Les Joyeux Microbes (1909)

Similar to Transfigurations, but now it’s a scientist trying to get an overacting scarf fella to look at different microbes under a microscope, each of which displays a different transmogrifying animated scene, usually involving cranky old people. Towards the end, one of the drawings becomes 3D, a drunk character’s paper arms wrapping around a prop bottle. Another wonderful detail: the final second of the film was presumably supposed to have the scarf guy storm out of the room, but the set door (which was working in the opening shot) bends, doesn’t open, Scarfie mooshing up against it until the film quickly cuts.

Japon de fantaisie (1909)

I guess it’s stop-motion using Japanese props. An insect lays an egg, hatches into a mask, which spews forth rats. Doesn’t seem like a very positive view of Japan… or maybe it’s a prequel to the Mothra films.

Clair de lune espagnol (1909)

These are getting more difficult to summarize now that Cohl has discovered intertitles and I don’t know French, but it looks like a matador gets rebuffed by a fan lady, so he leaps out a window… but is saved by a space-bound vessel. The man angrily shoots the moon with a shotgun, is challenged to a duel by moon men, then thrown back to earth, where the fan lady is now impressed with him. I liked the prop star that shoots sparks.

Le Songe du garçon de café aka Hasher’s Delirium (1910)

Waiter falls asleep during his shift, has loony prop-and-cartoon-based dreams. From all the bottles that appear, we can assume he’s a drunk. His appalled-looking cartoon dream-body is subjected to the ludovico technique, watching names of alcoholic drinks alternate with demons and horrors. Then he’s made to kick his own ass. Then he’s awakened in the most predictable fashion, given that just before falling asleep he gave a table of identical hat-wearing men four seltzer bottles.

Le Mobilier fidèle aka Automatic Moving Company (1910)

Debt-ridden Mr. Dubois hugs all his furniture one last time before it’s all repossessed and auctioned on a street corner. Later, each piece of furniture torments its new owner and flees (serves ’em right for taking advantage of poor Mr. Dubois, who cries and wails all through the auction), returning to Chez Dubois where they belong.

Fantasmagorie (1908)

The adventures of a prankster clown and his transforming world. One of the strangest animations ever, setting the stage for everything from Betty Boop to Don Hertzfeldt. Seen this before, of course.

Le Cauchemar du Fantoche (1908)

The Puppet’s Nightmare: Stick-figure man is sleeping when the world revolts on him, the line-drawing nature of his surroundings morphing into an endless series of free-association torments.

Un Drama Chez Les Fantoches (1908)

Back to unreliable stick-figure world. In this one, a woman gets her dress torn off, and later possibly murdered, but these being stick figures I guess there’s no fear of censorship. The stick-figure violence is less surreal than the others, so potentially more disturbing, until the two identical fighting dudes melt into puddles and the woman refashions them into a boa, then we’re back in Fantasmagorie territory for a spell. All four characters bounce back and take a bow at the end, just to make sure we know they’re alright.

Hat guy going to jail for murdering that woman:

Le Cerceau Magique (1908)

A man with Meliesian powers of stopping/starting the film to replace objects is approached by a little girl whose hoop has broken. The man transforms his cane into a new hoop, displays its new magic abilities, then the girl quickly tires of her magic hoop and hangs it on a wall, where it becomes a frame for some goofy animations, which are frankly not too exciting, and barely decipherable through a haze of film decay for half the time.

Le Petit Soldat Qui Devient Dieu (1908)

Return of the hoop girl… she runs off then stop-motion soldiers maneuver in front of a child-drawn house and ride paper boats into the river, where they’re discovered by a grotesque gang of shoddy blackface actors. Not sure what any of these things have to do with each other, unless Cohl was creating a universe of interrelated shorts which all take place within the hoop-girl’s imagination.

Les Freres Boutdebois (1908)

Acrobatic Toys: Stop-motion acrobats on a tiny stage self-assemble then perform tricks until the film ends abruptly. I liked the quirky xylophone music.

L’Hotel du Silence (1908)

Flabbergasted man enters hotel where things move on their own. The actor expends much effort trying to convince us how insane this all is, but 108 years later it’s more tedious than insane. Cool set design, though. The flabbergasted man is impressed by the hotel’s wizardry, but eventually he’s dirty and tired and hungry and overcharged, wishing Yelp existed so he could give this place a scathing review. IMDB says it’s a Méliès remake.

Transfigurations (1909)

Actors take turns looking into a peephole where they see different animated horrors, which is a better framing story than the girl with her magic hula-hoop (better animations, too). The proprietor laughs at each customer, who leaves angrily. I don’t understand his business model. Also, couldn’t all of Cohl’s films have been titled Transfigurations?

Hugo-inspired Melies shorts, followed by Melies-inspired silent shorts, followed by Sherlock Jr. Everything except A Trip to the Moon had live music by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton, and the films were introduced and attended by every Emory film person I’ve ever seen. A great program – Katy loved it too.

A Nightmare (1896)
Melies is trying to sleep, but different people keep appearing in his bed.

The Man With the Rubber Head (1901)
Magician Melies reveals that he’s got his own head in a box, and can inflate and deflate it using a bellows and a valve. Magician Melies is too excited, and Melies Head is super flustered. It goes on like this until M.M. decides to let a passing clown inflate his head, then he is pissed at the clown when it explodes. What did M.M. think would happen??

Extraordinary Illusions (1903)
A straight-up magic show, with things turning into other things. The beauty is he cuts on the action, so to speak, transforming things as they’re thrown into the air.

The Melomaniac (1903)
Conductor Melies lays out sheet music onscreen using eight Melies Heads as notes. Much fun for the musicians.

The Infernal Cauldron (1903)
A devil throws people into a pot, I think there was fire and maybe an explosion – I was mostly staring at the vivid hand-coloring.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)
A group of wizards stands around talking for three minutes – longer than any of the previous films – before they finally decide to take any trips to the moon. What was that all about? After the explorers journey to the moon and make moon men explode by whacking them with umbrellas, they capture one alien (sort of – he grabs onto their capsule) and bring him home triumphantly to an appreciative crowd. In my remake, I would have the moon man suddenly grab an umbrella and whack the mayor, making him explode. Hyper coloring and nonsense music by Air.

The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901, Walter Booth)
Very Melies-style thing with a sarcophagus and skeleton and throwing someone piecemeal into a pot.

The ‘?’ Motorist (1906, Walter Booth)
Two complete psychos run over a cop, drive up a building, circle the moon, ride on Saturn’s rings, then escape police by turning their car temporarily into a horse. One of the ten best films ever made, according to Ian Christie. I’m inclined to agree.

The Dancing Pig (1907, Pathe Freres)
Someone in a sick pig suit harasses a girl, is forced to strip, then dances for about a hundred minutes. One of the ten best films ever made, according to nobody ever.

Princess Nicotine (1908, J. Stuart Blackton)
Two smoke fairies harass a weirdly antisocial smoker, featuring some matchstick stop-motion.

Fantasmagorie (1908, Emile Cohl)
Holy crap. One minute of trippy stick-figure animation, eating itself.

How a Mosquito Operates (1912, Winsor McCay)
A balding mosquito the size of a man’s head sucks gobs of blood out of the sleeping man after sharpening his proboscis, repeating his actions frequently since McCay discovered the joy of animation reuse. One of the ten best films ever made, according to Mike Leigh.

Sherlock Jr. (1924, Buster Keaton)
Presented on 35mm, as was A Trip to the Moon. What I wrote last time still goes, except this time the music was much better.