In the Barber Shop (1908)

aka Salon de coiffure
Article 4156 By Dave Sindelar
Date: 2-14-2014
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Comic short

At a barber shop, a black man and a white woman are being served when the entrance of a beautiful woman distracts the barbers, causing unexpected results.

Based on what I’ve seen of Melies’s work from 1908, I think he was really trying to stretch out and experiment with other types of films than the special-effects laden ones he’d been known for, but the results were generally not good. This particular short is not a high point for him. One of Melies’s biggest problems as a director was that he often didn’t know how to stage the action so that the viewer would know what to look at and what was important; there’s too much frantic action over the whole frame. When you’re trying for comedy, that can cause problems, especially when you’re setting up for the big gags. There’s a streak of racism to this one as well; the fantastic content is centered around the fact that both the man and and the woman change their races as a result of the barbers’ distractions, and when the man is black and the woman is white, he’s constantly coming on to her, but when the races are reversed, he spurns her. Yet, for all these problems, the short isn’t a total disaster; there are a few interesting touches, but it’s far from Melies’s best work.

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