Film: 2861

Entertainment + Leisure | 1890 | Silent | B/W


A conjuror or magician performs tricks with a box, into which a woman, the conjuror himself and his assistant disappear - Melies 1890's

Theatrical setting: a sorcerer 's or magician's workshop - the sorcerer in strange costume conjures a chair towards himself then another and places them in the centre of the room. He then beckons an assistant with a feminine hairstyle, summons a sheet of cloth out of the air and, with the assistant's help in twirling the cloth unravels a woman - she is made to stand to one side while the assistant fetches a length of glass sheet which is placed across the backs of the chairs - the sorcerer does likewise with another glass sheet then catches a box which falls from above. He opens the box to show us that it is empty before placing it on the glass - he places a short step ladder beneath the glass and box, gives the woman something for her hair and invites her to ascend the steps. She does and stands inside the box. The steps are removed then the sorcerer waves the woman down in the box until she disappears, while the assistant crawls under the glass and box to show no trickery is being employed - the box is closed while the assistant moves one of the chairs and the glass - the sorcerer and assistant sit facing each other with the box between them - opening it the woman rises out of it before disappearing again. When the sorcerer stands and reopens the box he pulls out a piece of clothing, throws it away then puts the box on the floor and jumps into it and disappears - the assistant follows him and the box rolls away.

This film is directed and stars Georges Melies himself and a good example of the trick film technique he developed by the simple use of stopping the camera, changing the scene and re-starting again to the amazement of contemporary audiences this seems to be true magic. The story goes that he discovered this when out filming a bus in the street, the camera jammed and when he started to crank the handle again the bus had mysteriously transformed into a hearse. The subject and style of his films display his lifelong interest in both magic and art. Born in Paris in 1861 to a family of boot makers, he sold the family business to buy Theatre Robert-Houdin following influences of Maskerlyne and Emilie Voisin and designed new illusions artistically presented. He attended the Lumiere film show of 1894 and tried to acquire a camera of his own, which they refused so he travelled to London and bought an "Animatograph" starting a career of film making until his death in 1938. His catalogue runs to 531 but many are now lost.

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