A Trip to the Moon is one of the first science fiction films, and it is 114 years old (as of 2016). The film is about a group of astronomers who load themselves up in a gigantic cannon and fire themselves at the moon. After blinding the man-in-the-moon the scientists take a tour of the moon and come across the angry indigenous peoples of the moon (read: aliens. They run for their lives until the parachute back to Earth to a rowdy crowd. It clocks in 18 minutes but is one of the early exhibits of glorious color film.
Also, one of the first instances of film piracy by Thomas Edison (who would have expected that?).
This was how I explained it to my wife and her first question was: in color? The history of cinema is a hobby of mine. I didn’t expect to see how the created this color(ized) film until watching the accompanying documentary about the director Georges Méliès. Méliès paid to have a company owned by Elizabeth Thuillier to hand paint the film stock of around 60 copies of the film. What this leads to is a color film that hardly resembles the color films we are accustomed to watching. The colors are blotchy, uneven, inconsistent, and glorious. The images with this post are from one of the colored prints which was recently restored.
My main interest in this coloring is image of the bullet-ship protruding from the eye of the moon. Before seeing the color edition there was an apparent glob of white dripping from the eye socket, like too much cheese on a tipped pizza. What you get with the coloring is a transformation from a glob to a gory image of a bleeding moon.
The 18 minutes of A Trip to the Moon is a small sampling of Méliès’ work and is something that I am working my way through thanks to the many releases from Flicker Alley. What I experience with Méliès are early camera tricks, double-exposures, and quick cuts which I have seen time and time again in other film as they were perfect, but this, in my experience, is the first examples.
Along with the documentary of Méliès cinematic life the release also includes the film An Astronomers Dream; which could be called An Astronomers fever/opium Dream was we watch a moon eat and vomit this astronomer. It is a delightful as you might expect from an avant-garde dream. It also includes The Eclipse; an early slapstick flick resembling some of the ideas from A Trip to the Moon.
These are not films for everyone, which is not to say that anyone should not watch them as much as most people who do watch them will not have the same level off takeaway which a cinephile would. This is the history of the movies that we all watch. People would have eventually figured out these ideas of trick-shots but Méliès got there first creating films that are so groundbreaking that people like Thomas Edison saw the value. Edison made print copies to show at their theaters without a second thought to paying their creator. You would think this is something that we would have under control today.
A Trip to the Moon – 5.9
An Astronomers Dream – 6.5
The Eclipse – 5.7