Every Man His Own Cigar Lighter (1904)
An incomplete fragment which shows Georges Méliès using advanced camera techniques years before others would claim to have invented them. There isn’t enough here to draw much of a review from, but it still demonstrates a bit of Méliès’s style and whimsy.
We see a man, almost certainly Méliès himself in disguise, in closeup, puffing on a cigar with a wild look in his eyes. He has a wild disheveled beard and hair, and he draws a puff and blows it out with evident satisfaction. The entire clip lasts only about eight seconds, just long enough to see that character and form an impression of him.
This is not the first use of the closeup that I’ve seen in this project. Méliès had used it, in connection with “zooming” the camera (by moving it closer to the subject, for example in “The Man with the Rubber Head” (1901). Even earlier, the actors in the famous/infamous movie “The Kiss” (1896) are in a close-in two-shot in order to make their kissing more visible. Still, such shots were still very unusual in the early twentieth century, and most of Méliès’s movies framed an entire stage, from floor to ceiling, with room for actors to move about without the camera have to move to track them or miss anything they were doing, from their head to their feet. This movie fragment confirms that it wasn’t that no one had ever thought of doing this, it simply wasn’t desired most of the time. The opportunity to see Méliès acting with his face in close-up gives us a better sense of his presence as an actor. In these few seconds he comes across as the sort of whimsical, silly, but dedicated performer that his body of work describes. The short description in the Star Films Catalog suggests that most of this film was just a standard trick film, centered around a man unable to find a match, but conjuring a doppelganger of himself to provide one, so this may have been a concluding shot, similar to the famous ending shot of “The Great Train Robbery” (1903).
Director: Georges Méliès
Starring: Georges Méliès
Run Time: 8 secs (extant)
You can watch it for free: here.