George Méliès

film 35 of 70

The Monster

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 19, 2015

More narration on this one. Flicker Alley/FPA provide a very helpful, very interesting explanation for this phenomenon. Again, very early films, both as produced (we knew that already) and as exhibited, reflected contemporary theatrical practice much more than we may realize. The narration here has everything to do with the exhibition side of the equation. What’s the most theatrical thing of all? Liveness! Sharing this space, this time with the people who have created this entertainment for us.

Méliès was an incalculably important filmmaker, or film pioneer. But moderns, and film moderns in particular, make a mistake. We are always thinking about evolution, and this preoccupation can distort our understanding of the historical. Yes, early film evolves into syntax and grammar. Yes, there are technological and stylistic developments that were beneficial, even essential. But couldn’t it also be true that 1903 liked where 1903 was, that the revolutionary George Méliès might have been, quite justifiably, happy in his first or native medium as well?

Obviously, inevitably all this cannot be replicated in a dvd release, and so the narration comes to us as fairly conventional. Think about it though.

If I may invoke or prefigure the contributions of Mr. Walt Disney, The Monster is kind of a combination of Skeleton Dance and Egyptian Melodies. There’s a nice fable or parable element underneath the as-ever able transformations (skeleton to creature to wife to skeleton). It’s a very old idea, very capably updated. All is vanity! There’s a contemporary wrinkle here, gender-satirical without, I think, being remotely stereotypical, let alone misogynistic. “Vanity” is communicated in the form of having to wait for this woman, despairing of her arrival, then finally seeing her so fetchingly but then glancingly. Feeling her loss so poignantly. Finally, that is some neck!