5.8/10
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Extraordinary Illusions (1903)

Illusions funambulesques (original title)
| Short
Pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès performs his cine-magic act.

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As the film begins, Georges Melies himself is sitting on a table before a painted stage backdrop, wearing an Asian outfit, fanning himself. He rises, and in a blink the Asian outfit is replaced by his magician's tux. He makes a stool flip itself in the air, then change into a box labeled [in English] "Magical Box." From it Melies produces a woman's limbs and separate torso, all of which he drapes onto a clothes rack. At his command a woman's head flies out of the box and into his hand; he places it atop the other parts, and instantly it becomes a live woman. They dance together, then he yanks off her clothes in one sweeping gesture to reveal another outfit underneath. He flings a wig and hat onto her, and they dance once more. When the woman turns herself into a male chef in white uniform, complete with hat, Melies is displeased; he strikes the chef who explodes in white feathers. He reconstitutes the feathers into the woman, but as they take a bow together she turns herself back into... Written by wmorrow59

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Three minutes of pure cine-magic with Georges Méliès
20 April 2002 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

In this very brief film Georges Méliès, one-time stage magician, performs an extraordinary routine with a little help from a 'Magical Box,' a comely assistant, and that genuinely magical box, the motion picture camera. The act is presented as it would be on stage. We first see Méliès, wearing an Asian outfit, as he sits on a table before a curtain. In a wink he has traded his silk garments for a Western suit. Next, he assembles a woman before our eyes out of mannequin parts and brings her to life. In a flash he whips off her clothing -- revealing another outfit underneath -- but seems displeased when she changes into a man. And etc. etc., right up to an amusing final gag. Méliès was said to be an accomplished magician, but most of the tricks he performs here would have been impossible to do without the help of camera tricks and film editing.

Georges Méliès is best known for his famous sci-fi spectacular A Trip to the Moon, and several other elaborate productions along similar lines. Those works are delightful, but I also enjoy these brief, simple entertainments he produced so prolifically in the early days of his career as a filmmaker. These trick films are exhilarating and funny, and they convey great excitement for the new medium.


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