Chomon, Segundo de


Chomon, Segundo de
(1871-1929)
   Cinematographer, director, and screenwriter. Segundo de Chomon was a Spanish-born nobleman (of French origin) who was an early pioneer of film. He was a cameraman and cinematographer, as well as a screenwriter and director. Because of his familiarity with the camera and his comfort in front of and behind the camera, Chomon, like other early film pioneers such as Georges Méliès, became interested in the possibility of making the camera record things that did not happen, rather than record things that did (the focus of many early filmmakers from Louis Lumière on). He developed an early reputation as a creator of truc films and special effects.
   It was this reputation that attracted the attention of Charles Pathé, who, in 1903, recruited Chomon to work for Pathé studios as part of Pathé's attempt to rival Méliès. Pathé's efforts proved worthwhile. Chomon was a master of both the truc film, which had been Méliès's dominant genre, and other genres. His tricks and special effects were more elaborate than Méliès's and his films often more visually spectacular. It is widely believed that over the course of his work at Pathé Chomon was able to surpass Méliès in the genre that Méliès had created. It is no mystery why Pathé named Chomon head of production for truc films in 1907, after Gaston Velle left Pathé to go work for an Italian studio.
   Of Chomon's truc films, the best known are Le Sorcier arabe (1906), Les Roses magiques (1906), Le Charmeur (1907), and La Scarabée d'or (1907), all of which involve men and women making each other appear or vanish, and Les Invisibles (1906), which was the first film to represent invisibility onscreen. Other films he made include Le Roi de dollars (1905), La Poule aux oeufs d'or (1905), La Canne récalcitrante (1906), Le Courant électrique (1906), La Maison hantée (1906), Ali Baba (1907), Armures mystérieuses (1907), Les Chrysanthèmes (1907), Le Pêcheur de perles (1907), Le Spectre rouge (1907), Les Affiches animées (1908), La Belle au bois dormant (1908), Chevalier mystérieux (1908), Sculpteur moderne (1908), Au fond de la terre/Voyage au centre de la terre (1909), La Forge du diable (1909), and La Maison des revenants (1912).
   Beyond his directorial talent, Chomon was, as noted, an important innovator in the domain of special effects. He is often credited with the first traveling shot, for example, for his film Hôtel éléctrique (1908). The camera in this film leaves its fixed axis on the floor and shoots from a specially constructed frame that allowed filming while the camera was moved backward or forward. Chomon was also in charge of special effects for Abel Gance's legendary biopic Napoléon. Chomon's collaboration with Gance took film's technical capacity to an entirely new level.
   Chomon's collaboration with Gance was far from his only collaborative effort. During his time at Pathé, he worked with Ferdinand Zecca, Albert Capellani, and Gaston Velle, among others. His collaborations with Zecca include Le Roi des dollars (1905) and Zecca's remake of La Vie et la passion de notre seigneur Jésus Christ (1905). Chomon's collaborations with Velle include the legendary La Poule aux oeufs d'or (1906), for which Chomon wrote the screenplay, and the equally legendary Les Invisibles (1906). Chomon also worked on occasion with Émile Cohl, the father of the modern animation film.
   Chomon left Pathé in 1912, lured, like Velle before him, to Italy to work for the Italian cinema. However, he returned to France in 1925, near the end of his life, to work with Abel Gance on Napoléon. By the time of his early death, he had worked on more than one hundred films.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chomon, Segundo de — (1871 1929)    Cinematographer, director, and screenwriter. Segundo de Chomon was a Spanish born nobleman (of French origin) who was an early pioneer of film. He was a cameraman and cinematographer, as well as a screenwriter and director. Because …   Guide to cinema

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