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Young Pauline is left a lot of money when her wealthy uncle dies. However, her uncle's secretary has been named as her guardian until she marries, at which time she will officially take ... See full summary »
Batty Bill has been left a legacy, but the cruel donor stipulated that it should not be given to him for twenty years. Poor Batty, besieged as ever by creditors, is in a great state of mind and is forced to his utmost resources to find a means of releasing this legacy. In his town all clocks are controlled by electricity from the local observatory, and he thinks of a brilliant idea, of breaking into this place one night, tampering with the arrangements and setting the clocks at a great pace. This is a very amusing picture, because the clocks begin to move at a tremendous speed. Automobiles go at an incredulous pace. Shoppers shop and are served almost before they get into the door. Walkers seem to be racing for dear life, and, in fact, the whole city is on a great hustle. Boys become men and young men grow beards, and in the space of about twenty-four hours, twenty years have passed. Batty Bill secures his fortune.Written by
Moving Picture World synopsis
Like a lot of the early French trick films this little item is a one-joke affair, but it's a premise that exerts an undeniable pull even now, despite the great advances in special effects since 1912, i.e. let's see how funny daily life looks when you speed it up. Onésime Horloger (i.e. "Onésime, the Clock Maker") is predicated entirely on the viewer's fascination with time-lapse photography, a fascination that surely must have been even stronger when this film was made, when the cinema itself was still in its infancy. And although the central joke may seem obvious to us now, along the way there are embryonic hints of subtler gags that would become memorable in the hands of the silent screen's great comedians.
Onésime is a foolish young man who works for a company that makes clocks. (Eugene Bourbon, the actor who plays him, bears a striking resemblance to stage clown Bill Irwin, though his playing style is much broader and sillier than Irwin's.) Onésime is upset because he has learned that his uncle will leave him a fortune . . . in twenty years, that is, in hopes he will be more mature by then. He picks up a book and learns that "by increasing the length of the cylindrical spiral we can make a clock go as fast as we want." This information inspires him to sneak into the city's central office to alter Paris' so-called Regulating Clock, by which people determine the proper time. From then on time itself accelerates, and we are presented with dizzying scenes of traffic racing through intersections, people dancing at high speed, shoppers trashing a department store, etc. In the film's funniest gag, and certainly its most risqué moment, we see a couple's entire courtship reduced to seconds, after which they rush off-camera, then immediately return with a baby. In the end Onésime is able to collect on his inheritance in a timely fashion, so to speak.
This film may well have given René Clair the idea for his 1922 sci-fi comedy The Crazy Ray, in which the premise is reversed and time is slowed. Silent comedy buffs will also notice that, early on, Onésime weeps and scratches his head in a Stan Laurel-like fashion, and that the builders putting up a brick wall prefigure a similar sequence in Chaplin's Pay Day, and that the scene in the department store features a woman who tries on different hats the way Buster Keaton would in Steambill Bill, Jr. It would be a stretch to suggest that any of them saw this movie and borrowed from it, but it is clear that these trick films were influential on the generation of comic filmmakers that followed.
At any rate, this is a pleasant comedy short that still has the ability to amuse an audience today. Historically minded viewers will be especially interested in the beautifully composed (albeit fast-moving) images of the Paris of 1912, two years before the outbreak of the devastating war that would alter the landscape and change everything.
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