Starring: Georges Melies, Victor Andre, Bleuette Bernon
Director: Georges Melies
Going back quite a way into film history this time, back into a time when cinema was in it’s infancy. You’ve probably seen that image of the moon as a man’s cream cheesey looking face with a spaceship stuck in one eye, and this is that film.
I was really happy to be able to add this one to the list and to share it with you, because even though it’s always been around, for a long time it was hard to find a copy in, say, your local video store, or even online, but now you can find it easily, and joyfully for me, a copy was found of the hand coloured version in 2010 and restored.
It was quite groundbreaking at the time, and was considered quite long at 14 minutes, as films previously had been kept to about 2 or 3 minutes (I know! Now we sit through 3 hour films quite patiently, funny isn’t it?) It’s considered to be the first film that created fantasy rather than documenting life or realistic story. It’s an incredible film. There is so much packed into every frame. You can thank George Melies for that, with his imagination and background as an actor and magician, who wrote and directed this film.
It’s the story of, you guessed it, a trip to the moon. A scientific congress, mostly a rowdy bunch of old men who are dressed as cartoon wizards, decide to send a space ship to the moon. On arrival, they find that the alien population, the Selenites, are not happy to see them, but they are not hard to overcome as they turn into a puff of smoke if prodded with an umbrella. Escaping, they return to Earth, falling into the ocean, which they explore briefly, and then are rescued and return to Paris.
It sounds fairly simple, but it’s the foundation of all later science fiction films, which is really cool when you think about it. But for me, it’s the hilarity of it all: the intensity of movement and action on the screen, with people constantly running around, building things, women randomly assisting in revealing matching outfits, bad guys disappearing in puffs of smoke, and that poor moon with a ship landed in it’s eye. The set creation and the costumes make the whole thing feel like a lavish fairy tale, with rooftops and the Paris skyline supporting the scientists and their craft, or huge mushrooms on the surface of the moon making an eery forest. It’s wonderful stuff, and it’s hard not to get caught up in Melies enthusiasm for magic and story.
An important part of film history, I really do recommend this film. It’s quite funny and sweet, really, and for those of you who find it hard to sit through a silent film, well it’s only 14 minutes long.
See It If: an absolute must for history and film history lovers, and those of you who love the sci fi genre too. But it’s also a sweet, unusual fairy tale, too. Recommended.