Watch After the Ball, the 1897 “Adult” Film by Pioneering Director Georges Méliès (Almost NSFW)

Cin­e­ma his­to­ry now looks back to Georges Méliès, cre­ator of 1902’s A Trip to the Moon and oth­er ear­ly motion pic­tures pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here, as the medi­um’s first mas­ter of the fan­tas­ti­cal. Visu­al effects, imag­ined worlds, and the seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble made seem­ing­ly real remain reli­able draws for mod­ern-day film­go­ers, but so does some­thing far sim­pler to pro­duce: skin. But Méliès knew that, and he even demon­strat­ed the extent of his knowl­edge in 1897’s After the Ball, view­able in all of its 19th-cen­tu­ry tit­il­la­tion, and for its entire 1:06 length, here. While not the very first “adult” film — that his­tor­i­cal hon­or goes to Eugène Pirou’s Bed­time for the Bride in France, and Esmé Collings’ A Vic­to­ri­an Lady in Her Boudoir in Britain — it must count as the ear­li­est one by such a dis­tin­guished film­mak­er. And it’s the only one of the three men­tioned here you can watch online.

Michael Brooke’s Georges Méliès blog describes the action, shall we say, as fol­lows: “A woman enters her boudoir, and her maid helps her to undress, peel­ing off her out­er gar­ments until she is clad in a shift and stock­ings. She sits down, and the maid helps remove the lat­ter. Almost naked aside from skimpy under­wear, the woman gets into a tub and the maid pours the con­tents of a large jug over her, dry­ing her off with a tow­el after­wards. They leave the room togeth­er.” While mod­ern-day adult film­mak­ers can and do con­tin­ue to dine out on such premis­es, After the Ball’s ren­di­tion of the cir­cum­stances now looks tame enough to play freely on Youtube. Brooke adds that this film, along with Collings’ and prob­a­bly Pirou’s, was “mar­ket­ed as being suit­able for pri­vate screen­ings to broad-mind­ed bach­e­lors.” Méliès’ con­tri­bu­tion to this inno­va­tion must have made for a few worth­while fin de siè­cle bach­e­lor par­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A Trip to the Moon (and Five Oth­er Free Films) by Georges Méliès, the Father of Spe­cial Effects

Broke­back Before Broke­back: The First Same-Sex Kiss in Cin­e­ma (1927)

Silent & Sound Shake­speare: Watch the Very First Film Adap­ta­tions of the Bard (1899–1936)

Watch The Plea­sure Gar­den, Alfred Hitchcock’s Very First Fea­ture Film (1925)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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