Your Online Georges Méliès Film Festival

Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Here’s another blog trying to prove how clever they are by linking to all the visual references in Hugo.” Wrong. Granted it’d be more painstaking to jot down the shots and match them to those in the film. However, the purpose of this post is a bit broader.

I have linked to anything and everything I could find. Some are referenced in Hugo, some aren’t. What I really want to people to do is to take a few minutes and watch some of there. Some are quite short. However, I’ve also created this post using just one website.

The internet archive is a great resource for all kinds of material but especially films which have entered the public domain. You can stream and download all kinds of great movies for free.

If you enjoy these movies, as I suspect you will, in their more primitive degraded state then you can look to Flicker Alley who have released many great sets of Georges Méliès rediscovered and restored works on DVD.

Enjoy!

If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they’re made.
-Ben Kingsley, Hugo

<a href="http://www.archive.org/details/Lauberge-ensorceletheBewitchedInn1897&quot; title="The Bewitched Inn (1897)”>

A Terrible Night (1896)

The Devil in a Convent (1899)

<a href='http://www.archive.org/details/Cinderella_601&#039;>Cinderella (1899)

Joan of Arc (1899) [TINTED; Third-Party Voice Over Added]

The Man with a Head in the Cabinet (circa 1900)

The One Man Orchestra (1900)

The Devil and the Statue (1901)

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

The Monster (1903)

The Infernal Cauldron

The Impossible Voyage (1904)

The Infernal Cakewalk (1903)

Frolics of Satan (1906) [TINTED]

The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1906)

The Eclipse (1907)

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1907)

Good Glue Sticks (1907)

The Devilish Tenant (1909) [TINTED]

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Review- Super 8

Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths in Super 8 (Paramount)

What I really want to know is what kind of alchemy is this? What sort of magic have Spielberg and Abrams been able to muster? A magic so mind-boggling that I’ve hardly been able to make sense of it until now. What I speak of is the fact that in Super 8 they’ve managed a seemingly innumerable amount of tricks that are baffling.

Firstly, watching this film is almost like being in a dreamlike state, the truest definition of mesmerizing because it’s as if it plays in a seemingly endless and consistent flow that’s always operating at the right speed. It’s the rare period film that actually feels like a film from the period it’s representing and it also so seamlessly and with no fuss whatsoever incorporates us in the world of the narrative such that it almost feels like a film you’ve seen before. Rest assured I’m not describing something that can be construed as being derivative (I’ll address that) it feels like an old favorite just minutes in.

There are few ideas that can be described as startlingly original, so everything boils down to execution and choices. In short, you can compare almost any film to a handful of others and this film will conjure the images of others, however, there is something to be said for what films you’re being compared to. Super 8 is garnering comparisons to The Goonies, The Monster Squad and Stand by Me and it’s better than the first two and as for the last one, there’s such a genre difference it’s really all about what’s your cup of tea.

One startling similarity it does share with Stand by Me is a bit more intangible in nature and it’s this: rarely do you see kids portrayed on screen not only so well as characters but also as friends to the extent that you forget they’re actors at points and you see them as people. There’s a level of ease, naturalness and comfort this core have with one another that jumps off the screen and brings you into the story such that even though some may be recognizable you think of them as real kids. The easiest way to engage an audience of all ages to a story driven by kids is to get them to identify and think “Yeah, I would’ve been like that kid in this situation” and this film nails that.

Just the fact that this foursome, the main one as Preston (Zach Mills) is funny, well-portrayed and has his own quirks but doesn’t join the “adventure” portion, (Joel Courtney, Riley Griffiths, Ryan Lee and Gabriel Basso) can call to mind Stand by Me when they have two actors (Courtney and Griffiths) amongst them earning his first credit is darn impressive (as opposed to one for Stand by Me [Jerry O’Connell]). The wealth being pretty evenly distributed for moments: Lee easily has the most laughs with his pyromaniac slant but one of Basso’s lines got spontaneous applause at my screening. Griffiths and Courtney both had their types to play and played them very well well and with dimension; both being rather expressive and showing a good range of emotion.

Not to mention this film has an additional facet which is that of Alice played by Elle Fanning. So it is a boys’ club to an extent and an adventurous film with wise-cracking and ribbing but there’s some romance and additional drama thrown into the mix when Alice is cast in their Super 8 film and she in essence becomes one of the gang after the train derailment. Fanning is one of the aforementioned familiar faces and she does much more than hold her own in this film but rather shines.

While I give J.J. Abrams all the credit he’s due for doing such an outstanding job on this film it does also have Spielberg’s indelible fingerprints all over it also and I think they found a story they were quite simpatico on and connected to make something outstanding. There were Spielbergian visual signatures throughout making it feel every bit as much his film as Abrams’.

One such Spielbergian trait at play was similar to Jaws in as much as the creature remained unseen or seen only in part for much of the film and the tension, drama and fright caused by an attack doesn’t dissipate due to this fact but rather is heightened. While the mystery of its intent is shrouded so is the creature itself.

The additional benefit that comes from hiding the creature is that it didn’t create a lot of additional animation for CG artists. When the creature does finally reveal itself in full I didn’t think of the CG work for a second. First, because it was so well done and second because I was so enraptured.

This enrapturing made possible more easily by the fact that the film, as mentioned before, is mesmerizing but what people fail to note when using that term is that when literally mesmerized, hypnotized, all sense of time escapes you and this film felt like it was done nearly in the blink of an eye. It’s not that the pace is breakneck, as I indicated earlier it’s always correct, but it’s enveloping.

Since I heard of this film, and with each subsequent ad (minus the viral video I heard about today), I’ve reiterated that I think all films should be advertised as this one is: Give me images, just enough to get me intrigued and have me say “Ooh, What’s that about? I want to see that!” Almost any film can be marketed that way such that you’re left thinking “Wow, that’s going to be so awesome!” but few and far between are those that really are that awesome, but Super 8 is.

10/10

Film History Friday #1


Better late than never I always say.

So for Film History Friday my goal is to look back at a filmmaker, event, or whatever in the annals of the history of film that has had a profound impact on the course of the artform. Aiding me greatly in this quest will be the wonderful website known at The Internet Archive this is a fantastic site that archives all sorts of content online, from old web pages, to books, music and films in the public domain.

It’s all well and good to talk about films but the best way to learn about them is to see them so there will be some video links below. My subject for this particular installment is the magnificent Georges Méliès. He is frequently referred to as the first wizard of cinema. A magician at heart, Méliès truly was the first man that demonstrated the boundlessness that film has in its ability to enchant and amaze. The first two films below feature wonderfully blocked, I dare say choreographed, shots wherein cuts that are nearly invisible create the most wondrous illusions. Truly now the tact of cutting and making an object vanish is old hat but keep in mid the era, the lack of sophistication of audiences and also it must be said that Méliès performs these illusion with such a deft hand, with such aplomb that it brought a smile to my face. There’s such unabashed joy in many of these films that it is likely to communicate to audiences even more than a century later.

This first film shows you a very basic demonstration of what Méliès is about. It’s a short simple tale of a many being driven slowly mad by a mischievous imp playing tricks on him.

The Black Imp (1905)

Video

Here we see Méliès upping his game. While this film was made just two years later you must take into account the fact that he is credited on the IMDb with having directed 555 films between 1896 and 1913. Even dealing mostly in shorts that’s a ridiculous output. The point is the learning curve was high and he can tell a simple story in one film knowing he’d get to push the envelope in another. If you liked the first film you’ll love this one.

Satan In Prison (1907)

Video

The video posted below is a fragment. It’s a piece of an adaptation of Robinson Crusoe that he did. It seems to be all that remains. Many of his films its sad to say are lost. The fact remains that a lot of silents are gone and we only know of them because the text for titles was copyrighted. Film preservation combined with the short-shelf life and combustible nature of of silver nitrate stock made things difficult. It’s also interesting to note that the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and the forthcoming film, deals with Méliès in a fictional sense and his lost films also.

Robinson Crusoe -fragment- (1902)

Video

I was only going to post three but since that was a fragment I think one more is in order. This is the film that made me fall in love with him. Even 108 years later this is still amazing stuff.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

Video