As I have been wont to do here on the site and in the Short Film Saturday theme, I love to feature the work of Georges Méliès. As it is also the time of year when the Movie Rat runs its 61 Days of Halloween theme, I figured I’d tie in the shorts in the horror milieu as well. I use the word milieu because this is a humorous take, but is still considered by many to be the first horror film. Horror, especially as many children experience through the Halloween holiday, has its whimsy and flights of fancy too; so enjoy!
This is an idea I first saw on @bobfreelander‘s blog. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.
Since I tracked these films much more closely this year my list grew long. I will occasionally combine selections by theme, but there is enough for five posts. These choices are in no particular order.
Tales from the Hood (1995)
There was a span of time when I was watching as many horror anthology films as I could stream. Most, as one would expect were inconsistent, on occasion one had one very memorable story. However, most surprising to me was that the most consistently excellent was the one I held out little hope for and watched on a whim; great unique takes, balanced with humor and social relevance.
Summer Interlude (1951)
If I got every Criterion release that intrigued me I’d watch nothing else. There are those that scream: “YOU KNOW YOU HAVE TO BUY ME, RIGHT?” And and edition of a Bergman film I had yet to see is, indeed, one of those screamers. A really intrguing take that acts as a bridge from his early sensibility to the form we’re more used to seeing.
I didn’t catch too many Laurel & Hardy films in 2012, truth is when I was younger I saw most of them. This one where they play bratty little kids in forced perspective and composites struck me as new and humorous.
One heretofore unseen gem from a legendary filmmaker deserves another. I saw this at an awesome outdoor summer screening series and I figured it was the best way to finally see Always in preparing my oft-delayed Spielberg ranking.
Jet Boy (2001)
This film is part road movie, homecoming, a tale of maturation and also of putting the past behind you. In a tale where a man and a runaway orphan cross paths by chance these bifurcated issues and wants can seem to be at odds, but they are combined in a very uniform way to good effect.
Student Bodies (1981)
If you miss old-school comedy parodies and have a sense of humor the horror genre this is for you. Works on both levels.
The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903)
It’s hard to keep your silent filmographies current especially when dealing with shorts but this Méliès seemed new to me, and is inventive even for him, especially being of such early vintage.
Planet of the Vampires
This sat around on my Netflix queue for quite a while. I’ve seen a lot of Mario Bava’s films and this one always struck me as an outlier, and not in a good way. I was delighted to be proven wrong. It’s an excellent, and as I later found out, influential work.
O Pagador de Promessas (The Promise Keeper) (1963)
This was one of the few films I was missing seeing to be more decisive about picking my most representative Brazilian film. It is also the only Latin American film to win the Palme d’Or and thankfully none of the fame or hype soured it for me at it. It is a brilliantly made film and a masterpiece of the Cinema Novo.
The Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)
Though I have my issues with the first installment, in the real of horror trilogies The Omen is one that gets overlooked far too often. Granted you’ll either buy how far this one takes it or not, think it’s appropriate or not, but at least it goes for it (no guts, no glory) and tries to bring the Damien chapter to a close. I think it does so very successfully.
Better late than never I always say.
So for Film History Friday my goal is to look back at a filmmaker, event, or whatever in the annals of the history of film that has had a profound impact on the course of the artform. Aiding me greatly in this quest will be the wonderful website known at The Internet Archive this is a fantastic site that archives all sorts of content online, from old web pages, to books, music and films in the public domain.
It’s all well and good to talk about films but the best way to learn about them is to see them so there will be some video links below. My subject for this particular installment is the magnificent Georges Méliès. He is frequently referred to as the first wizard of cinema. A magician at heart, Méliès truly was the first man that demonstrated the boundlessness that film has in its ability to enchant and amaze. The first two films below feature wonderfully blocked, I dare say choreographed, shots wherein cuts that are nearly invisible create the most wondrous illusions. Truly now the tact of cutting and making an object vanish is old hat but keep in mid the era, the lack of sophistication of audiences and also it must be said that Méliès performs these illusion with such a deft hand, with such aplomb that it brought a smile to my face. There’s such unabashed joy in many of these films that it is likely to communicate to audiences even more than a century later.
This first film shows you a very basic demonstration of what Méliès is about. It’s a short simple tale of a many being driven slowly mad by a mischievous imp playing tricks on him.
The Black Imp (1905)
Here we see Méliès upping his game. While this film was made just two years later you must take into account the fact that he is credited on the IMDb with having directed 555 films between 1896 and 1913. Even dealing mostly in shorts that’s a ridiculous output. The point is the learning curve was high and he can tell a simple story in one film knowing he’d get to push the envelope in another. If you liked the first film you’ll love this one.
Satan In Prison (1907)
The video posted below is a fragment. It’s a piece of an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe that he did. It seems to be all that remains. Many of his films its sad to say are lost. The fact remains that a lot of silents are gone and we only know of them because the text for titles was copyrighted. Film preservation combined with the short-shelf life and combustible nature of of silver nitrate stock made things difficult. It’s also interesting to note that the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the forthcoming film, deals with Méliès in a fictional sense and his lost films also.
Robinson Crusoe -fragment- (1902)
I was only going to post three but since that was a fragment I think one more is in order. This is the film that made me fall in love with him. Even 108 years later this is still amazing stuff.
A Trip to the Moon (1902)