Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 7:30pm
Nicole Védrès's Paris 1900

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Paris 1900, Nicole Védrès, 16mm, 1947, 74 mins
Introduced by Luc Sante

Nicole Védrès’s film Paris 1900 is an attempt to render the whole of a time and place by compiling and organizing hundreds of excerpts taken from newsreels and fiction films of the period. To us today this mode of operation is unexceptional, a standby of television programming, but in 1947, when Védrès made her picture, there was really only one major precedent, Esfir Shub’s groundbreaking 1927 Fall of the Romanov Dynasty. The range of Védrès’s film is enormous, with clips of such figures as La Belle Otero, Willy and Colette, Buffalo Bill, Guillaume Apollinaire, Sarah Bernhardt, Gabriele d’Annunzio, and the very young Maurice Chevalier, and rare footage of such events as the 1910 Paris flood and the police’s war against the anarchist Bonnot Gang. Fashion, sports, dandies, duels, the grand gesture, feminism, railway strikes, soup kitchens, and tragicomic attempts at manned flight take their place in the sweeping narrative. From a lighthearted beginning at the dawn of the century, accentuated by popular melodies, clips from Méliès pictures, and Monty Wooley’s orotund English-language narration, the mood gradually darkens, inexorably leading to August 1914 and the abrupt termination of a way of life.

Nicole Védrès, née Cahen (1911-1965) was a significant figure in the postwar bohemian scene around St.-Germain-des-Prés. She wrote seven novels and eleven works of nonfiction and made four films, of which Paris 1900 was the first. Chris Marker, who quoted from this movie in two of his own works, also credited Védrès with originating the essay-film in her second picture, Life Begins Tomorrow (1949). The idea for Paris 1900 was hatched by its executive producer, Pierre Braunberger, who produced Jean Renoir’s films in the 1930s and those of Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, Resnais, and Jean Rouch in the 1960s. - LS

Luc Sante has written about urban life, popular culture, photography, crime, and social history for thirty years. His books include Low Life, Evidence, The Factory of Facts, Kill All Your Darlings, and the forthcoming La Canaille: Paris and Its Rabble. He teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College, and is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.