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You would be forgiven for protesting that this is an odd beginning for a blog about popular culture. Bear with me. I need to test the waters with …er…one I prepared earlier. This text is previously published in a Google+ community but serves now as “Ipsem lorum”, allowing me to preview potential blog layouts with minimal effort. Alright, cheap and lazy, I agree. But at least I didn’t plagiarise.

Rizzo (2008) mentions the early French filmmaker Georges Méliès. His name rang a bell with me as he and his 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon” feature in Brian Selznick’s novel “The invention of Hugo Cabret” and the 2011 film based on the novel, Scorsese’s “Hugo”.

“A Trip to the Moon” is a whole lot of fun to watch and illustrates Gunning’s (in Rizzo, 2008) point about the role of narrative in Méliès’ films: “plot and story are used as excuses for stage effects”. The special effects in this film, probably one of the earliest examples of sci-fi cinema, would have been ground-breaking at the time.

Méliès’ trademark “stop film” technique still fascinates young film-makers today. I remember purchasing our school’s first Canon video camera and iBook over a decade ago and the first films the kids wanted to make involved stopping the camera to make themselves disappear with the click of their fingers. Magic! (and no requirement for CGI or complex editing in post!)

At the risk of inciting Gunning’s derision (for theorising Méliès’ film in terms of modern narrative cinema – something I’m hardly qualified to attempt in any case!) the experience of watching a “display of illusions” such as “A Trip to the Moon” is more akin to sitting stationery in the audience at a stage production than the thorough and realistic immersion of a contemporary film like “Hunger Games” with its handheld camera. But of course, according to Gunning, Méliès’ intention was “fascination and amazement” for the spectator, rather than empathy and immersion in the action.

It’s wonderful to see a film such as “A Trip to the Moon” fondly saluted in popular culture. Besides some scenes and stills being recreated in “Hugo” (remember Hugo’s automaton’s drawing above?), “A Trip to the Moon” also features in the 1995 music video for Queen’s “Heaven for Everyone”.

Has anyone seen other contemporary references to these films?

Incidentally, having a 4-yr-old son who exhibits an alarmingly intense obsession with TRAINS, I am all too familiar with current YouTube actualities which appear to be modeled on Lumiere’s “Arrival of a Train”… although I suspect the obsession to share these videos in such volume has more to do with an epidemic of the same chronic obsessive ailment among men of ALL ages, than a tribute to the early cinema of attractions (!?)…

Reference:

Rizzo, T. (2008). YouTube: The new cinema of attractions. Scan Journal (5)1. 

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