Unique film capturing the end of an era…
Just like the UK, tram systems in France reached a peak between the wars. However, only 24 systems out of a grand total of 130 were still running in the 1950s.
This motivated a number of amateur cine cameramen to travel the length and breadth of the country to record them for posterity before they closed. What they filmed are remarkable in many ways and very different to those in Great Britain. For example, many routes ran far out of town, often on single track serving small outlying villages. All vehicles were single deck often pulling trailers. Some were interurban such as from Marseille to Aix-en-Provence.
The archive was compiled by French video company Les Editions du Cabri and first released in France on DVD. It includes cine film taken from the 1930s to the 1970s complete with soundtrack. The video also features a number of fascinating old postcards.
Systems featured include Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Dijon, Lille, Fontainebleau, Versailles, Valenciennes, Grenoble, La Ciotat and Toulon.
Narration is expertly delivered in English by native Frenchman Yves Aubert.
Review by Peter Middleton, Managing Director of Video 125: ★★★★☆
Because Video 125 didn't film, research, write or produce this French Tram Archive, I believe I can legitimately offer my personal opinion as to its contents.
This came from our friends in France who have taken many Video 125 productions over the years.
When I first saw this, the first thing I noticed, as a life-long tram enthusiast, was how different the tramways were to those in Britain. How I wish I could travel back to that era when the roads were nearly empty and those, often first generation trams, were still running. For example, those in Toulon have to be seen to be believed and to think they were still running when I was born!
The DVD has been well researched making it interesting and evocative. Most of the amateur footage consists of short sequences and to be honest the picture quality is not great, but the footage is unique! We simply can't go back and film them again.
Assuming that all the film was silent, the dubbing of appropriate sounds has been well done and adds to the atmosphere. I also found the use of picture postcards, to show the various systems in their 19th century beginnings, a nice addition.
I couldn't give this production 5 stars because of the amateur film, but overall I would give it four. After all, I've put my money where my mouth is and released an English language version! We've also given it a realistic price to reflect that.