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Allegorizing the Spectacle

Aladin ou la lampe merveilleuse (Aladdin or the Marvelous Lamp)

Albert Capellani, Pathé-Frères, France, 1906

The “Triomphe d’Aladin Apothéose” and the earlier “Triomphe d’Ali Baba Apothéose” represent a feature that had become a Pathé trademark, especially in its féeries and biblical and historical films. Undoubtedly performing a cinema-of-attractions function, the apotheosis finale allegorizes the action—and theme—of the film and reaffirms its classification as spectacle. In Aladin, one wonders, perhaps, about the apparent idolization of the lamp, which dominates the center of the spectacle like the golden calf that greeted Moses on his descent from Mt. Sinai. In Pathé’s Vie de Moïse, it’s also the women—and apparently only the women—who cavort at the feet of the golden calf. The embedded reproof of ritual and icon adoration may also constitute an anticlerical comment on the part of the company’s proprietors, who were Protestants.

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