Juve vs. Fantomas (1913)

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*. Meanwhile, the investigation continues.
*. I think I’ve registered before how much I like the authentic details to be found in old films. The horse shit and steam-powered buses we see on the streets of Paris here are great. You can’t do horse shit as stage dressing or put it in with CGI. It just doesn’t have the same texture.
*. Though it was made right after the first Fantômas film (Fantômas in the Shadow of the Guillotine), this second part of the serial marks a dramatic advance. There are a lot more cuts, giving the proceedings a much livelier feel. There is also what appears to be a dolly shot and even a close-up thrown into the mix.
*. Added to the increased cutting is a penchant for scenes involving lots of movement. We are frequently watching cars and trains zoom about, or are on board the same. It’s very different from the first film, which is mostly set bound.

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*. The plot is certainly more chaotic than its predecessor, and with that wonderful python entering the bedroom the true note of surrealism comes in. Fittingly, while Juve is pretending to be asleep. I couldn’t help thinking of the engravings in Max Ernst’s Une Semaine de Bonté.
*. The snake is a throwaway bit of plot. I suspect Feuillade had one lying around and wanted to use it. Almost as surreal is Juve’s crazy spiked girdle. That must have been a custom design as I can’t think of any use for such an outfit, even as a defense against snakes.
*. I guess they actually killed the snake later. Sad. That was a magnificent beast.

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*. Also new is the comic sensibility at play. The gunfight among the barrels and the business with Juve and Fandor hiding in the furnace vent are both funny scenes, and deliberately so. Fantômas’s return to the club after escaping Juve is also a comic bit. He’s a right cocky bastard, he is. A title card in the next film in the series, The Murderous Corpse, will refer to his “sinister sense of humour.”
*. Identity is becoming more plastic. Now Juve shares the opening montage of metamorphosis with Fantômas, and goes through his own series of disguises in the film. Can we trust the camera any more than the characters? We may be starting to doubt.

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