Subversive Close-ups

Madame a des envies
R: Alice Guy. P: Société L. Gaumont et compagnie. Fr 1906

“The close-ups in Madame a des envies dramatically emphasize the subversive theme of the story. The allusions to fellatio make the film lascivious, but the woman’s subjectivity stands in strong contrast to Georges Mélies or later Victor Jasset‘s reliance on the female nude as a source of spectacle. (…)
The close-ups in Envies are not so close that we are allowed to forget the woman’s very pregnant state; her condition and the way she is swathed in nun-like drapery add a layer of satire to what would otherwise be simply voyeuristic, like the vignetted close-up of a woman’s ankle in Edison‘s The Gay Shoe Clerk. (…)
Envies max represent the first time narrative had been structured around close-up in films.(…) The close-ups in Envies are an extension of ‘comic gag’ films, single-shot films where an actor is shown in medium or close shot, and the fun of the film consists of the grimaces of the actor. These were comic versions of the melodramatic convict films, the cinematic equivalent to mug shots, in which convicts would grimace in order to make themselves less recognizable in pictures which required long exposures.”
Alison McMahan: Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema. Bloomsbury Publishing 2002, p. 38 f.

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