A Crazy Composer (1905)

aka Le compositeur toque
Article 4063 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-25-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Another Melies dream short

A manic composer has a dream in which musicians and dancers appear.

It’s another Melies dream short, and taken on its own merits, it’s not particularly special; he’d already done several similar shorts. However, if you do catch this one, I highly recommend you go for the one with the Donald Sosin score; not only does his music fit the action perfectly, but it adds a comic dimension and a flavor that shows just what a difference a decent score can make.

The Cook’s Revenge (1900)

aka La vengeance du gate-sauce
Article 4061 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-22-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A cook gets into a fight with his manager. Who will survive… and what will be left of him?

This is a pretty short early Melies piece that mostly trots out decapitation and living head special effects. In the Melies world, decapitations are bloodless and not necessarily fatal; in fact, the heads can reattach and take revenge, as the title says. There’s a bit of a plot, but at one minute, it’s hardly necessary. This is an amusing early short.

The Clock-Maker’s Dream (1904)

aka Le reve de l’horloger
Article 4059 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-18-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A clock-maker falls asleep and dreams his clocks have transformed into women.

Some of Melies’s shorts are still pretty fun to watch. However, some of them really can only be appreciated in respect to the time they were made and the novelty of the special effects they were exhibiting. It seems a great deal of care went into this one in terms of making the special effects flow as smoothly as possible, but the lack of anything resembling a story and the somewhat static nature of the tableaus that result leaves us with a somewhat dull short here. It’s similar in some ways to THE BALLET-MASTER’S DREAM, only with less movement. Fortunately, the running time of three minutes keeps this one from overstaying its welcome.

The Christmas Dream (1901)

aka Le reve de Noel
Article 4058 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Holiday sentiment

Children dream about the holiday on Christmas Eve.

There’s no real plot to this early Melies short; it’s largely a compendium of various scenes illustrating Christmas themes and traditions. The fantastic content includes angels delivering gifts and toys coming to life. There’s the ringing of a bell in a church, and a beggar is allowed to share Christmas dinner with the nobles in an act of goodwill to man. For a Melies film, this is very light on the special effects, and though it’s not a great film, it’s likable enough in its sincerity and artlessness.

Ching Ling Foo Outdone (1900)

Article 4056 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-14-2012
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Wishful thinking

A magician makes a tub of water appear, and then makes ducks and a young boy appear in the tub.

A read up a little on Ching Ling Foo before I wrote this. This is apparently a reenactment of his most famous magic trick where he would make a boy appear out of a tub of water; the movie throws in some ducks as well. Still, a film of a magician using jump cuts for his illusions simply isn’t in the same league as watching a live magician perform the stunt, so I’d hardly say Ching Ling Foo was seriously outdone here. In fact, the film doesn’t even beat it’s most appropriate competition, which is the similar works from Melies, who, for what it’s worth, is a more energetic and fun actor than the anonymous magician who appears here. Ultimately, this movie is just another Melies imitation.

Chimney Sweep (1906)

aka Jack le ramoneur
Article 4055 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-13-2012
Directed by Georges Melies
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Odd little curiosity

A chimney sweep dreams that he is swept to a fantasy land where he is treated as a king. But his real life is less than royal…

I found myself reading the user comments on this movie on IMDB in preparation for trying to tackle my own discussion of it, and somehow I’m not surprised that the movie got two such different reactions. One praised the movie for its political subtext on the horrible treatment of young boys who worked as chimney sweeps in those days; the other dismissed the movie as a dull and confusing muddle. They both have a point; the subtext is certainly there, but it’s nearly impossible to tell if that’s the point of the short. There’s something baffling about the structure of the movie; the first half takes place in the chimney sweep’s dream world, and though there are a number of fantastic images during this bit, nothing is really happening. The second half starts with the chimney sweep being abused, and then finding a hidden fortune in a chimney, which leads to an oddly comic chase scene that leads nowhere. Any individual moment here might be taken on its own terms, but taken all together it simply doesn’t add up to anything that makes sense, especially since nothing seems to be resolved at the end. Melies made a lot of movies that had neither a plot nor a point, but this one feels like it should have both, but doesn’t. Quite frankly, I’ve never been more puzzled by one of his shorts.

The Cheese Mites, or Lilliputians in a London Restaurant (1901)

Article 4054 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 10-12-2012
Directed by Walter R. Booth
Cast unknown
Country: UK
What it is: Trick film

A diner is startled to discover that there are little people living inside his beer and his wedge of cheese.

For its time, this trick film is pretty bare bones; it really has only one special effect to it, but then, a number of film makers were still trying to catch up to Melies. For me, the most interesting thing is that the diner seems delighted to see these little people popping out of his food. I’m not sure how it was back then, but nowadays I’d be pretty sure that some health regulations were being broken if I found little people living in my supper. Then I’d feel bad about the fact that by consuming the cheese, I’d be eating them out of house and home… literally. These are pretty silly things to be worrying about, but that’s what happens when you’re reviewing a one-minute movie.