See the moving picture


Publicity as Spectacle

Métamorphose du papillon (A Butterfly’s Metamorphosis)

Gaston Velle, Pathé-Frères, France, 1904

The film begins with a puppet caterpillar crawling over a stage-prop leaf before turning into a papier-mâché cocoon and then (via stop motion and superimposition) into a vibrant butterfly with shimmering multicolored wings. The butterfly becomes a woman, and its wings the flowing folds of a magnificent gown, when an actress bends foward to raise her head and rise to her full height (a non-cinematic trick involving mere human contortion). She then performs a brief dance in which she waves and flutters her brightly colored “wings.” Although the film is certainly a delightful entertainment spectacle, its display of costume and trick effects is intended largely to embellish an advertisement for Pathé’s unique stencil-coloring process.

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