a trip to the moon
la voyage dans la lunes
dir. george méliès
This film has always amazed me. The fact that it was produced nearly 115 years ago hurts my head and warms my heart; this, perhaps more than any other film I’ve seen from this era, makes me feel like I’m watching film take its first steps.
The Apollo mission to the moon seems like ancient history now, but we’re still closer to it by ten years than they were. They had nothing to go off of, nor did they really have any grasp of what to do in terms of filmmaking; they were creating the “rules” of cinema as we know it as they went along.
I will note: this time around, I watched the film in class, and it was a different version than I had seen previously, and I noticed my feelings changed because of it. This one was a black and white print with the “lecture notes” from an early screening of the film dubbed over it, as well as an orchestral score. I didn’t like it as much as the version I had seen originally: the print screened at Cannes with the techno soundtrack performed by Air. I normally wouldn’t like a score being so distant from the source material, but I felt it matched up much better than the other; one scene I noticed in particular was the approach to the moon, which had a kind of goofy solo that provoked laughter from the class, while Air had a more reverent sound that I felt matched better. The Cannes version also includes the lost ending, which is a great added bonus.
This was by no means the first time I viewed this film. A while ago, when I first started this movie-watching project, this was the one that kicked it off, so to end this post, I’ll include the stuff I wrote then:
from August 26, 2015:
absolutely amazing for a film made 113 years ago. a full narrative structure, complex beyond imagination for the time.
bonus features from the DVD!
the astronomer’s dream – 1898
a fantastical short with a lot of physical comedy. the moon chews him up and spits the pieces out!
what a weird fucking film. weird plot in the beginning and end, crazy special effects in the middle (also like really weirdly sexual and very uncomfortable). weird but cool i guess idk
next, a note on Méliès:
what a fuckin babe, first of all.
a trip to the moon was released seven years after the Lumiere bros premiered film; he created the first special effects (after his camera jammed creating a stop trick) and his movies were amazing because of it (the vanishing lady) and with double exposure (the four troublesome heads, the man with the rubber head, the one man band).
also the astronomer’s dream was shot in his fucking garden?? what the hell??
“In Melies’ hands, the camera was not designed to record reality. It spawned an entire universe in which the imaginary and the marvelous reign supreme.”
watched the extraordinary voyage documentary also. he was such a pioneer and then film got advanced and the tastes of the audience evolved and he ended up basically committing “suicide” by burning all of his film stocks and opening a toy kiosk. he would draw scenes from his films and sell them. in 1929 a charity tribute showing was organized but only 8 of his 500 films were able to be shown. among them was moon and it was the last time he saw it; it was badly scratched and contrasted and damaged. animation and talkies came at the end of his life and a lot of older silent films were destroyed (probably around 70-75% of them) though a group of film people saved what they could.
the story of the restoration was also really really beautiful and it’s amazing that more than a century later it was able to be shown again to a completely new world of viewers.
Available to view in high quality via YouTube.