Thursday, May 31, 2012

May Days of Melies - Faust in Hell [Faust aux enfers] (1903)

Often misidentified as the 1898 Méliès film, The Damnation of Faust, which is presumed lost. Faust in Hell is instead a 15-scene epic that introduces some excellent new tricks, such as the descent beginning at the 4:48 mark. The scenes as described in the Melies catalog are as follows:

1. The Route to the Depths of Perdition (a Dazzingly Sensational New Effect.)
2. The Fantastical Ride.
3. The Gloomy Pass.
4. The Stream.
5. The Entrance to the Lower Regions.
6. The Marvelous Grottoes (tableau with six dissolving Scenes.)
7. The Crystal Stalactites
8. The Devil's Hole
9. The Ice Cavern.
10. The Goddesses of Antiquity (a Superb Fantastical Ballet in a Snowstorm.)
11. The Subterranean Cascade (a New Trick with Apparition in a Waterfall.)
12. The Nymphs of the Underworld.--The Seven Headed Hydra--The Demons--The Struggle of Water with Fire (a big Novelty.)
13. The Descent to Satan's Domain (a clever trick now first shown.)
14. The Furnace.
15. The Triumph of Mephistopheles

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May Days of Melies - Ten Ladies in One Umbrella [La parapluie fantastique] (1903)

One possible theory about this work which makes it more than just a well-executed trick film: the 10 ladies under a single umbrella could be symbolic of the potential for peace within a unified Europe, led by their 10 most prominent nations at the time. Notice the variations in the original set of "maiden" costumes. Perhaps before the film print deteriorated over time, we could have more easily differentiated between the specific countries represented. Color would have also been beneficial.

Regardless, did Méliès foreshadow the European Union? Or are things simply as they appear on the surface - a fun movie with an arbitrary number of beautiful ladies. Note that the women's dresses each become modernized and conformed between each other near the end, but before that happens, their garb is briefly changed to that of antiquity, eliciting a bow of praise from Melies. Then, before making his own dramatic exit, Melies conjures a sign that reads, "Galathea Theatre". This is a reference to the Greek myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor who fell in love with his statue of Galatea, and was eventually granted a wish (thanks to the goddess, Venus): the ivory sculpture was brought to life as a woman of flesh and blood.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Apparitions [Le revenant] (1903)

Comical "ghost tale" by Méliès that uses the blurred, out-of-focus superimposition trick to creepy effect. Also of interest is the subtle symbolism invoked from the lodger's rebuffed advancements towards the maid, followed by the candlestick that won't sit still, grows much larger, and distracts until its flame finally seizes the man's full attention. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Infernal Caldron [Le chaudron infernal] (1903)

So much to enjoy and appreciate in this one: the striking colors (especially the flames and demon green), the devilishly macabre subject matter, and the Méliès special effects. The coolest tricks involve fireball spirits that become ash and the use of out-of-focus superimposition to create the most visually-impressive ghosts in film up to this point.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Monster [Le monstre] (1903)

As equally impressive as the tricks and charismatic showmanship of Méliès are his sets and costume design. The backdrop on display here has a magical scope, depth, and detail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Melomaniac [Le mélomane] (1903)

Méliès takes his detachable head game, as previously seen in The Four Troublesome Heads and The Man with the India Rubber Head, to the next level as Le mélomane (aka The Music Lover). Curiously, the notes selected can be considered the opening to the United Kingdom anthem, God Save the King/Queen (and in the United States, My Country, 'Tis of Thee, aka, America). One can wonder if this was intentional by the Frenchman, and whether it was perhaps a nod to the other two pioneering nations in cinema at the time along with France: the USA and England.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Witch's Revenge [Le sorcier] (1903)

A King is blessed to have fulfilled the fantasy of many men and women: a sorcerer to summon a beautiful mate (with accompanying handmaidens), just for him. But he blows it, of course, after being offended by one of the magician's follow-up tricks in which the throne is temporarily occupied by someone other than himself. Psssh, men. Typical.

You're vs. Your + Louis C.K. + Bill Hicks

The Gotye cover/parody has pretty much ran its course, but this gets a pass due to subject matter + Louis C.K. shirt * Bill Hicks wall art.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Drawing Lesson [La statue animée] (1903)

The Drawing Lesson, originally The Animated Statue (La statue animée), has value primarily and simply due to being one of the surviving works of the master cinemagician, Méliès.

Friday, May 18, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Inn Where No Man Rests [L'auberge du bon repos] (1903)

Very recognizable refrain for those familiar with the movies of Méliès. Though the subject matter of The Inn Where No Man Rests (L'auberge du bon repos) does not break new ground, and the execution of the tricks are all easy to imagine, the film is still creative, quirky, and enjoyable.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Enchanted Well [Le puits fantastique] (1903)

The Enchanted Well (Le puits fantastique) contains one of the greatest inanimate movie villains this side of Requiem for a Dream. Per usual, Méliès is a devilish delight.

May Days of Melies - The Mysterious Box [La boîte à malice] (1903)

"Simple", yet effective, trick film by Méliès involving a magic box (la boîte à malice) that would make Santa Claus envious.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Infernal Cakewalk [Le cake-walk infernal] (1903)

The Cakewalk dance was developed at plantation get-togethers by slaves in the southern United States. Thereafter it was performed in minstrel shows, exclusively by men at first. After a performance of the Cakewalk in a competition at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, an enormous cake was awarded to the winning couple, thus the phrase, "takes the cake".

Plot summary of the movie per the original Méliès catalogue:
"Pluto, having seen the earth, comes back home amazed at the success of that well-known dance, the 'cake-walk.' He has brought back with him two noted well-known dancers, who start their favorite dance amidst the flames. A queer and ugly being wishes also to join in the dance, but his limbs break away and dance far from him. All the subjects of His Majesty are seized with the irresistible mania for dancing, and start an unbridled provincial dance. At this sight Satan starts out of the earth a large blaze, which annihilates everything around him, disappearing himself through the flames. This view has beautiful new effects and much improves with colors. For the first time in a cinematograph view one can see some of the will-o'-the-wisp wandering among human beings. The effect is magical."

May Days of Melies - Misfortune Never Comes Alone [Un malheur n'arrive jamais seul] (1903)

Méliès takes a short break from special effects laden trick-films to explore his slapstick side a bit further. The detail in the set is as impressive as ever.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Marvellous Wreath [La guirlande merveilleuse] (1903)

Quite elaborate stage magic on display in The Marvellous Wreath (aka La guirlande merveilleuse). Méliès utilizes his full bag of tricks to create a unique and quirky routine.

Monday, May 14, 2012

May Days of Melies - Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants [Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants] (1902)

A swift (4-minute) adaptation of Gulliver's Travels (formally, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships), the 1726 satirical novel by Jonathan Swift. The movie is less focused on developing the plot as a narrative, and more attentive towards recreating and presenting some of the fantastic elements within the story, as alluded to by the title, Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants (aka Gulliver's Travels Among the Lilliputians and the Giants). The visual accomplishments of Méliès are most impressive, especially the amazing hand-painting of frames. 

Music performed by Billy Duncan for Change Before Going Productions

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Treasures of Satan [Les trésors de satan] (1902)

The treasures of Satan appear as bags of money which the devil (Méliès) hides inside a coffin. When a thief attempts to rob the coins, the moneybags come alive and are soon accompanied by beautiful women! Unfortunately, the fulfilled fantasy is short-lived as the bags held by the ladies become sharp spears, and then the devil reappears to claim his true treasure.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Shadow Girl [La clownesse fantôme] (1902)

Méliès demonstrates that he possesses some magical items able to quickly and painlessly perform sex changes.

May Days of Melies - The Dancing Midget [La danseuse microscopique] (1902)

In The Dancing Midget (aka La danseuse microscopique), Méliès makes his foppish assistant regurgitate 6 whole eggs, which are then cracked into a magic hat and turned into a single, larger egg. When the new egg explodes, what springs forth? Why, a tiny ballerina of course!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Colonel's Shower Bath [La douche du colonel] (1902)

Méliès takes a short cinematic break from his "trick" movies to provide a bit of comic relief. Take note of the depth and detail in the set background.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Dwarf and the Giant [Nain et géant] (1901)

Méliès duplicates himself, and then the duplicate (or is it the original?) grows to an enormous size. 

RIP Maurice Sendak, The King of all Wild Things

"We’ve educated children to think that spontaneity is inappropriate. Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren’t. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they’re really protecting themselves. Besides, you can’t protect children. They know everything." - Maurice Sendak

Monday, May 7, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Devil and the Statue [Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne] (1901)

The Devil and the Statue or, The Miracle of the Madonna (aka Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne) progresses the new re-sizing trick which Méliès unveiled in The Man with the Rubber Head.

May Days of Melies - The Man with the India Rubber Head [L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc] (1901)

Méliès unveils a new trick in The Man with the India Rubber Head (aka L'homme à la tête en caoutchouc). A scientist (mad?) brings forth a living head he's been storing in a box; a head that happens to be identical to the scientist (a clone?). Méliès then begins the new magic by blowing up the head, first with an expansion/contraction, and then literally.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Hat with Many Surprises [Le chapeau à surprises] (1901)

Méliès explores a familiar theme among magicians: the hat trick. You won't see a rabbit pulled forth, but the alternatives presented are far more spectacular.

May Days of Melies - Bluebeard [Barbe-bleue] (1901)

Bluebeard (aka Barbe-bleue) by Georges Méliès, adapted from the French folktale of the same name by Charles Perrault, contains the oldest known example of product placement in a movie. Keep an eye out for Mercier champagne!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Days of Melies - Excelsior! The Prince of Magicians (1901)

For the most part, Méliès reveals in this film nothing new from his bag of tricks, but those he does revisit are used to perfection.

Never Give Up: Arthur's Inspirational Transformation!

Arthur Boorman is a disabled United States veteran of the Gulf War and was told by doctors that he would never again walk on his own without assistance. He stumbled upon an article about low-impact yoga - in this case, DDP Yoga (named for professional wrestler-turned-fitness guru, "Diamond" Dallas Page) - and decided to give it a shot.

This short video shows the incredible story of what happened. I hope it brings some inspiration to your day.

May Days of Melies - The Bachelor's Paradise [Chez la sorcière] (1901)

In The Bachelor's Paradise (aka Chez la sorcière aka The Witch's Home), a young man employs the talents of a witch to conjure a selection of beautiful women for his choosing as a mate. Méliès of course allows the appropriate twisting of desires.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Magician's Cavern [L'antre des esprits] (1901)

In The Magician's Cavern (aka L'antre des esprits aka The Spirits' Lair), Méliès shows off his full bag of cinematic tricks learned thus far, including stop-cut replacement edits, superimpositions, and dissolves. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May Days of Melies - Extraordinary Illusions [Dislocation mystérieuse] (1901)

The appropriately-named Extraordinary Illusions (aka Dislocation mystérieuse aka An Extraordinary Dislocation) features Méliès as a clown with the ability to detach his head and limbs, each of which develops a life of its own. This short also features the oldest existing appearance of a backdrop that Melies would use many more times, most famously in The Infernal Cakewalk.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Days of Melies - The Brahmin and the Butterfly [La chrysalide et le papillon d'or] (1901)

The film begins with a snake-charming (or more accurately, a giant caterpillar-charming) where the caterpillar enters the basket instead of vice-versa, foreshadowing the twist to come. With the arrival of the beautiful butterfly, the Brahmin then becomes powerless against her charms.

The emergence of the butterfly woman originated in a piece of stage magic by Buatier de Kolta that dates from 1885, making it very likely that Méliès witnessed a live performance of the work. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Days of Melies - What is Home Without the Boarder? [La maison tranquille] (1901)

A film by many names: La maison tranquille (the original French), The Peaceful House (literal translation), What is Home Without the Boarder (most common English name), and Troubles in a Tenement House (as listed by IMDB and Wikipedia). It utilizes the 2-story, split-level set previously featured in The Doctor and the Monkey. The action is pure anarchy...and it is glorious. A Méliès movie by any name is still a Méliès.