Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895)
This short by the brothers Lumière is often identified as the world’s “first comedy” film. It may also be one of the first in which a situation is staged specifically for the camera. In this instance, a man is seen spraying water over some plants, while, unbeknownst to him, a child sneaks up to the hose and places his foot on it. The water stops, and the gardener’s first instinct is to look down the hose, at which point the boy lifts his foot and the water sprays into the man’s face. He then chases the boy and “chastises” him with a spanking. This has all the familiar elements of slapstick, including the smaller, playful hero getting the better of the sterner, larger victim, as well as the chase and the punishment. Of course, all of this pre-existed film in the form of vaudeville and pantomime, but the Lumières deserve some credit for seeing that it would work as well on a screen as on a stage, at a time when it hadn’t yet been established what “moving pictures” were really for. While it is simple and slight by our more sophisticated standards, this retains a naïve charm and pleasant simplicity.
Original Title: L’arroseur Arrosé
Director: Louis Lumière
Run Time: 46 seconds
You can watch it for free: here.