Saturday, December 5, 2009

Early Film: The Kiriki — Japanese Acrobats (1907)

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This one has recently surfaced on Facebook and YouTube, but probably most of you haven't seen it yet, so let's add it to my early film collection, complete with all the background info.

First just enjoy the video...

Hopefully you got the joke! What I like about it is how it progresses from the plausible to the implausible. Quite silly, quite funny. Here's that background info, courtesy of the excellent web site, Europa Film Treasures:

Ki Ri Ki — Japanese Acrobats
Production date: 1907

Irresistible film that inspired many artists (including choreographer Philippe Decouflé), this three-minute gem was shot by Segundo de Chomón (1871-1929), special effect specialist hired by Pathé to direct a series of films based on special effects and meant to compete with those of Georges Méliès.

 Chomón witnesses the birth of the cinematograph in 1896 during a stay in Paris. This Spanish man originating from Teruel quits his office job and starts working for Georges Méliès as a colorist. He moves on to Pathé Frères where he contributes to set up a system of industrial coloring: the Pathécolor.

In 1901, Chomón settles in Barcelona. He directs numerous documentaries, has a go at animation and effects. Called back by Pathé to Paris, Chomón works as a camera operator on Le Roi des Aulnes (The Erl-King) in particular. He directs all in all about forty films and makes an attempt at every genre.

This film only existed in its black and white version. Thank to the collaboration of the Cinémathèque Française, depositary of the black and white original single-perf negative, we have been able to make three positive prints. Hélène Bromberg colored the film in the old fashion way, frame by frame, using as a color chart a 2-meter long fragment of the nitrate original, rediscovered in a private collection.


Segundo de Chomón’s tumblers, human pyramid virtuosos, hobble along but their somersaults fall a little flat. And once the “trick” is disclosed, the capers reveal themselves to be bluff. But what skill! A buffoonery far from ridiculous.

 Chomón is an editor, and he masters effects and splicing marvelously. The film is back in its original splendor. It will turn you upside down.

Director: Segundo de Chomón
Nationality: French
Length: 2' 41"
Genre: trick film
Sound: silent with soundtrack
Original elements: black & white
Producer: Pathé
Composer: Eric Le Guen
Original language: French

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