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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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I watched both clips.  I liked the music better in the original (1895), but I much preferred the "ending" of the second one (1896)--the prankster getting a dose of his own medicine!   ;)

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I have been reading the comments about which was the first version of this film (spanking or sprinkling), and I can confirm that the Lumiere Museum shows the 1896 spanking version. I saw that version recently at the Lumiere Museum on August 12, 2016. I did not know there was also a sprinkling version until I saw the video in the course, I assume it was made after the spanking version. This might explain why the resolution of the version I saw in class was so much better than what I saw in France - there were two different films. I suspect the film was changed from spanking to sprinkling because the spanking version was pretty violent. The gardener spanked the boy A LOT. 

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It's interesting that the remake cuts out the violence of the spanking and uses a gentler type of slapstick by havng the boy get sprayed with water in payback.. I wonder whose decision it was to make this change and why the change was made...

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I've decided to take this course simply to discover why everyone thinks slapstick is so funny. Personally, I have always found slapstick predicable and rather boring. It is exactly the anticipation that others are eagerly eating up that I felt took away from the fun of comedy. For me, being able to see ahead to just what would happen (knowing the Gardner would get squirted in the face with the hose before it happens) is exactly what takes away the fun from slapstick for me. To me, it's always been, "Oh yeah, we knew the guy would get it in the face. What's so funny about that?" or the Keystone Cops ALWAYS wind up in a chase with someone so how funny can that be?

 

I'm hoping that this course will be able to change my point of view and help me to see what everyone else sees and finds so funny.

 

So, here's a scenario for you: Gardener is watering, boy sneaks in and stands on hose. Gardener examines the end of the nozzle. Boy lifts his foot but at the same instant gardener decides to examine the side of the nozzle - boy gets squirted. This is actually what we're going to be seeing a lot of in the next few weeks as films get more sophisticated (granted, that's a relative term).

 

Is it funnier? I think so, for us, but only because we saw the gardener-getting-squirted version coming and this alternate surprises us. But the original audience likely hadn't ever seen anything like this on film.

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I appreciate the user who posted the (possible) original version of the film. After taking a few moments to watch both, it almost seems as though the original film is a little less humorous without that little moment of stalking from the boy and anticipation of the hose release (yes humorous innuendo).

 

While it is only maybe a difference of 2 or 3 seconds, it makes a world of difference (IMHO). Those vital frames make a world of difference. As a fan of horror and comedy I've always felt the only difference between getting a scream or a laugh is those few milliseconds the brain processes the image.

 

Looking forward to this course.

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After watching both versions, I will say from my point of view, the "revenge watering" makes funnier sense. The hat sells the gag. It is fun to see the original bit that has ballooned into so many versions since.

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Looking at the second version of this film, I will undergo a second analysis for this special version. Once again, this version of the film has a very thin plot because, after all, it is 45 seconds. There's not really much that you can do in that time, but this movie milks it for all that it is worth, and it makes for a much more hilarious version than the first one.

 

We start out with the gardener, well, gardening as he did in the first version of the film. This is a simple everyday task that can be milked for certain bits of comedy, just as any other great comedic mind would milk a situation they are given with. This is all stuff that we saw in the first version of the film. 

 

Then, the antagonist comes in: the kid tormentor. The kid tormentor really milks his performance. I don't know who he is or if he made any other films, but you can tell that he really has a niche for slapstick comedy. We get a little bit of business involving the kid tormentor where he sneaks up on the gardener's hose. This kind of tells you a little bit about the tormentor's personality, which is something the first version doesn't really do. After all, as we will see later on in this course, character development is one of the key essentials in slapstick comedy. Say, a guy gets slapped around by a bad guy. That's not funny. But if Charlie Chaplin gets slapped around by a bad guy, we immediately root for Charlie Chaplin to take out the bad guy.

 

So, we already have character traits for each of these characters. The gardener is just an innocent man minding his own business, while the kid tormentor has obviously tormented this man before and he shows us by his entrance. These two polar opposites will obviously have some chemistry. So, the kid steps on the gardener's hose and when the gardener looks into it, the kid releases the hose and the gardener's hat falls off. This has been the culmination of the last 20 or 25 seconds and it pays off. When the tormentor stepped on the hose, we all knew what was going to happen but the anticipation prevented it from getting boring.

 

Now, in the first version of the film, we would see the kid tormentor getting spanked by the gardener. However, that must've been deemed too violent in later years, because in this version we get something completely different. The gardener gets his true comeuppance. Perhaps, that's why we always root for the sad, long-faced comedian with a harsh beginning. Maybe it's because we know who is going to win in the end. So, just how does the gardener get his comeuppance? Well, first, the gardener starts chasing the tormentor and brings him over to the hose. Then, the gardener sprays the tormentor with the hose in a great bit of business missing in the first version.

 

I prefer the hose as a means of punishment over the brutal spanking used in the first version. It just seems like a better fit for this light comedy. Anyhow, once the gardener gets his true revenge, the kid tormentor immediately leaves, knowing not to mess with the nice forces that haven't done anything bad. If you ask me, that sounds like the perfect idea of slapstick comedy. As we delve further into the realms of slapstick comedy, sure, we're going to see something like this. Heck, we might even see something exactly like this, but will it be the same as this? That's a tough question, because if I know one thing: This film had charm.

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As several people have pointed out, this film (or the two versions) already show one of the aspects I most identify with slapstick: the audience knows roughly what will happen before it does. As soon as the boy steps on the hose we know that something is coming with respect to what happens when he takes his foot off the hose. Then we we see the gardener look into the end of the hose, we know exactly what will happen. Finally we see it happen and then the reaction of the gardener that leads to the second instance of the water spraying on a person, but this time with the roles reversed. Already we see in this very brief film the building of one gag on top of the other with the audience being made aware of each step but being carried along by the pace and timing. I think that as slapstick comedy in movies progresses we will see more and more sophisticated instances of gags building on gags, with each new gag often trying to top the previous one.

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Hello everyone! Is a pleasure for me to return to share these forums.

 I Grew up seeing The Three Stoges, Bugs Bunny, Abbott & Costello, and from always I like this type of movies, whose mission is  to do laugh.

It is a simple but effective humor based on everyday situations.  Them brothers Lumière, in their films sought to document the reality, and here we see how is spends a joke.   As in so many chapters of Bugs Bunny, or in them short of the Keystone or of Mack Sennett, the incident is provoked, the water is part of the taunts, persecution by, of the punishment.

The situation is funny for the spectators. But, as we also see many examples of the splastick, it would be much more funny, for the spectators if the hose is accidentally tread by wetting the face of the actor. (Moe Howard has always been a victim of the circumstances!)

Finally, what better way to start this course that pay tribute to Donald O'Connor, (who was born a day like today) making laugh in Singin´ in the rain?

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This is a great comedy, and a bit different from some of the other lumiere films I've seen. Their folks were more like brief documentaries. This film is is much more entertaining with a plot and contrasting characters.

Edited by TCMModerator1
Please Note: This was merged into this main thread

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Hi all - so excited to be joining in the fun.  #slapstickfall

 

I don't see the milking of the scene by either the setting or the characters.  It seems very natural.  Almost like seeing a family film, really.  Except in black and white.  A natural incident that more than one mischievous child has done in some form or another since time began.  Not at all as slapsticky as the stuff I see now that passes for comedy. 

 

Today - It's more exaggerated and over the top now as if we've become immune to the little things in life and must have it beat over our heads until we pass out. 

 

Delighted to be a part of this online program and look forward to the upcoming segments. 

 

 

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I would say this is a good example (and probably one of the first uses) of dramatic irony in film, a storytelling device in which the audience knows something that a character doesn't.  In this case we know that the boy has his foot on the hose, while the gardener does not, creating suspense and humor.  I imagine there will be more uses of this device in the films seen throughout the course.

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I think the film is a metaphor for some distinctly male problem: erectile dysfunction or an enlarged prostate (thus creating the problem of reduced flow).

 

You may see this as purely a joke, but I see no reason that slapstick comedy can't possess symbolism just as other films do.

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Before this course I was certainly aware that films were being produced in the late 19th century, but I had no idea that slapstick films stretched so far back! I really admired L'Arroseur Arrosé, and it made me think about the cause-and-effect patten that was shown in this and later slapstick films. First a set-up that is devoid of humor is performed, like the boy stepping on the hose, and then the humorous punchline comes in, like the gardener being sprayed. I'm surprised that this recipe for comedy is so prevalent in such an early film, as there are countless examples of the set-up and punchline even today.

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I'm struck by the gag taking place outdoors.  Was that intentional or simply for technological reasons... i.e. the outdoor lighting.

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I loved this clip. It was a gag as old as time, but it still made me laugh.

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A very interesting look into the earliest slapstick film, from the 19th century, no less. Many early 20th century narrative movies were based on stage plays so it's fascinating that this short is filmed outdoors and not onstage.

 

Also, the appeal of the story is that we, the audience, can identify with the characters. I have certainly been both victim and perpetrator of many pranks. How about you?

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What strikes me is the element of surprise. Most comedy is based on the element of surprise but in this film, the viewer is not necessarily going to be surprised by the outcome of releasing a foot from a hose. Perhaps the tension release is from the reaction where it seems only natural for an audience to react. As Steve Martin's comedy went his theory for his comedy routines was to have so much set up--with no punchline would force people to react at an appropriate time. The anticipation demands a release.

I am interested by the boy. Who is he? If it is at a house, and it is a house gardener--is the boy his or the family who pays the gardener? Perhaps it is also funny to see the boy brought down to the gardener's level when the gardener decides to chase after the boy and make him pay for what he has done. A upper class "snooty" kid getting what is coming to him. I know I enjoy seeing someone high and mighty being taken down a peg or two.

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I agree with the earlier posters about the second version's ending being more comical to see the antagonist getting paid back in his own coin. For being more than 100 years old, however, I felt that the actors could have made a greater impact on the overall scene being hillarious with their facial expressions and better body language IMHO.

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I'm struck by the gag taking place outdoors.  Was that intentional or simply for technological reasons... i.e. the outdoor lighting.

Technological. In those earliest years of fimmaking, even indoor studios were actually outdoor, in sheet-draped greenhouses, to get as much natural light as possible.

 

Stage-lighting of that time used open flames and carbon-arcs, and was not only very expensive, but extremely dangerous---particularly around the extremely flammable cellulose-nitrate film stock in use at the time. One spark, and up everything would go...and frequently did.

 

Here's a photo of Melies' studio.

post-60373-0-43818600-1472420945_thumb.gif

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It made me think of the old clown gag of the flower that squirts water. It has the element of surprise and creating mischief. Maybe the kid should water the flowers for the next few weeks. That way the gardener has plenty of opportunities to get him back.

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