In 1920, the film production company that would later be known as Albatros moved into the old Pathé studio in the Paris suburb of Montreuil. It consisted of a group of plucky Russians—all accomplished film professionals—who had fled their native country via Constantinople in reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution and the protracted civil war that followed. The magnificent talent gathered in Montreuil—Ivan Mosjoukine, Alexandre Volkoff, Nathalie Lissenko, Ivan Lochakoff, Yakov Protazanov, Viatcheslav Tourjansky—competed successfully with the American cinema in a Europe still reeling from the most ruinous war in history. Alexandre Kamenka assumed the manager’s reins in 1922, and by 1924, as many of the principals were lured away, he began hiring major French directors like Jean Epstein, René Clair, Marcel L’Herbier, and Jacques Feyder. Mosjoukine, an actor with an electrifying onscreen presence who was catapulted to international stardom with Le Braisier ardent and Kean, was himself lured to Hollywood by Universal Pictures—where he made only one film, Surrender, in spite of a five-year contract.
For barely a decade, Films Albatros enjoyed tremendous critical and public success in postwar Europe, and France in particular. This exhibition illuminates Albatros’s pre-history before the Russian Revolution, its richly varied output, and Kamenka’s last-gasp collaboration with the great Jean Renoir—eight years after the studio’s effective demise. All films are silent, with English translation and live musical accompaniment, unless otherwise noted.
Organized by Charles Silver, Curator, Department of Film, and Vika Paranyuk, PhD candidate at Yale University and author of a Master’s thesis on Ivan Mosjoukine.