In 1976, Tony Scott broke into television with an episode of the French series NOUVELLES DE HENRY JAMES. His particular episode, “THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO” deals with the tale of a heated in-family feud that ends in tragedy.
It’s tough to track down the full version, but the first five minutes or so are available via a French website with no subtitles. As such, it’s difficult to discern exactly what’s going on, but it does provide a few avenues in which to examine it in the context of Scott’s development.
The most notable aspect is that it appears to be the first of Scott’s works filmed in color. While he would be noted later on for his extreme use of color, “THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO” employs an even, natural color palette. True to television screens of the day, it looks to have been shot on regular 16mm with a 4×3 aspect ratio. Lighting is also naturalistic, yet with high contrast.
Scott also utilizes a locked-off camera limited to quick pans and zooms, but rarely moves the camera around the subject of the frame. He also uses immersive sound effects to realistically place the audience in the aural landscape of his pastoral imagery.
I can only imagine where the narrative goes from here– the synopsis makes it sound as if it gets pretty juicy as it goes on, but the selection I viewed was pretty low-key energy-wise, and a more than a little dull. Chalk it up to generational and cultural differences. Scott would later make television a significant portion of his career, and “THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO” represents the first step down that path.
The few scenes of “THE AUTHOR OF BELTRAFFIO” that have been made available online can be viewed here.