Dr. Rich Edwards

Discussion of the First Slapstick Film: "L'Arroseur Arrosé" (1896)

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I did not realize slapstick began in the 1800s. The clip was very funny. So much of what's done today follows the same pattern.

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The focus on the audience, in the "L'Arroseur Arrose" film poster, is such a departure from what movie posters have become today, where the film itself (and, even more specifically, the actors involved) take prominence. It sells the experience rather than the product. The closest equivalent today is maybe IMAX 3D, or Quentin Tarantino's 70 mm Hateful 8.

 

Who they have in the audience is also interesting, towards pegging it as a family film that you can take your kids to. Favorite detail is that they included the usher watching, as a comment on the universality of slapstick and a bit of classism, too.

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I enjoyed this basic and humble beginning to slapstick.  The whole story was a delight to watch.  The short film was tailored to evoke real laughter.  

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I thought the clip was great and reminded me of other gags I've seen in movies with Abbot and Costello and Laurel and Hardy. I remember the crazy things that Lucille Ball used to do in I Love Lucy and it's all connected to these beginnings. 

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It was a pleasure to watch both versions of L'Arroseur Arrose, and to witness slapstick take shape. I agree with many posters on here who prefer the remake. Unlike the original, the newer version of the gag allows the water in the hose to completely stop and stay that way until the time comes. It gives it more of an explosive impact when the water is finally released and the satisfaction is greater for the viewer who was anticipating it. 

 

It's amazing to see the gags that stood the test of time. I grew up watching the water hose gag in different comedy films and cartoons. It's nice to know where it all began! And it's not surprising that type of gag is still successful.  A garden hose is typically found in households, so anyone can have access to that sort of simple tomfoolery. 

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This gag is so human, and so lovable because probably so many of us relate to it. I think it's timeless, and was emphasized by the poster showing everyone enjoying a good laugh. I don't know much about movie-making but did notice the subject matter was framed in a way that shows the situation very well. It was a bit of genius, I think in being short, effective, and immediately silly.

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My thanks to the other forum members for offering the original version, as well as some interesting commentary.   Seems the "watering hose gag" is as old as filmmaking.  I was hoping to share another version, the one I first viewed, but the Flintstones aren't publicly available.  Barney was watering his lawn when Fred came along . . .you can guess the rest.

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I watched both versions of "L'Arroseur Arrose". I can definitely see the beginnings of slapstick in these clips. I'm familiar with the Lumiere Brothers and know that in addition to documenting real moments they enjoyed creating some of our earliest visual stories. In the remake in particular, the build up to the moment where the sprinkler gets sprinkled seemed very exaggerated. This creates suspense as the audience waits for the moment we all know is coming (dramatic irony) - the sprinkler getting hit in the face with a stream of water. Also there is some physical comedy in the brief chase sequence and the eventual punishment (the spanking). In the remake, we also get the moment of payback where the prankster gets hosed down as well. Lots of films and television series still use these gags today. For some reason the stopped up hose reminded me of the opening scene in David Lynch's film "Blue Velvet", although for a much different purpose!

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My thanks to the other forum members for offering the original version, as well as some interesting commentary.   Seems the "watering hose gag" is as old as filmmaking.  I was hoping to share another version, the one I first viewed, but the Flintstones aren't publicly available.  Barney was watering his lawn when Fred came along . . .you can guess the rest.

 

May I ask where the original can be found?

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L'Arroseur Arrosé may be less than a minute long, but it does set a comedy template for film. We've the straight man protagonist going about his business watering the garden. The smart-alecky boy antagonist decides to play a trick on the gardener, and the audience is made complicit. We know the boy will pull a prank, and we want him to, yet all the protagonist has done is perform his job diligently and obliviously. One fake hose clog later, and we watch the gardener get slapped in the face by water. We get to laugh, but then we get to laugh again when order is restored and the boy is punished in the manner he deserves for his stunt. There's a gentle roughness to this early version of reality-based slapstick. The scenario with variations of action happened countless times later. It would not always involve hoses. The hose prank feels familiar. Comedians like Buster Keaton, Mabel Normand, and Laurel and Hardy did have comedic hose sequences in later films. The hose became a classic slapstick prop.

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I think a lot of posters have really hit on something here with the idea of anticipation being crucial to the enjoyment of some slapstick scenes.  However, surprise is also a key element as well -- when the gag doesn't work the way you anticipate, but still works anyhow.  I think we'll be dealing with a lot of anticipation/surprise events in the upcoming course.

 

My initial theory, based on the two film clips, is that while basic slapstick probably involves the "little guy" mocking authority, when two or more comedians are in the gags they might just as easily prank each other.  I'm thinking here of soloists like Chaplin vs. groups like the Marx Brothers, the Stooges, Desi and Lucy, or even the bevy of comedians in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" who are constantly pranking each other as they all race around looking for "the Big W."  As for the two film clips, I think we might see these as two-comedian gags, for while the gardener looks like an authority figure, the boy also gets his comeuppance, which I don't think usually happens to the solo prankster who is faster or wittier than the bumbling authority.

 

And a note to the posters who have commented on what they saw in movie poster -- you guys are just brilliant!  I must say I didn't look at it that carefully at first, but everything you have said about the image really makes me think.  Thank you!

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I think it's impressive how the Lumière brothers managed to make people laugh with such a short film. I mean, only 45 seconds to show a whole story! L'arroseur arrosé is an important film in history because it introduced slapstick comedy in cinema and it's a valuable precedent to the American slapstick comedies that came out years later and consolidated the genre with even wider audiences.

I understand slapstick comedy has a lot to do with jokes, mischiefs, falls, chases, some kicks and punches. Corporal comedy.

 

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I like this one because it's different than the Lumieres' other shorts. There is a definite narrative, albeit in 45 seconds, unlike the Train coming into the station, or the people leaving the factory. There is an artifice to it, moreso than say Baby's Feeding Time where we have a couple flanking a toddler at a breakfast table. We see the child eating, which is cute and familiar, but there is no story beyond watching the baby eat. The family is clearly placed opposite the camera, so the scene is scripted to a degree, but not like this. Here we get an entire story arc from conflict to comeuppance.

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I like to see it as the saying goes "big things come in small packages". It’s the perfect length, with the perfect setting, characters, timing and above all approachable to all audiences. The setting is so approachable because it could be any of us watering our garden, and it could be any of us in the place of the little prankster. It has that daily life element that makes you sit back and say "hey… I can see myself doing that!" No matter who you are, you will be sure to see yourself in one character or perhaps both even. It could bring back memories of your childhood, perhaps a silly memory between a parent and child? Or something mischievous done to your next door neighbor. It’s the beauty of not knowing who the gardener and the little boy are, because so many stories can be told by this one little scene alone.
 

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The Simpsons Season 14 episode 5 titled "Helter Shelter" where Bart suggested that they go outside and see Homer drinking from a hose just to enjoy their merriment since there is nothing exciting on television anymore as an example.

 

Indeed, here is a that same clip from the Simpsons

 

Just as the gag of pulling the chair away as someone sits down is as old as chairs, I presume this hose gag is as old as hoses. The documentary "Laughing Matters" with Rowan Atkinson did a great breakdown of this gag, recreating it with different attitudes to create variations on the gag. However it seems to be from part 4 of the documentary which has been removed from Youtube.

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Dramatic irony works so well as a comedic device due to the fact that the audience inherently wants to be "in on the joke". I enjoyed the different angles employed in the remade version. The original version was shot straight on as if you were looking at a Proscenium as opposed to the remake where we see the action slightly askew which allows the chase sequence more depth of field.

The remake also gives the audience a cathartic release by allowing the original sprinkler to sprinkle the trickster sprinkler.

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Great clip ... does anyone remember if this clip was part of the Lumiere special aired on TCM a while back ???

I believe so.  I know I've seen it before.

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Indeed, here is a that same clip from the Simpsons

 

Just as the gag of pulling the chair away as someone sits down is as old as chairs, I presume this hose gag is as old as hoses. The documentary "Laughing Matters" with Rowan Atkinson did a great breakdown of this gag, recreating it with different attitudes to create variations on the gag. However it seems to be from part 4 of the documentary which has been removed from Youtube.

Thank you for sharing information about the Laughing Matters documentary with Rowan Atkinson! I would love to see that! Shame it's not on Youtube, but I'll keep a note to look for it in it's entirety in the future!  I watch a lot of British comedy as well, and you see a lot of slapstick and prank type humor throughout. 

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Thank you for the info on the original version. Great to see both versions. I'm always curious about the music chosen for silent pictures. The music always helps set the mood and effectively heightens my anticipation of what's going to happen next.

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I know the Lumiere brothers made the first version of this seminal slapstick film.  I'm not sure if it's entirely settled whether or not Alice Guy made the other version that we've seen, but, regardless, if anyone is interested here's a chronology of her life from the book Alice Guy-Blache: Lost Visionary of the Cinema.  She's cinema's first female director, and had a fascinating and prolific career, turning out well over 1,000 films.

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I have an extremely rare copy of the 1888 edition of A. B Frost's STUFF AND NONSENSE cartoon book, and it contains the gag that was later developed into L'Arrouseur Arrosee by the Lumieres. This image does not appear in the reprint of the 1882 edition that was published by Fantagraphic Books a few years ago.

 

The image is attached.

 

As you can see the gag is is six years older than the film. Since Frost's book was a best seller, it is a good bet that the cartoon inspired the film

 

In fact, many silent comedies owe something to cartoons, including most early Keystones, quite a few Buster Keaton films, and (amazingly) one entire Roscoe Arbuckle comedy that was a remake of an animated film made six years earlier.

 

I'm looking forward to discussing this with some of you.

 

cheers!

 

 

post-60399-0-74038700-1472428924_thumb.jpg

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I also enjoyed this short clip.  I was always amazed at the time line for the creation of films and the development of the craft.  In this delightful short clip I could see where Red Skelton and so many others developed their ideas for the characters they created.  Simple is always better.

 

I'm new to this forum and to the analysis of slapstick in film.  I'm extremely excited to be a part of this exploration.

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One of the immediate things I'm thinking of when watching the film, and thinking of slapstick in general, is what keeps it slapstick and not cruelty? I think part of that is in how we categorize the activity: I notice people in the forum are using words like mischief in reference to the boy rather than mean.

 

Although there is misfortune, we don't believe the person on the punchline part of the gag is really suffering, in the permanent, irreparable sense, making him part of the joke that we can all laugh at together. The sprinkler in the face made me think of Daffy Duck having Elmer's gun go off in his face: Daffy is hurt but not 'really' hurt so we laugh.

 

Towards this, the second film seems to bear this out better to me, with the spanking of the first one seeming to bring it more in line with seriousness; punishment as consequence; reality. While the first one keeps it in slapstick land throughout, with the "joke" continuing through the whole film.

 

Of course, the first one may depend on the audience and on how spanking is viewed. seems like I remember a great many katzjammer kid strips where the end panel was a spanking that presumably was supposed to be funny and still part of the 'joke'.

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