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Putting the Horse before the Oats

Le Cheval emballé (The Runaway Horse)

Louis J. Gasnier, Pathé-Frères, France, 1908

This sequence is composed of selected shots from the film. The story begins when a laundryman parks his horse-drawn cart in front of a building and goes upstairs to make a delivery (1). Inadvertently, he has left the horse within easy loping distance of an open bag full of oats from which the horse begins to eat (2). We then alternate between shots that record the laundryman’s dalliance inside (he shares a glass of wine with his customers [3] and a cigarette with the concièrge [5]) and shots which remind us that, outside, the horse continues to gorge himself on the oats (4,6). A title card (7) suggests the potential repercussions of rendering a horse overly energetic, and the course comique begins in earnest when the laundryman remounts the cart and drives away. The out-of-control horse picks up a growing mob of outraged citizens as he wreaks havoc on the local community (8), bowling over a bridge-repair crew (9) and toppling an occupied telephone booth (10). In a reverse-motion shot (achieved by printing the film backwards), he gallops backwards down the street (11), picking up a few more irate pursuers (12), then brings down a construction scaffold supporting a gang of workmen (13) and, after shedding a bunch of pursuers (14), destroys an outdoor market (15) before returning to (of all places) his own stall (16). (For a shot-by-shot description of the final sequence, see Figure 9.9.)

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