5.1/10
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5 user 1 critic

Mysterious Cafe, or Mr. and Mrs. Spoopendyke Have Troubles with a Waiter (1901)

| Short, Fantasy
As the above title indicates, the scene does not take place in an ordinary restaurant, but one in which all natural rules of order and gravitation are reversed. The couple above mentioned ... See full summary »
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As the above title indicates, the scene does not take place in an ordinary restaurant, but one in which all natural rules of order and gravitation are reversed. The couple above mentioned have a most trying experience while endeavoring to partake of a square meal. They find themselves flying about the room from chairs to table, and vice versa, until they are both completely bewildered, ending in a general mix-up, which is sure to provoke much merriment. Written by Edison Catalog

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Short | Fantasy

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why these attempts to copy Méliès so poor
1 December 2015 | by (France) – See all my reviews

This, as other reviewers have pointed out, was one of many filmed that Edison turned out at this time that are simply attempts to copy the work of the French Méliès, who was now gaining an international reputation that would be consolidated by the ground-breaking 1902 film La Voyage sur la Lune, which would be shamelessly duped and shown in the US in 1903.

The Canadian reviewer, although perversely he sees it as a reason to praise the films, has absolutely hit the nail on the head when he points out that it is a "fantasy genre" but that the treatment is formally "realistic". And this is exactly why it doesn't work where Méliès' films do. Quite apart from the technical ineptitude with which it is made.

The reason this is interesting to observe is that formal realism would become in time an absolute rule of US film-making and one of its greatest limitations. That stylistic straitjacket was not yet entirely in place but one can already see the divergence between the two traditions of film-making. Since the devotion to formal realism was paralleled by an almost equal distaste for "truth", I have somewhere characterised these two traditions(a bit fancifully perhaps)as "Truth perceived within a dream" (European tradition) as opposed to "dream purporting to be truth" (US tradition).

Poor Edwin Porter sometimes gets the blame for these miserable films but he had only just been employed by Edison at this time and there's no very solid reason for believing he was involved with them. This particular film was in any case made by Blackton and Smith at Vitagraph but obligatorily marketed via Edison.


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