DIRECTOR: Georges Méliès
Georges Méliès was one of cinemas earliest and greatest innovators, once you get past those who developed the most basic principles along side him. But like all great innovators, Méliès push this novel new creation further and faster than his contemporaries, creating some of the simplest on screen effects, whether it be making people appear and disappear to the what is now simple and standard screen dissolves. But this was magic back in 1902.
Even though this 1902 classic is made to standard so far removed from those of today’s film industry, as most directors did in those days, everything is clearly a stage performance with something extra. Nowadays of course, we’ve generally moved on from this style, though the traditional sitcom certainly hasn’t. The black and white version, the one in particular which I have seen was the restored edition included in the Around The World In 80 Days (1956) DVD from 2004, was great. I loved it. It was my film of the month back in November 2010 and I rated it 8/10.
*** 8th November 2010 by nEoFILM ***
This is in many ways hard to review against most films. This is a 1902 feature, with a running time of 8 mins at 25 fps, or 14 mins at the original 16 fps. It needs to be judged in the context of the time, and the impact it has had upon cinema over the past century and impact isn’t the word.
This was made at a time when films were just becoming a narrative form, and the battle had yet to truly kick off between cinema and theatre. Cinema was as new as the internet and in many ways, Youtube is a fitting comparison for its day. This is a simple story of a group of french scientists, all donning suits might I add, whom embark upon the eponymous expedition to the moon, and once there they encounter it’s hostile inhabitants and strange and fantastical surroundings.
But the story isn’t the important thing here. The effects are. This is the first real effects movie, featuring cinema’s first dissolve, and the use of cuts and inventive editing to create stop motion effects. Georges Méliès was a pioneer of the cinema of which we have now all grown up with and without his innovations, all of which seem so simple by today’s standards, we would have little to enjoy.
He blended the theatrical styles of the theatre in his set design of scenery changes with the new growing art of cinematography and special effects and in most cases with great effect, and for that alone, this film is a masterpiece of it’s time, but it’s legacy is insurmountable.
Watch this and you are watching the conception of cinema that we know and love today.
But now, this gem has turned up and thanks to Flicker Alley, the independent company responsible for the Cinerama restorations to name a few, released this original hand coloured print of Méliès masterpiece back in 2012, 110 years after it was first projected. This is what Flicker Alley is offering and what they has to say about it:-
WINNER! 2011 National Society of Film Critics – “Best Film Restoration” Award Flicker Alley is pleased to bring the original hand-painted color version of Georges Méliès’ masterpiece, A Trip to the Moon (1902 / 15 min.), to home video 110 years after its first release. This publication also features The Extraordinary Voyage (2011 / 66 min.), a fascinating documentary directed by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange about the life of Georges Méliès and the magic of film history and preservation.
A Trip to the Moon (1902) The material for A Trip to the Moon is sourced from a restored color version that had been considered lost for several decades and is presented with an original soundtrack by the French band, AIR. In 2010, three experts in worldwide film restoration – a private collection Lobster Films, and two non-profit entities, Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema and Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage – launched the most complex and ambitious restoration in the history of cinema, over 12 years, using advanced digital technologies to reassemble and restore the fragments of the 13,375 frames. The restoration print premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011 and made a worldwide tour of international festivals including Telluride, Pordenone, Rotterdam, and the MoMA Festival of Film Preservation. Now, one of the most technically sophisticated and expensive restorations in film history, A Trip to the Moon can thrill home video audiences in its original 1902 colors. The Extraordinary Voyage (2011) The Extraordinary Voyage chronicles the journey of A Trip to the Moon from the fantastical Méliès’ production in 1902 to the astonishing rediscovery of a nitrate print in color in 1993, to the premiere of the new restoration on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival in 2011. The story of Moon’s restoration to its original 1902 colors unfolds as Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange acquire a severely damaged color print from the Filmoteca de Catalunya in 1999 and then begin the tedious task of peeling off and unrolling the nitrate prints to be able to digitize them. It took two years to discover the images on those fragments, which were then stored on a hard drive for 8 years as the technology available at the time did not allow Lobster Films to continue the landmark restoration. The documentary includes interviews with contemporary filmmakers, including Costa Gavras, Michel Gondry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Méliès’ enduring significance to cinema.
A Trip to the Moon in a beautifully restored black and white edition from original 35 mm elements with two separate audio tracks of music: An orchestral score by Robert Israel with the original English narration written by Melies; and a second track produced by Russell Merritt consisting of a troupe of actors voicing the various characters as performed in the U.S. in 1903, with piano music by Frederick Hodges. There is also an interview with the group AIR on the restored soundtrack, and two lunar-related shorts by Méliès – The Eclipse and The Astronomer’s Dream.
*** This is a shame though ***
Please Note: Due to our licensing arrangement, this release has been encoded for Region A: East Asia, Southeast Asia, the Americas and their dependencies.
…And based their last comment that this DVD/Blu-ray combo is ONLY coded for region A and I presume Region 1 on DVD, I have provide the link to the Youtube copy which I have watched in order to write this review. I would have certainly considered buying a copy from Flicker Alley if it was available to me here in the U.K. but obviously it is not. Strange really considering that Méliès was FRENCH! But it can’t be helped.
In short, it is okay but I don’t love it. The black and white version covers up a multitude of sins, whilst the colour version offers little, with a surreal colour palate which only serves to emphasise the stageyness of the production. And the modern soundtrack provided by AIR is quite good but I personally prefer to get as close to the original soundtracks as possible. Whether it be a honky-tonk piano, a violin or a full orchestra, they simply didn’t have synth in 1902! Sorry.
But you cannot underestimate the importance of this film or the work of Georges Méliès, as this film alone has been the subject of numerous other films and TV shows, with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (3D) (2011) and the Tom Hanks produced HBO mini series, From The Earth To The Moon (1998). Both look at the aspiration, inspiration and tragedy of Georges Méliès and his work.
There is no doubt that this an important print and thanks to all who restored this and so many more like it but to be honest, I think that the more commonly circulated black and white prints serve the film better, though what a technical innovation for 1902. Bear in mind that audiences were still being wowed in 1939 by The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind, 27 years later. It took 27 years before Technicolor would herald in the colour era and Georges Méliès was doing this at the turn of the last century. Pure genius.