L'Assasinat du Duc de Guise

(1908)
   Film. Directed by André Calmettes and Charles Le Bargy, both established figures in the world of French theater, L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise was the first film released by the short-lived Studio Film d'Art. Often classified as the first example offilm d'art or art cinema, the film was, in fact, the second, as Pathé's film d'art division, the Société Cinématographique des Auteurs et des Gens de Lettres (SCAGL), released L'Arlésienne (1908) prior to the release of L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise. However, the Studio Film d'art film is considered to be of great cinematic importance.
   L'Assassinat du Duc de Guise is a historical film that recounts the assassination of Henri de Guise by men on orders from Henri III. The subject had previously been represented in film twice, once by the Lumière brothers, and once by Pathé; however, the Film d'art version offers significant innovations over the earlier films. First of all, it is a true narrative film with a recognizable narrative structure. Secondly, the film is heavily influenced by theatrical production, featuring elaborate stage sets and costumes that were unusual in film up to that point. The film also casts established theatrical actors and uses many theatrical conventions in its mise-en-scène, including the use of constructed, enclosed space, framing scenes such that characters enter the scene from off-camera through doors, or exit in a similar fashion. There are also innovations in mise-en-scène in the film. The film uses something approximating deep space in several scenes. It also comes very close to historical realism in its attention to the historical accuracy of the sets and costumes.
   The film was also unusual in that it was one of the first films, or perhaps the very first film, to have a musical score composed directly for it. The score for the film was written by composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Through its use of narrative and its development of the shot and framing, the film contributed to the development of narrative cinema. Through its use of high production values, professional actors, theatrically influenced staging, and its musical score, the film contributed to the evolution of film as an art form, not merely an amusing distraction.

Historical Dictionary of French Cinema. . 2007.

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