Léonce Perret | Subjects | Structure and Story Telling | Visual Style

Films: Le mystère des roches de Kador / The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador | L'Enfant de Paris / The Child of Paris

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | 1910's Articles

Léonce Perret

Léonce Perret is an French writer-director of films.

Léonce Perret: Subjects

Common subjects in Léonce Perret: Water:

Léonce Perret: Structure and Story Telling

Films within Films (information from DVD Extra film Léonce Perret, the Filmmaker's Filmmaker): Features Perret shares with fellow Gaumont director Louis Feuillade:

Léonce Perret: Visual Style

Sets and Architecture: Masking: Camera Movement: Costumes:

Le mystère des roches de Kador / The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador

Le mystère des roches de Kador (The Mystery of the Rocks of Kador) (1912) is a thriller. SPOILERS ahead.


Its initial setup, an innocent young heiress menaced by a sinister guardian everyone regards as respectable, already had a long history by 1912. One might cite Uncle Silas (Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 1838, 1864), although that tale's sinister uncle is less innocent looking than the one in Le mystère des roches de Kador.

Detection and Mystery

Professor Williams is an alienist, not a detective. But his enthusiastic use of high technology, such as motion pictures, links him to the Scientific Detectives popular in that era. He is also a "high energy" figure, also like such scientific sleuths as Arthur B. Reeve's professor Craig Kennedy. Apparently, technologists were viewed as dynamic, go-getting men, far more enthusiastic and energetic than less progressive people.

The audience always knows everything about the crimes in Le mystère des roches de Kador. The viewers know who the villain is, and watch his schemes unfold in detail. However, the other characters in the film do not. To them, the situation is mysterious. The boyfriend has to do real detective work to uncover the truth about the crimes.

Deep Focus

There is a nice pan across what seems to be a porch with the heroine, near the start. When the camera reaches the right, we see a large landscape view with water in the background.

The film's last shot is intricately staged. From a room with the heroine, we see outside over a balustrade into a yard - and once again, through gates in the back of the yard. These open, and the hero comes through. Then there is a pause, and he reappears inside the house.

The costume party near the end, is mainly revealed through a slim gap in a curtain: a nice effect. Eventually, the curtains are opened, and we see more of the revelry.


Fairly early, we see a porch of the villa. There are steps going down, and we see both the lower ground level and the upper porch level. There is also a striking round part of the building, in the upper left of the frame.

A somewhat similar porch with steps connecting ground and porch, will appear in the thriller L'X noir (The Black X). There the disguised villain in his X-costume will draw an X on the building, while standing on the porch.

L'Enfant de Paris / The Child of Paris

L'Enfant de Paris (The Child of Paris) (1913) is a thriller, about a kidnapping. SPOILERS ahead.

The sets in L'Enfant de Paris look a tad more realistic than the often extremely abstract, schematic and flimsy sets used by Feuillade. They also seem a bit more cluttered with furniture and bric-a-brac, which perhaps aids their realistic look: we see less of the walls than in Feuillade.


There are several ancestors to the creaky initial plot setup: Oliver Twist (Charles Dickens, 1838) (middle class kid held by lower class urban criminals), The Little Princess (Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1888, 1904) (little girl with military father reported dead, sent to harsh boarding school). Georges Sadoul also linked the tale to the play Les Deux Orphelines (The Two Orphans) (Adolphe d'Ennery and Eugène Cormon, 1875).

The first half hour of L'Enfant de Paris, which sets all this up, is the weakest part of the film. The movie gets much better after this introductory material is out of the way.

Detection and Mystery

L'Enfant de Paris has the same mystery structure as Le mystère des roches de Kador: The sleuth Bosco uses high technology, like Professor Williams in Le mystère des roches de Kador. He sends a telegram, and takes a ride on a train. One of the most exciting, heartening things in the second half of L'Enfant de Paris is seeing the lower class Bosco do all the things that had been denied him due to poverty. It is thrilling to see him break through and send a telegram, something he has probably never done before in his life. In 1913 telegrams were high tech. It it like a poor person today using the Internet for the first time. Bosco is completely successful, too. Unlike what skeptics might say, the working class Bosco is plenty smart enough to take part in society and use technology. He just has lacked the money to do so.

Bosco also resembles Professor Williams in being a high energy person. Technologists were perceived as dynamic, progressive people in the 1910's.

Climbing - and Vertical Camera Movements

The detective hero climbs walls and exits a building from a ceiling skylight: both of which anticipate Les Vampires (Louis Feuillade. 1915).

Soon after the hero leaves through the skylight, we see him moving down. The camera accompanies him, in a vertical move. Similar vertical camera movements appear in Les Vampires.

There is also a vertical camera movement going up, as the hero climbs the wall outside the villa.

Alternatives to Title Cards

Like his mentor Louis Feuillade, Perret includes documents like letters and telegrams to help tell the story. These form alternatives to the title cards that are the default narrative device in silent movies.

Camera Movements Through Walls

At the cobbler's attic, we can see two rooms at once: on the left, the heroine's small sleeping cupboard; on the right, the main attic workroom. Perret will pan from one room to the other, seeming to move his camera right through the wall separating the two rooms.

Later, at the villa near the end, Perret will create the same effect. It will parallel the attic setup, with the heroine's bedroom again serving as the left-hand room.

Through the wall camera movements occasionally appear in Hollywood films. There is one in the opening of Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932), and one can find them in Budd Boetticher and especially Joseph H. Lewis. L'Enfant de Paris differs from these Hollywood examples: