During its second decade of existence, the Gaumont Film Company continued to prove itself an indomitable force in cultivating and advancing the fledgling art of cinema. It was also a place of great technical innovation. Included in this collection are some of Gaumont’s revolutionary experiments in color (the Trichromie process) and synchronized sound (the Phonoscenes). DVD 1 showcases the work of animator Emile Cohl, DVD 2 focuses on Jean Durand (who specialized in slapstick and innovated the “French Western”), and DVD 3 highlights the romantic comedies of Jacques Feyder, while paying tribute to some of French cinema’s lesser-known pioneers.
DVD 1: EMILE COHL
Includes Fantasmagoria (1908), The Puppet’s Nightmare (1908), The Living Fan (1909), Comic Mutations (1909), The Twelve Labors of Hercules (1910), Petit Faust (1910), Bébé’s Masterpiece (1910), and more!
DVD 2: JEAN DURAND
Includes Calino Wants to Be a Cowboy (1911), Onésime Goes to Hell (1912), Onésime, Clockmaker (1912), Onésime Loves Animals (1913), Zigoto Drives a Locomotive (1912), The Railway of Death (1912), Burning Heart: An Indian Tale (1912), Under the Claw (1912), and more!
DVD 3: JACQUES FEYDER AND THE EARLY MASTERS OF FRENCH CINEMA
Includes Heads…and Women Who Use Them (1916, Jacques Feyder), The Barges (1911, George-André Lacroix), La Marseillaise (1912, Etienne Arnaud), Child’s Play (1913, Henri Fescourt), Feet and Hands (1915, Gaston Ravel).
Back to Normandy is a film about the passage of time. In seeking out the cast, Philibert explores how we make connections between past and present, creating our own meaningful and personal narratives. As Phillibert reveals the motivations for the crime of Pierre Rivière, we also learn of the mysterious disappearance of the melancholy young villager who played him, Claude Hébert. When we finally learn what became of him, the parallels between the actor and his role are startling.
A subtle and contemplative film, Back to Normandy also follows Philibert as he delves into the diaries of his mentor Allio, telling the director’s story and chronicling the difficult production history of his most ambitious film. The patterns of rural life — the passing of the seasons, the raising of livestock, the cultivation of the land — have an amazing continuity stretching back from the 1830s to the present day. Like Ermanno Olmi’s The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978), it is an understated, pastoral epic.