviewed recently. It seems to be more in line with his concept of cinema as an art form, and apparently took some time to create. Various images of nature are shown with women and children dressed as fairies dancing or interacting with the surroundings. As the film progresses, we note that the trees in the background change from being bare, to budded, to flourishing in flowers and leaves. Many of the shots have the camera’s aperture partly closed down, creating a small, oval-shaped or circular frame, which adds to the impact of the shots with the aperture fully opened. The whole piece seems to be a reflection on classical myth, as well as on the timelessness of the change of seasons.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Henri Duval, Christiane Mandelys, Maurice Vinot

Run Time: 7 Min

You can watch it for free: here.