Today we watched the restored, colorized version of A Trip to the Moon from 1902 (but the restored, colorized version from 2011 with music by AIR!). One of the first feature films ever made with a storyline and an extensive cast, it tells the story (a story!) of a trip to the moon, with conflict! intrigue! suspense! action! comedy! Everything a film needs. A “revolution” at fourteen minutes, Schneider’s book suggests that this is the first chance a film had to present a purely cinematic fictional “fantasy constructed for pure entertainment,” opening a door to the future of film as a grand escapist platform.
This film instantly reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkin’s album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (…and the Tonight Tonight video. Go ahead, watch it again. I just did). A Trip to the Moon is filmed more like a play with several acts, with each “scene” unfolding with the familiar directions and staging of a something from the theater. The colors are almost garish or obscene in their brightness and boldness- but this just adds to the appeal. I was struck most by what a delightful and imaginative story this is, from the sets, to the costumes, to the magical powers of umbrella. I would love to know what someone watching over a hundred years ago was thinking after a first view.
I thought this was a charming little film – mainly for its connections to the Tonight Tonight video that Jennifer mentioned. We couldn’t stop talking about it, along with the documentary we watched about Wayne White called Beauty is Embarassing, an incredible film where White discussed his work with puppetry, MTV/Smashing Pumpkins, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and other great art projects.
This film is pretty revolutionary in a lot of ways. As I watched I couldn’t escape what I think of when I think early film…all of which don’t have a plot, and are just short snippets of something happening. Like The Horse and The Kiss. I also thought of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret which romanticizes the fictional genesis of this film along with the Paris film industry. Interestingly, I also saw the movie which was something…different.
This was a gorgeous film in its use of stop-film tricks, weird theatrical cardboard sets that at times were two dimensional and at times three dimensional, beautiful and complex costumes and makeup, and some really impressive special effects. A pleasure to watch in its new colorized incantation that added a somewhat extra level of magic to the film. Furthermore, having been scored by one of my favorite bands, AIR, it was a joy to experience. Audiences at the time must have been astonished!