1908: 5 movies

posted 2012 August 8

La grenouille
Directed by Segundo de Chomón;
Starring Julienne Mathieu

   This was a great year for animation, but de Chomon demonstrates that with boundless imagination, clever application of technology, and a pleasing artistic sensibility, live-action can be a more capable medium than the wildest animation. 
   Great kudos to the costuming and acting departments. The title translates as "The frog".

L'araignée d'or
Written and directed by Segundo de Chomón

   It's amazing how contemporary this movie seems, mostly it's the photography with its outdoor settings, the jutting angles, and subtle colors. The chase sequence is intense and the talent-show sequence is comical. It feels like three great movies in one. 
   The title translates as "The spider of gold".

Le cauchemar de Fantoche
Directed by Émile Cohl

   From the moment the title card splits open to reveal the Fantoche in bed, we are on a wild stream-of-consciousness ride. The title translates as "The nightmare of Fantoche", which is interesting because it plays a little like Melies' Le cauchemar (1896) of 12 years earlier. The constant morphing of the entire composition into a completely different one comes daringly close to abstractionism, and proves that that's not necessarily a bad thing. Kudos on the minimalist settings which are somehow still very evocative. 

Fantasmagorie
Directed by Émile Cohl

   Stream of consciousness drawing morphs into another stream of consciousness drawing. Repeat with rhythm, imagination, and humor until main character dies, then find some way to tack on a happy ending without being cheesy. Those are the ingredients of this movie. The chalkboard look is simple but makes the action and transformations easy to follow.
   The title calls to mind the roots of the movie-medium, a reference to the time when carved lanterns were all the rage. It's a nice touch for a movie that pushes the envelope of animation forward, and expands the amount of creativity possible within a single frame.

Les ombres chinoises
Directed by Segundo de Chomón;
Starring Julienne Mathieu

   This movie features some great animation of paper cutout figures, and morphing from one figure to another. The beginning with the spinning circles morphing into umbrellas is fantastic. Thematically, the movie is about fancy designs, deceptive movements, transformation, and keeping the mind discerning and flexible. 
   The title translates as "The Chinese Shadows" which is a French way of saying "Shadow Puppets".

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