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The One-Man Band (1900)

L'homme orchestre (original title)
| Short, Comedy
A band-leader assembles an orchestra by mystifying means.

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A band-leader has arranged seven chairs for the members of his band. When he sits down in the first chair, a cymbal player appears in the same chair, then rises and sits in the next chair. As the cymbal player sits down, a drummer appears in the second chair, and then likewise moves on to the third chair. In this way, an entire band is soon formed, and is then ready to perform. Written by Snow Leopard

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Another nice short film by the master...

At the turn of the century, Georges Méliès' amazing shorts were the most famous motion pictures of the world, as his highly creative and technically innovative "Cinemagic" had proved that cinema was not only a quite useful device for scientific purposes, but also a very promising new way of entertainment. Méliès' most famous works are without a doubt the fantasy movies he made in the first decade of the 20th century, where he used all his special effects tricks to narrate stories of magic, horror and science fiction as the first director of fiction movies in history (1902's "Le Voyage Dans la lune" is an icon of cinema history). However, his earlier films, a collection of shorts where a magician makes impossible tricks, are as amazing as his stories, as it was in those early shorts where he polished his technique and singlehandedly invented the art of special effects.

1900's short film "L' Homme Orchestre" (Known in English as "The One-Man Band") is one of those movies that would set the basis for what would become his trademark "Cinemagic" in the years to come. In this short film, the magician (as usual, played by Méliès himself) prepares for his next trick by putting seven chairs for the members of his band even when there is no sign of anyone else in the place. Suddenly, the magician sits in one of the chairs, and after he rises, a cymbal player appears sit on the chair the magician used to be. The magician moves to the next chair and repeats the trick, appearing another band member in the process, and he continues doing the same until the six chairs are occupied by a member of his orchestra. The magician has successfully replicated himself six times in order to play a song like truly a "One-Man Band".

True to his theatrical style and his training as a magician, in "L' Homme Orchestre" director Georges Méliès conceived a charming and very funny way to show off a camera trick he had discovered a few years before and was truly mastering by this stage: multiple exposures. Mixing this quite interesting property of film with his great skill at editing, Georges Méliès crafted an effect that flows seamlessly and in a very fluid way. However, the movie is more than a camera trick, as the funny way that Méliès uses to set his film (making good use of pantomime) enhances the atmosphere and overall makes for a better experience. While Méliès made the multiple exposures trick very popular, and soon most of the early pioneers began to use it in their films too, it was his care for the building of the story what made his films feel different, more like a complete show and less like a mere "gimmick film".

By 1900, Méliès' films had already started to be studied and imitated by many other pioneers, who followed the path traced by the "Cinemagician" in the discovery and development of the mysteries of the new art. While people like Edwin S. Porter and Ferdinand Zecca had quickly mastered the tricks that Méliès discovered (even imitating his style and plots), Méliès' were still superior in both technical achievement and artistic conception. In the following years Méliès would continue the development of this and many other effects, and his efforts would be crowned with the release of his fantasy films, where he exploited his tools to bring fairy tales to screen. "L' Homme Orchestre" is probably not one of Méliès' best known films, but it's historical importance and beautiful craftsmanship makes it a joy to watch even today, more than 100 years after its release. 7/10


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