Wednesday, October 5, 2016

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2014) by Year # 0052 - LE TUNNEL SOUS LE MANCHE, LE / TUNNELING THE CHANNEL (Georges Méliès, 1907, France, 10m, BW)



LE TUNNEL SOUS LE MANCHE, LE / TUNNELING THE CHANNEL 

(Georges Méliès, 1907, France, 10m, BW)

 



Introduction

LE TUNNEL SOUS LE MANCHE, LE / TUNNELING THE CHANNEL (Georges Méliès, 1907, France, 10m, BW)

Directed by Georges Méliès
Production company
Star Film Company
Release dates 1 July 1907
Running time 23 minutes
Country     France
Language Silent film


Tunneling the English Channel (French: Le Tunnel sous la Manche ou le Cauchemar anglo-français) is a 1907 silent film by pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès. The plot follows King Edward VII and President Armand Fallières dreaming of building a tunnel under the English Channel.

Production

The idea of building a tunnel under the Channel was much discussed in 1907; Méliès's film is a highly topical take on the popular subject. Méliès appears in the film as the engineer who presents the blueprints for the tunnel. Fernande Albany, an actress who also appeared in Méliès's The Impossible Voyage, An Adventurous Automobile Trip, and The Conquest of the Pole, plays the leader of the Salvation Army parade. King Edward was played by a wash-house attendant who closely resembled the monarch, reprising a role he had played five years before in Méliès's film The Coronation of Edward VII. Special effects used in the film include stage machinery, pyrotechnics, substitution splices, superimposition, and dissolves.

Release and reception

Tunneling the English Channel was released by Méliès's Star Film Company and is numbered 936–950 in its catalogues, where it was advertised as a fantaisie burlesque à grand spectacle en 30 tableaux. For many of his longer films, Georges Méliès prepared a boniment, a spoken commentary explaining the action, to be read aloud while the film was shown; according to the recollections of Méliès's son André Méliès, the boniment for Tunneling the English Channel included dialogues between the French president and English king, with the latter speaking French in a thick English accent. The composer Bétove (real name Michel Maurice Lévy, 1883–1965) recorded a piano score for the film in 1946. American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum named it as one of his 100 favorite films. The academician Elizabeth Ezra called it "one of Méliès's wittiest and most engaging films."





Review

One of Georges Melies' most prophetic of his pseudo-science fiction efforts, "Tunneling the English Channel" is a delightful combination of political satire and fantasy. Made in 1907, the film is presented in a lavishly hand-colored print (although the print used for the recent "Melies: First Wizard of Cinema" collection begins with a rather rough, black and white copy and switches to a pristine, hand-colored source about halfway through. This was presumably pieced together from the best surviving elements).

The films begins with a sort of split-screen set up, featuring the King of England and the President of France getting ready for bed. As they dream, visions of the building of the tunnel underneath the English channel play out. We see the construction of the tunnel on both the English and French sides, as well as the celebrations following the successful completion of the project. However, their dream turns to a nightmare when disaster strikes as two trains collide in the tunnel, waking both the King and the President from their dream. At this very moment, an engineer comes to see both men with plans to build a channel tunnel, and both leaders forcibly eject him from the scene!

Delightfully stylized moments occur throughout. The set representing the channel tunnel is very elaborate, with sand and silt underneath the tunnel, and the sea itself above, in which we see various submarines, fish, and other aquatic creatures moving about. Melies packs an incredible amount of visual detail into every frame. Melies' fascination with industry and technology is present throughout. In Melies' narration, written to accompany the film, he goes in to great detail on the scientific and technological details of the construction.

In his book "Flickers: A Century of Cinema" (1995), British critic Gilbert Adair notes that, technically speaking, "Tunneling the English Channel" offers a more daring vision of the future than Melies' more famous film, "A Trip to the Moon", in that-while travel to the moon became a reality 67 years after that film's release, the Chunnel did not become a reality until 88 years after the release of this film. The ending of the film, with both leaders soured on the idea of a tunnel because of their nightmare, leads to a perfect comic close to the whole film. There are some moments of fun political satire throughout, such as the moment when the leaders' respective footmen mock their pompous march in a celebratory parade. A delightful film on all counts, this lesser-seen Melies title deserves its place among his best work.


Notable films 1907 - The Haunted Hotel (1907) by James Stuart Blackton


Original Title : The Haunted Hotel
Genre : Comedy, Fantasy
Country : United States
Release Date : 23 February 1907
Directed by J. Stuart Blackton
Produced by Vitagraph Company of America
Starring : Paul Panzer
Duration: 3:22

AKA :
Germany : Das Spukhotel
France : L'hôtel hanté
Hungary : Kísértett szálloda



Story

A traveler stays the night at a rural inn, but gets no rest as he is tormented by various spectres and mysterious happenings. The food on the table prepares itself, his clothes leave the room on their own and the room seems to tumble end over end. Several hooded figures dance around his bed, and a demon finally tears away one wall and seizes him.


Review

If anything sets this apart from the other trick films of the period, it is its extensive use of stop motion animation; the opening sequence shows the outside of the spooky inn, with the front of it eventually morphing into a sinister face, and the traveler watches as his meal prepares itself in front of him (though personally, I wouldn't drink the coffee after I discover a clown lives in the coffee urn).  The appearance of demons at the end of the movie after the traveler has gone to bed, is one of the available versions, but the copy I saw ended with the traveler going to sleep, which is a disappointment.  If you get a chance to see the complete version, you can compare both versions.

Overall, Fantastic short film by Blackton, mixing live actors, optical effects, stop motion into a strange little tale of an enchanted hotel. One great detail duting the coffee and teapot dance - check out the invisible switch from stop motion to live action when the tea pot rises and pours. You tell by the steam coming from the pot that that bit is live action and the kettle must be on wires. The way he thought this through was awesome.


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