Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, the magician of early cinema, was born this day one hundred and fifty years ago. Though it seems to be pure coinicidence, his 150th year has been marked by a succession of notable Mélièsian events, culminating in the release this month of Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo, in which Méliès (played by Ben Kingsley) features as a leading character, and in which the production of Méliès’ films is lovingly created.
In celebration of the French master’s 150th, here is a set of links to the main DVDs, websites, publications and past Bioscope posts on Georges Méliès.
- Méliès the Magician / Méliès, le cinémagicien (Arte Video) (two documentaries and 15 films)
- Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (Flicker Alley) (5-DVD set)
- Georges Méliès encore (Flicker Alley) (further sixth disc with films not on 5-DVD set)
- The Magic of Méliès (The Movies Begin Volume 4) (Kino) (15 films and documentary Georges Méliès: Cinema Magician)
- Georges Méliès (StudioCanal/Fechner Productions) (two-disc set with 32 films) (a three-disc version with extra films and booklet has just been published)
- Georges Méliès – the ‘official’ site, maintained by his great-great-granddaughter
- Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema – biographical essay by David Robinson
- Museo Méliès – fan site in Spanish and English
- Georges Méliès: An in-depth look at the cinema’s first creative genius – unfinished survey of Méliès’s films on DVD
- John Frazer, Artificially Arranged Scenes: The Films of Georges Melies (1979)
- Paolo Cherchi Usai, Lo schermo incantato / A Trip to the Movies: Georges Méliès, Filmmaker and Magician (1861-1938) (1991)
- David Robinson, Georges Méliès: Father of Film Fantasy (1993)
- Elizabeth Ezra, Georges Méliès (2000)
- Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007)
- Laurent Mannoni and Jacques Malthête, L’Oeuvre de Georges Méliès (2008)
- Matthew Solomon, Fantastic Voyages of the Cinematic Imagination (2011)
- La couleur retrouvée du Voyage dans la Lune / A Trip to the Moon Back in color (PDF available online) (2011)
Past Bioscope posts on Méliès
- 11 Jul 2011 – Méliès at the crossroads (on a conference and on the official website)
- 09 Jul 2011 – The Bioscope interviews … Matthew Solomon (interview with the editor of book on his film Le voyage dans la lune)
- 09 May 2011 – The Moon is yellow (the discovery of the colour version of Le voyage dans la lune)
- 03 Oct 2010 – Lives in film no. 1: Alfred Dreyfus – part 1 (includes discussion and illustration of Méliès’s L’affaire Dreyfus)
- 12 Jan 2010 – Méliès in 3D (the surprise discovery than some of his films can be projected in 3D)
- 08 Jan 2010 – Méliès encore! (the release of Flicker Alley’s sixth DVD release of Méliès’s works)
- 28 May 2010 – Méliès by instalments (news of Michael Brooke’s sadly curtailed attempt to document in detail every extant Méliès film)
- 12 Apr 2010 – Georges Méliès, magicien du cinéma (Cinémathèque française exhibition, DVD releases and websites on Méliès)
- 20 Mar 2008 – Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913) (review with full title listing of the Flicker Alley 5-DVD set)
- 23 Aug 2007 – The Invention of Hugo Cabret (our first notice of the Brian Selznick novel)
I’ve not provided any links to online videos, because we have a rule here at the Bioscope about not linking to films which have been ripped from DVDs, and practically every Méliès available on YouTube has indeed been ripped in this way. The films are in the public domain (though their new soundtracks are not), but it’s a shame to see, especially when the producers of such DVDs have gone to such trouble and expense to compile their productions in the first place. But for those who don’t know, don’t care, or who believe as a matter of principle that everything should be for free and online anyway, there is plenty to be found – and doubtless Georges would be thrilled that his productions continue to delight new generations.
Some of that delight is demonstrated by the many remakes of Méliès’s films or filming techniques that can be found online. It’s practically a genre in itself. So as a different sort of tribute we’ll show you one of these instead; most of them show more enthusiasm than skill, but I quite like this one for its simplicity and Mélièsian spirit:
And finally, a quotation, written by yours truly when reviewing the 5-DVD set back in 2008, which says all that I need to say on the matter.
Georges Méliès is confirmed here as among the pre-eminent artists of the cinema, perhaps the most exuberant of all filmmakers. The films display imagination, wit, ingenuity, grace, style, fun, invention, mischief, intelligence, anarchy, innocence, vision, satire, panache, beauty and longing, the poetry of the absurd. Starting out as extensions of the tricks that made up Méliès’ magic shows, to view them in chronological order as they are here is to see the cinema itself bursting out of its stage origins into a theatre of the mind, where anything becomes possible – a true voyage à travers l’impossible, to take the title of one of his best-known films. The best of them have not really dated at all, in that they have become timeless, and presumably (hopefully) always will be so. Méliès in his lifetime suffered the agony of seeing his style of filmming turn archaic as narrative style in the Griffith manner became dominant, but we can see now that is his work that has truly lasted. The films will always stand out as showing how motion pictures, when they first appeared, in a profound sense captured the imagination.
Bonne anniversaire, Georges.