The Tinted Tricks of Segundo de Chomon

Les Kiriki Acrobates Japonais (1907)

Spaniard Teruel Segundo de Chomón y Ruiz (1871-1929), a lesser known film pioneer with a particular fondness for hand-tinting his work, came to renown working for the Pathé brothers in the 1900s. While much of his work is directly informed by Méliès, Chomón’s distinctive aesthetic and deadpan humor set him apart and set a precedent for the surrealists Buñuel and Dalí. He also invented the film dolly.

The Golden Beetle (1907) is Chomón at his most delightfully innovative:

I learned of Chomón while watching the fantastic Landmarks of Early Film, Vol 1 collection, which also includes shorts by the Lumières, the aforementioned Méliès and some very early Kinetoscope movies. You can pick up a secondhand copy on Amazon for 20 bucks.

13 Responses to “The Tinted Tricks of Segundo de Chomon”

  1. mer Says:

    Can I thank you for using diacritics and tildes?

  2. Mer Says:

    Hahaha. You are very welcome, dear.
    (Nadya, our resident code whiz, is still trying to figure out how to script accents into our headlines…I breathlessly await that day!)

  3. Silas Says:

    Honestly, he doesn’t get much loving from me for his use of color, which had less to do with art and more to do with spectacle. It was a woman’s work, and painting (staining) film by hand was extremely hazardous with the toxic chemicals of the day. Also keep in mind that not having a photographic color system meant that all color was added in post to every print that would be distributed of the film. Every print. Color film gave a lot of women cancer.

    The Pathé method of coloring film was revolutionary in that it mechanized the process of film coloring, using frame-by-frame stencils and print rollers to colorize film at 60 feet per minute. The factory still wouldn’t meet today’s health codes for the 400 women who worked there, but I suppose it had to be better than hand painting.

    For some fantastic artistry in early film, look no further than 1920s Russian cinema. They couldn’t get any new film stock or equipment because of the WWI trade blockades, and constant blackouts and energy shortages made production impossible. So without the equipment to make films, they built a school specifically to study the theory of film art. It was the first of its kind in the world, and they made breathtaking strides into beautiful and meaningful films.

    From this fertile ground sprung such amazing artists as Dziga Vertov, who’s experimental film “Man with a Movie Camera” beat MTV to the punch by half a century.

    Can’t miss Sergei Eisenstein either, in my opinion the greatest artist in film’s history (with the exception of Orson Welles).

    But if it’s character and laughs, the subtle humor of Buster Keaton wins any day. I’m honestly surprised there hasn’t been an article on him here, he’s a fascinating and tragic figure.

  4. Nekokaiju Says:

    Thank you for introducing me to The Golden Beetle. Very much like Melies, yet very much with it’s own charm.

  5. Tequila Says:

    A delightful post! Good one to wake to…or put to bed to.

    Kino Video is one of the few to regularly release many of these silent film classics and rarities…their release schedule is erratic but always gems. They fill the gap The Criterion Collection unfortunately avoids.

    I took a Spanish Film class once oh so long ago and got to see many little silent gems (many I’ve yet to find again) and it’s always a surprise to see just how many people were involved in early film and how sadly limited our history is about it. If you read through assorted accounts you start to wonder what masters and masterworks were lost due to the fragile nature of the film used, the two world wars, and the far from standardized film preservation.

    One also has to wonder how films like the ones above looked like newly printed…

  6. Mark Says:

    Further proof, as if it were needed, that fancy CGI is utterly surplus to requirements. Well, with one or two exceptions, obviously… ;)

  7. Vivacious G Says:

    This video entirely made my morning. Thank you!

  8. chaoflux Says:


    wow thanks for that :3

  9. Skerror Says:

    Hahaha…nice one Mark :)

    I found “Landmarks of Early Film” at number 350 in my netflix queue…I guess that means I have about a five year plan for it.

    “One also has to wonder how films like the ones above looked like newly printed…” — These must’ve been bonkers to watch in a 1907 theater. Japan may as well have been Mars back then as well. Check out the jumbo heads on the fellas….they’re like ‘roided-out Nomies.

    You know if Tesla had made a Kinetoscope it would have been the Blue Ray to Edison’s shitty over-dubbed VHS.

  10. Mer Says:

    Tequila, I’m addicted to Kino Video! And yes, I’ve often thought is would be really amazing to see these films in the context of their day, fresh and new. Although half the fun of seeing them now IS the jittery, decaying “oldness” of it.

    Thank you, Vivi G and Neko. :)

    You know if Tesla had made a Kinetoscope it would have been the Blue Ray to Edison’s shitty over-dubbed VHS.

    OH SNAP. *high five*

    Mark, I must have played that shark clip 10 times by now. So awesome.

    Silas, I’m sorry you didn’t get much out of this post, but thanks for sharing your own abundant knowledge. For what it’s worth, Eisenstein and Keaton are two of my favorites, (Keaton is a fave of Zo’s as well), and Vertov, as well as his brothers, are all very admirable. And famous. I thought it would be nice to showcase a lesser known director from a particular time period (the 1900s). From what I understand, Chomón himself may have died from cancer due to his work with tinting (although I found that tidbit on a page written in Spanish, and being far from fluent, I’m not entirely sure). The lack of toxicity awareness and subsequent short-end-of-stick-handing to women in the labor force at the turn of the last century was unfortunate indeed, and happened far too often. Still happens.

  11. Violaine Says:

    Silas, thanks for reminding me of the Film History 101 class I took in college. Mer, thank you for opening my mind to something new that I’d never seen before.

  12. Silas Says:

    Not everyone took Film History 101, so someone prolly got something out of that. I’m just glad I held on to my textbooks. The fact checking and youtube searching aided me greatly in my mission to take a fun break from my illustration assignment (which is now finished). Everybody wins. Hoorah!

    By the way, something I forgot to do at the ungodly hour I originally commented: Thanks, Mer, for a post that piqued my interest in a field I love.

  13. Babalola Says:

    Les Kiriki: maybe somebody here knows about music?
    title and if its original or was added later?