A lot of the class and charm of times gone by has been lost on newer generations. There used to be a time where you had to play outside with your friends to have fun. Now we have the option of blasting at each other in crazy violent video games from half a world away. When you can meet in the virtual world, why bother to find someone real? Something similar happened with television. In the past, movie makers had to be more creative. They didn’t have access to color. They didn’t even have access to sound! They needed to do evoke feelings in the viewer a different way, and they did so successfully. These are some of my favorite French films from the era of silent movies.
Film first arrived in in the late nineteenth century, but the science fiction genre didn’t arrive until 1902, when Le voyage dans la lune sent a rocket to the moon long before rockets were invented. That wasn’t good news for the Man in the Moon. The short film runs for only fifteen minutes, but by 1902 standards it was a masterpiece. It was conceived by Georges Méliès, whose storytelling was greatly appreciated. He was creative and thoughtful, and he inspired this new art to go farther and farther.
Today’s American blockbuster hits from Los Angeles and NYC might be a spectacle all their own, but something has been lost along the way. It’s all about the biggest explosions, the best computer animations, or the most creative ways of killing someone. Sometimes the grainy, archaic silent films of the past helped push creativity even more. Filmmakers had to find ways to tell a story without words–and that’s no easy feat.
Fantômas I: À l’ombre de la guillotine was a great series that followed the criminal exploits of Fantômas. Sometimes you don’t need words to show that something has been stolen or that someone has had an affair. That’s the fun part of interpreting these famous French films–you can’t do it without using words and phrases like “it seems” or “it looks like” to describe each scene. Someone else might see something differently. This series comprised of five films managed to pass the five hour mark. This was the film that inspired the modern crime thriller genre, and many remakes were made later.
Everyone likes a good vampire story, and Les Vampires delivered. It debuted in 1915 while the world was dealing with a grand war, and perhaps that impacted the dark, somber mood that this movie maintains. The series was noteworthy because it glorified criminal activities (critics hated it), and it has continued to inspire writers, filmmakers, and other artists to this day.