” Mozaffar-ed-Din Shah, Safarnameh [first voyage], p. 146. The film representation at the Salle des Fêtes and the enthralling shows at the “iluzison” (read Illusion) building took place one after the other and in separate places. The Shah continues:
“We went to the iluzison building (Palais des Illusions), where the following took place. First We entered the special door of this building. It was sunset time and the lights of the exposition were burning[.] Upon entering the Salle des Fêtes, We were very impressed. Truly, it is a superb building. It is twice as large as the Tekie-ye Dowlat, and also round, with a roof of painted glass. Around it two tiers of red velvet-covered seats are installed for people to sit on and the sinemofotograf is shown in this hall[.] A large screen was raised in the middle of the hall and the sinemofotograf pictures were projected on it[.] Many things were shown, including African and Arab travelers crossing the African desert on camels, which was most interesting[;] We also saw the exposition, the bustling streets, the Seine and the movement of boats and other floating objects on it, which was most interesting[.] We have ordered the ‘Akkas-bashi to buy all kinds of it and have them carried to Tehran, where, God willing, they will be set up and shown to Our nokars [.] We watched some thirty screens and after the show [of films] at the Salle des Fêtes We went on to the iluzison building.” Mozaffar-ed-Din Shah, Safarnameh [first voyage], pp. 146-147. Illusion shows were created with mirrors and light effects.
Because, as we saw, the Shah had earlier ordered the acquisition of motion picture devices, this renewed order must be considered a reconfirmation of orders to buy various types of the cinématographe; perhaps a lapse had occurred during the Shah’s travel to Russia which made it necessary. As for the intended spectators of the cinématographe, the Mongol term nokar refers to the Shah’s entourage and courtiers, not ordinary servants in its present-day sense. And Si-shardeh is a reference to thirty short stories, or, rather varied anecdotes, often filmed separately and lasting a few minutes each owing to technical limitations. As already mentioned, a good, vivid complementary description is supplied by Zahir-od-Dowleh, who writes:
“We entered this room together with His Majesty and the others. It was an especial reception. No one had come uninvited. There were no more than a hundred Iranians and Europeans. A number of seats equal to the guests’ had been put on one side of this area. We all sat down. On the side facing us a white cloth nailed on a frame measuring seven or eight zar‘ in length and width hung from the ceiling. Five or six minutes after we were seated, all the lights suddenly went out and only that white cloth was visible in that darkness. The director of the room came forth and announced that we would be viewing the best and latest cinématographes of Paris. We all stared at the clear screen. A barren arid desert appeared in which several strings of laden camels were approaching from afar. The camels’ bells could also be faintly heard and the more they approached the stronger their bells’ sound became, to the extent that the camels and their drivers’ shouts, whom I was seeing, seemed to be in the room. Whoever had made the pictures of the caravan on its way also had a phonograph. While the images of its progression were recorded, the phonograph had captured its sounds and voices. When these are replayed simultaneously, the listener and viewer both sees it and hears its sounds. Two, three other screens were also shown. Once we had spent almost an hour watching, the room was lit and we arose.” Zahir-od-Dowleh, Safarnameh, pp. 245-246. Zahir-od-Dowleh and the editor of his text go misspell both the cinema’s address and its name. “Shan de Mari… meaning Mary’s Square” should read “Shan de Mars… meaning Square of Mars, the God of War”, and the museum’s name “Grévin” instead of “Krivan”.
At least one film—the arrival of the caravan—was a talkie, in the sense that, together with its projection, a phonograph (of which an advanced variety known as gramophone, or graphophone, became popular in Iran) reproduced the sounds corresponding to the different scenes. Of course, this was only feasible with the short films of the time, but even then synchronizing the sound with the images was fraught with difficulty. Consequently, mute films retained their monopoly on the international market until the late 1920s, when the first true talking films appeared. And a little later, in winter 1312 / 1934, the mute film Haji-Aqa Cinema Actor was defeated, at least financially, by the talking Lor Girl.