See the moving picture


The Burlesque Attraction

Par le trou de la serrure (Peeping Tom)

Ferdinand Zecca, Pathé-Frères, France, 1901

Through the narrative device of the hotel or boarding-house door, the mask or matte shot (which had precedents in the magic-lantern show) actually took on the name “keyhole shot.” It’s technically a point-of-view shot because it shows what a character sees. Its purpose, however, is not primarily narrative: it typically represents what the spectator sees when the film permits him to view a spectacle that he’s not ordinarily permitted to see. In this sense, it belongs to the cinema of attractions, and in Par le trou de la serrure, the voyeuristic interlude is grafted onto the burlesque gag. In one shot, a peeping tom sees a young woman at her dressing table (Frame 1). Moving down the hall, he catches a glimpse of woman in the act of undressing for the night (Frame 2); the woman doing the “striptease,” however, turns out to be an unappetizing amalgam of prosthetic attraction—not only her breasts but her teeth, nose, and hair are false. As we saw in Chapter 7.1, the cinema of attractions often strives for just such a generic diversity of appeals.

Back to CHAPTER 8/Part 1