L’Hirondelle et la Mésange
France, 1920, 79 min, DCP, B&W, silent
Charles Pathé, its producer, prevented the film from being released and banished it for sixty years to a drawer. Why? Short answer: because he considered it “too documentary”. Long answer: because André Antoine, a man of the theatre and a self-taught film-maker, plucked four random people from the crowd and turned them into characters, blessing them with a little fiction, enough to intensify the pleasure of knowing a real way of life and real scenery, but not enough to appeal to the public of the time, who were no longer satisfied with having the world before their eyes. Can we trust the opinion of an accountant? Of course not. Better to be amazed by this journey upriver in two barges, from Antwerp to the Franco-Belgian border, by the excitement of smuggling and the domestication of river life (a dog, a cat, hens, curtains, flowerpots, a porcelain soup tureen), by the hardness of work on board (towrope included) and the sweetness of leisure on land (Ommegang included!), by a river that operates like the rails used for a camera dolly offering constant, dazzling shots of its banks.