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The Magician (1898)
"Le magicien" (original title)

 -  Short | Fantasy  -  1903 (USA)
6.7
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In this scene is shown a magician behind an ordinary table, upon which he suddenly and mysteriously causes to appear a large box, into which he leaps. The sides of the box fall to the ... See full summary »

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In this scene is shown a magician behind an ordinary table, upon which he suddenly and mysteriously causes to appear a large box, into which he leaps. The sides of the box fall to the ground, but instead of containing the magician a lively clown steps forth who further mystifies the audience by causing the box to disappear, and in its place is seen a fully laid table with a smoking dinner, to which the clown applies himself. The table, however, suddenly disappears much to the astonishment of the clown, who is confronted by the magician in the garb of Mephistopheles. This he suddenly changes to that of a sculptor, and in the background is seen a pedestal with the bust of a young lady, which comes to life as the sculptor applies the mallet and chisel. Written by Selig Catalog

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Short | Fantasy

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1903 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Magic  »

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User Reviews

Mid-Air Transformations and Dismembered Heads
3 April 2010 | by See all my reviews

There are a couple novel tricks in this one-minute, one-scene attraction from early cinema pioneer Georges Méliès. "The Magician" is one of the filmmaker's earliest surviving trick films, and it displays many features common throughout his oeuvre. There are appearances, disappearances and transformations of characters and objects, accomplished via editing, which Méliès had been doing in his films since at least "The Vanishing Lady" (Escamotage d'une dame au théâtre Robert Houdin)(1896) (his earliest available trick film). Once again, Méliès also plays the magician in front of the camera, as well as behind it. One of the seeming novelties of "The Magician" is that some of the tricks, or cuts, occur during action—when the characters are moving about or are in a mid-air leap. The magic is created from almost truly invisible editing—cutting on action without any change in camera setup or angle.

The second novelty here is a double exposure. According to historians, Méliès had previously used this technique in "Le cabinet de Méphistophélès" (1897), which is now a lost film. Currently, "The Magician" appears to be the earliest surviving instance of his use of the attraction. In this film, he uses it to show a woman's dismembered head atop a statue stand. The black background gives the trick away and can be seen in many other films where the director employs multiple-exposure photography. The actress would also have been covered in black below her head, so that her body wouldn't register on film. His "The Four Troublesome Heads" (Un home de tête)(1898) took multiple-exposures and disembodied heads further—fivefold, to be precise. Additionally, it seems the most exposures Méliès achieved were seven, such as in "The One-Man Band" (L'homme orchestre)(1900).


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