Archive for Georges Melies

Man in the Man in the Moon

Posted in FILM, Science with tags , , on August 22, 2017 by dcairns

At The Chiseler, a short but timely disquisition on George Melies’ film L’ECLIPSE DU SOLEIL ET PLEINE LUNE, over at The Chiseler. Contains smut.

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The Sunday Intertitle: Playing War

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , on January 11, 2015 by dcairns

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LA GUERRA E IL SOGNO DI MOMI (1917).

Giovanni Pastrone (CABIRIA) and Segundo de Chomon, the Spanish special effects genius, collaborated on this strange, wondrous and possibly wrongheaded attempt to show the First World War as imagined by a child safe at home while his father is at the front.

Chomon was a pioneer not only of mixing animation with live action, going one better than Melies whose films only SEEM like cartoons, he built the first camera dolly, and this movie features several elegant and beautiful tracking shots, reframing the action and enhancing the emotion.

Pastrone’s battle scenes are exciting and sophisticated in their use of film language (and are all embedded in the action as flashback scenes from a letter home).

The weirdness comes from the juxtaposition of these off elements. The live action war pays lip service to humanism while serving up the typical endangered women and children, ravaging huns, and righteous avengers who put everything right in the end. This was seems to have no real costs.

The animated was is sheer spectacle too, though we’re told that it’s the product of a child’s imagination after he’s been distressed by vivid accounts of warfare, The mass destruction IS kind of disturbing in spite of the funny puppets and Thunderbirds explosions, though. Robbed of the expressivity of human beings, these toy soldiers behave like automata, “only following orders,” their faces masklike and set in inappropriate dopey smiles. I guess the overall effect is as conflicted as you could hope for in a movie made while the war was still stuck in bloody stalemate. It can’t be anti-war because it adopts a simple goodies and baddies perspective, but it manages to avoid being overly enthusiastic about violence.

Its noblest aspect is that it fails as propaganda.

The Art of Melies

Posted in FILM, Painting with tags , on September 16, 2014 by dcairns

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Three costume sketches by Georges Melies from the book French Elegance in the Cinema, which looks at the influence of French fashion and costume designers in film.

It’s a bit of a grab-bag — a lengthy gallery at the back uses slightly random images from the Cinematheque Francaise’s vast collection of costume sketches, many of which don’t have any obvious French connection, but all of which are interesting. The text pays particular attention to Jean-Louis and to designers like Schiaparelli and Givenchy who had a major influence on movie design.

I like costume sketches and production design sketches. Movies throw out all these items, from scripts to publicity stills, which are art forms in themselves while contributing to the greater whole.

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I’m dissatisfied with this scan, though. Scanners don’t seem to be able to handle the way books fold in the middle. You’d think that since the book predated the scanner, it’d be the scanner that’d have to adapt. I want a very thin sheet that I can just slot int between the leaves of the book, or else a kind of dry liquid I can spread on the illustration and then peel off, capturing a digital image in the mercury-like fluid. I’m sure Melies would agree.

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Something tells me this gay imp was meant to be played by old Georges himself.
French Elegance in the Cinema