George Méliès

film 18 of 70

The Dancing Midget

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 17, 2015

More excessive reacting. This was a standard device of course, remarked upon in a number of our Edison reviews (q.v.) , written about by Charles Musser, among others. The device now appears to be ineffective, which is to say it’s more or less defunct. What is interesting is that these react-ors, there to cue spectators about the manner and degree of their own responses, are basically an embedded precursor to shot-reverse shot strategy. A precursor, in other words, to suture (Daniel Dayan, 1974). That’s the device by which sophisticated commercial films draw us in emotionally, and ideologically at the same time. Conspiracy! Or, hegemony. Either way, by hook or crook, the spectator ends up being put, imposed upon.

Méliès’ defunct knee-slappers kind of frustrate this process, or make it impossible. They’re too obvious. Maybe that’s why the practice was phased out, even if the phasing was unconscious or unawares. Maybe that’s also why we needn’t be too dismissive. More to it, more to most everything, than we often realize.

We adore M. Méliès, but the central concept and the match cuts in this one aren’t especially interesting. Still, always, everyone moves so very beautifully.