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Grandmother's Story (1908)

Conte de la grand-mère et rêve de l'enfant (original title)
Not Rated | | Short, Fantasy | 6 October 1908 (USA)
The old granny reads to a little girl from a book, and between paragraphs she tells the child of the wonders of Fairyland. Then, the child tiring, she places it affectionately in bed, and ... See full summary »

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The old granny reads to a little girl from a book, and between paragraphs she tells the child of the wonders of Fairyland. Then, the child tiring, she places it affectionately in bed, and after prayers the little girl falls to sleep. Suddenly the child sees a guardian fairy appear from a cross and she is invited to take a stroll to the land of child's wonders. The fairy takes her little hand and begins to lead her through wonderful grottoes of mystic design and awe-inspiring grandeur, until they come to a great land where there are wonderful toys innumerable and defying description, which go through their various movements in an almost human way. From Toyland the fairy leads the little girl to the realm of King Sweet, where all is fruit and candy. From there the wondering child is taken to another land where sweet flowers and trees and ferns, hanging plants, hedges and bowers nod and smile and beckon her onward. The child is entranced by the beauty of it all, but is also tired by her ... Written by Moving Picture World synopsis

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Short | Fantasy

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Not Rated
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6 October 1908 (USA)  »

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Grandmother's Story  »

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A Bedtime Story
16 March 2008 | by See all my reviews

Melies turned out a lot of poor movies in 1908 as he tried to compete with Pathe and Gaumont, who could outspend him, by sheer volume. Many of his surviving movies are, by today's standards, primitive slapstick, or unsubtly acted melodramas, shot far too simply to be interesting -- Griffith was learning his craft this year and would soon turn every convention on its head.

But in the midst of this mass of poorly digestible slop, occasionally Melies made a beautiful picture, which even today speaks to us from one heart to another, in which his camera tricks and, to our eyes, odd film grammar add to our enjoyment, transporting us into a world that, seemingly, can't exist; in VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE or VOYAGE A TRAVERS L'IMPOSSIBLE or LE ROYAUME DES FEES and others, he lets us enter this world, again and again.

But in order to enter that world, we must set aside our modern, adult preconceptions of what is right and what makes sense. We must accept as truth, as we did when we were children, the fairy tales we were told. Then we can know right and wrong, and travel, with a guardian angel, into the realm of dreams.

This was, alas, the final great example of this journey into wonder in Melies' works. The competition was eating him alive at this point and he would basically shut down production in a couple of years, then be briefly revived for mechanical renditions of wonder only by the financial backing of his rivals, who would never even bother to release his last film. He would lose his beloved theater and his home, watch his primary prints be melted down for silver and to be made into boot heels during the First World War, and burn his backup copies in despair. He would be reduced to running a kiosk in a train station. In the 1920s, when the Parisian film clubs -- run by people like Rene Clair, tried to put together a show of Melies' movies, they couldn't even be sure he was alive. He had disappeared like a devil in one of his stage magic films and only eight of his films could be located.

Somehow, over the years, people have discovered others, in barns, in flea markets... fewer than 200 of his five hundred movies. Well, if we are missing much of the magic, at least some survives. Enjoy them all, good, bad, but never indifferent.


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