Admiration for Méliès and Chomón

I think it’s interesting how Méliès took the old and combined it with the new. He experimented and developed his use of cinema’s magic with what he already knew worked for entertainment in the theatre: costuming, props, elaborate believable sets, and engaged actors with clear stories to tell. Through a deep understanding of human gesture (pantomime) we know what is happening without sound. Starting with simple stories centered on basic activities like playing cards or going to bed, he later moves onto more elaborate plots once he has developed his technique and skill with image literacy. In Cinderella (Cendrillon) he uses symbolism and figurative visual language, especially with the repetition of the clock image, to create a sense of urgency and add drama to his own retelling of the story. There is a moment of crisis that is relieved at the end, a story with beginning middle and end.

Méliès was quite forward thinking. If the narration in Jeanne D’arc (1899) are from Méliès film not added later, he is already choosing to draw attention to the the illusion that is cinema a “calling attention to artifice” that wasn’t popular until much later in cinematic history. I wonder what was his reasoning behind this choice. The hand coloring is fabulous. I love the aesthetic. The colors are so bright and it’s incredible that these have been digitized so that the colors will no longer fade. The dedication to craft that both Méliès and Chomón demonstrate is a wonder. It’s interesting how this connects early cinema, like photography, with painting. Also that these first objects, just as daguerrotypes, were unique objects. His eye for the timing and understanding of motion seem to be what allows him to create the illusions on film, using jump-cuts he has to create a fluidity of motion between one frame movement to the next to make it look real such as the fairy god mother’s wand pointing, also has to line up to the exact same position in the next frame or it will be obvious and he does this many times throughout his fantastical films. He makes use of offscreen space which continue the illusion of a contained world. So advanced, it truly is incredible.

Segundo Chomón has quite the nack for color and spectacle. The surrealist leanings in his work are undeniable. I like how, for example in “The Frog,” (1908) he uses images as if they are free associations. The brain does not think linearly and I love how often surrealism captures this zany and nonsensical aspect of the mind. Both Méliès and Chomón communicate bigger ideas while cloaking their message in humor and ludicrousness. I am interested myself in the use of fantastical elements in my own work through illusion. Watching their films has given me inspiration and a prodding to express my ideas.


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