Film Club
Screening Dates
  • August 20, 2023 11:00

Méliès approached [cinema] with a playfulness that hasn’t been matched since; every filmmaker owes him everything.”

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Cine-File

The films of Georges Méliès allowed the conjuror and caricaturist to dispense with the stately rise and fall of a theatre curtain. Within the world of the camera, the marvellous tricks, elaborate tableaux, and devilish brio of his imagination could meet an audience in sudden, overwhelming immediacy—there’s a reason his most iconic image is of a vehicle flying through space to hit the moon in its eye! Méliès came to film production after two failed careers. As a student, he was a poor performer, filling his notebooks with sketches. As a partner in the family business of boot-making, he was disinterested—as soon as he could, he sold his share to his brothers and oversaw the construction of a film studio, where his theatrical knowledge fused with the possibilities opened up by editing. His stylistic reveries, filled with smoke, trick-shots, and fire, link to both the traditions of studio effects wizardry (The Wizard of Oz) and the artisanal avant-garde (Maya Deren’s The Very Eye of Night) that would follow. Briefly glimpsed in Scorsese’s Hugo (screening in July), in full they retain their impish humour and mystical splendour, not least through their restored, hand-painted colour.

The Pillar of Fire
(La danse du feu)
France 1901
1 min. DCP
No dialogue

A Trip to the Moon
(Le voyage dans la lune)
France 1902
15 min. DCP
With English bonimenteur” narration

The Merry Frolics of Satan
(Les quat’cents farces du diable)
France 1906
22 min. DCP
With English bonimenteur” narration

The Impossible Voyage
(Voyage à travers l’impossible)
France 1904
21 min. DCP
With English bonimenteur” narration

The Fiendish Tenant
(Un locataire diabolique)
France 1909
8 min. DCP
No dialogue

The Kingdom of the Fairies
(Le royaume des fées)
France 1903
17 min. DCP
With English bonimenteur” narration

For me, the most heart-warming thing about Méliès is that he was both an experimental filmmaker and a people’s filmmaker.”

Norman McLaren

“[Méliès] recognized motion pictures as medium of both the supernatural and the underground … The so-called supernatural is—as any magician knows—innately tangible to the naked eye, requiring only a shift of thought [or] sleight of hand.”

Stan Brakhage

Before intertitles came into vogue in early French cinema, bonimenteurs, or narrators, would provide commentary while films were showing, similar to the benshi in early Japanese cinema. These restorations include English-language narrations that recreate what those early-20th century film screenings would have been like.

Upcoming in this Series

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