Nouvelles luttes extravagantes (1901)
Director: Georges Méliès
Cast: Jeanne d’Alcy, Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès’ Nouvelles luttes extravagantes (The Fat and the Lean Wrestling Match) pre-dates the Warners’ Looney Tunes cartoons by some thirty-odd years, but there are cartoonish elements about this trick movie which are undeniably reminiscent of the kind of fate that so often befell the likes of Wile E. Coyote. The film features a couple of wrestlers, one of whom is Méliès, engaging in a bout on a stage. One man swings his opponent around as if he was, well, a dummy before dashing him to the ground whereupon the stricken man immediately jumps to his feet with hands outstretched as if accompanied by a ta-dah! that we, of course, never hear. This man then gets his own back on his opponent by dismantling him limb by limb before eventually relenting and putting him back together. Now the best of friends, the men march off arm-in-reattached-arm.
They’re soon replaced by two different wrestlers, one of whom is of a rather portly nature and whom proves impossible for his opponent to lift or throw. When the heavy wrestler falls on his lighter opponent the poor chap is squashed flat, as if driven over by a bulldozer.
You can see what I mean about the prescience of Méliès’ routines in this flick, and it’s surprising how funny this movie remains despite the fact that it is more than one hundred years old. Although it boasts none of the elaborate fantasy elements of Méliès’ better known films, Nouvelles luttes extravagantes still remains one of the French wizard’s best movies.
(Reviewed 9th September 2014)