Georges Méliès’s Robinson Crusoé film resurfaces in Pordenone

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Georges Méliès
“It’s a very important piece of cinema history, which was not known until Saturday night,” says David Robinson, director of the Giornate del Cinema Muto, the annual silent film festival in Pordenone, north Italy. He’s talking about a film that is just 12 and a half minutes long, but one that sheds light on the man he calls the “first artist of the cinema”: Georges Méliès, director of hundreds of magical films, many of which have been lost.

The Guardian: “Méliès’s best known film is, of course, Le Voyage Dans La Lune, but Les Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, the newly discovered film, is an even more ambitious work; a landmark in the history of narrative cinema.

It is also a piece that illuminates much about Méliès’s tragic personal life. Making a hit movie brings problems as well as profits, as Méliès learned in 1902. His big-budget (10,000-franc) spectacular Voyage was released in September that year, and it was an outrageous success. It still is: in the years since its release its fame has only multiplied. The recent restoration of an original, coloured copy of the film (see below) and its lionisation in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo are only the most recent nods to the master of Montreuil’s lunar voyage.

Georges Méliès – Le Voyage dans la lune (Voyage to the Moon) in full color, with authentic music

One hundred and 10 years ago, though, Méliès was a worried man. In the first place, he was dismayed by the pirate copies of Voyage that were being shown in the States. American film-maker Thomas Edison had his technicians make copies on the sly, which he then distributed without paying any fee to Star Film, Méliès’s studio. It was a worrying development, and one that contributed ultimately to Méliès’s bankruptcy in the following decade. Added to his financial worries, Méliès had the pressure of creating a followup that could contend with Voyage’s indelible image of a rocket spearing the eye of the man in the moon.

In today’s cinematic landscape of sequels, prequels and trilogies filmed back-to-back, Méliès’ decision seems a bold one: his next film wasn’t science fiction, nor was it really like anything else he ever made. ”

Read the whole story at The Guardian. Fantastic stuff.

Image from “L’Homme à la Tête en Caoutchouc” (1902)