Les tulipes (1907)

aka The Tulips
Article 4293 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-21-2013
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Cast unknown
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A female gardener has experiences with tulip fairies and fends off the unwanted advances of a male suitor.

There may actually be a plot to this one; the presence of the unwanted male suitor seems to indicate there’s some sort of storyline. Still, it’s nearly impossible to tell what that story is, as most of the film is a random array of special effects in which fairies appear in garden scenes. There’s a giant face of what I suppose is some sort of a demon, and since we have so many females, we get the obligatory dance sequence as well. Certain special effects here I’ve come to associate with Chomon; there are fountains of colored water, and lots of smoke and sparks. It’s a pretty typical Chomon short; I probably would have liked it a little better if the story had been clear.

Le troubadour (1906)

aka The Troubadour
Article 4292 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-20-2013
Directed by Segundo de Chomon
Featuring Gabrielle Robinne
Country: France
What it is: Trick film

A troubadour performs tricks in which he duplicates himself.

The basic trick of this film is that the troubadour makes duplicates of himself so he can have an orchestra. It’s basically the same sort of trick that Melies did six years earlier with THE ONE MAN BAND, and though this short isn’t a complete imitation of the earlier movie, it still doesn’t come up with anything really new using the idea. There’s a minor trick involving a fan presenting a scene in which the troubadour serenades a woman, but there’s not much to this section, either. This one ranks with Chomon’s less inspired efforts.

Transformations elastiques (1909)

Article 4291 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-18-2013
Directed by Segundo de Chomon (or Jean Durand)
Featuring Joaquim Renez (possibly)
Country: France
What it is: Trick short

A woman enters a room with a man. She creates a duplicate of him and changes his personality by throwing his clothes from one man to the next.

If I seem a little confused in the above credits, it’s for a reason. The listing for this movie was in the Walt Lee guide, where it is credited to Chomon. However, the listing from IMDB puts it a year later and credits the direction with Jean Durand, though they agree on the production company (Pathe Freres). The copy I found was on a Segundo de Chomon collection and sets the date back to 1908, so I’m confident I’ve watched the correct film; I’m just not confident the IMDB listing is correct.

As for the movie itself, it seems pretty minor for one this late in the decade; it runs about a couple of minutes, and just features a bunch of trick shots of dummies turning into a variety of different men as clothes are thrown back and forth to them. I suspect the movie may have actually been made much earlier, or that I’m watching only a fragment of the original. At any rate, there really isn’t much to it, and it’s a pretty minor work in the director’s oeuvre, whoever that is.

***NOTE*** I’ve since discovered that Chomon is the correct director of the short I’ve seen, which has long been confused with a lost movie by this name that is directed by Durand and features Renez.

Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son (1905)

Article 4287 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-13-2013
Director unknown
Cast unknown
Country: USA
What it is: Chase film

A piper’s son named Tom steals a pig at the local fair. Villagers give chase.

Let’s discuss the fantastic content first. First, I’m going to quote a line from the plot description on IMDB. “… Tom has some tricks up his sleeve that might give him a chance to escape…”. The description is attributed to someone named Snow Leopard, but I’m wondering if the description is pretty close to whatever Walt Lee read when he picked this one out to be included in in “Reference Guide to Fantastic Films” because his description of the fantastic content is one word – “Tricks”. Well, there’s tricks and then there’s tricks, and the types that Tom uses in this short are decidedly non-magical; they include things like hiding in a bail of hay while his pursuers run past him and climb up a ladder, then pushing the ladder away. In fact, to my eyes, there is no fantastic content whatever in this short.

That being said, this is also one of the worst directed and edited silent shorts I’ve ever seen. For example, the opening scene is almost two minutes of people milling around a fair; there’s a high wire act and a juggler on hand, but there’s no way to tell if you’re supposed to be focused on them, and the overall feeling is that nothing happens during the sequence until someone runs off with the pig. Every succeeding scene goes on way too long, and though the events are supposed to be humorous, the humor is compromised by the movie’s inability to know when enough is enough; it’s mildly funny that the whole crowd chases the boy up a chimney, but you don’t need to see every single person involved in the chase climb out of the chimney and jump to the ground. The movie’s about eight minutes long and could have been told easily in three. This one is not recommended.

That Fatal Sneeze (1907)

Article 4285 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 7-8-2013
Directed by Lewin Fitzhamon
Featuring Thurston Harris and Gertie Potter
Country: UK
What it is: Comic shenanigans

A nephew takes revenge on his uncle by putting pepper in his clothing, accessories, and grooming devices. The uncle then finds himself given to a succession of increasingly destructive sneezes.

One of the side issues I like to explore in my viewing project is to consider the bounds of genre content, and the Walt Lee guide gives some examples of movies that are interesting in that regard. Though it rejects a number of movies with things like fake ghosts, it also includes movies that might be rejected by other genre guides because the fantastic content falls within the bounds of the conventions of the movie’s primary genre. For example, it could be argued that most musicals are fantasies because people breaking out spontaneously in song is not realistic, while it could also be argued that such actions don’t really count as fantastic content because that’s simply the convention of the musical form. The same could be said about this short; though the idea that sneezes could cause this much destruction could make it qualify as a work of fantasy, it could also be dismissed as being within the limits of the convention of comic exaggeration. Still, when the sneezes get violent enough to cause earthquakes, the concept of comic exaggeration does get a little extreme. At any rate, this is a pretty amusing short that turns at least partially into a chase movie, though the chase is abandoned for the climax.

Ten Ladies in an Umbrella (1903)

aka La parapluie fantastique
Article 4284 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-7-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Melies magic short

A magician performs tricks, most of which involve making women appear from an umbrella.

Much as I love the work of Melies, his endless succession of magic trick shorts do grow tiresome after a bit, and watching this one right after TCHIN-CHAO, THE CHINESE CONJUROR (which also involved people appearing from behind a parasol), it’s difficult to shake the “been there, done that” feel. Granted, the transitions are quick and effective in this one, and he does make ten ladies appear from the umbrella (I counted). Still, there’s moments that do drag on a bit where he stops doing tricks and is trying to interact with the ladies. At any rate, here’s another one to cross off the list.

Tchin-chao, the Chinese Conjuror (1904)

Article 4283 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 8-6-2013
Directed by Georges Melies
Featuring Georges Melies
Country: France
What it is: Chinese magic

A Chinese magician performs tricks.

So what separates this Melies “magic trick” film from his others? Well, outside of the fact that Melies and his actors get to dress up as Chinamen, use Chinese props, and perform against an Oriental background, not a whole lot. Still, that’s enough to add a little novelty to the mix, and given how often Melies drew from this particular well, any novelty is welcome. In all other respects, this is a pretty ordinary Melies short.