Jean-Claude SEGUIN



Les tournages de Frederic Villiers (avril-mai 1897)

Le corresponsant de guerre britannique Frederic Villiers, à l'occasion du bref conflit qui oppose la Grèce à la Turquie, va utiliser un appareil cinématographique au cours de la batailla de Velestino. Il évoque ces prises de vues dans ses mémoires, mais également son désappointement lorsque l'un de ses amis lui décrit une vue de la guerre greco-turque :

When this little war broke out I had ingenuously thought that cinema pictures of the fighting would delight and astonish the public. The cinema camera was then in its infancy, so at considerable expense I took one to the front, as I have already mentioned. It was a laborious business in those early days to arrange the spools and change the films; and I sweated a good deal at the work, but managed to get touches of real warfare. It was a great disappointment, therefore, to discover that these films were of no value in the movie market, for when I returned to England a friend, generally of ordinary intelligence, said to me: 
"My dear Villiers, I saw some wonderful pictures of the Greek war last night." 
By his description I knew they were certainly not mine. I wondered at this, because my camera was the only one to pass the Greek customs during the campaign. Then he described one of the pictures:
"Three Albanians came along a very white, dusty road toward a cottage on the right of the screen. As they neared it they opened fire; you could see the bullets strike the stucco of the build- ing. Then one of the Turks with the butt end of his rifle smashed in the door of the cottage, entered, and brought out a lovely Athenian maid in his arms. You could see her struggling and fighting for liberty. Presently an old man, evidently the girl's father, rushed out of the house to her rescue, when the second Albanian whipped out his yataghan from his belt and cut the old gentleman's head off." 
Here my friend grew enthusiastic. "There was the head," said he, "rolling in the foreground of the picture." Nothing could be more positive than that.
I did not raise my voice or smile derisively; I calmly asked him, "Have you ever seen a movie camera?"
"No," he replied.
"Well, you have to fix it on a tripod," said I, "and get everything in focus before you can take a picture. Then you have to turn the handle in a deliberate, coffee-mill sort of way, with no hurry or excitement. It's not a bit like a snapshot, press-the-button pocket kodak. 
"Now just think of that scene you have so vividly described to me. Imagine the man who was coffee-milling saying, in a persuasive way, 'Now, Mr., Albanian, before you take the old gent's head off come a little nearer; yes, but a little more to the left, please. Thank you. Now, then, look as savage as you can and cut away.' Or 'You, No. 2 Albanian, make that hussy lower her chin a bit and keep her kicking as ladylike as possible.' Wru-ru-ru-ru-ru!"
A famous firm outside Paris made those films, and since then many others of a similar nature have delighted the movie "fan." Barnum and Bailey, those wonderful American showmen, correctly averred that the public liked to be fooled.

VILLIERS 1920-II: 181-183.

Les actualités reconstituées existent déjà et font le bonheur des spectateurs friands de nouveautés.











VILLIERS Frederic, Villiers, His Five Decades of Adventure, T. 2, New York/Londres, Harpet & Brothers Publishers, 1920, 338 p.