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Festival Year Festival Section
2009 ALBATROS -- Special Event

Alternative Title 1
Alternative Title 2
Alternative Title 3
Country France
Release Date 1929
Production Co. Films Albatros
Director Lucie Derain

Format   Speed (fps)
35mm   18
Footage   Time
578 m.   28'

Archive Source Cinémathèque française, Paris
Print Notes Didascalie in francese / French intertitles

Other Credits
scen: Lucie Derain; f./ph: Nicolas Roudakoff
Other Information
première: 5.12.1928, Vieux Colombier, Paris, con/with Les Deux Timides (presentazione alla stampa/press screening)

Solo domenica/Sunday only: accompagnamento musicale dal vivo di / live musical accompaniment by Touve R. Ratovondrahety (piano) & Patrick Carloni (voce/vocals).

La famiglia di Carloni è di Monteaperta in Friuli, anche se lui è nato e cresciuto a Parigi. Vincitore del concorso “Cité-Chansons” di Le Mans, combina lirica e blues nelle sue originali interpretazioni del repertorio delle canzoni e dei versi parigini. Touve è accompagnatore del balletto dell’Opéra Garnier a Parigi e organista della Église de Saint Eugène. Il suo accompagnamento pianistico è un “omaggio impressionistico a Debussy, Ravel, Satie”. / Carloni’s immediate family are from Monteaperta, in Friuli, though he was himself born and raised in Paris. Lauréat of the Le Mans “Cité-Chansons” competition, he combines lyric and blues in his original interpretations of the Parisian song and verse repertory. Touve is accompanist for the ballet of the Opéra Garnier, Paris, and organist of the Église de Saint Eugène. His piano accompaniment is an “impressionistic tribute to Debussy, Ravel, and Satie”.
Program Notes
In the 1920s the journalist Lucie Derain was involved with progressive Parisian cinema circles, followers of Delluc and Canudo, and contributed frequently to the avant-garde cinema journals. She was also a co-founder of the Ciné-Club de la Femme, and in the 1930s a loyal supporter of the young Cinémathèque, helping Henri Langlois in programming silent films. She had a particular enthusiasm for Albatros and its designers, which resulted in articles on “Un grand décorateur: Lochakoff” (Cinéa-Ciné pour tous, No. 28, 1 January 1925) and “Les bons artisans du cinéma. Nos décorateurs de films français. Boris Bilinsky” (Cinématographie française, 1 October 1927).
Kamenka seems to have rewarded this fidelity by producing Derain’s little documentary on Paris – distinctly “Harmonies” rather than a sonorous “city symphony”. One of Albatros’ finest cinematographers, Nicolas Rudakov, serves her splendidly, with striking framings and a sinuous moving camera, panning or tracking – often mounted in a car – with phenomenal steadiness. With à la mode distortions, superimpositions, and rapid montage of the city’s nocturnal illuminations, Derain is at pains to demonstrate her assertion that “the cinema is itself a modern art” (“L’art moderne à l’écran, Décoration, architecture sous les lumières”, in Cinémagazine, No. 4, 27 January 1928).
But beneath the fashionable surfaces, her view of the city is conventionally predictable. The film opens amusingly with a close-up of the name on the nose of a commercial plane – “Albatros”. The succeeding brief sequences offer “Notre Dame de Paris, the soul of our city – Modern Fever – Everywhere in Paris, the past surfaces – Villas with gardens, romantic corners… – The stone lace of the monuments of Paris – Suburbs, the tumultuous heart of Paris – Incomparable perspectives – Montparnasse – ELEGANCE! – WORK – Nocturne… – The sweetness of living – Harmony!”
The result is an appealing and nostalgic series of postcards; but if Jacques Aumont’s adverse comparison with Ruttmann (in La Persistance des Images, Cinémathèque française, 1996) is excessively unkind, it is perhaps not wholly unjust: “… to whom is all this addressed? In opening his film [Berlin, Symphony of a City] with the train bringing the workers from the Berlin suburbs, Ruttmann gives a clear response: Lucie Derain, amiably, also gives us her response but it is not the same. The first shots of the film show the planes of the regular airlines (then exclusively for the de luxe tourists); we see the bourgeois getting out in their uniforms of the period, so ugly and ridiculous that one takes pity and almost forgives them for coming to mess up a city, bringing their stereotypical gaze, their capacity for seeing nothing, for destroying, for departing again without having known where they were. Forty years later, Tati would tell the truth about this tourism, in Playtime. Lucie Derain seems rather to regret not having arrived on their plane: she does her best to act as if she had.”
The film was restored in 1995 from a black-and-white nitrate print of the period, deposited in the Cinémathèque française by the producer Alexander Kamenka. – DAVID ROBINSON