Prince Alfred Park, Sydney. Circa 1896

Salon Lumière at MIFF

New Patineur Grotesque screening
 Sally Jackson
NFSA International Film Specialist Sally Jackson at the first public screening of Patineur Grotesque (Sestier, Australia 1896) on 7 August 2010 in the ACMI 1 Cinema.

Well, Patineur Grotesque (Sestier, Australia 1896) has finally had its first screening to the Australian public. At 11.30am on 7 August 2010 in the ACMI 1 Cinema, around 120 people gathered to see and hear us as we presented Salon Lumière.  We, being myself as I gave a short introduction, Stephen Barker who narrated the whole thing, and John Shortis who played his light, airy and very French arrangements on the piano.  This is almost the same presentation we gave in the NFSA’s Arc cinema back in March when Patineur Grotesque was launched by the Hon Peter Garrett, Minister for environment and the arts to an invited audience.

For the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) session Salon Lumière was increased from 40 minutes to 1 hour and we first showed an ‘illustrated lecture’ about Marius Sestier. The 10-minute presentation included live narration by Stephen Barker and the vision illustrated the life and work of Marius Sestier using original photographs and documents, as well as recent footage taken in France, underscored by John Shortis on the piano.  This set the scene for the selection of the films Sestier showed in his 1896 Melbourne season including the well-known The Hoser and the Hosed (Frères Lumière, France 1895), Demolition of a Wall (Louis Lumière, France 1896), and Workers Leaving the Factory (Louis Lumière, France 1895).

But also included were the less well-known films like Photographe (Louis Lumière, France 1895) which opened Sestier’s Melbourne shows and was shot in the grounds of the Lumière family property in Monplaisir. Photographe features Auguste Lumière as the client, and Clement Maurice, directeur of the Salon Indien in Paris as the troubled photographer.  Another less well-known title is Row Boat on the Sea (Frères Lumière, France 1896) which was filmed at La Ciotat near Marseille. This film is notable for causing its first audiences to experience nausea!

Of Australia’s favourite three frères Lumière films, the top one, Baby’s Quarrel (Louis Lumière, France 1896), still causes laughter today.  We screened the seven Melbourne Cup films in chronological order- something that hasn’t been done since the 1890s! And with the new information that Marius Sestier is actually in one of the Melbourne Cup films at the same time as his business partner Henry Walter Barnett, we are left with the question of who was operating the camera!  Finally Patineur Grotesque was screened to an eager audience.

John Shortis’ evocative music brought the films to life and Stephen’s bright narration kept the screening animated and engaging.
Could Fitzroy Gardens be where Patineur Grotesque was filmed?

The audience response was positive and at the close of the show people came forward with ideas of where Patineur Grotesque was made – perhaps Studley Park, Fitzroy or Adelaide. The day before the presentation a colleague, Simon Smith, and I had walked down to Yarra Park in Jolimont and around the Wellington Parade end of Fitzroy Gardens.  Elements from the film were found although nothing conclusive, but interestingly in the Fitzroy Gardens were remnants of the tree configuration we see in the film – could the film have been made near the corner of Spring and Flinders Streets?

Further research into all these possibilities will be made over the coming months.

In the afternoon I visited a family who believe their grandfather appeared in The Story of the Kelly Gang (Tait, Australia 1906). And from what they told me it looks like he did, but that’s a story for later…