Archive for Fernand Zecca

Slippery Jim

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 5, 2015 by dcairns

Watch this! Reputedly inspired  by Harry Houdini’s recent Parisian dates, this 1910 trick-film by Fernand Zecca, made for Pathe Freres, uses inventive special effects and animation to depict impossible feats of escapology and indeed resurrection. Christ popping out of his cave-grave has nothing on Slippery Jim, who disassembles his own body, cycles through the skies like Elliot and ET, and bisects a policeman with the wheel of his magic bike. Even if you’re very familiar with Meliés and all the subsequent developments in effects artistry, I think there are likely to be some tricks in here you haven’t seen done quite like this…

There’s no real way to end a film like this, since all the characters are indestructible and there’s no real logic beyond the generally accepted (but often unreal) antipathy between cops and crooks. So, like one of the simpler cartoons, the film just rings changes on a basic situation and then stops arbitrarily. I was kind of glad to see the forces of anarchism triumph, though — it would seem hypocritical to spend ten minutes celebrating the violation of every law of man and nature and then impose some kind of moral ending.

vlcsnap-2015-05-04-22h02m59s186Half a copper?


Arse Gratia Artis

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Painting with tags , , , , , on February 28, 2012 by dcairns

An enticing exhibition, but alas it had ended before we hit the Cinematheque.

The fascination of the scatalogical… actually, the word is a misnomer, because there’s no logic in it…

Shameful to admit, but two of the greatest pleasures of the Cinematheque Francaise were a couple of gratuitous arse gags.

One came in the form of an anamorphic illusion. A painting of distorted shapes on a disc is surmounted by a shiny metal column. Reflected in the concave surface of the column, the distorted painting magically undistorts itself to reveal —

No, not a pretty snowflake as in the above example, but a naked man bending over and examining his arse in a mirror — what he sees is not the reassuring sight of his parted buttocks and hairy anus, but a memento mori, a grinning deathshead! Let that be a warning to you.

I can picture Henri Langlois chuckling over this after picking it up in an antique shop. Then taking it home and trying the mirror trick himself.

The other bottom-related event was a silent short called ERREUR DU PORT, starring a fellow named Dranem. Here’s Dranem in an early sound experiment —

But he’s not quite so charming in ERREUR DE PORT. The film begins with him in a train station (obvious backdrop), asking a guard for directions. Dranem is clad in bumpkin attire including huge, spongy clogs, which seem to give him some difficulty.

The guard gestures towards a sign marked WATER CLOSET. Dranem nods and heads over, but enters the nearby telephone kiosk instead.

Cut to inside the booth. Dranem, ignorant hick that he is, doesn’t realize this isn’t a toilet, and approaches the telephone counter, lowering his trousers and squatting on it. Cue grotesque gurning facial expressions as he exerts himself fully in the act of evacuation.

Cut to the station again. A smartly dressed gent is waiting for his turn in the phone booth. He taps his foot — how impatient he is! Dranem emerges, miming immense satisfaction and relief at the is successful conclusion of his business. He staggers off, nearly going over on his ankle in a wince-inducing stumble as his sponge clogs give way beneath him. The impatient man hurries into the phone booth…

To emerge, choking, eyes rolling in horror, a handkerchief clasped to his face. He exits, wafting a hand under his nose in urgent pantomime of disgust. THE END.

The director of this affair was Ferdinand Zecca, top helmer at Pathe Freres — here’s a more pleasant creation from the Great Man to serve as a kind of palate cleanser —

Fairy Dust

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by dcairns

So, no sooner — literally NO sooner — than I posted my wanted ad for the ten movies still eluding me from my quest to see all the films depicted in Denis Gifford’s Pictorial History of Horror Movies, than a Shadowplayer going by the nom-de-plume of BURNTRETINA alerts me to a Segundo de Chomon movie of that title. The year isn’t quite the same, but as he says, records are unreliable for that period (early 20th century).

It so happens I’ve already gathered up many Chomon movies, but have only watched a delirious few. So I search my stock and Here’s the still from the Gifford ~

The Chomon movie begins in a whole different setting, the “black rocks” of the title, with a sort of cactus-like promontory in the centre. An elderly woman bearing a bundle enters, and meets a lazy man coming the opposite way. A heavily-pantomimed exchange seems to establish that she’d like some help with her burden, but he’s too tired. He stretches, lies down to nap, and as the transforms into a fairly queen and waves her wand, he’s beset with supernatural perils. A stream of water cascades down on him and he writhes about beneath its blast for fourteen long seconds, until we’ve gotten our money’s worth. The rocks transform into monsters and bite at him…

Finally, our hero awakens from this nightmare, only to go back to sleep again. And finds himself staggering perplexed from a crypt, in a snowy graveyard. Now this certainly resembles the setting of Gifford’s still. Both are snowy cemeteries, and the cypress trees (very Isle of the Dead) are identical. But look closer — none of the graves and crypts actually match up, and the character is differently costumed.

Then something very weird happens. There’s a jarring jump cut, and we briefly see a white-robed figure with outstretched arm. But before any detail can be ascertained, and before we can work out how this relates to the previous action (the backdrop is the same, however) we dissolve back to the Black Rocks, where the Fairy Queen appears before the penitent layabout in her Swan Carriage. The End.

Is the subliminal Figure in White one of the skeletal flashers from Gifford’s still? It seems quite likely. But why is the hero differently attired and wigged? If it’s the same character? It looks very much like a chunk is missing from the Chomon, and if so, that chunk would contain the answers. The alternative, that a second film exists, with the same title and an uncannily similar set, is actually very possible — the IMDb has a Ferdinand Zecca movie from 1902 with that title. Gifford dates his film as 1905, and the Chomon is down as 1907, making it slightly closer to Gifford… both are Pathe Freres productions, which is one reason they might resemble each other fairly closely…

For the purposes of my See Reptilicus and Die quest, I’m calling this one seen — but with attendant mysteries. Perhaps more information will emerge at a later time…