French film pioneer Georges Méliès began his career as a filmmaker in 1896, just a few months after watching motion pictures for the first time in his life. Being a stage magician himself, he quickly noticed the enormous potential the new invention had as a form of entertainment, and immediately after the show made an offer to buy the Lumières' Cinématographe. The brothers refused, but that didn't stop Méliès, who decided to make his own devises based on the brother's work and the Bioscope camera. Soon he was making his own short movies, and while at first he copied the themes the Lumières had in their actuality films, he also started to make short fiction movies, often comedies and fantasy films. His movies would become legendary when he started to use his discoveries in the field of special effects in his films, earning himself the nickname of "Cinemagician" due to the spectacular effects of his fantasy tales.
While famous for his tales of fantasy, horror and science fiction, many of Méliès' early films were shorts about him, the magician, making an impossible trick on camera. "L' Impressionniste Fin De Siècle" (literally, "The Impressionist of the End of the Century", although better known as "A Turn of the Century Illusionist"), is one of those short movies, as the film is about a magician (Méliès) making a supernatural trick of disappearance. First, the magician makes a doll come to life to be his assistant (probably his wife), and then makes her to vanish in thin air. Then, the magician lifts a barrel that he has on a table and the woman appears inside. After that, the magician turns his assistant into confetti before covering himself with the same magic blanket he used before. But that's not all, after the magician disappears, a series of fantastic tricks transformations will take place as the magician is able now to transform himself into his assistant.
Across his career, Méliès made many of this kind of "gimmick films", both to test his own tricks and to add some variety to his screenings. As one of those movies, "L' Impressionniste Fin De Siècle" is entirely based on the stop trick to make the illusion of things transforming and vanishing. It is certainly not the most sophisticated of his many tricks, but among his early films it is in this movie where his stop trick looks the best. In 1899 it was definitely a complicated trick to do at high speeds, but Méliès achieves a very fluid work of editing that allows him to use it even when his characters are running and jumping without looking too fake. The effects of the many disappearances, done in his purest stage magician style, are still amazing even now, more than 100 years after the shooting of the movie.
"L' Impressionniste Fin De Siècle" is probably not the most impressive of the Cinemagician's films, but like most of his movies, it carries that special something, that magic that makes them so fun to watch. 1899 would be an important year of many changes for Méliès, as it was that year when he released his classic, "Cendrillon" ("Cinderella"), and started his most popular period. Both as an experiment and as a charming entertainment, "L' Impressionniste Fin De Siècle" is a very successful film and offered a glimpse of what the Cinemagician had in the bag. 7/10
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