Saturday, December 25, 2010

La lanterne magique (The Magic Lantern) - 1903

Two impish clowns construct a magic lantern. They prop it up at an angle, and use it to project pictures onto a wall. When the picture show ends, they open up the lantern to reveal a group of dancing girls inside - and this is only the first of the indications that this lantern really is magical.
The scene represents the interior of a toyshop. Punch makes his entry dancing a characteristic step, and his friend Pierrot follows shortly after performing a step to the tune of "Bedelia." The latter holds a candlestick and he shows his friend Punch that it gives no more light while quoting some words of the familiar song. "You wish some light, say Punchinello. "I will give you some, and at the same time I will show you something most astonishing." He asks Pierrot to give him a lift. Then both bring a platform and construct section by section a huge magic lantern. Punch puts inside of it a large lamp, lights it and opens the slide, thereby throwing upon the wall a large white disc within which pictures in varying subjects begin to appear. At first a grand personage with his consort is shown, then follows two eccentric characters, and afterwards the pictures of Pierrot and Punch highly magnified. These moving pictures dissolve one into the other upon a white background, a new feature in cinematographic work. Punch puts out the light in the lantern and the views disappear, when suddenly the sections of the lantern fall apart and out of them come forth six dancing girls who do a four-step. And as they finish a charming eccentrique makes her appearance and does a very pretty turn. The magic lantern, which had been shut up by Punch, again opens and out of it emerges an entire corps de ballet, and they all execute a dance together. The "premiere danseuse" comes on and mingles with the dancers; Punch and Pierrot become her suitors, they quarrel and soon engage in a hard fight, the sight of which causes the dancers to flee in terror. A body of policemen arrive. Pierrot and Punch hide in the lantern. The policemen examine it on every side. Suddenly the lantern opens, but the occupants have vanished and have been replaced by a monster, who extends himself and contracts and at the same time executes some ludicrous contortions. The policemen at this strange sight flee in hopeless confusion, the corps de ballet returns and dances among the remains of the lantern and around the monster, who continues to contort himself in a peculiar fashion.

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