Out now on DVD in France, and available to ship to Ireland via Amazon France, is Irish director Paul Duane and Scotland’s David Cairns’ fascinating documentary Natan.
Natan tells the remarkable story of Bernard Natan, a Romanian immigrant who came to Paris in 1905 and became involved almost immediately with French cinema. After fighting for France in World War I he received French citizenship. He immediately got back into producing films which eventually led to him taking control of the Pathé film group in the late 1920s. Under his leadership Pathé went on to produce epic films such as Les Miserables. But Bernard Natan has become largely written out of French film history for various different reasons. His story is an excellent one, suffice to say that his ethnicity and subsequent rumours plagued Natan almost from the start of his career. His ‘comeuppance’ for his alleged transgressions is at the heart of this devastating documentary.
In his review of the film, Jason Coyle (of this parish) said “Duane and Cairns tell the story using the traditional talking heads method but they also employ a terrific ‘ghost’ voiceover technique which lends the film an eerie feel. This ‘character’ speaks for Natan, and adds a layer to the visual images on show. It works wonderfully. This is one of those stories you cannot believe you didn’t know about already. What takes it beyond merely entertaining to very important is the fact that the film is making an ambitious attempt to reclaim a place in film history for a pioneer who was shockingly treated. See the documentary and be astonished at this fascinating piece of work.”
Duane produced the film via his and Rob Cawley’s Screenworks production company, which has also given us the excellent documentaries Very Extremely Dangerous and Barbaric Genius.
[quote title=”Paul Duane – Director”]I’m thrilled to have the film finally available on DVD – archive costs have kept it from release to date, but working with the great Serge Bromberg in Lobster Films, we managed to overcome these obstacles and get the film out there. It’s already started the ball rolling on the rehabilitation of Bernard Natan’s good name and reputation, and we believe that his place in cinema history is now secure. He’ll be known – as he should be known – as the man who kept French cinema French at a time when it could very easily have become Americanised, and as a Romanian immigrant, he’s a great advertisement for the positive things brought to a country by those who immigrate into it.[/quote]
The DVD of Natan is region free, and comes with both English and French audio tracks and subtitles. The Guardian did a wonderful blog piece on the release that is essential reading. Natan will have its TV debut on the French channel Arte next. Unfortunately there are no UK or Irish TV screenings planned as of yet.