Filming an Absinthe Haze

Friday A/V Club: What psychedelic special effects looked like in 1910


I'm tempted to call this an anti-drinking scare film of the pre–World War I era, except I'm not sure it was actually meant as a scare film:

That's Le songe d'un garçon de café, a.k.a. The Hasher's Delirium, a 1910 short by the pioneer animator Emile Cohl. The waiter's hallucinations are the sorts of things you might see in a modern anti-drug movie. But given Cohl's background—he had been involved with the Incoherent movement, a 19th century precursor to surrealism—and given how inventively weird his other animations are, my suspicion is that his film didn't have any moral agenda at all; he wanted to draw some strange things, and he thought an absinthe haze would be as good a narrative excuse for that as any.

But that's just an educated guess. Either way, it's a nice piece of filmmaking, and I say that as someone who does not want to dissuade you from drinking at all.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)