Poet of reality.
|" He is one of my gods. "|
Louis Feuillade was born on February 29th 1873 in Lunel (Herault - France) in a family of modest wine merchants. Just beyond adolescence, he showed a deep interest in literature and created numerous drama and vaudeville projects. His excessively academic poems were occasionally published in local newspapers. He also acquired a reputation as a critic of bullfighting. He came to Paris in 1898 to acquire literary fame. Famished journalist, he would suffer miserably for a long time.
At the beginning of 1905, he started to regularly sell screenplays to Gaumont, and soon got the chance to direct them himself. In 1907, he was appointed artistic director of the company. He would occupy this position until 1918, while at the same time continuing to produce his own films, so that by 1925, the year of his death, he estimated that he had made around 800 films. (At the time he started in cinema, a film rarely lasted more than ten minutes). He made films of all types: trick films at the beginning, copied on great Méliès, comedies, bourgeois dramas, historical or biblical dramas, mystery or exotic adventures … But he showed his genius most clearly in his unforgettable serial films. The"Fantomas" serial in 1913, the result of a long apprenticeship - during which the series with realistic ambitions "Life as it is" played a major role - was his first masterpiece. It is also the first masterpiece in what the modern critic, from both a literary and a cinematographic point of view, would later call "the fantastic realism" or the "social fantastic".
|Fantomas - 1913 - Louis Feuillade|
"It has been said that in cinema there is both a Méliès and a Lumière tradition. I also think that there is a Feuillade school, which makes marvelous use of Méliès' fantastic and of Lumière's realism.", declared Alain Resnais. (1)
In effect, Feuillade - undoubtedly one of the greatest aestheticians in the history of cinema - knew how to make the most absurd characters and the most bizarre situations believable, by putting them in the heart of everyday reality.
For him, everyday reality is only a mask behind which another reality is hidden, a much stronger, much truer, much more real… much more beautiful reality: the one of the wonderful, the dreamy, the fantastic, in short, the reality of film.
"I admire in Feuillade, once again according to Resnais, his prodigious poetic instinct which allowed him to do surrealism as others breathe. We owe extraordinary sequences to his flair for arrangement, for example "a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissection table." In "Fantomas", the gunfight in the middle of barrels is as beautiful as the struggle with the boa. The garden filled by mad women in "Tih-Minh", is as unforgettable as the living room of the family inn, where the Big Vampire tells the story of his grandfather, or as the installation of the cannon by a clergyman in a hotel bedroom. And all those images of streets, deserted roads crossed by mysterious cars, those parks with their iron bars, those fronts of town houses…"
Louis Feuillade was one of the most famous filmmakers in the world after the World-War I. Thousands of spectators rushed to see his series of "Fantomas" (1913), and his serial films "The Vampires" (1915), "Judex" (1916), "Tih-Minh" (1918), "Barrabas" (1919), etc… etc… in which the heroes would quickly become important popular myths.
|Judex - 1916 - Louis Feuillade|
Although they are less known nowadays because many are lost and only known from the screenplays, we should not neglect his comedies and vaudevilles. These films show, in the comical mode and with the same efficiency, his sense of absurd situations and suspense which made him famous for adventure films.
Although the surrealists profess the most vivid admiration for him, Feuillade had been forgotten with the arrival of talkies. His rehabilitation began after the World-War II, thanks to Henri Langlois who saved his films starting in 1936 when the French Cinematheque was created, and to filmmakers like Georges Franju (co-creator of the Cinematheque), Alain Resnais, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel, and many others…
After its video release in the United States, "The Vampires", his most famous film with "Fantomas" and "Judex", was proclaimed by Time Magazine second best film of the year 1998 after "Saving Private Ryan" by Steven Spielberg. After a digital restoration of the images and a new music score, the complete series of "Fantomas" has been edited on DVD and video, in November 1999. 1) In: Francis Lacassin: "Louis Feuillade, a Master of lions and vampires" ("Louis Feuillade, Maître des lions et des Vampires") Pierre Bordas et Fils, Paris, 1995
|The Vampires - 1915 - Louis Feuillade|
In : Francis Lacassin : " Louis
Feuillade, Maître des lions et des Vampires "
Pierre Bordas et Fils-Paris-1995
70 or 80% of Feuillade's work has been lost. The extremely reduced sample presented here, only takes into account the most characteristic films still existing, restored or to be restored.
|Vendemiaire - 1918 - Louis Feuillade|
|Vindicta - 1923 - Louis Feuillade|