The Hen that Laid the Golden Eggs (1905)
aka La poule aux oeufs d’or
Article 5644 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Gaston Velle
Featuring Julienne Mathieu
What it is: Silent fairy tale
A poor man wins a magical hen from a conjurer. It turns out the hen lays golden eggs, which makes him rich. What could go wrong?
Though I’m a big fan of Georges Melies, I’ve always tried to be forthright about his weaknesses as a film-maker. This seems like an odd way to open a review of a movie by Gaston Velle, but sometimes a movie by someone who avoids those weaknesses can serve as a good contrast. This movie clearly owes a debt to the work of Melies, especially when the hen turns into a dancer and performs a group dance with several other transformed hens. But the film avoids some of Melies’s weaknesses. For one thing, the plot feels mapped out rather than thrown together. Also, the crowd scenes seem rather more focused than equivalent scenes by Melies; with the latter you often don’t know who to focus in on during one of these scenes, while it’s much easier here. Also, the acting seems more cinematic than theatrical; the characters come off as a bit more real. Still, it should be pointed out that Velle’s cinematic career didn’t really last any longer than Melies’s.