The Serial Director

Le Matelas alcoolique / Le Matelas épileptique (The Alcoholic Mattress / The Drunken Mattress)

Alice Guy / Roméo Bosetti (?), Gaumont, France, 1906

Roméo Bosetti, a circus and music-hall performer since childhood, joined Gaumont in 1906, first as an actor and then as an actor-director. He is sometimes credited as director or codirector, with Gaumont’s head of Paris-based production, Alice Guy (see Chapter 6.1), of Le Matelas alcoolique (left), in which he stars as a drunken sailor who is inadvertently sewn into a mattress. Guy biographer Alison McMahan suggests, however, that “since Bosetti played the drunk in the film and presumably spent most of the shooting time inside the mattress, it is hard to imagine him directing the film at the same time.” In any case, the direction of the film incorporates many of the narrative techniques already on display in Pathé comedies. An alternating sequence, for example, shows how the sailor ends up in the mattress when the woman mending it steps into a café, and at the end, a continuity cut matches the shots in which the owners of the mattress, twice tossed from their bed when it becomes strangely restive, pitch it out the window and onto the street.

Calino bureaucrate

Roméo Bosetti, Gaumont, France, 1909

Specializing in serial gag films at Gaumont, Bosetti created and starred in the studio’s first comic series, Roméo (1907-08). The starring series, however, was shortlived, and in 1909, he created the more popular Calino series, featuring another, more acrobatic circus veteran (Clément Migé), with Bosetti providing scenarios which, like so many comic conceits of the time, called for orgies of confusion or destruction. In Calino bureaucrate (center), the hero plunges the streets of Paris into chaos when, finding that trains don’t run on Sunday, be resets the station clock in order to turn the calendar to a more convenient day of the week.

Little Moritz se fait les muscles (Little Moritz Flexes His Muscles)

Roméo Bosetti, Pathé-Frères, France, 1911

Bosetti left Gaumont for Pathé in 1910 and began directing comedy series for the Pathé affiliate Comica, where he created such successful series as Rosalie (1911-12), starring jovial, heavyset Sarah Duhamel, and Little Moritz (also 1911-12), starring diminutive, big-nosed Moritz Schwartz. In 1911, Bosetti also got the idea of teaming the two physical comics in a series of slapstick farces that parodied the conventions of courtship and marriage. Little Moritz se fait les muscles (right) begins when our weak and flabby hero is insulted by a well-built stranger. Determined to get revenge, Little Moritz furnishes his house with all manner of exercise equipment, on which he works out diligently. Before long, his muscles have grown so powerful that he inadvertently pulls his house down, from doors and windows to walls and the ceiling. His house lies in rubble, but he ultimately gets his revenge.

Bosetti also directed entries in Pathé’s Bigorno series (1912-14) and in Éclair’s Casimi series (1912-14) and continued both to act and to direct for several years.

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