Georges Melies and His 'Trip to the Moon'


Long before man was able to step on the moon, cinematography pioneer Georges Melies was able to create the first ever science fiction flick set on the moon! Read about the movie and the brilliant filmmaker behind it after the jump!

Movie fans certainly have many inventors and cinematography pioneers to thank for. Among them is French filmmaker Georges Melies, who paved the way for several notable developments in the technical and story-telling elements of movie-making.

The First Cinemagician

Georges Melies. Photo via Tout Le Cine

His interest for film was sparked in 1895, after watching a demonstration of the camera built by the Lumiere Brothers. A year later, he discovered by accident the stop trick technique (not to be confused with stop-motion) when his camera jammed while filming a simple Parisian street traffic. He freed the jammed gate mechanism in a few seconds, then resumed filming. He processed the film as usual, and was surprised at the results, as he had forgotten the incident during the filming. Objects vanished, appeared, and were even transformed, as if he had filmed something magical.

On an interesting side note, Melies had worked as a stage magician at Theatre Robert-Houdin prior to tinkering with film. What he probably realized from the fascinating footage was that he can also bring magic to cinema, fueling him to come up with more ways to bend and transform reality through movies.

Aside from stop trick, he also widely used multiple exposures, dissolves, time-lapse photography, and even hand-painted color onto his films. Because of his ingenious use of special effects, he was often dubbed as the world’s first “cinemagician.”

A Trip to the Moon

The Man on the Moon. The most iconic scene from the French classic—the spaceship landing on the moon’s eye—taken from the restored color version which premiered in 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Photo via The Hollywood Reporter

Of the 531 films he directed between 1896 and 1914, the most popular is La Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon), created in 1902. Because of its ground-breaking use of special effects to tell a futuristic tale, the movie is considered to be one of the most notable science fiction films in history.

The silent film, which runs for about 14 minutes, tells about a trip to the moon by six astronomers, and their adventures after landing safely on the strange world outside Earth. The storyline was said to be inspired by the early sci-fi novels about moon and space travel popular at the time, notably Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H.G. Wells. Also, like most films by Melies, A Trip to the Moon had both black-and-white and hand-colored versions.

In 1993, the only known surviving copy of the French classic’s hand-colored version was rediscovered by Filmoteca de Catalunya. Although it was almost completely decomposed, Technicolor Lab in Los Angeles was able to restore it within a year. The “revived” film, now at 109 years old, premiered early this year during the Cannes Film Festival.

Watch the original black and white version in the clip below:

Sources and additional readings:

Georges Melies -- Wikipedia
Stop Trick -- Wikipedia
A Trip to the Moon
Georges Melies -- Early Cinema

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written by plasticpopsicle on 2011-11-09 #lifestyle #film #movie #lomography #analogue-lifestyle #pioneer #motion-picture-pioneers #georges-melies #a-trip-to-the-moon #cinematography

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