Jasset, Victorin-Hippolyte

(1862-1913)
   Director and film pioneer. Victorin-Hippolyte Jasset, like nearly all early film pioneers, started his career in the theater. His areas of expertise in the theatrical world were costumes and scenery, and he worked in that capacity before becoming a director at the Hippodrome Theater in Paris (which would later be turned into the Gaumont Palace). Jasset entered the cinema in 1906, when Alice Guy asked him to do the costumes and scenery for her film, La Vie du Christ (1906). He worked for only a brief time at Gaumont before being hired on at the newly established Éclair studios, where he was paired with veteran film director Georges Hatot. Jasset and Hatot collaborated for approximately two years at Éclair, during which time the two produced a number of films, mostly film serials (although only Jasset is credited on most of these). Of these, the most famous are undoubtedly the Riffle Bill series, which ran in 1908, the Nick Carter series, which ran in 1908 and 1909, and the Morgan le pirate series, which ran in 1909. Nick Carter was, without a doubt, the most famous of these. Adapted from a dimestore detective serial, Nick Carter became the prototype for the detective film and enjoyed huge popular success. Other films Jasset made for Éclair include La Fille de la sorcière (1908), L'Honneur du corsaire (1908), Dragonades sous Louis XIV (1909), Fleur empoisonnée (1909), Le Vautour de la sierra: le Vautour et l'usurier (1909), Le Vautour de la sierra: un marriage mouvementé (1909), Le Vautour de la sierra: evasion audacieuse (1909), and Ginhara ou fidèldejusqu'à la mort (1910).
   In 1909, Jasset and Hatot went to North Africa to film and there made a number of films on location. These include Dans les ruines de Carthage (1910), La Résurrection de Lazare (1910), and La Reconnaissance de l'arabe (1910). Jasset returned to Paris in the summer of 1910 and there made L'Hériodade (1910) on his own. Jasset also directed independently the Docteur Phantom series (1910) for the Société du film négatif studio, newly founded by Hatot. From that point on in his career, Jasset primarily worked alone, apart from a brief collaboration with director Émile Chautard in 1911.
   Jasset's success with the serial continued when he created Zigomar in 1911. Zigomar was a dark, somber, realist depiction of the criminal side of contemporary society. It was a precursor to Louis Feuillade's Fantômas and undoubtedly influenced it. Zigomar is often seen (as is Feuillade's Fantômas) as a precursor to Réalisme poétique or poetic realism. Zigomar was so successful that it inspired two sequels, Zigomar contre Nick Carter (1912), which pit two of Jasset's most famous characters against one another, and Zigomar peau d'anguille (1913).
   Apart from serials, Jasset was able to direct a number of different types of film. His films include social dramas like Au pays des ténèbres (1912), literary adaptations, such as Le Mystère de Notre Dame de Paris (1912), and epic adventures such as Balaoo (1912). He also made a female spy film, Protéa (1913), which was continued in sequel form after his death. When Jasset died in 1913, he had nearly single-handedly carried the Éclair studios for five years, and established his own reputation as a landmark film director, with a clear, no-nonsense style that had pushed the cinema that much closer to the inevitable dominance of narrative.
   Historical Dictionary of French Cinema by Dayna Oscherwitz & Mary Ellen Higgins

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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