Georges Méliès First Wizard of Cinema

Worldcat Link:

This collection gives a wonderful insight into the man who introduced the idea that film was not “moving pictures” in the sense of still images that happened to have motion added, it was a medium for telling stories, an extension of the theater. Méliès was a stage magician and a pantomime artist, and he brought the standards and sensibilities of that style of common mass entertainment with him in the movies he made. Today, this nineteenth-century aesthetic is best known to us from old carousels and funhouses. Of course, the iconic image of the Man in the Moon, with a spaceship stuck in his eye, from Méliès’s most popular film, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) is known to almost everyone, and films such as “The Impossible Voyage,” (1904) and “The Living Playing Cards” (1905) will seem familiar as well. But, I found some of the more obscure gems to be especially interesting. For example, in 1899 Méliès produced a series of 11 films (9 are here, perhaps all that survived), documenting the Dreyfus Affair as it happened. These were not newsreels, but dramatizations of what was going on in newspapers, and they were told from a decidedly liberal, pro-Dreyfus perspective. I was surprised that Méliès would take such a bold stand on a controversial issue, but he never did it again, so perhaps he learned from the result of this experiment.