Thursday, June 23, 2011

La maison Ensorcelée (1907, France)

At its heart, this is a variation on one of Melies' most imitated -- especially by himself -- shorts: some travelers enter an abandoned house, and then, inside, everything goes all pear-shaped, as chairs vanish, the house rocks back and forth and the travelers are, eventually, scared out of their wits.
As such, it is not much. However, its director, Segundo de Chomon, elaborates the theme enormously. First, this one is shown in a dozen separate scenes, as first we see the travelers approaching the house and the spirit haunting the place is shown. In the middle are two major stop-motion pieces as food is carved by invisible hands.. The camera also moves, showing the house rocking back and forth.
But although this is much more elaborate than the usual Melies pieces, it does not depart from the basic situation. It uses the tricks, largely, for their own sake. It would be in the next couple of couples that these camera tricks would cease to be the point of the film and become part of the grammar of cinema.

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