- Director: Alice Guy
- Year: 1900
- Runtime: 2m
- Available on YouTube
Harlequin! We love that mischievous rogue, appearing in Columbine’s bedroom to frolic (and then “frolic”).
Spare a thought for the miserable Pierrette, the sad clown chased away after a failed attempt at courtship and a stolen kiss of Columbine’s shoulder (seek consent, Pierrette!).
But only a thought, as we’re all here for the colourful little devil (colourful thanks to the painstakingly hand painted frames) and that racy kiss at the end.
Because (plot twist!) Harlequin here is played by a woman!
(One can easily imagine a certain subset of the turn of the 20th century population grumbling that Harlequin could never be played by a woman: it’s not historical, it’s always been played by a man, it doesn’t make sense, the author would turn in his grave, etc, etc—these bores exist in every age.)
The film is directed by Alice Guy, generally considered to be the first female director. While I wish the term ”female director” was obsolete, to not use it in this instance would be to fail to acknowledge just how difficult it was to be a woman making films in the 1900s and how little credit they got for the work they did do.
Exhibit A is the fact that she was, for many decades, all but erased from film history, although thankfully there have been efforts more recently to correct this.
It’s an achievement that this film got made at all, and to have it be so wonderfully sweet, colourful, and joyful is a triumph.
See more from my study of The History of Cinema.