Arthème macabre

Arthème avale sa clarinette
R: Ernest Servaès. K: Émile Pierre. D: Ernest Servaès. P: Société Générale des Cinématographes Éclipse. Fr 1912

“This film was produced by the short-lived Eclipse Company. Few Eclipse films survive and, when this delightful comedy was found, the print was decomposed along the edges and the end had melted away. Ten years later, another print miraculously surfaced, free of rot but very choppy. This edition is digitally reconstructed from both, almost frame by frame. Starring (and allegedly directed by) Ernest Servaès, the title of the film more-or-less tells you all you need to know.”

“This is not much in terms of plot, but what really matters is the excellent special effect used in this 1912 film. The illusion is perfect: the viewer is persuaded the clarinet truly protrudes from Arthème’s skull. And seeing this man going on playing the lower half of his clarinet while the other end sticks out of his head gives this modest slapstick comedy a fascinating surrealistic tone, all the more as it is set against a strictly realistic context. For it is equally fascinating to wander with Arthème through the parks, the streets, the seafront of pre-First World War Marseilles, to wait for the streetcar with him and to see the real people of that time at work or idly walking. Neo-realism was not born in post-war Italy, it was an integral part of the very first films, often filmed in the streets, thus constituting an unintended but precious historical testimony.”
Guy Bellinger