Amazing what turns up on TV when you forget to check the TV guide and only just discover in time that there’s something worth watching; this afternoon SBS presented the colour restoration of this, along with the accompanying documentary from the DVD… the latter was particularly fascinating, showing as it did what a technical nightmare it was to restore the thing; years passed from the discovery of the colour print until they could even begin to work on it, and then it was years more before they could finish the job. It was certainly an intriguing new way to look at a film I’ve always loved, cos obviously I’ve only ever seen it in glorious monochrome, although to be sure, given the state in which the original colour print survives, it may not actually be the best way to see it; there’s a noticeable disjunct between those bits rescued from the original print and those which had to be computer-coloured from a monochrome print to fill in the gaps. And, well, the Air soundtrack… thanks but not really. In any case, it’s still a great film; although I’m not sure it’s even Méliès’ best production, there is obviously no gainsaying its status as an icon of early cinema (the face of the moon getting a rocket in its eye is actually kind of gorier than I’d realised in the colour version; Lucio Fulci would’ve been happy with that blood splatter). And, as the documentary is right to remind us, it hadn’t even been seven years since the Lumière brothers’ first showing when Méliès unleashed this on the world. That’s not bad just within the context of his own career, but in the context of film history at large it’s really quite astounding; within 14 years of Louis Le Prince filming his family in his backyard, Méliès was doing this in his. Endlessly delightful, no wonder it was so popular, and how sad that Méliès himself saw so little financial reward from it, thanks largely to certain piracy-happy pioneers of an American film industry that now lives in terror of being ripped off in the way they were happy to rip Méliès off a hundred and ten years ago.
A Trip to the Moon (1902)