Monday, May 3, 2010

Silent Film Week - Day One - A Trip To the Moon (1902)

Hiya Kiddies! Today we begin a week I've been looking forward to since I began this blog: Silent Film Week. Instead of the usual routine, each day this week we'll take a look at one of the great films of the truly early days of cinema before the movies learned to talk.

One of the reasons that I think I find silent films so interesting is that they truly employ a vocabulary all their own. Of course, everyone associates silent films with broad pantomimic gestures, and intertitles (those cards that pop up in the middle of the action with either a description of what is happening or a bit of dialogue) but really that's only the tip of the iceberg.

What you're also seeing really is the slow development and discovery of what is possible on film and what truly creative people can do when faced with a new medium, and rarely is that more evident than in today's film, A Trip to the Moon.

Georges Méliès was one of those aforementioned truly creative people. Not only was he one of the first to attempt to truly incorporate some narrative elements into his works, but he was also a special effects pioneer. A Trip to the Moon contains instances of forced perspective, people disappearing and exploding, alien creatures in costumes, and animation incorporated to help propel the story along. There are actually times when the whole thing seems more of a fever dream than a true narrative. Obviously, from today's perspective these effects appear quite crude, but for his time, when people were only beginning to even understand how these images could be created, they were spectacular.

Since the film only runs a little over 11 minutes, instead of a preview i'm just going to embed it below. This particualr version is not exactly "silent" as instead of intertitles it has a french-accented narrator explaining the action, but maybe that will help ease some of you into a type of film that truly requires a different way of looking at things.

And now, the Skinny:
Title: A Trip To the Moon (Le Voyage Dans La Lune)
Release Date: 1902
Running Time: 14min
Black and White
Starring: Georges Méliès, Victor André
Directed by: Georges Méliès
Produced By: Georges Méliès
Distributed by: Gaston Méliès
A Trip To the Moon is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD as part of this collection: Landmarks of Early Film, Vol. 1.

It's also available for rent from Netflix as part of this collection:The Magic of Méliès.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian


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