Review for Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon & Autobiography
A Trip to the Moon is one of those films that few people have seen properlu, but all know one moment from. I cannot begin to guess the number of parodies and homages to the iconic rocket landing in the Moon's eye and as I say even if you have never seen it before, you know that scene.
The plot is a Scientist has decided to plan on a trip to the moon. With a number of his colleagues, he builds a rocket which lands on the moon (or in its eye to be exact). Here they encounter strange creatures and then upon escaping make a dash for their rocket and fly back to Earth. The plot is loosely based on the Jules Verne book 'From the Earth to the Moon' and also H G Wells' 'The First Men in the Moon' and though does not have dialogue cards like most silent movies, the plot and what is going on is very easy to make out.
Georges Melies is generally regarded as 'The Father of Movie Special Effects'. It seems as though without his innovations we would never have had a King Kong or a Star Wars. It is a shame that his entire career always seems to be summed up in one shot, but what a shot it is.
Watching this film is an odd experience because the film itself is very basic and not very entertaining from a viewer perspective. However, as a time capsule of filmmaking I watched in awe at what they were able to achieve in 1902. Remember we hadn't even figured out flight, television and radio had only just been developed. Yet here we have a film which more or less accurately depicted what space flight would be like, down to the landing in the sea element. Some of the shots they were able to achieve are amazing and only a genius could have figured it out or had the patience to actually pull it off.
What is bizarre is that despite the general consensus being that this film is a ground-breaking moment in cinema history there are very few special features. I am also surprised that they didn't include more of Melies' work here as the clips shown look amazing too.
The film appears in a Black and White and Colourised version.
The Black and White comes with Robert Israel music score, Frederick Hodges Piano Accompaniment, a mix of Hodges and Actors. I would say to avoid the last one as I honestly thought it was a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 narration at first.
On the Colourised version comes with Jeff Mills, Dorian Pimpernel or Serge Bromberg score and a Serge Bromberg narration. The narration is better than the actors one, but still feels a little unnecessary.
The lack of a Commentary is shocking as this is one of the few films where I would have happily sat through a Commentary to hear more about the films' creation and I cannot believe that they couldn't find someone who could do one.
Le Grand Melies is a short docu/drama regarding the life and work of Melies and is a good overview of his career. This was from 1952 and is notable for starring Melies' son Andre portraying his father and Melies' wife later appearing. It is a rather odd way to tell his story and tries to explain how he achieved some of his shots and effects. We then get a few clips from his actual films cut into this which is nice, though it is odd that they didn't recreate these too.
The Innovations of George Melies is a short video essay exploring the film by Jon Spira. There is some great footage of some of Melies' other works and the way he was able to use the camera in very innovative way. It is a shame it is only less than ten minutes as it feels that this was a bit rushed and not the exploration it should have been.
The Extraordinary Voyage is a 2011 documentary regarding the preservation and restoration of this film. At over an hour it is the most in-depth look at his work and listening to the other Directors who had been influenced made it a lot more interesting.
A Trip to the Moon is not a film you will watch for entertainment, but certainly a film that everyone who appreciates film should experience. You may find the story simple or the acting very pantomime, but I will advise you to overlook all that and watch with this one thought 'This film is over One Hundred Years Old' I doubt very much we will look at film in 2020 in a hundred years with the same awe and reverence as we do with this film.