Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Watching the 20th Century, 1901-1907

I had previously started a similar project, but with books, a full 10 years ago; the project was to read 1 book from 1901, 2 books from 1902, 3 books from 1903, etc. The problem was, I ran out of books from 1906 I was interested in reading.

I'm having better luck, so far, with doing the same thing with movies.


Barbe-Bleue (Bluebeard)


Le Voyage Dans Le Lune (A Trip to the Moon)

George Melies most iconic and, arguably, best film.

Le voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants (Gullver’s Travels to Lilliput and the Giants’ Home)


Le Royaume Des Fes (The Kingdom of the Fairies)

Everyone should watch at least one Melies movie in their lives. Visionary in his use of special effects and strong visual effects, the French George Melies was a generation ahead of his competitors. For proof of such, compare to the other “classic” film of this time, “The Great Train Robbery”, which has a stronger narrative, and yet still manages to be boring in comparison.

The Great Train Robbery


Alice in Wonderland

It looks promising; I wish more of it still existed.


La Sirène (The Siren)

Le Juif Errant (The Wandering Jew)

Le Thaumaturge Chinois (The Chinese Conjurer)

Le Voyage à travers l'Impossible (The Impossible Voyage)

More of Melies' impressive camera trickery.


The Little Train Robbery

Rescued by Rover

The Night Before Christmas

The Nihilist

How Jones Lost His Roll

1905 produced mostly forgettable fare. As in, I just watched all these days ago, and I already remember hardly anything from them.


A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire

San Francisco Earthquake

Watching these back to back is really remarkable. The “before” film shows a happy town of playing children and industrious people. The “after” film is like a post-Apocalypse movie, full of buildings that we just watched 10 minutes ago in the previous film, now piles of rubble, the children conspicuously missing, and those once industrious people just milling about idly in the street with nothing to do. Like I said, a remarkable recording of living history.

Dream of a Rarebit Fiend

This was by the same Edwin Porter who directed “The Great Train Robbery”, and you can already see that he’s learned a lot from Melies between movies. I still can’t figure out how they made the bed spin without any wires being visible.

Aladdin and His Magic Lamp

This was fun to watch, mainly to compare and contrast against later versions. I’d love to see somebody superimpose dialogue and songs from the Disney version over this.

The Black Hand

The first movie about urban crime -- but what was really ugly were the contents of a butcher shop circa 1906.

The Story of the Kelly Gang

Don’t remember a thing.



If I didn’t already know the plot from the Charleton Heston version, I would never have figured it out from this 10 minutes of people in costume waving their arms around.

Fight of Nations

Occasionally humorous, but mostly just a strange series of vignettes of marginal conflict, identified by the folk costumes worn by the participants.

Trial Marriages

I’m glad I watched this and the previous film in this order, as it makes the more realistic fight scenes between domestic partners in this film all the funnier. The dichotomy between pre-marital bliss and then what married life is really like seems spot-on -- I can personally attest to two of these vignettes! This is the first really good movie I’ve seen in this project since the Melies films.

Deux Cent Milles sous les Mers ou le Cauchemar du Pêcheur (20,000 Leagues under the Sea or Under the Seas)

I haven’t watched any Melies in awhile, so this was a treat.. This is surely just a surviving clip, as the beginning and end seem severely abrupt. The whole clip runs almost 10 minutes and, other than maybe 2 minutes of padding, flows well. Its centerpiece is one genuinely funny scene in the middle.

Sous Manche Cauchemar Franco-Anglais (Tunneling the English Channel)

The first half is blurry and hard to watch, but the second seven minutes has held up well. Like Trial Marriages, it’s a prescient film. What I can’t figure out, though, is whether this could be understood at the time as political satire, or only fantasy. I suspect there’s some poking fun at the pomp and ceremony of both England and France going on here by that sly Melies.