A brief History: Sur les toits

(On The Roof)

The film industry was just over a year old when Georges Méliès (1861-1938) made this highly successfully staged short comedy.  Every second of this minute of film is used to construct the character’s action and movements.  The film maker made use of the theatre’s three-dimensional decor, so reminiscent of the influence the performing arts had on his huge repertoire.


At the bottom of the chimney’s flue to the left of the image is a star in which you can make out two letters: MR for Méliès and Reulos. Lucien Reulos (1864-1928) worked with Georges Méliès between the summer of 1896 and the autumn of 1897. On the 20th November 1896 he registered the five-point star that would become the trademark of Méliès’ company Star Film in 1902.


Like Bombardement d’une maison the competition quickly copied this film.  In 1898 brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière (1862-1954 and 1864-1948) produced Poursuite sur les toits containing a decor and comical dimension similar to Méliès’ work. Two years later Pathé filmed its Poursuite des cambrioleurs sur les toits where nothing about it is funny at all.  In comparison with Sur les toits the policemen from these two films end up catching the thieves.


This work belongs to the Will Day collection bought in 1959 by André Malraux (1901-1976), then Minster for Cultural Affairs for the French Film Archives on the advice of Henri Langlois (1914-1977).  The films from this collection are kept by the French Film Archives, compiled between other precious archives and cinematographic cameras by Wilfrid Ernest Lytton Day (1873-1936), one of the first collectors of the history of cinema.


The original music for this film was composed by Antonio Coppola in 2009.


The Collection

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