Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Video: What the Janitor Saw, 1902

Friday, January 3, 2014

Isabella reporting,

Here's a silly, short film clip that must have been quite racy when it was new. Called Par le trou de serrure (What Happened to the Inquisitive Janitor), it's exactly that – a nosy hotel employee spying on guests.

It's the work of director Ferdinand Zecca (1864-1947) for the Société Pathé Frères of Paris, the largest film equipment and production in the world in the early twentieth century. In 1902, Pathé had recently acquired the patents of the Lumiere brothers - we've shared examples of their pioneering films here and here - and were swiftly expanding into the international market by showing their short silent films in their own movie theaters around the world, from Paris to London to New York to Moscow. Regardless of the language of the patrons, short films like this one must have been immensely popular.

This particular film is also considered noteworthy for its first known use of the "keyhole matte" technique. The audience gets to see exactly what the peeping-tom janitor sees - even the keyhole through which he's spying.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

That certainly started my day with a good chuckle!

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