Monday, December 19, 2011

Who was Georges Méliès?

If I had to list my favorite film directors, I would have to put Scorsese in my top five.  His latest film, Hugo, is not your typical Scorsese film in that it is not about gritty characters like gangsters, boxers or cab driving veterans.  It is a children's film based on the book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Can he pull off a children's film?  Some say no, that the film is too slow and children get bored half way through.  Regardless, I look forward to seeing it.

One of the main characters in the film is Méliès (portrayed by Ben Kingsley). This is a fictitious portrayal of a real person.  Georges Méliès was a French illusionist who by the 1896 became interested in the new art form of film. He started making films using some of his illusionist techniques. He is attributed with creating some of the first science fiction films ever and being the first special effects specialist. He created over 500 films from 1896 to 1913 ranging from 1 to 45 minutes long.  Without the use of a Mac that is a lot of work.  He was one of the first film editors and dabbled with out-of-the-box techniques like over-exposing film. Most of the films didn't have any plot whatsoever ... they just showed off his illusions ... a person disappearing, a person growing very large, a man turning a skeleton, a trip to the moon, a trip to the sun.

I had never heard of him before Hugo was released but I am familiar with this film, Viaje a la Luna (in english Trip to the Moon).  You might be as well.  It is about a bunch of astronomers who build a rocket to the moon (loosely based on works of Verne and HG Wells). Perhaps Scorsese was drawn to this book because of the Méliès character. Think of Hugo as an homage ... for what else is special effects other than illusion?

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