Georges Méliès - The Conjuror (1899) - Notes/Comments

Melies Image from The ConjurorAlthough Georges Méliès' The Conjuror (L' Impressionniste fin de siècle) was was one of his earliest movies, it's also an excellently realized example of Méliès' basic style of cinematic magic.

The Conjuror revisits a scene that Méliès had explored before, and is basically a cinematic adaptation of the traditional magic trick "making the assistant disappear". Méliès first presented this scene in his 1896 film The Vanishing Lady, which used simple camera stop-substitution to achieve the affect (no motion involved, and no in-camera dissolve). Méliès revisited the idea in his 1898 film The Magician, which made further use of the substitution effect, which by that time was only one of many effects that Méliès was using in his films.

By in mid-1899, Méliès had become an expert at in-motion substitution. In about one minute of runtime, The Conjuror features eight substitution effects, two involving motion-matching substitutions (Magician transforms into Assistant (mid-flight) as he leaps from the table. Then Assistant transforms back into Magician as she hops from the table.) The Conjuror shows that before 1900, Georges Méliès was confidently manipulating the cinematic medium to create his "magic films", using both in-camera substitution and basic film splicing to achieve the magical effects he desired.

Recommended reading: Artificially Arranged Scenes: The Films of George Melies (John Frazer, 1979, G.K. Hall & Co., Boston).

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