Alice Guy – shifting between genres

Le fils du garde-chasse
R: Alice Guy. P: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont. Fr 1906
Print: New Zealand Film Archive / Cinématheque Royale Belgique

“Alice Guy makes a daring shift from comedy to drama in this short, which may be one of the first ‘revenge movies.’ It shows the complexity that audiences were beginning to expect as the Nickelodeon era progressed, but also tests the limits of that complexity in a short format. (…) For a little while, the movie follows a fairly standard chase format, where the pursued run across the screen, followed by their pursuer (and then the son, who in one instance picks up the gun his father has dropped but leaves his hat). But, then, the men cross a ravine which is traversed by a plank, and the second one turns the plank, allowing it to fall into the ravine. When the father runs into the shot, he is looking at the poachers, not at his feet, and he also falls into the chasm. His son stops in time, having seen his father plunge out of sight. Now, the tone of the movie changes. What had seemed a fairly light-hearted chase through the woods has become tragic. (…)
The simple set up and chase at the beginning makes you expect a comedy, or at most a fairly conventional action picture, and the sudden death of the father in the middle leaves you groping for a resolution. Up until the end, I kept expecting him to come back, having somehow survived the fall. It just seemed like that kind of a movie. But, it’s not. (…) It’s also reasonably sophisticated for the time – where the chase scenes seem set up to be formulaic, Guy throws narrative surprises at us and keeps the movie from falling into obvious ruts.”
Century Film Project