Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beyond the Black Maria: "Princess Nicotine, or The Smoke Fairy"

15. "Princess Nicotine, or The Smoke Fairy" (1909) Watch
This 5 minute short is very silly. Most of the bloated products lumbering out of Hollywood every year are nothing more than thinly written and badly acted excuses to showcase the latest in visual effects technology, and this little film is an early example of the same. The piece's main effect, cutting to a set built to look like props at a huge scale so that the 'fairies' will appear tiny, is actually pulled off with surprising success, though some glaring jump cuts at certain moments help to ruin the illusion. It seems there is even some rudimentary forced-perspective used at one point; this is a method used to make an actor seem bigger or smaller than reality by placing them at different distances from the camera along the z-axis. In this case the fairy is farther from us than the man, yet they cheat their eye lines to give the illusion of being the same proximity from camera. This same technique is still used in such relatively recent films as The Lord of the Rings and shows us that the simplest special effects are often the most rewarding and seamless. 

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