The Burglars (1898)
I’d rate this as one of the more interesting movies I’ve seen from Alice Guy so far. It’s another light comedy with a vaguely anti-authoritarian bent, like “The Turn of the Century Blind Man,” but with no obvious parallels, except perhaps to the chaos of the vaudeville stage.
We see a set that is designed to look like the Paris rooftops, with various men scampering over it and another figure occasionally poking out of a window. The scene is so active and frenzied that it takes a moment (or even a couple of views), to divide the four into two distinct groups – two men in uniform, two not. The uniformed men are chasing the others, all of them leaping from one part of the set to another, climbing over obstacles, etc. The chased men manage to go inside of a window, and for a moment the uniforms disappear as well. The burglars (as we now know them to be) emerge with two paintings in hand. As they hold up their prizes, the gendarmes reappear, and the burglars smash the paintings over their heads, trapping them in the frames. They now roll their pursuers along the roof, presumably preparing to drop them over the side, when the film ends.
This movie is typical enough, in that it attempts to translate comedy and movement to the screen without worrying overmuch about the plot, but it took me by surprise with its chaos and violence (and apparent siding with the criminals!). Maybe we can see some prediction of it in “Robetta and Doretto,” itself an attempt to bring a famous stage comedy act to the screen. I think it possible that this is also based on an understood comedy situation – people chased by the police are by definition the “good guys,” etc. I’ve identified the pursuers as “gendarmes” in part because French Wikipedia does so, but their uniforms are decidedly different from the obvious cop in “Blind Man,” and look more like the man I assumed to be a soldier in “At the Hypnotist’s.”
Director: Alice Guy
Camera: Unknown (possibly Alice Guy)
Run Time: 1 Min
You can watch it for free: here (no music)