October 3, 1906 [Le Tripot clandestine/The Scheming Gambler's Paradise]

Georges Méliès abandons camera tricks and depends entirely on gigantic mechanical magic. The human beings—croupiers, bawds, gamblers, gendarmes—are almost incidental. It's the set that matters, a casino that seamlessly transforms into a millinery, sliding and shifting at will. The police enter—seemingly as enforcers of the law, but in practical terms only there to activate the machinery that instantly reforms tous les roués et les filles, who demurely admire hats and conduct proper business, their cards and wheel forgotten. And then it all pitches forward again as the law departs—and back and forth, until the mechanism folds everyone into its workings, the police as well, seduced by Méliès' spinning world.

Once again, the Frenchman fulfills the primal desire to watch, and appreciates the lifelong delight in cunning motion—and extends an invitation to the viewer to join him, as we smile and exclaim, "So that's how it's done!"—and wait to see it again.


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