The Irresistible Piano (1907)
Alternate Title: Le piano irrésistible
This is another of Alice Guy’s slightly surreal comedies about apartment life, as with “The Cleaning Man.” This is one of those comedies that takes advantage of the silence of the film in order to suggest sounds to the viewer’s imagination.
A man in a tall hat and a formal suit is moving into an apartment, and the moving men bring in his piano. As soon as they leave, he takes off his hat and sits down to play. The moving men bring in more furniture, but they begin to dance along with the rhythm of the piece. We cut to the apartment downstairs, where a couple is taking tea, and they also begin to dance. They dance out of the door and we cut back to the original apartment. They come in, apparently intending to complain, but they continue dancing instead. Another couple is engaged in housework, but they are also compelled by the music to begin dancing, and they also dance out their door to find its source. Now we see a group of women working for a dressmaker, sewing and making clothes. They also get the bug and start dancing, heading out to find the jamboree going on in the upstairs apartment. Finally, a passing policeman hear the noise and goes to investigate, but he also begins compulsively dancing. When he enters the room it is a huge party of people dancing to the piano. The pianist tries to end his piece, but the crowd will have none of it – they force him back to the keys. They seem to slow down as the piano player becomes increasingly tired, and he finally stops, slumped over the piano, and all the dancers stop and look at one another.
This movie is a fairly simple one-trick-pony, but it does involve multiple set-ups and shots edited together in sequence. The fun part is that we can’t really hear what the music of the pianist sounds like, though we can see its rhythm in the movements of the dancers. In that sense, it may actually work better without a soundtrack, just allowing your imagination to supply the music. It’s interesting to me how often silent movies rely on the sound that characters would hear to augment their story – as if having to work without the sense of hearing made filmmakers more creative in its depiction. The characters in this movie seem to vary from middle class (the first couple and the dressmaker), to working class (the second couple and the dressmaker’s employees), and perhaps part of the point is the unifying nature of music.
Director: Alice Guy (possibly with help from Louis Feuillade)
Camera: Unknown, possibly Alice Guy or Anatole Thiberville
Run Time: 4 Min, 10 secs