[FILM LITHOGRAPHIQUE] Da Une séance de prestidigitation di Georges Méliès

DCP. D. 1’. Col.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The production of ‘animated cartoons’ began properly in 1897 in Germany, and more precisely in Nuremberg where the principal toy factories were located. The first model of a ‘cinematographic magic lantern’ still ran horizontally, but the film (loops of 35mm) was projected intermittently thanks to a five-slot Maltese cross. It is a device that had a dual function, as it could also project traditional glass plates. And so cinema had already entered into the home. Sometimes the subjects of these early forms of animation are rather surprising, because some of the illustrations replicate, in certain cases down to the tinniest details, the images of films produced by Edison, the Lumières or Méliès. In 2014 a ‘lithographic film’ depicting a magic tick performed by the illusionist Georges Méliès, edited into a loop and in colour, was rediscovered. The images recycle a Méliès film from 1896 of which no copies were known to survive at the time. In 2015 there was a second discovery: the same film, edited into a loop, was found in an old box containing a German magic lantern. But this time it was in black-and-white, and not animated: the original film seems to have been transferred onto a filmstrip suitable for use in toy cinema devices. Compared to the original, which lasted 20m, a few images were missing. Presumably the German manufacturers offered both lithographic films and “true films” utilising photography but of reduced length. This black-and-white film was identified by Jacques Malthête in July 2015. It is probably Méliès’ second film, Une séance de prestidigitation, which is number 2 in Méliès catalogue published in 1896. Although it was still incomplete and printed on an unidentified format through a process that it is not entirely clear, the rediscovery of this short Méliès film edited into a loop has great symbolic importance: it is here that Méliès introduced magic into the nascent cinema for the first time.

Laurent Mannoni

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