Archive for August 6th, 2013



by Allan Fish

(France 1913 150m) not on DVD

Workers leaving the factory

d/w  Albert Capellani  novel  Emile Zola  ph  Pierre Trimbach, Louis Forestier  art  Pasquier, Valle

Henry Krauss (Étienne Lantier), Mévisto (Maheu), Jean Jacquinet (Chaval), Sylvie (Catherine), Paul Escoffier (Négrel), Jeanne Cheirel (la Maheude), Cécile Guyon (Cécile Hennebeau), Marc Gérard (Bonnemort), Albert Bras (Hennebeau), Dharsay (Souvarine),

Like many early European silents, I first glimpsed Germinal courtesy of the clips shown in Kevin Brownlow’s Cinema Europe, the series commissioned to be one of the memorials to the 100th anniversary of film and the first showing of the Lumières’ Sortie de Usines Lumière.  It’s been a long wait to finally get to see the full thing, so long that it’s now another centennial; that of the film’s release.

In 2013 Germinal may seem to belong to another era, not just cinematically but in terms of its setting.  But Germinal caught a time and a place before it would vanish for ever and was shot on location, where little had changed in the mere 30 years since the publishing of the book and even in the 50 since it was set.  One of Zola’s greatest and most challenging works, it follows Étienne Lantier (a figure who appeared in his earlier novel ‘L’Assammoir’ but not in its film adaptation Gervaise), a factory worker whose temper and good heart get him in trouble when he stands up for a fired worker and gets himself the sack.  Moving on to another village, he is got a position at a coal mine, but there he sees even more injustices piled on the workers by the bosses.  He urges them to take a stand and they go on strike, but when the bosses bring in the army and a group of men and their wives are shot, a stooge for the employers, Chaval, turns them against him.  He becomes an outcast, until a tragedy brings the opposing factions together. (more…)

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