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Four Heads Are Better Than One (1898)
"Un homme de têtes" (original title)

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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 »

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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 the table opposite another head, and both detached heads sing in unison. The conjurer then removes it a third time. You then see all three of his heads, which are exact duplicates, upon the table at one time, while the conjurer again stands before the audience with his head perfectly intact, singing in unison with the three heads upon the table. He closes the picture by bowing himself from the stage. Written by Edison Catalog

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28 November 2009 (Portugal)  »

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Four Heads Are Better Than One  »

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The Cinemagician in all his glory
12 June 2007 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Early French filmmaker Georges Méliès is universally known as a pioneering cinematic visionary, courtesy of the phenomenal success of his most famous film, 'Le Voyage dans la lune / A Trip to the Moon (1902).' However, the director's undeniable genius is also apparent in many of his earlier, lesser-known shorts, most running less than one minute in length. Throughout the 1890's, most filmmakers had only exploited the cinematic medium for experimental or documentary purposes, capturing images of everyday objects or situations. Méliès, a magician by trade, saw things much differently. He imagined cinema being used to translate the impossible onto screen, to surprise and baffle the audience, to transport them into a world unlike their own. His 'Un homme de têtes / The Four Troublesome Heads' of 1898 is an absolute gem, and an incredible exhibition of how far Méliès was ahead of his time in terms of visual effects.

The film begins when a magician (as always, played by Méliès himself) appears on stage and, remarkably, removes his own head. When he places the singing head onto the table, a new one suddenly appears on the his shoulders, and the magician and the head interact with each other, with the former scrambling beneath the table to prove to the audience that he is not playing a cheap magical trick on them. The magician repeats this stunning feat twice more, until there are three enthusiastically singing Méliès heads sitting on the table, and the intact magician entertains them with his banjo.

Probably the first use of split-screen in cinema history, the visual effects in 'Un homme de têtes' are nothing short of remarkable. The countless uses of split screen, dissolves and double exposures blend seamlessly into the finished product, convincingly passing itself off as having been filmed in a single take. The director's extraordinary on screen charisma is once again on show for all to see, and you can certainly tell that he was formerly a magician; his vibrant enthusiasm for the performance is almost infectious. There's also the sheer casualness with which Méliès removes his own head, as if it's nothing at all to him. Despite already knowing that an exceptional amount of work must have gone into producing the film, somehow it is all made to seem so easy… almost like magic.


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