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A Trip to the Moon
Directed by Georges Méliès
Produced by Georges Méliès
Written by Georges Méliès
Gaston Méliès
Starring Georges Méliès
Victor André
Bleuette Bernon
Jeanne d'Alcy
Henri Delannoy
Cinematography Michaut
Lucien Tainguy
Distributed by Gaston Méliès
Release date(s) France:
1 September 1902
United States:
October 4, 1902
Running time 14 min (at 16 frame/s)
8 min (at 25 frame/s)
Language originally narrated in French
Budget 10,000FF
Preceded by Bluebeard (1902)
Followed by The Man with the Rubber Head (1902)

A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a 1902 French black and white silent science fiction film. It is based loosely on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells.[1]

The film was written and directed by Georges Méliès, assisted by his brother Gaston. The film runs 14 minutes if projected at 16 frames per second, which was the standard frame rate at the time the film was produced. It was extremely popular at the time of its release and is the best-known of the hundreds of fantasy films made by Méliès. A Trip to the Moon is the first science fiction film, and utilizes innovative animation and special effects, including the well-known image of the spaceship landing in the moon's eye.[1]

A Trip to the Moon was released to the public domain because it was made more than 75 years from today, and its copyright has expired.

It was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranking in at #84.[2]

Contents

Synopsis

At a meeting of astronomers, their president proposes a trip to the Moon. After addressing some dissent, six brave astronomers agree to the plan. They build a space capsule in the shape of a bullet, and a huge cannon to shoot it into space. The astronomers embark and their capsule is fired from the cannon with the help of "marines", portrayed as a bevy of beautiful women in sailors' outfits. The Man in the Moon watches the capsule as it approaches, and it hits him in the eye.[1]

Landing safely on the Moon, the astronomers get out of the capsule and watch the Earth rise in the distance. Exhausted by their journey, the astronomers unroll their blankets and sleep. As they sleep, a comet passes, the Big Dipper appears with human faces peering out of each star, old Saturn leans out of a window in his ringed planet, and Phoebe, goddess of the Moon, appears seated in a crescent-moon swing. Phoebe calls down a snowfall that awakens the astronomers. They seek shelter in a cavern and discover giant mushrooms. One astronomer opens his umbrella; it promptly takes root and turns into a giant mushroom itself.[1]

At this point, a Selenite (an insectoid alien inhabitant of the Moon, named after Selene) appears, but it is killed easily by an astronomer, as the creatures explode if they are hit with a hard force. More Selenites appear and it becomes increasingly difficult for the astronomers to destroy them as they are surrounded. The Selenites arrest the astronomers and bring them to their commander at the Selenite palace. An astronomer lifts the Chief Selenite off its throne and dashes him to the ground, exploding him.[1]

The astronomers run back to their capsule (continuing to hit the pursuing Selenites on the way). Five get inside. The sixth uses a rope to tip the capsule over a ledge on the Moon and into space. A Selenite tries to seize the capsule at the last minute. Astronomer, capsule, and Selenite fall through space and land in an ocean on Earth. The Selenite falls off and the capsule floats back to the surface, where they are rescued by a ship and towed ashore.[1]

Alt text
One of the most famous scenes in movie history.
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Complete version

When originally screened, the film featured a final scene depicting a celebratory parade in honor of the travelers' return. Until recently, this scene was considered lost, and did not appear on any commercially available editions. However, a complete cut of the film was discovered in a French barn in 2002. Not only is it the most complete cut of the movie, but it is also entirely hand-colored. It was restored and premiered in 2003 at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival.[3] The complete film is now available on the extensive new box set.[citation needed]

Analysis

Some historians suggest that although A Trip to the Moon was among the most technically innovative films up until that time, it still displays a primitive understanding of narrative film technique. American film scholar Ken Dancyger writes:

"[The film is] no more than a series of amusing shots, each a scene unto itself. The shots tell a story, but not in the manner to which we are accustomed. It was not until the work of American Edwin S. Porter that editing became more purposeful."[4]

Porter was inspired partially "by the length and quality of Méliès's work".[4]

Although most of the editing in A Trip to the Moon is purely functional, there is one unusual choice: when the astronomers land on the lunar surface, the "same event is shown twice, and very differently".[5] The first time it is shown crashing into the eye of the Man in the Moon; the second time it is shown landing on the Moon's flat terrain. The concept of showing an action twice in different ways was experimented with again by Porter in his film Life of an American Fireman, released roughly a year after A Trip to the Moon.[citation needed]

Some have claimed that the film was one of the earliest examples of pataphysical film, while stating that the film aims to "show the illogicality of logical thinking".[6] Others still have remarked that the director, Georges Méliès, aimed in the film to "invert the hierarchal values of modern French society and hold them up to ridicule in a riot of the carnivalesque".[6] This is seen as an inherent part of the film's plot: the story itself pokes fun at the scientists and at science in general, in that upon traveling to the moon, these astronomers find that the face of the moon is, in fact, the face of a man, and that it is populated by little green men.[6]

Distribution

Méliès had intended to release the film in the United States to profit from it. Thomas Edison's film technicians, however, secretly made copies of it and distributed it throughout the country. While the film was still hugely successful, Méliès eventually went bankrupt.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Dirks, Tim. "A Trip to The Moon". FilmSite.org. http://www.filmsite.org/voya.html. Retrieved 2007-01-08. 
  2. ^ http://www.filmsite.org/villvoice.html
  3. ^ "Trivia for Voyage dans la lune, Le". IMDB. Amazon. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000417/trivia. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  4. ^ a b Dancyger, Ken (2002). The Technique of Film and Video Editing: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Focal Press, 2002.
  5. ^ Sklar, Robert (c. 1990). Film: An International History of the Medium. Thames and Hudson. 
  6. ^ a b c McMahan, Alison (2005). The Films of Tim Burton: Animating Live Action in Contemporary Hollywood. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 0826415660. 

External links


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