A Warped “Barbe Bleue”

January 30, 2013 § 2 Comments

A very short post for you today, inspired by Will Schofield’s “Nitrate Nocturne” posts over at 50 Watts: Will has posted several of these images of decomposed film clippings from the Turconi Collection, on which the nitrate has warped, leaving behind surreal blotches that turn the film clippings into their own bits of abstract art. Scrolling through, this one in particular caught my eye:


It’s a clipping from a 1907 film version of “Bluebeard,” or “Barbe bleue” by the Pathé Brothers Company (Pathé frères). The nitrate has warped in such a way that the doorway to Bluebeard’s murderous den appears to suddenly catch flame–but that’s just a coincidental effect. What’s really happening in the scene is that Bluebeard’s wife has opened the forbidden door, seen the other dead wives, and is turning away in horror. She’s easier to see in the top frame, holding her head in her hands. The nitrate is doing something very cool here, totally unplanned, and accomplished only by time and decay–it’s making Bluebeard’s wife’s inner horror look like a conflagration that overcomes her and the dead women behind her.

Cool, right?

I haven’t been able to find any surviving film online of the 1907 “Barbe bleue,” (though if you read French, you might be able to find a copy through this site). But if you’ve got the itch now to watch some early Bluebeard films, there’s always George Melies’s 1901 version, complete with Melies’s infamous special effects:


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§ 2 Responses to A Warped “Barbe Bleue”

  • Jennifer Lynn Krohn says:

    I love the ending with the dead wives accusing the skewered Bluebeard.

  • Fascinating. The petulance of the bride at the beginning and the horror of what is to come (because the audience knows it) is suddenly interrupted by the slapstick moment of the judge falling down and then the hilarious kitchen scene. Feels very Shakespearean to me, but I’m not a lit expert. 🙂

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