Recommended Viewing Situation:
Head full of Shrooms and a bladder full of tainted energy drink.
Running Time: From 9 to 18 minutes (depending on frame rate).
Format: Black and white with hand coloured 35mm film on a Lumiere Cinematographe.
Director: Georges Méliès.
Cinematography: Théophile Michault & Lucien Tanguay.
Writer: Georges Méliès (Inspired by ‘From the earth to the moon’ by Jules Verne).
Get a group of movie fans together and there will always be discussion about what are the most influential movies of all time. A consensus will never be reached, due mainly to too much drink being consumed or because someone storms off because no one will back their support of the Matrix movies. Truth is that there is no answer. For example Jaws and Star Wars hold as much clout in this argument as Nosferatu and The Passion Of Joan Of Arc. Georges Méliès 1902 film ‘A Trip To The Moon’ may be the only film that will get a consensus from the group.
The story begins with what I believed to be Warlocks (turns out they are history’s greatest astronomers) cooking up plan to blast a team into the face of the moon and explore its unknown bounties. The adventure begins as they board a giant artillery shell and are blasted into space, landing somewhat safely in the moons right eye. From this point what Georges Méliès manages to achieve is simply outstanding.
Méliès began his career and a stage magician, illusionist, painter, actor and political satirist. All of his many talents are put to use to create a genuine dream like and other worldly atmosphere, the use of special effects is truly groundbreaking for a time when narrative cinema and science fiction were just being touched on. This may be a film that could of only been made by Méliès, his experience and talent as a illusionist translates perfectly to Science Fiction. Matt paintings, foreshortening, mirrors, trapdoors, pyrotechnics, prostheses and acrobats are just a few of the in-camera effects used to create the Lunar landscape. His talent wasn’t just in front of the camera, behind the scenes he helped pioneer other story telling techniques. During their exploration of the moon’s surface the adventurers are beset by a group of Moon men who are determined to bedevil them with their jumping about and arm waving. The Moon men are quickly dispatched in a puff of coloured smoke, Méliès cuts frames in between the strike on the Moon man and the on set pyrotechnic smoke creating a seamless transition. While this is now regarded as very basic film making it is impressive for 1902.Narrative story telling in film is often attributed to Edwin S. Porter’s ‘The Great Train Robbery’, while it certainly is an important movie with a story and location shooting (rare for the time) Georges Méliès A Trip To The Moon was released more than a year beforehand, and in my opinion is the more important and influential movie. For example the team behind 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine and pioneering music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris paid homage to A Trip To The Moon by beautifully remaking the film using period techniques for the Smashing Pumpkins music video ‘Tonight Tonight’ in 1996.
For any fan of Science fiction, stage performance or history; this film should be on your list, at a mere 18 minutes it is an enjoyable watch and a small price to pay for a more rounded film education.