George Méliès

film 19 of 70

A Trip to the Moon

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 17, 2015

This little cluster of Méliès reviews/appreciations, though they feature only a small number of the hundreds of films that he made, are attempting to suggest how much more there is to him than this very famous, extremely significant, way over-emphasized film. Over-emphasized, but not over-rated, mind you. As follows:

A Trip to the Moon features the familiar mixed bag of Méliès devices, mannerisms, graces. The first tableau is packed and charming and inert. I love the young women that sit smiling at the desk. Note this narration! It throws a spanner in the works, historically and presentationally speaking. Character masks are great. One of the explorers falls into a tub of acid, eh? The foundry shot is fabulous, with its forced perspectives and working miniature parts in the background. The mere initiative of the thing is sufficient, and the fact that it works dramatically is pleasing value added. Charming erotic display when they load that rocket, but the embarking that precedes it shows how badly cinema needed to get beyond Méliès’ methods. The camera sits there, and misses the whole thing. The take off is great, and the approaching moon/in your eye part is imperishable. Earthrise is just lovely, what with the shifting flats and all. Same with the star show. Down below it looks like H.P. Lovecraft! Great acrobatic performances by the Selenites, and the match cuts are particularly felicitous when they get dispatched. But wait—who’s celestial body is this? The film’s blithe unawareness on the subject of conquest and colonized peoples could do with some interrogating. They fall to earth at the end.