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


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Thank you. I enjoyed watching the very first slapstick cinematic moment and reading everyone's take on it. Like many I try to keep it simple. It's funny and I laugh. Part of the fun is because in any given moment I could be victim or victor. As long as no one is injured or shamed and it's not cruel or a prank inflicted on someone incapable of turning the tables I'll always find it funny. Slip on a banana peel? Sure, I'll help you up, as soon as I stop laughing.

 

I know very little of this genre though Buster Keaton is one of my all time favorite comedians. To me he is a true genius. He makes me laugh and tugs at my heartstrings simultaneously. I could watch The General and Sherlock Jr. in an endless loop and never tire. I also enjoy the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. Also, I adore Daffy Duck over Bugs Bunny even though that rascally rabbit almost always gets the better of him. Wonder what that says about me?

 

I appreciate the wealth of knowledge so many bring to the course and look forward to learning from all of you as much as Prof. Edward's. I agree that the familiarity of known characters' actions and reactions add to the fun as does the anticipation of what we the audience suspects is coming but I equally enjoy being surprised. I also agree that, 'sometimes a hose is just a hose.' Great fun, I'm excited!

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I found "The Sprinkler Sprinkled" to be very well done. There's a certain rhythm to comedy, and the actors did a great job. Slapstick usually works best when it pits authority figures against anti-authoritarian figures, so in this case, the old man with the sprinkler who is about to water his lawn is the authority figure, and the young boy who prevents him from sprinkling his lawn is the anti-authoritarian figure. Way to stick it to the man!

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The clip still holds up very well and truly showcased the early potential of film. More importantly, it also illustrates a classic trope of comedy, the practical joke. Whether it's in film or real life, the practical joke has been a source of humor throughout history. and still amuses people today.

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I really enjoyed seeing the first ever slapstick movie / gag.  I can imagine that for audiences seeing this for the first time, it must have been a great experience.

 

I thought that it was funny and the suspense built up until the gardner got a faceful of water.  Then it turned a little dark when the boy (who looked like a man) was roughly dragged to the hose.

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Judging from the poster with the film, audiences got a real kick out of "L'Arroseur Arrose" back in 1896. They might have been able to relate to what was going on in real life, and the classic saying "boys will be boys".

 

The excitement is waiting for what will eventually happen to the poor gardener. The boy watches and waits for his reaction so he will release his foot at just the right moment. It's all about timing, folks. 

 

The boy does get his comeuppance in the end, and despite getting soaked to the skin, he is probably secretly thinking "It was worth it!"

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I seem to remember a cartoon (probably Warner Brothers) that took this joke further.  Man is using a hose.  Boy stands on hose.  Hose blows up and soaks boy.  Although the Lumiere joke was probably fresh to the viewers, it eventually became cliché.  Putting a further twist on the joke freshens it.

 

Chaplin once described how to set up a joke.  You show a banana peel.  You show a man walking toward the banana peel.  The man steps around the banana peel and falls into a open manhole.

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Thank you. I enjoyed watching the very first slapstick cinematic moment and reading everyone's take on it. Like many I try to keep it simple. It's funny and I laugh. Part of the fun is because in any given moment I could be victim or victor. As long as no one is injured or shamed and it's not cruel or a prank inflicted on someone incapable of turning the tables I'll always find it funny. Slip on a banana peel? Sure, I'll help you up, as soon as I stop laughing.

 

I know very little of this genre though Buster Keaton is one of my all time favorite comedians. To me he is a true genius. He makes me laugh and tugs at my heartstrings simultaneously. I could watch The General and Sherlock Jr. in an endless loop and never tire. I also enjoy the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello. Also, I adore Daffy Duck over Bugs Bunny even though that rascally rabbit almost always gets the better of him. Wonder what that says about me?

 

I appreciate the wealth of knowledge so many bring to the course and look forward to learning from all of you as much as Prof. Edward's. I agree that the familiarity of known characters' actions and reactions add to the fun as does the anticipation of what we the audience suspects is coming but I equally enjoy being surprised. I also agree that, 'sometimes a hose is just a hose.' Great fun, I'm excited!

 

I love Buster Keaton as well! And I definitely can't mention Keaton without at least mentioning another great favorite of mine, Harold Lloyd.  :)

 

You make a really excellent point about part of the fun being the uncertainty about when the tables will turn between the victim and the victor. This shifting balance of (for lack of a better term) power is always so fascinating to watch, whether it's in a 45 second clip, like the one we saw today between a gardener and a tricky youngster, or the never-ending yet always entertaining antics between Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. You never know what's going to happen next -- but you know it will be entertaining to watch! 

 

On a side note, I took TCM's Film Noir class last summer as a way to keep my sanity while recovering from an injury, and I loved it so much that I signed up for this course immediately after seeing a post about it on TCM's Facebook page. This is going to be an excellent course, and I can't wait to dive into the material and the movies! 

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For this being the first slapstick film, it had used fewer elements that put a movie together, but still shows that movies made later on are capable of expanding their acting and plot. This movie has an impact on later films and actors because there was room to explore new topics and add on more information. Each movie made after that has more humor and shows that there was improvement just from making that first film. I'm pleased to see this film because it's funny and even though it is short, in the time from the water stopping to when he gets hit with the water it gives off entertainment you can't miss. 

 

 

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I saw both videos and enjoyed them. I think the lighting and the overall image of the first one was better (or perhaps it was a matter of quality through age?), but I agree with most people that the outcome of the second one suits the short better.

 

As for the overall topic of slapstick, one of the things that has always intrigued me is the joy and fun we get from the misfortune of others. At the end of the day, most (if not all) comedy relies on this. Carol Burnett said "Comedy is tragedy plus time". Think of the gardener in the short. His situation is not necessarily a pleasant one. Nobody likes to get a gush of water in the face; nobody likes to be interrupted or bothered during work; nobody likes to be outsmarted by others; or be seen like a fool. But regardless of this, the key moment of the clip is precisely when he gets showered. The fate of the boy is a bonus, and is really not necessary for the clip to work. The slap of water in the face of the hard-working man is what gets to us.

 

I'm sure this is a topic that we'll touch during the course, but that's the question I have after watching the clip and giving a bit of thought to slapstick humor. Why do we enjoy this? why is it that comedy relies on pain, suffering, and misfortune? And just to be clear, I'm not asking in an accusatory way, because I love comedy and slapstick. But rather to get to the core and psychology behind comedy and slapstick.

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In just 44 seconds, we were given a setting, a plot, a protagonist, and an antagonist! This short film is rich in its context. I believe that it resonated with many viewers, because it could happen to anyone. Who wouldn't want to give the strict adult a taste of fun? What about showing that sneaky brat a thing or two? It could've possibly given families a great talking piece, which is what is pictured in the poster: a laughing family.

 

As a previous commenter mentioned, it has something to do with having enough fun without someone getting truly hurt. Who hasn't gotten into a fun tussle with a sibling, only to have it end, because someone accidently scratched the other?

 

It's about living in the moment, and letting loose. Life needs balance; and karma can get you, too. ;) 

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One  wonders as  to the  neglected  source of  early vaudeville for these gags plus  the stars themselves

 

Very good  to see this little piece  which in 44  second set up a  style of  film making to come. Comedy and cruelty  can be so close sometimes but we  still laugh. 

 

Below is the link for what could be the original or  remake if  the one posted in the lecture is  the first?

Different seting in this one. Perhaps  it was  the first use of  recycled/reshot film.idea.

Good reflection of  the  current  film making technology of the time as  the  camera  stays  still: framing like a stage play.

 

 

 

Seems  we have to amp things up as   it progressed to hammers, auto mobiles  and  the ever popular flying anvil later.

 

cheers all

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I enjoyed seeing this first little film. I never noticed it until I watched it but slapstick can have can have elements of suspense. We know what is going to happen to the gardener but he has no idea. It gives us a giggle build-up to the big laugh

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Up until this short, films were more documentary in nature--portraying moving scenes of every day events (a sneeze, a train approaching, workers leaving a factory). The emphasis had been definitely on the technology itself and not on the narrative value. The first audience must have been astounded and delighted to imagine the possibilities of this new art form. Ironically, the Lumiere brothers were themselves more interested in the technology and not the creative value of film. They incorrectly imagined that film was a passing fad and got out of filming/directing just a few years later to focus on improving the technology behind the lens. But they definitely had a great sense of humor. Here is a photo from Luminous Lint that shows off both their newly developed color photographic technology and their dry sense of humor: http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/image/446412017488925809656003/

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I loved seeing the difference between the Sprinkler Sprinkled (1895) and L'Arroseur Arrose (1896). The actual gag of the one man stepping on the hose was less obvious in L'Arroseur Arrose and I liked that better because you had to pay attention to catch it. Where as in The Sprinkler Sprinkled that shot of the two characters is front and center. There's more depth in the shot in L'Arroseur Arrose but the two are delightful. The silliness of putting a water hose that isn't working directly in front of you face is absurd but we love the absurdity in comedy, especially in slapstick. The ridiculousness of it is endearing. I definitely see this film influencing Chaplin's physical comedy in Modern Times, City Lights, etc. 

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What's truly fascinating about this Lumière Bros. film is that it is unequivocally a genre film i.e. slapstick comedy. Funny how these two pioneers of cinema who actually believed that this new art form was ultimately a "fad" that would dissipate and soon become unpopular would actually take the time to make a comedic film or a film with a storyline. Maybe they did see the potential films or moving pictures could have on audiences all over the world --the fact that this art form could take on new subjects/genres and styles. 

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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.

I read somewhere that the man who plays the gardener (Francois Clerc) was Lumiere's real-life gardener. The boy was a factory worker from one of Lumiere's earlier films.

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Why does one version make me smile but not the other?

 

The "original" (1895) seems much more static. While the camera placement in both versions is still, the action in the 1896 version seems more natural. There is a sense of pleasure and anticipation as we see the boy creep up behind the bush. He seems to be enjoying himself. There is a better sense of who the characters are in the 1896 one (and I do think they can be considered characters). The second one offers the gardener better revenge, as other people mentioned, giving the boy "a taste of his own medicine."

 

Maybe it's too early in cinema history to bring up the issue of authorship, but if the later version truly was directed by Alice Guy then the changes/differences between the two films could be representative of the different perspectives of the directors themselves. The choice to change the gardener's revenge from spanking to spraying results in a less violent action that adds more humor to the situation.

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Interesting to learn that slapstick dates back so far. In doing a bit more research, it was fun to learn that the gardener, François Clerc, was actually Louis Lumière's gardener. Even back then - it was all in who you knew. 

  
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Holy cow you crazed movie fans! 146 replies and the course only started today!

 

Well, I hope this isn't a repeat--I didn't read ALL 146 posts! But in case anybody didn't know (and I kinda sorta did, but looked up to pin it down):

 

[slap-stik]

 

 

noun
1.
broad comedy characterized by boisterous action, as the throwing ofpies in actors' faces, mugging, and obvious farcical situations andjokes.
2.
a stick or lath used by harlequins, clowns, etc., as in pantomime, forstriking other performers, especially a combination of laths that makea loud, clapping noise without hurting the person struck.

 

adjective
3.
using, or marked by the use of, broad farce and horseplay:
a slapstick motion picture.
 
 

 

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What a delight this film is. It touches so many human emotions - curiosity, anticipation, humour, revenge, excitement - all within 44 seconds. It is interesting to see the story tellers elicit these emotions in such an early film. They knew what made and makes people laugh. "Slip on a banana peel, the world's at your feet." And I'm sure it had quite an impact on those first audiences. While we login to FB and Youtube and can watch people falling down all day long, in those early years seeing such actions would have been a fluke of happenstance, or retold through stories. Capturing the actions in film, enabling viewers to watch it over and over again would have been joyful -- and then create the demand for more. Looking forward to this course!

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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.

I agree totally. I am taking this course for the same reason--I must be missing something, right? I do love dark comedy and screwball comedy, but have never really enjoyed more than a few minutes of slapstick. Several of the films on the syllabus are what I think of as screwball, where the jokes and insults are more verbal than physical as in slapstick. I am also interested in the technology behind filmmaking and am delighted that we are starting at the very beginning. :)

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In college, I remember my screenwriting professor talking about how the best comedy comes from everyday situations. That theory is very evident in this early film. There is nothing extraordinary about using a hose or watering plants. There is also nothing extraordinary about someone stopping the water flow of a hose then unleashing it on an unsuspecting user (most of us have probably done that at some point...). What is so charming about this film - one that is less than a minute long - is that it is in every sense of the word and "actuality". It is a real life situation played for laughs. While this is not necessarily sophisticated, the humor of the scene is there because we as an audience can relate to it. As I said before, we've probably already done it at some point. 

 

What I love about slapstick comedy, actually comedy in general, is that good comedians can take simple situations and simple objects and use them bring humor to a scene. 

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I think slapstick in general, like many have said is taking simple objects and using them humorously in situations. The idea behind slapstick is not complex, it is all about timing. In "L'Arroseur Arrose" audiences were shown the first real slapstick film, which brought these ideas together. I believe this film had such an impact because of how audiences reacted to it. One could get a laugh out of something as simple as a garden hose squirting in a person's face. And that I think, sparked a ton of future comedians' ideas for films like these.

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