Fantasmagorie (1908) Director: Émile Cohl
Fantasmagorie is a stream-of-consciousness, early silent cartoon film. The film uses stop motion techniques pioneered in America. It was produced for the Gaumont Company in France. The title of the film points to the fantasmograph, a 19th century device that predated modern film. Cohl drew the objects on hundreds of drawings on white backgrounds, and then released the film by flipping the colors to its negative.
The film is a unique, hand-drawn, absurdist cartoon. It is considered to be the first animated film. It consists of a stick-figure clown. Objects randomly transform into various other objects or characters, such as a bottle turning into an elephant. Several times, Mr. Cohl’s hands appear, as they break the fourth wall, to change the cartoon.
Émile Cohl (1857-1938) was an early film animator. He produced a wide variety of films as part of the “Incoherent Movement,” an early and short-lived French movement that predated the latter avant-garde movement.
Fantasmagorie is a remarkable film, no doubt. It is now freely available to watch online as it has entered the public domain.