France, Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont, 1909, 17 minutes
Director: Louis Feuillade
Cast: Renée Carl (Judith); Léonce Perret, Maurice Vinot, Christiane Mandelys, Alice Tissot
“Judith and Holofernes” was released by the French film studio Gaumont on June 14, 1909, just seven months after the premiere of “The Assassination of the Duke of Guise”, the first film by the French film studio Film d'Art, whose name gave rise to the concept of "khudozhestvenny fil’m" [“art/fiction film” in Russian]). "Judith and Holofernes" is a masterly work of exceptional complexity.
The journalist of the American newspaper “The Moving Picture World” left an exhaustive review: “It is the finest production ever shown on a screen, and I can safely say that no one can recall a picture so true and correct in details, so rich in settings and costumes, so beautiful in colors, so fine in photography and so cleverly produced and acted. "Judith" is certainly a revelation of what cinematography has in store for us. It is impossible to give a description of this coming film, as the pen cannot convey to the mind the impressions left after viewing the picture on the screen. The very few persons present at the advance exhibition were spellbound with admiration and all that they could say would be an exclamation of “Admirable!”” (Ruth T., Quality vs. Quantity: As Viewed by an Exchange Proprietor // The Moving Picture World. 1910, 9 April. P. 551, 552.)
The film has not been forgotten by film historians. It is included in the filmographies of Gaumont, Louis Feuillade, actors Renée Carl and Léonce Perret. Its mentions and often full-fledged studies of it can be found in the publications on the history of cinema. But only a few have ever seen this film, and solely thanks to the partially preserved and very worn-out nitrate positive print, which is located at the British Film Institute in London (previously, this copy belonged to the Joye Collection in Switzerland, many frames in it were missing).
In 2020, the film was practically reborn: another copy of “Judith and Holofernes” was identified at the State Film Fund of Russia (Gosfilmofond). The impeccably preserved colored nitrate positive print had belonged to Sergey Ivanovich Osipov and was transferred to Gosfilmofond in 1967. Osipov, a pre-revolutionary distributor and owner of several Moscow film theaters, for some time was a partner of the largest Russian film company “P. Thiemann, F. Reinhardt, and S. Osipov ". Little is known about Osipov himself: even his relatives were unaware of the film past of their grandfather and great-grandfather.
This copy is extremely valuable for several reasons. First of all, because it is a “first generation” copy, that is, printed directly from the original negative. This method was widespread only in the early period of silent cinema and provided the highest possible image quality (later, an intermediate negative print was usually used as a source for printing positive copies). Secondly, this copy is practically intact: there are no traces of deterioration, hydrolysis or even the slightest wear of the film base. Thirdly, three coloring techniques were used in the film at once: tinting, toning, and stenciling (with the latter method, the color was applied manually to each frame). And, finally, this copy is as complete as possible, with the only caveat: the pre-revolutionary Russian intertitles are very simplified in comparison with the poetic intertitles of the British Film Institute copy.
The film was scanned at 2K; it was stabilized and cleaned, and the flickering effect removed. Particular attention was paid to matching the colors of the original material with the scanned one to ensure the most accurate color reproduction of the digitally restored film copy.
The premiere of "Judith and Holofernes" is a long-awaited event among archivists. The picture has already been requested to be shown by the world’s leading cinematheques.