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 10,000 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?
Meryl Streep shines as New York's unforgettably talentless soprano
Brie Larson won an Oscar, but there's more to this adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel
Darkness risible: Tom Hiddleston stars as Hank Williams in lacklustre biopic
Florence Foster Jenkins's biographer tells the true story of her common-law husband, played by Hugh Grant in Stephen Frears's new film
Terrence Malick's first movie shot in LA is a star-studded disappointment
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now
Torrents of blood in the Wyoming snow
Dead man walking: Hungarian exploration of the closed universe of Auschwitz-Birkenau
Dustin Hoffman dresses as a woman to become a better man in a lovingly crafted screwball comedy
Gentle comedy about elderly bank-robbers ends up reconfirming the very cliches it sets out to challenge
After 'Dallas Buyers Club' and 'Wild', Jean-Marc Vallée rebuilds another life, with Jake Gyllenhaal
Rousing romp from the Marvel universe is funny, sad, satirical and spectacular