The best remembered film of Georges Méliès, this film was such a success upon its early release that it was one of the first films to be bootlegged*. Based loosely on Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon.
Professor Barbenfouillis and five brave astronomers — Nostradamus, Alcofrisbas, Omega, Micromegas and Parafaragaramus — have decided to go to the moon, gifting us with that iconic image of the rocket hitting the face of the lunar surface directly in the eye.
The learned men that do make it to the moon have no issue crushing its natives, the insect Selenites, literally exploding them with just a casual push. After running wild through many of their number, the astronauts — who had been awakened by the gentle swinging of Phoebe goddess of the moon just hours earlier — escape back to Earth, enjoying a parade where they lead a captured alien through the streets as a banner unfurls with the legend labor omnia vincit (work conquers all).
Film scholar Matthew Solomon has written that Méliès, who was previously an anti-Boulangist political cartoonist, used this adventure and science fiction film as a parable within which to decry imperialistic domination. His conquering heroes aren’t really scientists and smart men, but dolts who hurt everyone they meet and still return to a hero’s welcome.
While there are black and white versions of this film, the one that played Fantastic Fest had the hand tinted colors that were created by Elisabeth Thuillier’s lab, which would make up to sixty prints of certain films, giving them an otherworldly quality which is perfect for this essential piece of cinema.
The version that played Fantastic Fest has the score interpreted by House of Waters, which features “Jimi Hendrix of Hammered Dulcimer” Max ZT, Moto Fukushim and Ignacio Rivas Bixio.
Fantastic Fest @ Home is featuring a series of silent films reimagined with the music of five artists from GroundUp music. Beyond this film, there’s also Aelita: Queen of Mars with a score by Snarky Puppy’s Chris Bullock, Sirintip rescoring The Lost World, PRD Mais taking on Waxworks, Bob Lanzetti covering Nosferantu and House of Waters playing music for Menilmontant, Le Voyage dans la Lune and Ballet Mecanique.
*By Thomas Edison!