George Méliès

film 27 of 70

The Infernal Cake-Walk

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 19, 2015

The fun these people are having is powerfully palpable, and it’s all communicated to the viewer too. Not just fun, but well-crafted fun. The establishment of the setting and situation (those flats!), the themes that are played thereupon, the single turns and the group routines are all beautifully paced and presented. As often, Méliès’ frame is full to the point of eye-popping.

How on earth did they do those flames? The digital present is not necessarily the apex of film-effects possibility. (Try 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts!) And by the way, it turns out that Méliès also invented the film musical! This dancing is really superb, and Sosin’s score brings it wonderfully alive.

You will notice, and you should, that they utilize black face. Very much of its time, and it can be aptly explained, and understood. (Here, for instance: It shouldn’t be just be countenanced, let alone approved of, obviously. But it’s not very productive, or, probably, very fair, to simply abominate it.

That’s partly because, as we’ve mentioned often, no one, and very few films, can simply be reduced to their errors. There’s so much more to appreciate! For instance, get a load of the devil’s astonishing legs! The costume-design present is not necessarily the apex of the seamstress/sempster possibility. The devil, with his amazing legs right there, eventually gets all dismembered. Then reassembled, for good measure. Really impressive!

Let me return to the original idea, or observation. The key to this whole thing may be the provocatively, sweetly anomalous contrast between the hellish setting and the wholesome fun that’s going on there. Just delightful!