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Q: Russian Film Makers in Paris ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Russian Film Makers in Paris
Category: Arts and Entertainment
Asked by: gaucho34-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 25 Aug 2006 22:51 PDT
Expires: 24 Sep 2006 22:51 PDT
Question ID: 759660
In paris, during the 1920's there was one or possibly more, film
companies, formed by Russian emigres to make films involving the large
numbers of emigre actors, dirctors and technicians. One was 'Sequana'
films in Billancourt and there was another, I think, called 'Arbetus'
(?) films.Can you tell me any more about these companies, who they
were, how fudned, what films they made and how they operated (in a
studio, on location etc.)Were they innovative in technique, like the
Soviet films of the same period? Were they more influenced by German,
French or American films? All information gratefuly recived. This is
for the final section of a novel and as much detail as possible is
Subject: Re: Russian Film Makers in Paris
Answered By: politicalguru-ga on 26 Aug 2006 04:52 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear Gaucho, 

Perhaps the first Parisian émigré production firm was ?Ermolieff?,
which was a Russian production company, ran by Joseph N. Ermolieff
(IMDB : , which moved to France
en-masse in 1920. The IMDB mini-biography of director Viktor
Tourjansky (IMDB: describes
how Tourjansky ?He left Russia together with his film partners from
the Ermolieff film company, actors Ivan Mozzhukhin, Nicolas Koline and
Nicolas Rimsky, actress Nathalie Lissenko, his wife Nathalie Kovanko,
cinematographer Nikolai Toporkoff and producer Joseph N. Ermolieff.?

Two films are listed on IMDB under Emolieff?s production company: 
?  Angoissante aventure, L' (1920) [(The Harrowing Adventure] ? which
was a film actually featuring the plight of a group of Russian
artists, escaping the Bolsheviks, through the rubbles of the post-WWI
Ottoman Empire, to Paris. Ivan Mozzhukhin, a prominent member of the
Ermolieff group, played his first role in France on this film. The
film ?was actually shot in bits and pieces during the emigration.?
(SOURCE: Jay Weissberg, ?Report on the 22nd Pordenone Silent Film
Festival?, Senses of Cinema,
?  Ordonnance, L' (1921) 
To these, one should add several films that (strangely) have no
production firm credited on IMDB and were produced by Ermolieff:
Justice d?abord! (1921) ? ?a remake of Protazanov and Mozhukhin?s 1917
success Prokuror / The Prosecutor.? (SOURCE:
L?Enfant du carnival (1922) 
Tempêtes (1922) 

There is an academic article written about the group, from which you
can learn more about the company and their lifestyle:
Thompson, Kristin (1989) "The Ermolieff Group in Paris: Exile,
Impressionism, Internationalism." Griffithiana 35-36 (Oct. 1989):

One can learn a little about their style and influences from this
description of Mozzhukhin?s 1921 film L'Enfant du Carnaval (1921):
?Full of visual witticisms that include amusing match cuts and a
terrific use of scenography, it can be argued that the choice of
subject matter (wealthy bachelor finds a child on his doorstep and
hires the child's real mother as nanny) has more than an old-fashioned
air about it, but he manages to keep it fresh and sparkling until the
tragic conclusion. There are some stylistic similarities between
L'Enfant du Carnaval and an Italian film from 1917 which screened at
last year's Festival, Luigi Serventi's Le Mogli e le arance (Wives and
Oranges), written and supervised by Lucio D'Ambra, although this may
be pure coincidence.? (SOURCE: Weissberg, ibid).

Wikipedia, too, contributes to our understanding of the influences on
his 1923 feature film, ?Le Brasier ardent (The Blazing Inferno)? :
?Brasier, in particular, was highly praised for its innovative and
inventive concepts, but ultimately proved too surreal and bizarre to
become financially successful. Styled like a semi-comic Kafkaesque
nightmare, the film has him playing a detective known only as "Z"
hired by an older husband to follow his adventurous young wife. The
plot, however, was only the device which Mozzhukhin and his assistant
director Aleksandr Volkov (billed in France as Alexandre Volkoff) used
to experiment with the audience's perception of reality. Many of the
scenes seem to be taking place on sets that are disconcertingly larger
than normal and one particularly striking staging has the husband
entering the detective agency to find a synchronized line of men,
presumably detectives, all wearing tuxedos and gliding about in
formation.? (SOURCE: Wikipedia Article,

See more about Mozzhukhin and his films at: 
Mosjoukine: i sentieri dell'esilio
(scroll down to see the English version, Italian is always first,
followed by an English passage).

Mazzhukhin?s later films were produced not by Ermolieff?s production
company (Ermolieff moved to Berlin, and returned to France only with
the rise of the Nazis in 1933; to flee again to Hollywood via Mexico
in 1937). They were produced by ?Film Albatros? or ?Societe Albatros?.

Their list of films on IMDB:

?Société Albatros? was founded in 1922 by Russian émigré Alexandre
Kamenka (1888-1969). Its first film was probably ?Le Brasier Ardent?,
already mentioned.

Le Brasier Ardent  ('Burning Brazier,') 1923 ? dir. Ivan Mosjoukine
(also acted) (see : Janet Maslin, ?'BURNING BRAZIER,' 1923 FRENCH
SILENT?, New York Times, 25 September 1982,
IMDB Entry: 

Kamenka?s Albatros studios were in Montreuil-sous-Bois, and were
apparently relatively small (see: John Baxter, Bonuel, Carrol&Graf,
1998, p. 43 -
A theatre/arts/film school complex called Albatros is located today at: 
52 rue du Sergent Bobillot in 93100 Montreuil-sous-Bois. - it seems like the same
place, and you can see pictures (and contact them) on the page, but
unfortunately, the history page is under construction.

According to Mozzhukhin?s excellent biography on ?Film Reference?, the
studio has also served Ermolieff?s people since their arrival to Paris
(SOURCE: Liam O?Leary, ?Ivan Mozhukin?, <>)

One of Albatros? main artistic designers was Lazare Meerson, a Russian
Jewish émigré who later moved to London (where he died): ?Influenced
both by Russian constructivist theory and the Expressionist movement
of the Berlin studios, he brought to Paris creative talent,
experience, and artistic skills which were to make him the most
influential set designer of his generation. [?]Already the group of
expatriate Russian filmmakers at Montreuil had encouraged the
rejection of conventional theatrical trompe l'oeil painted scenery in
favour of more substantial architecturally conceived sets built from
natural materials in order to create greater authenticity. Their
achievements led to a new perception of the designer's role in the
production of mood and meaning in film, and henceforth they were
invited to work more closely with the director to express in plastic
terms the essential tenor of the film narrative. In this conducive
environment, Meerson's talents flourished and his influence grew, but
he modestly argued that his sets were there simply to discretely serve
a film's action and not to impose upon it: subject matter, the quality
of the acting, and mise en scène should remain the prime
considerations. The value of set design, he maintained, lay in the
atmosphere it could generate to inspire actors and director alike as
they worked towards their artistic statement.? (SOURCE: R.F. Cousins,
?Lazare Meerson?, Film,

One of Albatros? assets, except for the Russian émigrés and some
French talents, was the Polish-Jewish émigré Jean Epstein. Epstein and
other White Russian also formed a mock film school, mostly intended at
issuing student visas to émigrés (or so claims John Baxter, in his
biography of Luis Bunuel, p. 43)

A review of one of the company?s films, ?Feu Mathias Pascal? (1925),
describes the Albatross group so: ?The highly talented group around
Kamenka had considerable influence on the work of French-born
filmmakers, and for this film L'Herbier had the advantage of the
collaboration of two of the most gifted of the exiles: his star, the
great silent actor Ivan Mosjoukine [1889-1939], and his designer,
Lazare Meerson, who had arrived in Paris just one year before and was
to have a crucial shaping impact on the development of French cinema
over the next dozen years through his work with Clair and Feyder. The
choice of subject matter points to the literary origins of filmmakers
of this generation. Like Gance and Clair, L'Herbier had envisaged a
career as a writer before turning to the cinema under the influence of
the American films which began to be widely shown in France after
World War I. Feu Mathias Pascal was the first work by Luigi Pirandello
to be adapted for the screen, and it is clear from later accounts that
the author's literary prestige was one of the motivating impulses
behind L'Herbier's decision to undertake a production which was never
likely to be more than a succès d'estime.? (SOURCE: FEU MATHIAS
Pascal, Film,

More about Albatros, see: 
Bakker, Gerben "Selling French Films on Foreign Markets: The
International Strategy of a Medium-Sized Film Company" Enterprise &
Society - Volume 5, Number 1, March 2004, pp. 45-76 (see abstract here
Constantin Dorokhine, ?Les émigrés russes à Paris et les films
Albatros? in Le cinéma français muet dans le monde, influences
réciproques, Cinémathèque de Toulouse and Institut Jean Vigo,
Toulouse, 1989
François Albéra, Albatros : des russes à Paris, 1919-1929,
Cinémathèque française, Montreuil (France)

In the summer of 1928 (June 23rd, to be exact), Sequana Film
production company joined forces with Albatros. If I understood
correctly the comment in Russian on, the company was a
transformation of the Association Cinematique European (ACE), meant to
work in coproduction with Albatros, the main player of that period and
it was not a real independent player. (The original Russian, if you
can read:
????????????????? ????????????, ??????????????? ?.???????? ????? 1928
???? ?? ??? ?? «???????? ???????????? ?????? (???)».?«???????????»,
?????, 1928, 23 ????, ?. 5. ??????? ???????????? «Sequana-Film»
(????????? ? Société «Albatros») ???? ?????? «???? ??????» («Les Deux
Timides», ???. ???? ????; ????. ??????? ???????, ???????? ??????
???????; ????? ???????????? ?????, ?.???????; ???.???????? 1928 ?.);
«????? ???????» («Les Nouveaux messeurs», ???. ??? ??????, ???. ??????
???????; ???.??????? 1929 ?.); «????????? ????» («Nuits de princes»,
???. ??????? ?`?????, ??????. ???. ?.??????, ???. ???? ??????????,
?????? ???????; ????? ??????????????? ???????, ????????? ????????,
????????, ????????; ???.??????? 1930 ?.).?

The head of Sequana was a producer called Simeon Shifrin (or perhaps
Simone) ? but I failed to find any significant details about him,
aside from a mentioning in passing in : (again, in Russian: 
? ?????? ???? ? ??????????????? ?????????????? ????????????
???????????????? ?????? ???????? ????? ??????14. ? ???????? ???? 1928
???? ??? «?-?? ???????????? ?????? (ACE)» ???? ????????????? ?
«Sequana-Film»15?????????? ??????????? ????????, ?? ??????????????? ?
?????????? ? ????????? ????????? ? ?-??? «?????». ??? ?????? ???? ??
???? ????? ??????????? ?????? ???????????? ??????? «????? ???????»16,
??????? ???????? ??????, ? ?? ??? ??????????? ??????????? ????? ?????
?????? «???? ??????»17 (??? ???????????????? ? ?-??? «?????????»).
????? ?????? ????? ??????????? ?????????, ????? 1929 ???? ??????
?????? ? ????????? ???????? ?????????? ? ??? ?????? ????????
??????????, ??????????? ? ?????????? ??????, ??? ???????????
?????????? ????????? ????????? ????????????18. ?? ??????????? ? ?????
?? ????? ????????????? ????? ???????????, ?????? ?????????? ? ???????
?????????? ????????? ?????? ???????, ?????????? ???????????????? ???
???????? ?????. ??? ?????? ??????????? ? ????? ?????? 1930 ????, ? ?
??? ??? ???????????? ?????? ?? ????????? ??? ???????????? ? ???? ?? ??
????? ?????????? ????????? ???????? ??????????? ?????????????????.? ).

You can see the relatively short list of films associated with Sequana here:

In general, see: 
Steven P. Hill, ?How to Define "EmigrÈ Film/Theater/Ballet?",
OKSANA BULGAKOWA1 ?The "Russian Vogue" in Europe and Hollywood: The
Transformation of Russian Stereotypes through the 1920s? The Russian
Volume 64 Page 211  - April 2005 
Borger, Lenny. From Moscow to Montreuil. The Russian Emigrés in Paris
1920-1929,?in: Griffithiana 35/36, october 1989, p. 28-39.
I hope this answers your question. Please contact me if you need any
clarifications on this answer before you rate it.
Main search terms: 
"sequana films" ; albatros Montreuil russian; Montreuil "white
russians"; sequana shifrin, cinema 1928 Shifrin paris, cinema 1928
Shifrin, " Simone Shifrin", " Simoen Shifrin", " Simon Shifrin", "
Simeon Shifrin",  Simeon Shifrin, "sequana film", "sequana film", ace cinematique european,
"sequana film", sequana paris film russian, sequana paris film,
sequana Montreuil russian, albatros Montreuil, "The Ermolieff Group in
Paris: Exile, Impressionism, Internation ..., Montreuil russian
emigre, Montreuil Studios, Films Albatros, "Visions
d'Art" film, "Visions d'Art", Films Albatros, Alexandre Kamenka,
Ermolieff films, "The Ermolieff Group in Paris: Exile, Impressionism,
Internation ..., Visions d'Art, Films Albatros, "Ombre de péché", Les
Films Albatros, Tempêtes (1922), Justice d'abord (1921), emolieff
films, emolieff film, emolieff, Les contes de mille et une nuits,
Viktor Tourjansky, Lazare Meerson, L?ordonnance (1921, Sequana film,
Alexandre Volkoff, societe Albatros, Olga Tschechowa, Marise Maia,
Nicolai Koline, .Nathalie Lissenko, Ivan Mosjoukine, Alexandre
Kamenka, shifrin paris albatross, shifrin paris sequana, Albatros,

Request for Answer Clarification by gaucho34-ga on 28 Aug 2006 00:39 PDT
thank you very much for oyur excellent answer - I have looked up
several of your links and found them helpful - I have not been able to
find the Kirsten Thompson article in 'Griffithsiana'how do I go about
doing that? I'm having a little trouble with Griffithsiana anyway -
perhaps I'm not doing it correctly.

Clarification of Answer by politicalguru-ga on 28 Aug 2006 02:10 PDT
The name of the journal (my typo?, sorry) is "Griffithiana". It is
apparently archived by Project Muse, so if you (or the library you're
working with) has access to Project Muse, you might be able to access
it here: 

The contact details for the editorship is: 

Livio Jacob
La Cineteca del Friuli
Via Osoppo 26
33013 Gemona (UD)

You can try to buy this issue (issue 37) from their website, it costs ?8:

The whole issue deals with Russian cinema, so you might be interested
in other articles as well.

Here you can see more information regarding ordering back issues.

Journal's Homepage:
gaucho34-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
An excellent answer - very complete - it gave me lots of material and
I'm most grateful. Thank you

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