June 11, 1904 [Le Merveilleux éventail vivant/The Wonderful Living Fan]

Méliès the showman, ceremoniously dependent upon a single prop. But I must admit it's beautiful: a huge fan, tinted, all but filling the picture.

And when it unfolds, Méliès denies the stage—as does Edison, wrenching his vaudevillians from the boards to toss them down actual hills and propel them along busy boulevards. But Méliès' solution is to manipulate the camera, not his characters. And so each rib of the fan becomes a woman, multiple, pastel-tinted Eves alluring and ephemeral. It's charming as well as graceful, the closest I've seen him approach elegance—in other words, the furthest from his habitual antic dispositions.

The result is a kind of moving tableau, static in its effect, but as animated as a sparkling, leisurely smile. I hope to see his camera-trick mania steer more toward this kind of flowing simplicity. There is beauty waiting in the effort.


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