Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Best Years of Our Lives #14.
Oh, Méliès. Much as I adore the early comedy shorts, I have been dying to get to the era of (the previously seen and therefore ineligible) Porter’s "The Great Train Robbery" and Méliès’ "A Trip to the Moon," an era of shorts with story, spectacle, cinema. Georges Méliès’ "Bluebeard" is as expert as you’d expect. There’s elaborate art direction, actual plot, a dissolve or two, and special effects out the wazoo. “Barbe-bleue” est un film vrai.
You may have discerned that this is the story of Bluebeard, that old Perrault lord who killed so many of his wives. When he goes away, his current wife discovers his crimes and is haunted by the ghosts. Upon his return, he freaks the geek out and nearly kills her, but the other aristocrats and the spirits of the wives join forces to defeat him. And they all lived happily ever after. Or something.
At nine minutes, this is nearly as long as all the other shorts put together, but I couldn’t believe it was over already. Let’s just say a lot happens at a quick clip—smoke here, acrobatics there, phantoms here, a fight there—and Méliès fills our screen with such spectacle that it flies by. The discovery of the dungeon is an eerie delight, as is the revelation of the spirit of the key, but every scene is brimming with joys, including our introduction to the volatile Bluebeard and his court of admirers. More filmmakers could use Méliès’ economy. Welcome to cinéma.