Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Max Juggles for Love (France, 1912)

Max Linder was one of most influential comedians of early cinema and one of first characters to be recognized on screen. His screen persona was one of a dandy, often in hot water due to his fondness for the so-called good life and beautiful girls and Linder gave a touch of sophistication to comedy shorts in a time when slapstick was considered vulgar and working-class related by many people. It helped to give comedy more respectability in a time when cinema was at its infancy (Linder started making films before 1910). Linder’s influence was so deep that he was highly regarded even by Charlie Chaplin, who considered him his teacher. Unfortunately Linder’s death in 1925 by committing suicide together with his wife sometimes overshadow his successful career.
The setting of this film is the living room of what seems to be a healthy French family. Max wants to court a girl and brought flowers to her. The girl vehemently refused the flowers and is rather temperamental. Weirdly enough, she claims she will only accept Max’s courtship if he learns how to juggle and she was apparently quite skilled in it too. It seemed that the girl wanted to be too demanding and make Max give her up. 
Max accepted the girl’s challenge and tried to learn how to juggle, but he did not have any skill whatsoever and even ended up in trouble with a passer-by on the street on his way home. He tried to practice some more at home, but all he got was to break his own furniture. 
As he was determined to win the girl’s hand he pretended to juggle while somebody else was actually doing it behind a room divider. Unfortunately he was discovered, his plan failed and the girl laughed at him.
An interesting thing to pay attention to is that the actress has a much more stagy acting than Max Linder’s, with broad gestures and everything. On the other hand, Linder’s acting and body language were subtle, quite adapted to cinema language. Another highlight of the film is the beautiful furniture shown, which can also be seen in a plenty of 1910s French films. 

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