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Movies Review

A Trip to the Moon (Cannes 2011)

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A Trip To The Moon still
It's been called the first blockbuster, and more recently the Avatar of its day, but that faintest of praise doesn't begin to do justice to Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune). Sure, it's a technological masterpiece and a key chapter in the history of cinema, but it's oh-so much more that. Even if you've never encountered the original 14-minute work (see below), you'll have watched thousands of films which it has inspired - either directly or indirectly. Pop fans of a certain vintage may have also enjoyed the five-minute grunge remake that is the Smashing Pumpkins' 1996 'Tonight Tonight' video.

Méliès released the film in 1902 in both black and white and hand-painted colour. In 1913, he burned his negatives in a fit of pique artsy types are well known for. The black and white reels of A Trip to the Moon survived, but the colour version was thought to be lost forever. By chance, a surviving print was found in Barcelona in 1993, and - although other versions have surfaced in recent years - a lot of time, money, technology and faffing about with digital scanners in super-humid rooms brings us this beautifully restored edition today.

Of course, 'silent film' was never really silent. Popular music of the day was played on stage for the first release of A Trip to the Moon and appropriately, Air - the French band who gave us Moon Safari - have provided a brand new soundtrack. A perfectly-fitting euphoric cacophony, it's no exaggeration to suggest that it will become the accepted score for the next hundred years. The film itself is incredible. Amusingly dodgy science aside, the years haven't aged it a day. Complete with its celebratory final 'parade' scene intact, the narrative has a beautifully light touch and sharp wit, and the images still exude a sense of real joy and jaw-dropping wonder.


Watch a black and white version of A Trip to the Moon below:

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