The Georges Méliès Sesquicentennial

Posted: December 14, 2011 in cinema, movies, news
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If Georges Méliès, the first truly great director in movie history, were alive, he’d be celebrating his 150th birthday.

Georges Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938), full name Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, was a French filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest cinema. He was very innovative in the use of special effects. He accidentally discovered the stop trick, or substitution, in 1896, and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color in his films. Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the First “Cinemagician”.Two of his most well known films are “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) and “The Impossible Voyage” (1904). Both of these films are about strange voyages, somewhat in the style of Jules Verne. These are considered to be some of the most important early science fiction films, although their approach is closer to fantasy. In addition, horror cinema can be traced back to Georges Méliès’s “Le Manoir du diable” (1896).


A Trip to the Moon / Le Voyage Dans La Lune, 1902

In May 1902 Méliès made his most famous film, “A Trip to the Moon” This film includes the celebrated scene in which a spaceship hits the eye of the man in the moon and was loosely based on Jules Verne’s “From the Earth to the Moon” and H. G. Wells’ “The First Men in the Moon”. In the film Méliès stars as Professor Barbenfouillis, a character similar to the astronomer he played in “The Astronomer’s Dream” in 1898. Professor Barbenfouillis is president of the Astronomer’s Club and oversees an expidition to the Moon. A space rocket is built in his labratory and he leads six men to travel to the moon. The rocket is shot out of a large cannon and lands in the eyeball of the Man in the Moon. The six men explore the moon’s surface before going to sleep. As they dream, constallations dance around them and they are attacked by a group of moon men, played by acrobats from Folies Bergère. They are chased back to their rocket and go back to earth, landing in the ocean (where a superimposed fish tank creates the illusion of the deep ocean). Eventually the six men return to their labratory and are celebrated by adoring supporters. At fourteen minutes, it was Méliès’s longest film up to that date and cost 10,000 francs to produce. The film was an enormous success in France and around the world, and Méliès sold both black and white and hand-colored versions to exibitioners.

Read more about this pioneer of the movies on Wikipedia.


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