by Pat Graham
Tomorrow night's program of Georges Melies silent featurettes at Sonotheque, screening (presumably from DVD) as part of Gabe Klinger and Joe Bryl's "Magic in Cinema" showcase, seems as close to film nirvana as anything this curmudgeonly seeker could ever hope to find, format be damned. Melies invariably blows me away—maybe because the imagination's so transparent, the ideas so ingenuous and raw, with all the technical seams showing. The man takes his chances, or follows his visual bliss, whatever you choose to call it. And every "primitive" experiment is its own eureka! event—multiple exposures, matte dissolves, even inadvertent jump cuts before the fact, all so adventurous and fanciful you can still feel the discoverer's excitement more than a hundred years on. Morning of the world kind of stuff, bliss was it in that dawn...
More than 20 Melies titles are promised—from The Vanishing Act (1896) to The Astronomer's Dream (1898) to The Fat & Lean Wrestling Match (1900) to Excelsior!—Prince of Magicians (1901) to The Infernal Cauldron (1903) to The Black Imp (1905)—most of which I'm not familiar with, though from my point of view it's hard to go wrong with a lineup like this. Also on tap for the evening are Edwin S. Porter's Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906), R.W. Paul's The ? Motorist (1906), and Lotte Reiniger's feature-length silhouette animation The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926).
The show gets started Wednesday 9/17 at 7 PM at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago. Click here for the full evening's schedule or call 312-226-7600.