A Sticky Woman (1906)
Alternate Title: Une femme collante
This is a simple one-joke comedy from Alice Guy that takes place in a post office. It is low-budget and relatively primitive compared to the moro elaborate work we’ve seen from Guy this week, although it’s also a reminder of the bulk of content that any director would be cranking out at the time.
The camera is set at a long-shot and faces the counter, where there are three open stations, marked “Telegraphie,” “Affranchisement,” and “Chargement,” and customers are lined up at each one. A woman enters with her maid and approaches the “Affranchisement” booth. She buys some stamps and the pair approach a desk at the front of the shot. She begins to stick stamps onto a stack of envelopes she has prepared, and the maid obligingly sticks out her tongue so that the woman can dampen each stamp before affixing it. Now a man in a top hat with a large handlebar mustache comes in with his wife; they are arguing, and he settles it by giving her some money and sending her to the “Affranchisement” station. While she is there, he notices the woman and her maid, and becomes increasingly fascinated as the maid licks stamp after stamp. Eventually, all of the stamps are affixed, and the woman goes to the “Chargement” station. The man now approaches the maid and gives her a passionate kiss. The whole building goes into an uproar as this kiss drags out longer and longer – he cannot pull himself back because of all the glue. Finally, a clerk runs over with a pair of scissors and cuts the two apart – the maid now bears the man’s mustache.
There are definite gender and class implications to this little sketch – as in “What Demoralized the Barber Shop” we see a man who apparently loses control after seeing a usually intimate piece of female anatomy (the tongue), and as in “The Gay Shoe Clerk” we see that the woman has no ability to resist his advances. Today, we might see this as a justification for anonymous sexual assault. In this case she is also a servant, used to taking orders and presumably to providing bodily fluids (well, saliva) for her mistress’s needs. The reaction of all the workers and customers suggests how out-of-place such a public display of affection was, even in France. It’s interesting to note that this time there are no signs in English, though I suspect this was sold in English-speaking markets. Possibly they were working fast and didn’t have time for translations. The other thing that occurred to me is that with the rise of self-adhesive stamps (to say nothing of email and text-messaging), there will soon be a generation that has never licked a stamp. This movie certainly makes it look unhygienic.
Director: Alice Guy
Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville
Run Time: 2 Min, 20 secs
You can watch it for free: here (no music) or here (with music).