Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Films of Georges Melies: Part II

The Haunted Castle
Another stop-motion trick film, this one (taken from a hand-colored print) features a man in a haunted castle, with various transformations taking place around him (the chair disappears out from under him, and he encounters various spectral presences). It is interesting here how much movement Melies creates within the frame. Even though the camera itself is completely static, there is so much going on in the frame that it creates a strong illusion of rhythm and movement.

Surrender of Tournavos
A departure from the trick films, this is a staged, “newsreel”-style piece depicting a shoot out between soldiers. It is shot in a very straightforward manner, with understated performances. It is an interesting example of the diversity of Melies’ work from this period.

Between Calais and Dover
In some ways, this is a difficult film to respond to, as it was unclear to me exactly what effect Melies was trying to achieve. The film depicts a rough sea voyage, with a tilting stage to create the illusion of a rocking boat. The action itself is somewhat exaggerated, leading me to question whether Melies was exploring the comic potential of such a set-up. At the same time, its presentation is very straightforward, which suggests Melies was trying to depict the situation without exploiting the tricks for any kind of comic effect.

After the Ball
Another difficult film to analyze, this one seems to belong to a kind of “peepshow” tradition of “blue” movies so popular in this period. We see a woman undress and stand in a tub, where her maid proceeds to pour water on her then dry her off. Clearly intended for its erotic qualities, the film is yet another departure from Melies’ usual trick films. While Melies’ films are often filled with sexual elements, few are as explicit in their intention than this one.

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