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PIONEER WOMEN

Élisabeth & Berthe Thuillier

The bold and often fantastical colours used in early film tapes are often left out of cinematic history; even more neglected are the women responsible for this stunning work.

The earliest hand-coloured films date back to the birth of cinema in the 1890s, when female colourists hand-painted 35mm and 60mm film frame-by-frame with acid dyes and delicate brushes.

The meticulous and exhausting work of colouring films by hand was one of the first careers in film production available to women artists in the late 19th century.

Women who worked in film colouring shops have been known to spend long days looking into powerful magnifying lenses while applying the dye with brushes as fine as a camel's hair.

Two pivotal women pioneering in the industry were French mother and daughter duo Élisabeth and Marie-Berthe Thuillier.

Élisabeth Thuillier, is best known by film historians for having coloured Georges Méliès’s films and films produced by Pathé.

First specializing in painting magic lantern slides, Elisabeth’s firm expanded to colouring films in the late 1890s, with the techniques for hand-colouring lantern slides and the newly invented film much the same.

Her daughter Maria-Berthe joined her, when she was 19, and took over the studio when her mother died in 1907.

Not only did she continue her mother’s legacy, but also achieved her own acclaim by continuing to colour the fantastical films of Georges Méliès, which the studio had been doing from 1897 to 1912.

In Columbia University Libraries - Women Film Pioneers Project

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October 7th | 9.30pm
Cinema Charlot

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Music and live score
Filipe Raposo

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The Tulips

 

Les tulipes

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1907, 5 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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The bewitched shepherd

L'antre de la sorcière

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1906 [?], 5 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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The King of dollars

Le roi des dollars

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1905, 2 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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The six sisters Dainef

Les six soeurs Dainef

Desconhecido

FRA, 1902, 3 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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Excursion to the Moon

Les tulipes

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1907, 5 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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The wonderful glasses

Les glaces merveilleuses

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1908, 7 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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The charmer

Le charmeur

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1906, 4 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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Dance of the Ouled-Naïl women

Belly dance

Algerian dances

Danse des ouled-naïls; danse du ventre; danses algériennes

FRA, 1902, 2 min.

Hand-colored

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A trip to Jupiter

 

 

Le voyage sur Jupiter

Segundo de Chomón

FRA, 1909, 8 min.

Pathé Frères

Hand-colored

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Jeanne Roques
(Musidora)

Born Jeanne Rocques in 1889 to a gifted Parisian family—her mother was a feminist journalist, her father a composer—Musidora studied art before changing to theater. She began performing in 1908, adopting Musidora (the heroine of a Théophile Gautier novel) as her stage name and playing in music halls like the Bataclan and Folies Bergère. She sang, danced, and did imitations, sometimes all in the same show. Director Louis Feuillade and producer Léon Gaumont spotted Musidora at the Folies Bergère and invited her to come to the studio.

Before Feuillade “discovered” her, Musidora had made her film debut as a suicidal seamstress in the 1913 melodrama Les Misères de l’Aiguille, produced by the Cinéma du Peuple a film cooperative. After “The Vampires” serial concluded, she happily was able to recycle the Irma Vep figure in other characters for cinema.

Musidora, like many of her female colleagues, is remembered primarily as an actor rather than a filmmaker. A producer and screenwriter, she was also director or co-director of four silent films, and some have credited her with an additional three. Her fame as Irma Vep, the anti-heroine of Louis Feuillade’s serial Les Vampires (1915–16) has eclipsed the productions of Société des Films Musidora, the production company she started in 1918. Yet behind Irma Vep was “a designer, caricaturist, painter, costumer, poet, writer,” according to historian Rachel Guyon notes, “and above all, the third woman in France to become a director.”

 
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Musical direction
Nuno Batalha

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Live score
Nuno Batalha . maestro
Rita Malão . tranverse flute
Samuel Santos . cello
Tiago Alexandre . guitar
Gonçalo Simões . piano
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Soleil et Ombre

Sun and Shadow

Soleil et Ombre

Musidora, Jacques Lasseyne

FRA, 1922, 52 min.

Antonio de Baena, a famous bullfighter, falls in love with Juana, a hostel maid, and with a foreigner woman who visits Spain and dies at the hands of the jealous Spaniard.

Soleil et Ombre is a starkly shot, bleak little fable of sex and death, an account of a doomed triangle between a bullfighter, a peasant girl, and a “foreign woman.” It was filmed in 1922 around Castile and Andalusia. Musidora plays both the peasant girl Juana and her rival, a clever choice of casting that collapses the usual virgin vs. libertine, implying that a single woman might contain this duality.

In San Francisco Silent Film Festival