6.9/10
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10 user 3 critic

The Music Lover (1903)

Le mélomane (original title)
The leader of a marching band demonstrates an unusual way of writing music.

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Storyline

A marching band appears, and the band-leader prepares to give them the music for the song he wants them to play. He has prepared a large staff above their heads, and he now creates notes by making duplicates of his own head, placing them on the staff, and completing the notes with sticks and other implements taken from the band members. When he has finished, the players attempt to perform the music that has been written in such an unusual fashion. Written by Snow Leopard

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Genres:

Short | Comedy | Music

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15 August 1903 (USA)  »

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The Music Lover  »

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1.33 : 1
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Goofs

The stick on the second head suddenly changes from left to right. See more »

Connections

Featured in Hugo (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

 
"There are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect"
17 June 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Though filmmakers had been toying with synchronised sound for almost as long as motion pictures have existed – William K.L. Dickson's 'Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894)' is a remarkable piece of cinema history – audiences didn't get their first non-silent feature film until 'The Jazz Singer' in 1927. Why, then, would the "Cinemagician" turn his attention so early towards a short film based around music? Viewed today, and often presented in complete silence, the two-minute film seems to be lacking a certain rhythm, regardless of its visual triumphs. But, of course, I am, once again, underestimating the resourcefulness of these early filmmakers, as Georges Méliès usually accompanied his films with a live musical performance and spoken narration. My viewing of 'Le Mélomane / The Melomaniac (1904)' {also known as 'The Music Lover'} was today supplemented by Carlos Gardel and Alfredo Le Pera's "Por una Cabeza," a 1935 tango basically chosen at random from my music collection.

Much as he did six years earlier in 'Un homme de têtes / The Four Troublesome Heads (1898),' Méliès uses this brief gimmick film to show off his talent for visual effects, employing extensive substitution cuts, multiple exposures and cross-fades to create the illusion of real magic. The plot is simple enough: a music teacher (our usual host, Mr. Méliès himself) begins to show his marching-band students how to play music, but won't settle for writing down the notes on a small piece of paper. Instead, he fashions the music notes out of his own head (yes, you heard correctly!), removing his skull from its proper position and tossing it upwards at the telegraph wires above him, where it sticks in the appropriate place. Immediately, a new head appears on the teacher's shoulders, and the process is repeated several times. As the band marches off, presumably playing the aforementioned music, the multiple heads are still swivelling about in their places.

The film's ending is one of the absolute finest I've seen from the director, and was obviously a product of his former experience as a magician. With the stage empty except for the extant heads, Méliès performs a majestic coup de grâce when they are suddenly transformed into live birds, which flutter gracefully across the set. Interestingly, the uniquely-constructed musical notes form the opening of "God Save the King," an interesting choice for the French filmmaker. 'The Melomaniac' is an interesting Méliès short in many ways. Though not quite as revolutionary as his earlier efforts, as most of the techniques seen here can be glimpsed in earlier films, it is nonetheless an admirable attempt to add some "music" to silent cinema. Give me a video camera, and I'd probably be unable to reproduce the visual effects, which are meticulously-constructed while maintaining a sense of fun about them.


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