La Folie du Docteur Tube by Abel Gance is one of the strange silent films I’ve seen. In eleven minutes, we see the strange story of Dr. Tube, a benign mad scientist with a dented, deflated cone head, who, quite accidentally, percolates a powerful psychtropic powder. Overcome by euphoric, spasmodic laughter, Dr. Tube proceeds to dose his servant and his guests with his lunacy-inducing powder. Gance uses mirror effects and distorted lenses to replicate the experience of a drug tip. He manages to capture many of the effects of hallucinatory drugs: uncontrollable laughter, perseveration in meaningless topics of conversation, effusive feelings of goodwill, nervous meltdowns, wild gesticulation, hypermobility/the inability to sit still, and — my favorite — the self-obsessive and self-reflective experience of looking into the mirror, examining all your pores, and feeling estranged from one’s own face. Whatever narrative you construct to explain the action, logic fails and absurdism reigns.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget that all this was filmed in the middle of World War I!
I set this video to a few goofy tracks from Jonti’s 2011 album Twirligig.