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The Magic Roses, a Beautiful, Little Known Relic of Film


Made in 1906, a silent short film transports us to a magical world captivating in its artificial simplicity and enviable ingenuity.

Few things are more spectacular than an act of magic. This is even more true when such an act can be witnessed in a film more than 100 years old and surviving as one of the first examples of color in the history of film. The Magic Roses, by Spanish director, Segundo de Chomón, is an exhibition of lyrical illusionism. The very setting of the film, a flower garden, is transformed into beautiful women.

Les Roses Magiques – the original title of the 1906 French film and once attributed to the great illusionist Georges Méliès – is the earliest use of montage in film. The actual director, Chomón, was a pioneer not only in the use of visual effects but in the first techniques of color cinema. In their earliest form, films were painted by hand, frame by frame, and involved a refined, complex procedure. In The Magic Roses, the director used a coloring technique known as pochoir, which used stencils to color the images.

Magic roses


On a set that strongly resembles a play (as did many silent films of the day), the filmmaker introduces us into a simple dreamlike dilemma. A magician – a figure reminiscent of the illusionists of the 19th century – appears before three young people, muses and metaphors, who dance with him, only to finally be turned into flowers adorning the garden. From these three women, the magician creates a universe full of flowers, large and small, that appear and disappear using tricks of optical illusion and cinematographic montage.

In our own world of film productions, impressive 3D animations and production budgets of millions of dollars, The Magic Roses enchants with a charming simplicity. Over a span of just three minutes, the magical act – a cinematic version of the surrealism emerging at the same time – brings us to the most essential origins of the art of cinema. It reminds us that, beyond the spectacular and the grandiloquent, the cinema is itself, and has always been, but one more grand illusionist spectacle.


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