One of the greatest of black art pictures. The conjurer appears before the audience, with his head in its proper place. He then removes his head, and throwing it in the air, it appears on ... See full summary »
A gardener is watering his flowers, when a mischievous boy sneaks up behind his back, and puts a foot on the water hose. The gardener is surprised, and looks into the nozzle to find out why... See full summary »
A bat flies into an ancient castle and transforms itself into Mephistopheles himself. Producing a cauldron, Mephistopheles conjures up a young girl and various supernatural creatures, one ... See full summary »
Charming, fascinating immediate predecessor to the animated cartoon film
It's cheating a little to list this as a film as strictly speaking it's not one, though its maker Émile Reynaud pushed pre-cinema technology as far as it could go to achieve an experience practically indistinguishable from that of watching a theatrical presentation of an animated cartoon film. His Théâtre Optique featured his Praxinoscope, a radical development of old-established animation toys like the Zoetrope. This used rotating faceted mirrors and lenses that could project a succession of hand-drawn images from a paper strip with sprocket holes, allowing much longer sequences of continuous action than the short loops hitherto used in such devices. These images were then superimposed on a static background projected from a conventional magic lantern slide, prefiguring later cel animation techniques in which the image is broken down into a succession of layers with the minimum of movement in each one. The exhibition was completed with live narration and music.
Some of Reynaud's original elements survive (others he later threw in the Seine) and their affinity with film is demonstrated by the ease with which they can be reconstructed on modern film or video. Pauvre Pierrot was the first such production and is among the most charming, a simple tale featuring the traditional characters Pierrot, Arlequin and Colombine acting out their ancient love triangle. Some reconstructions replicate the translucent, slightly ghostly quality the characters would have had at the time. Sadly Reynaud's work was overtaken by the arrival of the cinema proper and he died a poor and unhappy man.
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