Saturday, July 02, 2016

Anno uno 10: Méliès Star Film 1896

1896. Cinema anno uno – Lumière!
1896. Year One of Cinematography
Programma 10 / Programme 10: Méliès Star Film 1896

Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna
♪ Grand piano Donald Sosin
[cancelled: Introduce e ♪ grand piano Serge Bromberg]
There are no intertitles on the prints
Cinema Lumiere – Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, 2 July 2016

Serge Bromberg (Bologna catalog): "Magician Georges Méliès, owner of the Theatre Robert-Houdin in Paris, attended the first public screening of the Lumière Cinématographe December 28, 1895, and realized how valuable such an attraction would be for his venue."

"Alas, the Lumière brothers refused to sell him a cinématographe, so he went to Robert William Paul in England to buy his first apparatus."

"He started filming the most common subjects, documentaries, men playing cards, children, etc. until one day his camera stopped while filming the Place de l’Opéra, resulting in the first accidental stop-motion special effect."

"Méliès quickly specialized in trick films. He shot a series of films in his Montreuil garden, and built the first film studio in 1897 in the same place."

"Because Méliès destroyed his own negatives in 1923, he became the symbol of lost films, and discoveries of new title today seem almost impossible (220 films survive of his 520 productions)."

"This programme includes films shot by Méliès 120 years ago in 1896, which was his first year of production. Only a handful of titles survive of the 80 films he made that year." – Serge Bromberg

Georges Méliès: Une partie de cartes. From the right: Gaston Méliès, Georges Méliès.

UNE PARTIE DE CARTES. FR 1896. D: Georges Méliès. PC: Star Film (n. 1). DCP. 1’. B&w. Da: BFI – National Archive / Lobster Films. - AA: Scène de la vie bourgeoise. Georges Méliès's first film is an imitation, a copy, and a parody on the Lumière film Partie d'écarté (Catalogue Lumière 73, shot early in 1896). Three men smoke, drink, play cards, and read a newspaper. A waiter, a waitress, and a dog appear. More comical and exaggerated than the Lumière original. Sometimes called the first remake in film history, but the Lumière brothers made several remakes of their own films, too. A duped visual quality.

DÉFENSE D’AFFICHER / [Paste No Bills]. FR 1896 D: Georges Méliès. PC: Star Film (n. 15). DCP. 1’. B&w.  Da: Lobster Films. - AA: A comedy. "Paste no bills" says the ban on the wall. Two men engage in a furious fight to paste their bills on the forbidden wall. The slothful janitor is fired from le Théâtre Robert-Houdin.

UNE NUIT TERRIBLE / [A Terrible Night]. FR 1896 D: Georges Méliès PC: Star Film (n. 26). DCP. 1’ . B&w  Da: Lobster Films. - AA: A comic horror fantasy, a trick film. A man lays down to sleep, only to be harassed by a huge bug. Might Kafka have seen this?

ESCAMOTAGE D’UNE DAME CHEZ ROBERT-HOUDIN / The Vanishing Lady. FR 1896. D: Georges Méliès. PC: Star Film (n. 70). DCP. 1’. B&w. Da: Lobster Films. - AA: A trick film, a record of a magician's performance. The magician Georges Méliès makes a lady (Jehanne d'Alcy) vanish from a chair, then conjuring her skeleton only, and finally the complete lady. The film ends with a bow. Based on the act of the French magician Buatier de Kolta. This has been called the first trick film, but the recently rediscovered Une séance de prestidigitation (Méliès Opus 2) might have the distinction of the first Méliès trick film now. The first Méliès screening was on 5 April 1896, and during the same month the first Lumière trick film, Charcuterie mécanique (Catalogue Lumière, Vue N° 107 was programmed le 18 avril 1896 à Lyon. That film was screened as a bonus in the Anno uno 5 show in Bologna. Who was first?

LE MANOIR DU DIABLE / The Haunted Castle. FR 1896-1897. D: Georges Méliès. PC: Star Film (n. 78-80). DCP. 3’. B&w. Da: New Zealand Film Archive (Corrick Collection) / Lobster Films. - AA: Un film fantastique, a trick film. Georges Méliès as Mephistopheles and Jeanne d'Alcy as the lady. A giant bat turns into Mephistopheles who conjures a big cauldron and a hunchback monster. From the cauldron Mephistopheles conjures a woman and diabolical creatures. He makes everything disappear, including himself. Two explorers appear and experience strange things, invisible to them. One is teletransported across the room. A skeleton appears, turning into a bat, turning into Mephistopheles.  He makes the lady appear from the cauldron, and the explorer succumbs to her charm, but when he wants to kiss her, she turns into a witch. Four more creatures appear, one explorer jumps from the balcony, but the other defeats Mephistopheles with a cross. Sometimes called the first horror film, but also Un nuit terrible has a horror aspect. Low contrast.

LE CAUCHEMAR / [The Nightmare]. FR 1896-1897. D: Georges Méliès. PC: Star Film (n. 82). DCP. 1’. B&w. Da: Lobster Films. - AA: A fantasy, a trick film. A man sleeps restlessly, dreaming of a woman, but it transforms into a dancing satyr and a Pierrot Lunaire: the wall of the bedchamber opens, an immense cartoon moon appears, three dream figures dance around him, and the man wakes up.

AA: Here we witness the genesis of fantasy, magic, horror, special effects, animation, and the art of transformations and metamorphoses in the cinema in the films of Georges Méliès sometimes called the first artist of the cinema, but for me the Lumière brothers were already artists, as well.

No comments: