Just before the dawn of the twentieth century, movie pioneer Georges Méliès tore one of the biggest stories from French headlines and made a series of biographical sketches in support of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer who was framed for treason and exiled to Devil’s Island. The films themselves are as fascinating as their subject and are extraordinarily innovative to boot.Continue reading “The Dreyfus Affair (1899) A Silent Film Review”
A May-December marriage is on the rocks when the husband, an anemic Egyptologist, decides that his young wife is stepping out. Poisoned cigarettes and a distastefully-placed mummy are just a few of the complications that ensue.Continue reading “La Cigarette (1919) A Silent Film Review”
And then Mommy kissed Daddy, and the angel told the stork, and the stork flew down from heaven, and put the diamond in the cabbage patch, and the diamond turned into a baby!Continue reading “The Cabbage Patch Fairy (1900) A Silent Film Review”
An early animal-related tearjerker featuring a blind man and his faithful poodle. The French production was exported to the international market.Continue reading “The Faithful Dog; or, True to the End (1907) A Silent Film Review”
A penniless nobleman decides to venture out into the wide world when a troupe of itinerant actors spend the night at his chateau. Chaos ensues, of course, and there is plenty of fencing, fighting, revenge, torture, chases, escapes and true love.
The anarchic Onésime is back and this time he enters a marriage lottery. Chaos ensued, obviously, with our hero escaping his intended via bicycle.
Max Linder and his wife quarrel and he is left to his own devices. Alas, keeping house is not nearly as easy as he imagined and chaos ensues in this cute domestic comedy.
Louis Feuillade didn’t just make serials and this short is a showcase for child comedian Bout de Zan. The plot is very much what it says on the tin. Boy meets elephant, boy steals elephant, boy and elephant terrorize streets of Paris, as one does.
Continue reading “Bout de Zan Steals an Elephant (1913) A Silent Film Review”
On August 21, 1911, the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. A few days later, this comedy was released spoofing the theft and the less-than-competent investigation. The jokes were torn from 1911 headlines, will they yield modern laughs?
An inventor hallucinates an attack on himself and his airship and finds that he cannot awaken from the dream. Dark stuff that may come as a surprise to anyone who thinks Méliès was all about cute anthropomorphic moons.
After months of heavy rainfall, Paris found itself underwater during the winter of 1910. This rare footage was recently rediscovered and it showcases everyday life in the flooded city.
Continue reading “The Seine Flood (1910) A Silent Film Review”
Germaine Dulac examines the thoughts, dreams and homicidal tendencies of a woman trapped in a marriage with a buffoon. Gorgeously shot and imaginatively directed, this is a must-see.
A young Russian official awakens to find that his nose is missing. He then discovers that it is not only alive and well, it is wearing a splendid cape and has a higher rank in the civil service than he does! An adaptation of Gogol’s absurdist classic using the pinscreen animation of Claire Parker and Alexandre Alexeieff.
A certain gentleman with an unnatural beard pigment marries for the eighth time but things go sour when the new bride discovers what happened to the other seven Mrs. Bluebeards. A macabre fairy tale from Georges Méliès.
It’s 1899. Absinthe is the rage in France and pioneering director Alice Guy has a bit of fun with the then-stylish beverage. And a bottle of seltzer. It’s proto-slapstick!
Legendary beer king Gambrinus is showcased in this charming sound short from Gaumont. Stencil color adds that touch of class. If you’re not reaching for a beer (real or root) after seeing this, there is something wrong with you.
Ivan Mosjoukine wrote, directed and starred in this dramedy about a wealthy playboy whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers a baby boy on his doorstep. We all know where this is going but getting there is all the fun.
René Clair’s first film as director, this is a quirky little science fiction comedy about a mad scientist and a special ray that freezes the entire city of Paris. All of it except for the very top of the Eiffel Tower and the night watchman sleeping there. What will he do now that he is the king of a frozen city?
A group of intrepid explorers blast off for an anthropomorphized moon but find more than they bargained for when they meet the moon’s residents, acrobats and ballerinas. If all of this sounds suspiciously close to Méliès, that’s because it is a ripoff of same by Pathé.
Continue reading “An Excursion to the Moon (1908)”
Ivan Mosjoukine steps off the deep end in this genre mishmash. He plays a Tibetan prince who must flee his country and ends up in Paris where he becomes a film star. Speaking of stars, there is also a plot twist that we are most familiar with in Star Wars.
Georges Méliès turns his magical creative vision to the famous Tales of the Thousand and One Nights in this ambitious picture. Beautiful sets, elaborate costumes and a relatively large cast blend together to create a rich cinematic environment.
Continue reading “The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1905) A Silent Film Review”
A violent and surreal (and FUNNY) comedy from director Jean Durand. Forgotten French comedian Ernest Bourbon stars as Onésime, who has managed to create an exact double of himself. When the double’s antics prove troublesome, Onésime decides that drastic measures are called for.
Continue reading “Onésime vs. Onésime (1912) A Silent Film Review”
Ivan Mosjoukine takes the title role in this biopic of legendary English Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean, whose brilliance on the stage was undercut by his eccentric and self-destructive personal life. Yet another example of the astonishing films being made by the Russian emigres who fled their country’s political turmoil for the relative safety of Paris.
A mine owner finally discovers a vein of gold—and then promptly dies of fever. His foreman is determined to claim the strike for himself but there is the pesky widow to deal with. Obviously, he has no choice but to lock her in a cottage with a hungry leopard.
Continue reading “Under the Claw (1912) A Silent Film Review”
French charmer Max Linder is in trouble again! This time, he is trying to have a bit of winter fun with his ice skates. Silly Max. It’s fun to see a groundbreaking comedian in one of his earliest films as his signature character.
Continue reading “Max Learns to Skate (1907) A Silent Film Review”
Sherlock Holmes made his first legal appearance on the silver screen with this French-British co-production series. When a tyrannical father objects to his daughter’s engagement, he locks her away and sends for a governess to take her place. But one thing he didn’t count on was Sherlock Holmes on the case! What is lacks in story, it more than makes up for with hilariously hammy acting.
Continue reading “The Copper Beeches (1912) A Silent Film Review”
In an epic genre mashup, science fiction meets the Polish independence movement. Loosely based on the true story of the Turk automated chess player, the film tells the tale of an insurrection against the Russians and its aftermath, during which a fugitive rebel leader disguises himself as a robot. As one does.
Continue reading “The Chess Player (1927) A Silent Film Review”
The charming Max Linder has a fashion disaster on the way to his own wedding and ends up shoeless. With no proper replacements available, Max must convince the Parisian smart set that the grungy worker boots he is wearing are actually the latest style.
Continue reading “Max Sets the Style (1914) A Silent Film Review”
Land grabs, murders, hijacked trains and gold fever… They sound like standard western fare but this movie was made in France. Anarchic director Jean Durand takes a break from comedy to create this bloody tribute to the wild west—with a strong French accent.
Continue reading “The Railway of Death (1912) A Silent Film Review”
One of the single most iconic silent films and certainly the most famous picture from the pre-feature era, A Trip to the Moon has been studied and discussed for over a century. Why is it so beloved and how did it drill down so deeply into our pop culture? That’s what we’re going to find out.
Continue reading “A Trip to the Moon (1902) A Silent Film Review”