Friday, May 20, 2016
Max Takes a Bath (France,1910)
Max Linder, the pioneer of French comedy, managed to develop a quite simple plot, keeping his subtle, naturalistic acting without broad gestures or loosing the typical dignity of his character, who was merely a normal man who suddenly found himself in trouble. Although his character was by no means rich, he was a honest citizens with morals.
In this film Max had problems with nervous twitching, went to the doctor and was prescribed a cold bath every day for one month, as the first intertitle says. An interesting detail in this initial scene is the beautiful chair where Max sits in, which is worthy paying attention. He is also shown as having some tics, but never in a goofy way. He was a rather serious man, who was trying to treat his health problem.
However, Max did not have a bathtub at home. He solved this problem by buying a ornate bathtub, but problems started as soon as he left the store and did not find anyone who would take the bathtub home to him. Thus, the only solution was to bring it home on his own back, which took Max lots of physical effort.
Problems seemed solved when Max got to take the bathtub to his apartment, but it was only the beginning of all trouble because he had not previously realized there was no tap in his home. The closest tap available was in the nearby corridor. So, he thought he could go outside and fill the tub with one jar of water at a time.
Realizing it would take too long, he decided to bring the bathtub to the corridor and take a bath there, but it was when all problems escalated. Obviously, neighbors did not like to see Max wetting the corridor and washing himself in public and the police was called.
He was taken to the police department together with the bathtub, a discussion happened and Max got to run away in the middle of the chaos and, again, he left together with his bathtub. A chase takes place and even a dog was involved.
Then, one of the most interesting moments of the film is when Max climbs the building while he was still in the bathtub. It is pretty obvious that the scenery was actually painted on the floor. Although the camera was apparently suspended, the drawings on the floor are too obvious to pass undetected. But it was a pretty ingenious special effect for 1910. Max got to enter his building by the roof and got rid of his chasers by hitting them with the bathtub and this is how the film ends. Considering this film is a one reeler (lasting around 11 minutes, sometimes even slightly less), the sudden ends were a consequence of time constraints and not necessarily a result of bad quality of the film.
Although this short comedy was not particularly innovative (even the painted scenery was relatively common in films up to 1910) it is entertaining enough and is very historically valuable because it gives a example of how very early comedies were made.