Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson
Ratings (out of five): ****
Thanks to the happy success of Martin Scorsese's Hugo, the French silent era filmmaker Georges Méliès is now far better known to the general public. Flicker Alley, which distributed a massive box set of surviving Méliès films, has now released a special new two-disc "steelbook" set. It features a brand-new, restored version of Méliès' most famous film, the 14-minute A Trip to the Moon, with the original hand-tinted color back in place, and a new score by Air.
It also includes a new documentary -- Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange's The Extraordinary Voyage -- about Méliès and the restoration of his films. Better still, both are featured on a Blu-Ray disc as well as a DVD.
Seeing A Trip to the Moon on Blu-Ray can leave one bedazzled. Of course, the 110 year-old movie can't possibly have the same effect on viewers today as it once did. Viewers today are far more aware of the "magic tricks" that go on behind the scenes, and are not easily fooled. It never seems as if the astronauts in this movie are really on the moon, or really battling moon creatures.
What's unique about the movie today is the kind of naïve enthusiasm behind the story, the cheerful way that Méliès seems to believe in his yarn. It's also interesting to note the way that Méliès saw his frame as two-dimensional, like a painting. He creates his movements from right-to-left and left-to-right, seemingly unaware of how the depth of a frame could be used as well. But the effect is both oddly quaint and surreal.
Additionally, the new color makes the movie feel even more antique, since it's very clearly painted and not naturalistic, but at the same time contributes even more to the movie's dreamlike quality. And Air's new score is by far the most ethereal and meditative ever recorded for this movie.
It's hard to say why the movie's iconic shot with the spaceship landing in the moon's eye has endured for over a century. It could be something very simple, such as man conquering nature with his use of technology. The pained and shocked look on the moon's face after being struck in the eye suggests a kind of victory over something. Or it could be something more positive, like the idea that the moon is looking out for us. (The spaceship sometimes resembles a telescope or a looking device of some kind.)
As for the documentary, it's far from focused or complete, but it goes a little into the story of Méliès as well as some fascinating footage about how technicians rescue and restore a 110 year-old film. In its way, the documentary is also about a triumph of technology over nature. Or, to put it more simply, the whole set is about movie magic.
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