Manhattan Chase to the River Bank

1 Oct 2013: How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York Herald Personal Columns (DVD, 1904, Edwin S. Porter)

One of the earliest films I’ve seen, and probably the earliest complete one. Essentially all of it is a chase of the title’s Frenchman around a city and into nature by potential brides, who are supposed to be the ones with wealth that he is apparently trying to gold-dig by means of a newspaper classified ad – a great psychological illustration of projection, it seems. It’s the rare chase footage that is over- rather than undercranked, this undoubtedly due to the different hand-cranked frame-rate of the time and technological level, which gives a strange dreamy feel to the man’s alarm and frenzied escape, throwing up his hands, looking all around himself, dashing off again, and so on. It’s short and simple, with obviously little concern for plot or structure in the face of cute spectacle. Here the women are less inclined than in Buster Keaton’s world to put themselves through water for him – that’s where the wealthy draw the line, apparently – and that becomes the real test of love.

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