Thursday, April 9, 2009

Princess Nicotine

Although there are many other good examples to use in a lecture on nickelodeon-era practices, I particularly like "Princess Nicotine, or The Smoke Fairy" from the first series of Treasures from American Film Archives (National Film Preservation Foundation) because it covers the ground efficiently. It is short (like the great majority of films shown in that period), shows the level of film technique (for example, in apparently superimposed images and effective cutting), reflects the continued novelty and importance of special effects films (which made film distinct from traditional theater), includes Martin Marks' richly allusive score that is nevertheless very accessible to students (who invariably catch at least the Nutcracker quotes), and is still funny, even 100 years later. It also provides a light-hearted moment to remind students that early films will sometimes depict and valorize practices and attitudes that some will find objectionable today. About the only thing "Princess Nicotine" won't do is demonstrate that dramatic films were important during the nickelodeon era, too.

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