Saturday, March 18, 2006

It was love at first sight the first time I saw the video for Smashing Pumpkins' Tonight, Tonight some years ago. Artwise, there's something about watching a video inspired by the silent film era and I knew I saw something like it way, way before. I recently found the answer thanks to Google. The whole thing was highly inspired by a 1902 French science fiction black and white silent film, Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon). Directed, Produced, Written, and Starred in by Georges Méliès:
"...The screen's first science fiction story, was a 14 minute masterpiece (nearly one reel in length (about 825 feet)), created by imaginative French director and master magician Georges Méliès (1861-1938) in his version of the Jules Verne story. This film, Melies' 400th and most notable film, was made on an astronomical budget for the time of 10,000 Francs - risky, but worthwhile since it was hugely successful. Its popularity also led to it being illegally copied, released under others' names, and pirated (including one stolen by Edison's film technicians and distributed throughout the US). [For example, an illegal duplicate of the film was available in the USA from Siegmund Lubin under the title A Trip to Mars.]

Melies wrote the whimsical script, acted in the film in the lead role, designed the sets and costumes, directed, photographed, and produced the film! He hired acrobats from the Folies Bergere to play the lunar inhabitants named Selenites, and the scantily dressed assistants (or pages) who launched the cannon were dancers from the Châtelet ballet. The image of the lunar capsule landing in the eye of the moon is a memorable sight and widely-recognized in cinematic history."
Méliès never profited from it as his fault lies in the fact that he either didn't think it worthwhile to copyright the film or didn't know how to which eventually drove him to the poor house. In this video, you'll notice the steam ship they use to travel in outer space is called the "SS Méliès" in tribute to Georges Méliès.

* References lifted from: Filmsite.org and Wikipedia.

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