The Conjuror (1899)
Alternate Titles: L’impressionist fin de siècle, An Up-to-Date Conjuror, A Turn-of-the-Century Illusionist.
This short trick film from Georges Méliès is another display of his attempts to recreate a magic act on the screen, using the benefits of special effects to produce wonders. It is fast paced and largely plotless.
At the beginning, Méliès, in a magician’s costume, is positioning a full-sized mannequin of a woman on a table. He quickly brings her to life. She jumps down, bows, and dances a bit, then Méliès seats her in a chair and covers her shoulders with a shawl or blanket. He picks up a large basket or tube and places it on the table. He then covers her with the blanket and removes it with a flourish, making her disappear. Then he pulls up the tube on the table and she is revealed to be underneath. He picks her up and suddenly she turns into confetti, which he sprinkles about liberally. He puts the tube back on the table and covers himself with the blanket, disappearing and then appearing beneath the tube, which he removes himself. He leaps down from the table, turning into the woman in the process. She climbs up onto the table and jumps down, turning into Méliès. He now turns a tumble, disappears, and appears at stage left. He sits on the table and disappears again, this time in a puff of smoke.
The speed of the substitution splices gives this movie a kind of insane rhythm. Nothing is as it seems – or not for very long. Motion is the only constant. In less than sixty seconds, we see at least eight special effects. I think this gives this movie a manic pace not equaled by his earlier work. The woman in this movie seems familiar to me, after watching so many other Méliès films. She doesn’t seem to be ID’d anywhere, so I’m assuming it isn’t Méliès’s wife, but she does seem to have been a frequent co-star.
Director: Georges Méliès
Starring: Georges Méliès
Run Time: 1 Min
You can watch it for free: here.