ONE MAN BAND, THE
(Georges Méliès, 1900, France, 2m, BW)
THE ONE MAN BAND (1900)
Directed by Georges Méliès
Starring Georges Méliès
Release dates 1900
Running time 40 meters (approx. 1.5 minutes)
Language Silent film
The One Man Band (French: L'Homme-Orchestre) is a 1900 French short silent film directed by Georges Méliès. It was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 262–263 in its catalogs.
A man lays out seven chairs in a row and counts and recounts them to make sure. He sits down in the one on the far right, and splits in two, his double moving to the seat next to him. This process is repeated until there are seven men, identical except for their differing musical instruments, occupying all the chairs. They chat amongst each other until the man in the middle stands up to conduct. The six instrumentalists perform, then sit back and relax. The conductor stands up again and indicates that they should come closer. They do so, blending into each other until only the conductor is left. He makes the chairs disappear and reappear en bloc, then individually. As he is bowing to the audience, a gigantic fan rises behind him, startling him when he turns round. He sits on the only remaining chair and sinks through the floor of the stage. He then reappears on the other side of the fan, jumping over it before disappearing in a puff of smoke. The fan descends to reveal him behind it. He bows to the audience.
To create the illusion of seven identical musicians, the film required seven simultaneous multiple exposures; only one other known Méliès film, The Melomaniac, uses so many exposures at once. In addition, the effect required careful coordination in timing and body position between exposures. First, Méliès walked down a line, arranging the seven chairs in a row and sitting in the last one; then, the film was rewound in the camera six times to allow Méliès to play the part of each musician. While filming each musician's part, all other chairs were masked from the lens to prevent them from being exposed. The process was repeated until the entire band had been filmed, all on a single strip of film. In 1906, Méliès commented on the difficulty of multiple exposure: "you go into a rage when after three quarters of an hour of work and attention, a sprocket rips forcing you to start all over again, repair being impossible."
The other effects in the film were created with stage machinery, pyrotechnics, and the substitution splice. A similar effect had previously been created by Méliès in his 1898 film The Triple Lady, in which two copies of a woman emerge from her body and sit beside her. The theme of multiplying chairs returned in Méliès's later film The Black Imp, although that film uses no multiple exposures.
John Frazer, in his book-length study of Méliès, comments: "As a piece of theater this act is simple, but as cinema it is a Méliès tour de force, unchallenged for years." In his 1921 film The Playhouse, Buster Keaton evoked a similar image by appearing as all nine members of a minstrel show. The effect was created using the same techniques Méliès had pioneered for The One Man Band and The Melomaniac.
Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, known as Georges Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938), was a French illusionist and film director famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. Méliès was an especially prolific innovator in the use of special effects, popularizing such techniques as substitution splices, multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color. He was also the first filmmaker to use storyboards. His films include A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904), both involving strange, surreal journeys somewhat in the style of Jules Verne, and are considered among the most important early science fiction films, though their approach is closer to fantasy.
Georges Méliès was an early French experimenter with motion pictures, the first to film fictional narratives. When the first genuine movies, made by the Lumière brothers, were shown in Paris in 1895, Méliès, a professional magician and manager-director of the Théâtre Robert-Houdin, was among the spectators. The films were scenes from real life having the novelty of motion, but Méliès saw at once their further possibilities. He acquired a camera, built a glass-enclosed studio near Paris, wrote scripts, designed ingenious sets, and used actors to film stories. With a magician's intuition, he discovered and exploited the basic camera tricks: stop motion, slow motion, dissolve, fade-out, superimposition, and double exposure.
From 1899 to 1912 Méliès made more than 400 films, the best of which combine illusion, comic burlesque, and pantomime to treat themes of fantasy in a playful and absurd fashion. He specialized in depicting extreme physical transformations of the human body (such as the dismemberment of heads and limbs) for comic effect. His films included pictures as diverse as Cléopâtre (1899; “Cleopatra”), Le Christ marchant sur les eaux (1899; “Christ Walking on the Waters”), Le Voyage dans la lune (1902; “A Trip to the Moon”), Le Voyage à travers l'impossible (1904; “The Voyage Across the Impossible”); and Hamlet (1908). He also filmed studio reconstructions of news events as an early kind of newsreel. It never occurred to him to move the camera for close-ups or long shots. The commercial growth of the industry forced him out of business in 1913, and he died in poverty.
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