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Published on Oct 18, 2009
With roots digging deep through the continuity of French culture and history, the allure of Orientalism would not escape the notice of Georges Méliès. His own peculiar take on the subject is steeped in his conjuror's flourishes, however. In 1903's The Monster, an ancient Egyptian magician working in the moonlight shadow of the Sphynx wakes a skeleton from it's slumber. Like a typical Mélièsian perversion against nature, the undead entity flails its limbs about in a turn of the century dance, showing off its extendible bodyparts.
The subject matter doesn't drift far from Méliès' customary obsessions. Here, the star-studded dress of the alchemist is replaced by the fine linen of the Egyptian high priest. In a sense it highlights the European-crafted concept of the "Oriental," an artifice created by Europeans who saw in the Middle East their own shadow reflection. Or, as the case may be, more ghoulish things dancing in a delight of trick photography.