Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Tag: Paul Manson

Tragic Error (1913)

Tragic Error

Alternate Title: Erreur Tragique

This early Feuillade is something of a reversal of “The Obsession.” Here, instead of a woman driven to obsession by her fixation with palmistry, a man is driven to obsession with his suspicion of his wife. The Marquis de Romiguières (played by René Navarre) is married to a lovely and charming young woman (Suzanne Grandais, also in “Le Mystères des Roches de Kador” and “The Heart and the Money”), but while he is in Paris on business, he sees a film that disturbs him. There is Suzanne, in the background, with another man on her arm! He buys a copy of the film and looks at it under a magnifying glass to be sure. Later, when he finds a note from her estranged brother, he puts it all together and decides that she is unfaithful, sabotaging the carriage she will take to meet her “lover” so that she will pay for her crime. Now, there’s two things I found interesting here: one was the portrayal of the movie theater and the film-within-a-film (a slapstick comedy in which a tramp beats up some policemen). The French “cinema” is a very small Nickelodeon-style space, but with room for three musicians at the front. The other thing is, once again, Feuillade’s willingness to shoot in the dark, both here and in the marquisse’s bedroom. Where Griffith’s “Avenging Conscience” from a year later seems overlit to me for a horror story, Feuillade (or his unknown cameraman) appears willing to show a very darkly lit room, and is able to make it work well. One shot even has the marquis enter a darkened room before bringing up the lights – trusting the audience to anticipate the new space. So far as I recall, I haven’t seen another filmmaker of the period use darkness so well.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: René Navarre, Suzanne Grandais, Paul Manson

Run Time: 24 Min, 34 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Heart and the Money (1912)

Heart_and_Money 1912

Alternate Title: Le Couer et l’argent

Tonight’s movie by Louis Feuillade is a foray into tragic melodrama. A pair of young lovers on a boat is separated by the girl’s mother (the ubiquitous Renée Carl, who was in “Fantomas” and “The Defect”). Mom has plans for her child, Suzanne: she hooks her up with a local wealthy land-owner, portrayed by a rotund Paul Manson (also in “The Trust” and a number of Feuillade’s popular Bébé films). Soon, she is more or less hijacked into marriage by the schemers, and is driven off to his estate in a motorcar, despite the protestations of her jilted boyfriend. When the husband conveniently dies, he has his revenge by stipulating in his will that his widow receives nothing if she remarries. Undaunted, she sneaks past her mother and back to her lover, but he won’t have her, haunted as he is by images of her with the fat man. Poor Suzanne comes to a tragic end, as befits tragedy. It’s all pretty typical stuff, which I can’t help but compare unfavorably to work Evgeni Bauer would be producing just a year later, but not too bad I guess. The casting choice also disappointed me: Why make it a fat, older man? Wouldn’t Suzanne be more heroic if she spurned the love of an attractive, rich man who just happened not to be the man she loved? As it is, it seems like she likes the handsome guy because, well, he’s handsome.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Suzanne Grandais, Renée Carl, Paul Manson

Run Time: 17 Min, 50 secs

You can watch it for free: here.

Trust, the (1911)

Trust

Alternate Title: “Le trust, ou les batailles de l’argent”

With this film, I can see Feuillade’s development towards “Fantomas” and other crime serials for which he is remembered. Bearing in mind that I’ve only seen a small sample of the over 700 movies he made for Gaumont Studios in France, the thing that has stood out up to now is the range and diversity of his movies. This time, he produced something that appears to be a direct antecedent of his most famous works, even introducing his future master criminal, René Navarre, in the role of a private detective hired by an unscrupulous corporate executive to get the formula for artificial rubber from a hapless scientist. Navarre uses an intoxicating gas to render his rival’s secretary unconscious, in order to steal her hat and coat, so that he can impersonate her and steal the telegram that tells when and where the scientist will arrive. The audacity and outlandishness of the plot, of course, just makes it all the more certain it will succeed, and the detective then has the outrageous good fortune to be hired to be the man’s bodyguard! He kidnaps him and brings him to his masters, who wear masks and conspire in an underground grotto. But, the scientist has the last laugh when he gives them the formula in disappearing ink. The externals are more limited in this movie than some of the other Feuillades I’ve reviewed recently, and the whole thing is slowed down a bit by extensive use of text such as telegrams and intertitles to move the plot forward, but it was very interesting to see Navarre establish his scheming on-screen persona.

Director: Louis Feuillade

Starring: René Navarre, Renée Carl, Paul Manson

Run Time: 24 Min, 42 secs

You can watch it for free: here.