DVD: Fairy Tales, Early Colour Stencil Films From Pathé | Film reviews, news & interviews
DVD: Fairy Tales, Early Colour Stencil Films From Pathé
Bewitching and startlingly hued silent-era shorts with arresting new music
Although it's impossible to place yourself in the shoes of audiences seeing these other-worldly short films at the dawn of the 20th century, the reaction they provoke now cannot be that different. Delight, surprise and then amazement. These films were meant to be magical, and remain so. Taking 19th century theatre in all its forms, capturing it on film and making it even more unreal with hand tinting and editing resulted in a unique strand of cinema.
Fairy Tales collects 25, chronologically sequenced, films made by the Pathé Frères between 1901 and 1908. Most are feéries, or fairy films, but all draw from the stage. The four extras include a 1901 Barbe-bleu by Georges Méliès and British director Anson Dyer’s 1922 Little Red Riding Hood. Each film is presented as is, without restoration and sometimes in the fragmentary form it survives in. What’s seen here is what would have been seen by an audience watching a well-worn print battered after being exhibited repeatedly. What’s heard here, however, is new. Fresh scores for each film have been commissioned from Marcus Davidson, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Philip Jeck and more. The extras include the opportunity to select alternative soundtracks. In all cases, the new compositions are sympathetic, meshing seamlessly with these startling images.
The images leave an indelible impression. Ballet fans have much to thrill to: a one-minute 1902 snatch of Ballet les sylphides, performed by dancers perhaps more familiar with the cabaret stage than those more elevated; an Arabian–style sequence in Ali baba et les quarante voleurs. But it’s the whole that thrills. The fabulous La danse du diable (1904) is hallucinogenic and intense, 1905’s La Fontaine adaptation La poule aux oeufs d’or is as surreal as Bunuel. Set the table with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, then gorge on this.
Watch Valse excentrique (1903) from Fairy Tales, Early Colour Stencil Films From Pathé, featuring Boldoni and Solinski, the dancers at Paris's Eldorado cabaret
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 7,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Patrice Leconte's first English-language film is vacuous pulp
Chris Pratt delights in James Gunn's thrilling and funny space adventure
There's method in the visual madness of Michel Gondry's tale of tragically blighted love
Polanski's play on sex and power in this adaptation of an erotic-classic
Impressive, enigmatic debut from American indie director Daniel Patrick Carbone
Gael Garcia Bernal follows an immigrant journey in moving drama-doc
A Filipino New Wave classic draws on early cinema to attack American imperialism
Sweaty seamen and a seductive siren wreak havoc in Orson Welles’ confounding film noir
3D reboot of the myth is hard labour
Sequel to thoughtful action-horror hit deepens the dystopia
Jazz-world rollercoaster ride from John Cassavetes
David Gordon Green's latest marks a return to form for the mighty Nicolas Cage