Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Movies Begin Volume IV: The Magic Of Méliès (1904 - 1908)

There's magic and then there's creepy, dude...
Genre: Silent Shorts (France)
Starring: George Méliès

Directed By: George Méliès (The Hallucinations of Baron Munchausen)

Overview: This is a series of 14 short films by a director who has made over 500 in his 18 year career, from 1896 to 1914.

Acting: The melodramatic acting of talents ranging from the director himself (who had a history of theater and magic performances) to dancing girls and the common 'running around' extras does have it's place for what it is. I still think it's a little outdated, given that even this director changed his style from farce and magic (which this is a collection of) to more serious films. Not too deep.
Rating: 5

Cinematography: The thing about this is that it was cutting edge at the time, and there was even a hand-painted short. With a background in magic, it's quite obvious that his dissolve effects and superimpositions were used to make the unreal seem real. For that, and with a grain of salt, this falls under the 'good' category. He was a cinematic genius, though I can't say I appreciate him like I should.
Rating: 7

Script: The silent film is going to be a hard one to rate, but there was one short that had someone talking as a narrator, added after the fact. Though that hyper-Frenchman speaking English with a heavy 'haccent' was distracting and completely unnecessary, there were two lines that he spoke that explained what was going on. I just wish it had been taken out altogether. Also, sometimes silent films have words on the screen to explain dialogue, and hence the story. This one didn't, so we were a little more lost than we should have been. Disappointing.
Rating: 3

Plot: The first few stories were simply magic shows, and instead of genuine magic being performed, the director chose to edit the film to pull off his tricks. Cinematographically good, but prestidigitorially lazy. Those were plotless and so where most other shorts. There were a couple with a story, but I would certainly not say that they were good.
Rating: 3

Mood: Trouble In The Kitchen, a short with imps causing a ruckus was my favorite, with all the running in one door and popping out another. This one short made me feel that I was seeing the origins of that comic Vaudvillian style, still used a century (a century!) later in "Scooby-Doo" and "Animaniacs". That bumped it up a bit for sure, but the superimposing effects used over and over made me think not that each film was too like the other, but that the people who chose to compile this on one collection should have been more versatile.
Rating: 5

"Scuse please! Can we get our skin and organs back? Hello magic man? HELLOO!!"

Overall Rating: 46% (Too much Magic, Not Enough Substance)

Aftertaste: Ultimately, I found this to be utterly disappointing. All I wanted to see was the 14 minute short film from 1902 named a Trip To The Moon, which I'm sure you've heard of, directed by this man, and it was not even on the tape that I rented, even though there was a picture of the famous shot of the moon with a rocket in his eye right on the box. What worries me most is that I'll have no way of finding the actual short in question. Damnit.