The Dwarf and the Giant

Nain et géant, 1901, 0m54s
Star Film Catalogue No. 386

A man, clad in a hat and a sheet, walks through a stone archway onto a street. He looks to his left, then right, and discards the hat and sheet before acknowledging the audience. He makes a demonstrative gesture with his hand, and splits into two identical twins. They have a conversation about the similarities in their height before the twin on the right puffs himself up to gigantic size. Towering over the other twin, he points and laughs before producing some confetti from his pocket and sprinkling it over him. He then shrinks back to normal size, and the twins merge back into one. He dances a pirouette, and splits back into twins again. They thumb their noses at each other before leaving.

In The Dwarf and the Giant, Georges Méliès continues to explore the same superimposition-plus-dolly effect that he used in The Man with the Rubber Head (L’Homme à la tête en caoutchouc) and The Devil And The Statue (Le Diable géant ou le miracle de la madone, both 1901), though this film, despite being chronologically later - at least according to Méliès’ Star Films catalogue number - has more of a feel of a special-effects exercise than a fully worked-out narrative. As in The Four Troublesome Heads (Un Homme de têtes, 1898) and The One-Man Band (L’Homme orchestre, 1900), Méliès essentially plays himself, with no costume or make-up - in fact, he turns up clad in a hat and white sheet which he makes a rather over-elaborate point of discarding - an echo of the opening of The Man with the Rubber Head.

Where the film marks an advance on its two immediate predecessors (and “immediate” is the operative word, as the Star Films catalogue suggests they were indeed made one after the other, with nothing in between) is that Méliès is combining two superimposition effects - the new expanding/shrinking one, and a familiar “twinning” one that places two identical Mélièses on the screen at the same time. Typically for Méliès, he ups the ante by having the giant Méliès sprinking confetti over the smaller one, though it’s a pity that he ends the film with a glaring technical flaw. As the Mélièses lean forward to thumb their noses at each other, their rears are cut off by the matte, and they then unrealistically disappear into the sides of the archway - thus underscoring the impression that this was primarily a technical exercise.

Some mild tramlining and odd spots of black debris aside, any flaws in the picture on Flicker Alley’s DVD appear to be the fault of the original, as the image gets appreciably softer and loses contrast as soon as the first superimposed effect comes into play. But plenty of fine detail is still visible (the copyright-asserting ‘Star Film Paris’ sign on the left-hand wall is easily readable), and it’s otherwise a very satisfactory transfer.

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