See the moving picture


Screening Out the Ugly

La Photographie électrique à la distance (Long-Distance Wireless Photography)

Georges Méliès, Star-Film, France, 1908

An ambitious photographer has invented a primitive television that projects living images of his clients on to a large screen. When a pretty woman strikes a few poses, the contraption works (more or less) perfectly (left), but when an old man takes a seat before the camera (which apparently has a built-in sense of who is and isn’t photogenic), it projects the image of a tonsured monkey-faced clown (right). Méliès’ technique in this comedy, as in L’Homme à la tête de caoutchouc and dozens of other films, calls for matting out an unexposed black background on which to superimpose an independently taken image (see Reading 3.3).

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