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La Fée Printemps / The Spring Fairy (1902)

CRUMBLIES…4 crumblies

Way back in the dawn of cinema (second decade), Georges Méliès had competition from the Pathé Frères across town in Paris. Segundo de Chomón was one of their team; Ferdinand Zecco another. Not wildly original, they would copy the visual trickery, but gave Méliès a true run for his money. History says Méliès won, but take a look at the above short which, much to the relief of old Jack here, tells a reasonably coherent story. In three strange minutes: La Fée Printemps.

So. A couple are at their table and it is snowing outside (or there’s a cotton wool storm; assume snow). Essentially kind, the couple see an aged crone wander past their shutters. It’s a scene you will often see in this care home, late on snowy winter nights. The nursing staff will catch sight of a wizened crone creeping past outside – then run out with a couple of porters to get Mad Maud back inside and dressed. In the film, the couple sort of invite her in and offer the food at their table.

Also, the aged crone in La Fée Printemps is rather sweeter, and thoroughly grateful. She comes in, has her bent old arse ushered to the table by the fire, and guzzles down a bowl of soup from their…well, cauldron. And then, not unlike Mad Maud, said crone heads for the door, takes a dramatic, stagey moment and hurls off her clothes. Really.

Safety Alert: there’s no nonagenarian nudity. Nope – it’s special effect time, 1902-style. The aged crone (and, look, here’s a lesson to the young: be nice to us and this shit could happen to you), turns into a Fairy. And not just any black and white, silent fairy. No, a hand-painted bright yellow and silent Fairy.

Yup – for de Chomón and Zecca have a back up trick –  colouring in! It makes this brief film oddly mesmerising. And the Fairy knows it, standing with arms out in classic panto “I know, I’m terrific!” stance, subtext a-blaring.

The Spring Fairy takes the couple outside into the snowy garden and, through the power of fades and cuts and more yellow, turns the winter garden into a spring garden. And there are flowers – all yellow, even when picked into a bunch and accidentally dropped. All three go back inside, and the Fairy moves on with her life whilst the couple…well…here’s the story-beat…get a surprise from the flowers. Well, two surprises. Oh yes.

Go on, give it a go. It’s three minutes of sweetness and visual trickery from 1902. And underneath, almost certainly the last consideration of the directors, is a wee story-line about being kind to the old, because they might be magic, do something lovely to your garden, and then change your lives forever…

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