Amours exotiques: 1. Andantino – Zazavavindrano; 2. Allegro – L’Ève africaine [Exotic Love : 1. Andantino – Zazavavindrano; 2. Allegro – The African Eve] (1925) – dir. Léon Poirier *

56 min., b&w, silent – French titles and intertitles

Source : Part 1 of Amours exotics,  Zazavavindrano is viewable at the Musée Albert-Kahn.

Background – The first part of this film, Zazavavindrano, was made by Léon Poirier in 1924, in parallel with directing the final stages of the La Croisière noire expedition, as it reached Madagascar. Georges Specht, the leading cinematographer on La Croisière noire, also worked on this film and as a result, the technical quality of the film is of the highest standard.

The second part, Allegro- L’Eve africaine, was not viewed for The Silent Time Machine projectbut from the accounts available on the web, it appears to consist of a sort of catalogue of rites related to love, as practised by a range of different peoples across sub-Saharan Africa.

Film contentZazavavindrano is what might now be called an “ethnofiction”, that is, a fictional story with an ethnographic foundation that is performed by local, non-professional actors.

It concerns a young Malagasy couple whose parents forbid them to marry because in the course of a trial cohabitation, the woman has not become pregnant. The couple hatch a plot, which involves the man pretending that he has died. In the meantime, the woman asks for help to conceive from Zazavavindrano, a water sprite who is played by an actress, naked from the waist up, and who is shown, through trick photography, to be living underwater in a natural pool. At his funeral, the man suddenly sits up and all the mourners scatter. In the confusion, the couple elope and shortly afterwards, the story ends happily as the woman realizes that she has become pregnant.


Instantanés malagaches [Snapshots of Madagascar] (1929) – dir. Léon Poirier *

A military band plays to the raising of the tricolour – ‘Instantanées malagaches’ (1929) – Léon Poirier

51 mins., b&w, silent – titles and intertitles in French

Source : CNC – Bnf

Shot while Léon Poirier was in Madagascar making his feature film, Caïn, the technical and aesthetic quality of this film is far superior to those of most other films of this kind made in this period (though it does not have any kind of sound track).

It offers a series of interesting ethnographic vignettes of the many different cultural groups that have made their home on the island, sometimes over many generations, but suggests that these have all been harmonized under the ideals of French colonial governance. The final scene shows a military band playing as the tricolour is raised.

© 2018 Paul Henley