Le magicien (1898)
Director: Georges Méliès
Synopsis: “In this scene is shown a magician behind an ordinary table, upon which he suddenly and mysteriously causes to appear a large box, into which he leaps…”
One of the unique things about the French screen wizard Georges Méliès is that it’s relatively easy to tell which films show him at his creative peak, performing before the cameras on a day when all his imaginative and creative cylinders were firing, and which show him simply turning up at the office for the pay cheque. Sadly, Le Magicien is one of those latter movies: a Friday afternoon flick. Even though it was made in cinema’s third year, it shows Méliès doing nothing he hadn’t already presented to a paying audience before.
Le magicien starts brightly enough with Méliès, dressed as a wizard, producing a table and a large box out of mid-air. He then pulls off his best trick of the film by having the magician disappearing while in mid-air, as though he has jumped straight into the box. However, it’s a pierrot who emerges from the box, a very hungry pierrot who’s overjoyed when a feast magically appears on the table. But then — guess what!? Yeah, right — like you need me to tell you.
The rest of the film shows dizzying succession of objects and women appearing and disappearing as Méliès appears to be waging a competition with himself to see how many times he can pull off the same trick in a minute. A story, no matter how basic, would have helped matters no end…
(Reviewed 19th August 2014)