At the end of the last installment, our protagonists were in a building that Fantomas had blown up. I was left wondering did Juve and Fandor (those would never be real names even in a crazy country like France) survive the blast? At the beginning of tis installment I get my answers… kind of. Fandor is only lightly injured (which is totally nonsensical because we saw they were still in the house right before Fantomas literally blew it up) and is in a hospital bed. A nurse gives him a newspaper and he learns that Juve is dead but they could not find his body. We then watch a scene in a black market shop where people come with fenced goods. There seems to be no connection to the plot or even to the previous scene. So why are they showing us this? I was finding myself coming back to this question again and again throughout the film.
Throughout the whole film, there was little clue as to why Fantomas was doing what he was doing. Why did he pick this man to drug in order to stage a killing and blame him for it? Why did he go to a fancy dress party and steal only jewelry from a princess when there was obviously so much more he could have taken? But motivation is irrelevant to Fantomas. The scary thing about him in this universe is the randomness that proceeds his actions. He can not only be anyone but he can also strike at any time. It doesn’t matter that he chose one man over another to frame. What does matter is why he does it. Which was to mess with the authorities and pull some heists in his name after he is “killed” in his cell. And it makes Fandor seem like a crazy person when he thinks that Fantomas might be behind these actions. Of course Fandor and later Juve (who isn’t dead just disguised) figure out that all of these individual events were a part of a bigger picture for Fantomas.
In this installment there was more plot and more mystery. But what was most interesting about this addition were the shots that were composed. Most of the shots were stagey in the previous installments as are some here. However Feuillade seems to want to experiment more with the camera this time around. The actors were pushed to one side or pushed back or pulled forward in order to draw your eye to that part of the screen. He also chose to do more location shots, so we get a sense on how incredibly slow those old French cars were. (You were able to jump onto a car while it was still moving from another car) In this day and age of cross fades, fish eye and a myriad of other camera tricks, it is easy to dismiss these things as boring or played out. But in the early days of filmmaking, seeing an image that was more than a medium shot of a room, was amazing. So much of early silents were influenced by the theater that a lot of times early films looked like filmed theater productions. Feuillade and several other directors like D.W. Griffiths were coming to the conclusion that film was completely different from the theater and can be manipulated in a way that is more dynamic than just watching a filmed theater production. I hope that Feuillade will give us more interesting shots in the next installments.