Paris 1900

1707. PARIS 1900 (1947-France). English adaptation by JOHN MASON BROWN. Narration by Monty Woolley. Sub-headed “a re-creation of ‘La Belle Epoque 1900-1914′,” this historical documentary is a collage of images of the City of Light – and it’s a visual feast from its first frames to last. Fondly, lovingly recalled is the city as it was during the initial 15 years of the century, before the devastation and despair of the First World War: Paris’ “happy times” and “carefree days,” when France was ‘contented, sentimental, and perhaps a bit smug” and world peace for all time seemed assured. The film is loaded with priceless motion picture footage, stills and memorabilia of the city: its narrow cobbled streets and stylish boulevards; its landmarks, from the then-controversial Eiffel Tower on; its famed residents, from the remembered (Rodin, Monet, Gide, Appolinaire, Collette) to the long-forgotten; the period’s countless fads, and emerging art, architecture, music, dance and clothing styles; and assorted other events and controversies, from a visit by Buffalo Bill and his travelling Wild West show to the various emerging political movements. There’s a sobering side to the story: concisely chronicled are how progress was failing to eliminate the city’s harsh, often hidden poverty, and how the seeds of war were planted. Most memorable of all, however, are the myriad faces of everyday Parisians, from stylish ladies and gentlemen to street vendors, Moulin Rouge dancers to the poor and hungry. There are also numerous clips of the era’s cinema output, as well as famous voices on the soundtrack – most specially, that of the Divine Sarah Bernhardt – that were transcribed from the original recordings. The footage was culled from more than 700 “original, authentic films belonging to public and private collections.” Overall, the film works as both an invaluable mini-history lesson and a magical look at a long-ago, long-forgotten time. Credited as “assistant editor is Yannick BeIIon, who was to go on to enjoy a distinguished career as a director; credited as “assistant supervisor” is Alain Resnais, who was to eventually become one of the giants of the French NewWave. In English. 74 minutes. Documentary