Directed By: Georges Méliès
Starring: Georges Méliès
Trivia: According to IMDb, Georges Méliès directed some 555 short films between the years 1896-1912
Today, I thought I’d mix things up a bit by watching not a single film, but several shorts made by the same filmmaker. Georges Méliès was one of the cinema’s earliest pioneers, yet more than this, he was arguably the medium’s very first artist. A special effects innovator, he showed the world what movies were capable of, and what could be achieved with a little patience and a lot of imagination.
It started when Méliès attended one of the first public “moving pictures” exhibitions, presented by the Lumiere brothers in Paris in 1896. A stage performer as well as an amateur magician, Méliès was overwhelmed by what he saw, and immediately recognized the potential this new medium held. When the Lumieres refused to sell him one of their cameras, Méliès built his own.
At first, he was the star of all his movies, with family and friends chipping in to help. Eventually, he formed his own troupe of stage actors, and together they would create spectacular motion pictures, from science Fiction (A Trip to the Moon, in which five scientists are loaded into a rocket and shot from a huge cannon towards the moon, is easily his most recognizable work) to slapstick (The Black Imp features a hotel patron who’s tormented by a devilish creature that can make the furniture disappear at will), to pure fantasy (The Impossible Voyage sees a band of explorers fly through the air, walk on the sun, and do battle with a giant octopus under the sea).
Between the years 1896 and 1912, Georges Méliès made over 500 shorts. Doing so was more than his profession; it was his passion. For the first time, film and art were joined as one, all thanks to a man who turned his back on the family shoe business to perform magic tricks in front of a contraption many considered a passing fad.
There are a number of DVD releases that focus exclusively on the talents of Georges Méliès. I’ve included links to some, and urge you to check them out. Also, Martin Scorsese’s award-winning 2011 film, Hugo, is a fabulous tribute to the earliest days of the cinema, with Sir Ben Kingsley playing Méliès. For movie enthusiasts, Hugo is a must-see. Finally, two of Méliès shorts are embedded below. I hope you enjoy them.