Being Segundo, He Has To Try Harder

Very happy to discover this, Segundo de Chomon’s final film as director, LULU from 1923. The Spanish master kept working as cinematographer, special effects artist etc, climaxing with effects work for Gance’s NAPOLEON, which may be what killed him. I’m speculating.

LULU appeared six years after the epic WWI puppet film, LA GUERRA E IL SOGNO DI MOMI, a very strange piece of work, but one which nevertheless does seem to make a kind of sense. Though smaller and simpler, LULU makes very little sense.

A drunken chimpanzee in a suit comes home and starts doing magic tricks and… wait. Is this Lulu? Why does he have a girl’s name? Why is he a chimp? Why is a chimp a magician? What does his being drunk have to do with anything?

Chomon started life as a Méliès imitator, but one so talented that his copies were often even more beautiful than the originals (though we must deduct points for lesser originality, of course). To cinema’s existing bag of tricks he added the combining of live action with animation, something Méliès never got into (his films, all live-action, just LOOK like cartoons with real humans inserted). He experimented with early colour processes and created the first purpose-built dolly.

Méliès films are pretty strange, and Chomon’s copies are at least equally so, and shorts like AN INCOHERENT JOURNEY take things even further, but with that one the title puts things in some kind of reassuring context, like somebody NOTICED all the incoherence and thought it was worth remarking on. WHY IS THIS FILM CALLED LULU?

Things get stranger. Lulu (if that’s who the inebriated simian occultist is) is pestered in his bijou apartment by a home invasion from a stumpy burglar character, blessed with a scary CLOCKWORK ORANGE long nose. Using vanishing and reappearing tricks, Lulu teleports the shit out of this guy, and then teleports a passing constable into the flat, NOT to arrest the now comatose would-be criminal, but to witness Lulu stashing the guy in his closet. What’s going to happen now? The film ends.

My best theory is that seventy-odd years later, that burglar has grown into the gimp in PULP FICTION but, again, I’m speculating.

(I know this is Sunday, and I know this film is light on intertitles — a little explanation would be welcome, Segundo — but at least it’s a silent. If I get another late silent film viewed today, you may get your weekly intertitle yet.

2 Responses to “Being Segundo, He Has To Try Harder”

  1. Charlie Cockey Says:

    Loved this clip, David – thanks. I had no problem, though, figuring it out.

    The burglar seems to me very much in the petit guignol tradition of Punch and Judy.

    Also, I think the policeman simply has entered with either the help of a concierge or a pass or skeleton key. My take on the conversation between Lulu (and why not name him Lulu?) and the cop is that Lulu says take this guy away, but first, my magic wand I’ll just stash him in the cupboard, and we can have a drink. But I think there is at least a bit at the end missing, since it stops right as the drink is manifested on the table. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that there is perhaps even another few minutes missing – enough to make this a full one-reeler.

    But it’s brilliantly surreal, and great fun. Thanks for posting.

  2. You’re welcome! Glad you could figure it out. It might also be that Chomon intended to have a couple of intertitles — this is a restoration but we don’t know what they had to work with.

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