GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHERS


#2: With Jacques Becker [looking through camera] - "Montparnasse 19" [1957]

 

   


CHRISTIAN MATRAS

 

Born: 29 December 1903, Valence [Drôme], France, as Jean Jacques Christian Matras.

Died: 4 May 1977, Paris, France.

Career: Entered the film industry in 1925, assisting his brother who was superv at a studio specializing in trick ph and efx work. Was newsreel ph for the weekly Éclair Journal from 1926-28.



At the beginning of his career, Christian Matras quickly established a reputation as a solid technician and an expert in creating decorative and psychological ambiences which testify to his range of taste. During his career, he adapted to developing techniques, as well as to the demands of varied directors.

Using his early training as a newsreel photographer, Matras successfully applied the technique of plain observation to feature films in the '30s. His documentary style was put to good use in Renoir's 'La grande illusion', a study of war. Renoir chose to tell his story of the dry rot of inaction, not on the battlefield, but behind the lines in a prison camp. It is a story of complex themes often revealed through camera movements.

This technique would typify Matras' work prior to World War II. During this period, it was careful, painstakingly detailed, and intelligent, almost to the point of coldness. After World War II, his documentary style gave way to dazzling, flowing camera movements. Matras adapted well to color filming; his 'Barbe-Bleue' was considered the first successful French film in color.

However, it is his work with Max Ophüls for which Matras is best known. Ophüls' films demanded complex camera work - long elaborate takes with flowing camera movements. Brilliant camera use became the director's trademark; without the fluid, impressionistic skill of Matras, Ophüls would not be as highly regarded as he is. In 'La ronde', Matras' first collaboration with Ophüls, Matras used sweeping camera work that would develop into the camera choreography used in 'Lola Montès'.

The filming of 'Lola Montès' is the epitome of Matras' craftsmanship and technique. For example, in the circus scenes, Ophüls was more interested in the audience than the main action. For this, Matras uses 360 degree camera shots. Some scenes were conceived and written to constitute dynamic walkthroughs, and the camera stays with the characters, persistent and unshakeable as it stalks and prowls with them. Matras' virtuoso camera movement makes the landscape and architecture seem to move.

'Madame de...' also contained fabulous photography. The story would be tedious if not for Matras' fluid camera, which juxtaposes intimate and dramatic shots to reveal theme and character. Ophüls relied on continuous flow as opposed to collisions between shots for his storytelling, and long tracks are used not only to convey action, but to convey shifts of mood, the evolution of time, and plot development. At the heart of the film is the ball scene. The couple dances round and round through one elegant ballroom after another, and the camera stays with them recording their changing feelings as the mood of frivolity recedes. A long continuous take follows the servant as he moves from light to light, extinguishing each until he finally blankets the scene in darkness when he covers the harp. [From article by Renee Ward on the filmreference.com website.]


 

 FILMS

NOTE: It is often difficult to figure out whether or not a cph notation is appropriate, particularly as regards pre-war French films. The on-screen typography [big letters plainly indicating the cinematographer, much smaller ones plainly meant to denote the operator and assistants] clears up the matter, but were we have had to rely on printed sources, which merely list a bunch of names, we may occasionally have strayed into error.

1926

De babord à tribord [Christian Matras] b&w; doc/?m; + ed/scrpl

1929

L'enseignement équestre à l'école de cavalerie de Saumur [Jean-Claude Bernard] b&w; doc/?m

1930

Au fil de l'eau [Christian Matras; prod/artistic dir: C.F. Tavano] b&w; short (reportage filmé)/?m

1931

Sous la terre [Christian Matras] b&w; short/?m

1931

Cent sous en ballade [Christian Matras & Emile Monniot] b&w; short/300 mtr

1931

Le cor [Jean Epstein] b&w; short (chanson filmée)/6m

1931

Le crédo du paysan [Charles-Félix Tavano] b&w; short (chanson filmée)/280 mtr

1931

Éperon d'or [Jean-Claude Bernard] b&w; doc/60m; shortened & sound version of 'L'enseignement équestre à l'école de cavalerie de Saumur'; see 1929

1932

Arrêtez-moi! [Charles-Félix Tavano & Christian Matras] b&w; short/?m

1932

Un beau mariage [Charles-Félix Tavano] b&w; short/?m; + scrpl

1932

L'or des mers [Jean Epstein] b&w; doc/73m

1932

Le billet de logement/Billeting Order [Charles-Félix Tavano] b&w; + co-scrpl

1933

Pirates du Rhône [(Jean) Aurenche & (Pierre) Charbonnier] b&w; doc/12m; as Matras

1933

La châtelaine du Liban [Jean Epstein & Christian Matras] b&w; cph: Armand Thirard

1933

Le paquebot Tenacity/S.S. Tenacity [Julien Duvivier] b&w; cph: Armand Thirard & Willy (Faktorovich/Gricha)

1934

L'affaire Coquelet [Jean Gourguet] b&w

1934

La maison dans la dune/The House On the Dune [Pierre Billon & Christian Matras] b&w; cph: Armand Thirard

1934

Maternité [Jean Choux] b&w

1934

Le scandale [Marcel L'Herbier] b&w; cph: Eugen Schüfftan; + asst dir

1934

Les hommes de la côte [André Pellenc] b&w

1935

La marmaille [Dominique Bernard-Deschamps] b&w

1936

L'argent [Pierre Billon] b&w

1936

Mais n'te promène donc pas toute nue [Léo Joannon] b&w; short/30m; + co-scrpl

1936

Les mutinés de l'Elseneur [Pierre Chenal] b&w; cph: Joseph-Louis Mindwiller (= Jean-Paul Mundviller) & André Bac

1936

Les réprouvés [Jacques Séverac] b&w; cph: André Bac

 

 

1937

La grande illusion/The Grand Illusion [Jean Renoir] b&w

1937

Le chanteur de minuit [Léo Joannon] b&w

1937

Prison sans barreaux [Léonide Moguy] b&w; cph: Claude Renoir

1937

Légions d'honneur [Maurice Gleize] b&w

1938

Café de Paris [Yves Mirande & Georges Lacombe] b&w

1938

Entrée des artistes/The Curtain Rises [Marc Allégret] b&w

1938

La fin du jour [Julien Duvivier] b&w; cph: Armand Thirard

1938

Je chante [Christian Stengel] b&w

1938

Paradis perdu/Paradise Lost/Four Flights to Love [Abel Gance] b&w

1938

La piste du sud [Pierre Billon] b&w

1939

Le dernier tournant/The Last Turn [Pierre Chenal] b&w

1939

Le duel [Pierre Fresnay] b&w

1939

Mahlia la métisse [Walter Kapps] b&w; prod started in 1939, but was interrupted by the war; finished in 1942

1940

Parade en sept nuits [Marc Allégret] b&w; prod started in April 1940, but was interrupted by the war; finished in March 1941

1940

La nuit merveilleuse [Jean-Paul Paulin] b&w

1941

La romance de Paris [Jean Boyer] b&w

1941

Le briseur de chaînes [Jacques Daniel-Norman] b&w

1941

La duchesse de Langeais/Wicked Duchess [Jacques de Baroncelli] b&w

1942

La loi du printemps [Jacques Daniel-Norman] b&w

1942

Pontcarral, colonel d'empire [Jean Delannoy] b&w

1943

Secrets [Pierre Blanchar] b&w

1943

Le secret de Madame Clapain [André Berthomieu] b&w; cph: Jean Bachelet

1943

L'escalier sans fin [Georges Lacombe] b&w

1943

Un seul amour [Pierre Blanchar] b&w

1943

Lucrèce [Léo Joannon] b&w

1943

Le voyageur sans bagages [Jean Anouilh] b&w

1944

Le bossu [Jean Delannoy] b&w

1945

Mademoiselle X [Pierre Billon] b&w

1945

Boule de suif/Angel and Sinner [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1945

L'idiot [Georges Lampin] b&w

1945

Seul dans la nuit [Christian Stengel] b&w

1945

La part de l'ombre/Blind Desire [Jean Delannoy] b&w; cph: Roger Hubert

1945

Tant que je vivrai/As Long As I Live [Jacques de Baroncelli] b&w

1946

Un revenant/A Lover's Return [Christian-Jaque] b&w; cph: Louis Page

1946

Il suffit d'une fois [Andrée Féix] b&w

1947

Le beau voyage [Louis Cuny] b&w

1947

Les jeux sont faits/The Chips Are Down [Jean Delannoy] b&w

1947

La révoltée/Stolen Affections [Marcel L'Herbier] b&w

1947

Éternel conflit [Georges Lampin] b&w

1947

L'aigle à deux têtes [Jean Cocteau] b&w

1948

D'homme à hommes/Man to Men [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1948

Tous les chemins mènent à Rome/All Roads Lead to Rome [Jean Boyer] b&w

 

With dir Christian-Jaque [left] - "Singoalla"

 

1949

Singoalla/The Mask and the Sword/The Wind Is My Lover/Gypsy Fury [Christian-Jaque] b&w; 95m & 107m; also ph Swedish- (104m) and English-language (101m) versions

1949

La valse de Paris/Paris Waltz [Marcel Achard] b&w

1950

La ronde/Roundabout [Max Ophüls] b&w

1950

Souvenirs perdus [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1950

Olivia/The Pitt of Loneliness [Jacqueline Audry] b&w

1951

Barbe-Bleue [Christian-Jaque] c

1951

Blaubart [Christian-Jaque] c; German-language version of 'Barbe-Bleue'

1951

Le plaisir/House of Pleasure [seg #1 'Le masque' & #2 'La maison Tellier' dir by Max Ophüls] b&w; seg #3 'Le modèle' ph by Philippe Agostini

1951

Fanfan la Tulipe/Soldier of Love [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1952

Adorables créatures [Christian-Jaque] b&w

1952

Violettes impériales/Violetas imperiales [Richard Pottier] c; cph: César Fraile

1952

Lucrèce Borgia/Sins of the Borgias [Christian-Jaque] c

1953

Madame de.../The Earrings of Madame de... [Max Ophüls] b&w

1953

Destinées/Daughters of Destiny/Love, Soldiers and Women [seg 'Lysistrata' dir by Christian-Jaque] b&w; cph: Raffaele Masciocchi; other ph: Mario Craveri & Robert Lefebvre

1953

Secrets d'alcove/Il letto/The Bed [seg 'Le billet de logement' dir by Henri Decoin & 'Le lit de la Pompadour' dir by Jean Delannoy] b&w; 4 seg; other ph: Léonce-Henri Burel, Michel Kelber & Enzo Serafin

1954

Madame du Barry [Christian-Jaque] c

1954

Nana [Christian-Jaque] c

1954

Rendez-vous avec Maurice Chevalier [Maurice Régamey] b&w; comp of 6 musical shorts (#1 ?, #2 'C'est ci bon', #3 ?, #4 'Paris', #5 'Une Américaine à Paris' & #6 'Soirs de Paris'); ph #?; other ph: Willy (Faktorovich/Gricha) (#2) & Jean Lehérissey (#2); filmed 1954-55; released 1957

1955

Lola Montès/Lola Montez [Max Ophüls] cs/c; also ph German- and English-language versions

1955

Les carnets de Major Thompson/The Diary of Major Thompson/The French, They Are a Funny Race [Preston Sturges] b&w; ph Martine Carol seq; ph: Maurice Barry & Jean Lallier; 2nd cinematographer: André Domage

1955

Rencontre à Paris [Georges Lampin] b&w

1956

Les aventures de Till l'Espiègle/Die Abenteuer des Till Ulenspiegel/Bold Adventure [Gérard Philipe & Joris Ivens] c

1956

Oeil pour oeil/An Eye for an Eye [André Cayatte] vv/c

1957

Les espions [Henri-Georges Clouzot] b&w

1957

Une manche et la belle/The Evil That Is Eve/What Price Murder? [Henri Verneuil] b&w

1957

Montparnasse 19/Les amants de Montparnasse/Modigliani of Montparnasse [Jacques Becker] b&w

1958

Le miroir à deux faces/The Mirror Has Two Faces [André Cayatte] b&w

1958

Maxime [Henri Verneuil] b&w

1958

Christine [Pierre Gaspard-Huit] c

1958

Pourquoi viens-tu si tard?/Too Late to Love [Henri Decoin] b&w

1959

La bête à l'affût [Pierre Chenal] b&w

1959

Le chemin des écoliers/Way of Youth [Michel Boisrond] b&w

1959

Die schöne Lügnerin/Sissi/La belle et l'empereur [Axel von Ambesser] c

1959

Vers l'extase [René Wheeler] b&w

1960

Les magiciennes/Double Deception [Serge Friedman] b&w

1960

Le coeur battant/The French Game [Jacques Doniol-Valcroze] b&w

1961

Les lions sont lâchés/The Lions Are Loose [Henri Verneuil] ds/b&w

 

 

1961

Paris Blues [Martin Ritt] b&w

1961

Le jeu de la vérité/The Game of Truth [Robert Hossein] ds/b&w

1961

Cartouche/Swords of Blood [Philippe de Broca] ds/c

1962

Le crime ne paie pas/Crime Does Not Pay/Gentle Art of Murder [Gérard Oury] ds/b&w; 4 seg

1962

Thérèse Desqueyroux [Georges Franju] b&w

1962

Virginie [Jean Boyer] b&w

1962

Shéhérazade [Pierre Gaspard-Huit] scope (+ 70bu)/c; cph: André Domage

1963

Casablanca, nid d'espions [Henri Decoin] c

1963

Coup de bambou [Jean Boyer] b&w

1963

Journal d'un fou/Diary of a Madman [Roger Coggio] c

1964

Les amitiés particulières/This Special Friendship [Jean Delannoy] b&w

1964

Samba [Rafael Gil] c; cph: Gábor Pogány

1964

Le majordome [Jean Delannoy] b&w

1965

Los pistoleros de Arizona/El rancho de los implacables/5.000 dollari sul lasso/Die Gejagten der Sierra Nevada [Alfonso Balcázar] ts/c; cph: Carlo Carlini & Roberto Reale

1965

La dama de Beirut/Aventure à Beyrouth/The Woman from Beirut [Ladislao Vajda] c

1965

Les fêtes galantes/The Lace Wars [René Clair] c

1965

Lettre à Carla/Beatrice [Jean-José Richer] b&w; 70m

1966

La mujer perdida/Quel nostro grande amore [Tulio Demicheli] c

1967

Women Times Seven/Sept fois femme [Vittorio De Sica] c

1967

Les risques du métier/Risky Business [André Cayatte] c

1967

Más allá de las montañas/Flucht aus der Taiga/La fuga di Marek/The Desperate Ones [Alexander Ramati] c

1967

Les oiseaux vont mourir au Pérou/Birds in Peru [Romain Gary] fs/c

1968

La voie lactée/The Milky Way [Luis Buñuel] c

1969

Esa mujer [Mario Camus] c

1969

Las leandras [Eugenio Martin] c

1969

Le bal du comte d'Orgel [Marc Allégret] c

 

 

1971

Variétés [J. A. Bardem] c

1972

Pas folle la guêpe/Not Dumb, the Bird [Jean Delannoy] c

 

 FILMS AS CAMERA ASSISTANT

1927

Maldone/Misdeal [Jean Grémillon] ph: Georges Périnal

 

 FILMS AS DIRECTOR

1926

De babord à tribord [+ scrpl/ph/ed] see Films

1930

Au fil de l'eau [+ ph] see Films

1931

Sous la terre [+ ph] see Films

1931

Cent sous en ballade [co-d; + ph] see Films

1932

Arrêtez-moi! [co-dir: Charles-Félix Tavano; + ph] see Films

1933

La châtelaine du Liban [co-d: Jean Epstein; + cph] see Films

1934

La maison dans la dune/The House On the Dune [co-d: Pierre Billon; + cph] see Films