A TRIP TO THE MOON (LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE) (1902) B/W "silent" 12m dir: Georges Méliès
w/Georges Méliès, Victor André, Depierre, Farjaux, Kelm, Brunet, Bleuette Bernon. dancers and acrobats from the Folies-Bergère
This short film is one of the very earliest examples of a staged, fictional work being filmed. Previous to this, the camera was set up to capture a few moments of "real life": workers leaving a factory, children sailing boats in a pond, workmen demolishing a stone wall, etc. The story that's told in this film is a very loose and minimalist adaptation of Jules Verne's A Trip to the Moon, complete with special effects and camera tricks. Each scene is one shot, taken from the perspective of a premium theater seat (in other words, a long shot, so it's hard to see the details); these individual scenes consisting of one shot are called tableaux, because they are styled much as were the tableau photographs of the 19th century which depicted famous scenes from history and fiction.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Summary of the 30 tableaux: 1. Congress of the astronomy club. 2. The plans for the trip explained. 3. The enormous factory; construction of the projectile. 4. Casting of the cannon. 5. The scientists embark. 6. Loading the cannon. 7. The cannon fires. 8. The moon gets nearer. 9. The rocket falls into the moon's eye. 10. The rocket on the moon; earth light. 11. The plain covered with craters. 12. The dream of 'stars.' 13. The snowstorm; first sight of the Selenites (acrobats from the Folies-Bergère). 14. Descent into a crater. 15. The grotto with giant mushrooms. 16. The fight with the Selenites. 17. Taken prisoner. 18. The king of the moon. 19. The escape. 20. The pursuit. 21. The departure in the rocket. 22. The rocket falling vertically. 23. The rocket falls into the ocean. 24. Submerged. 25. The return to land. 26. Celebrations. 27. Decoration of the heroes. 28. March past. 29. The erection of a commemorative statue. 30. The exhibition of the Selenite.
"Famous sequences: the firing of the projectile after a display by a chorus of pretty girls; approaching the moon's face and hitting the moon squarely in the eye; the explorers escaping from the Selenites followed by the rocket falling off the edge of the moon. This was not Méliès' first 'long' (1 reel) film, but but it was the film that brought him universal fame. Méliès has described how itinerant showmen, his main outlet in France, said the film was too long and therefore too expensive. He agreed to loan it for nothing and it was shown at a fair; more probably in the Invalides than in the Place du Trone. At first the public hesitated at the door of the booth, muttering that it must be a trick since no one had ever been to the moon and therefore it couldn't have been filmed. But the first spectators were so amused that word of mouth quickly attracted large crowds and the news of its success led to the sale of dozens of copies among other showmen. Printing material for the film was sent to the USA and Méliès later established a branch office of his 'Star Films' there.
"A Trip to the Moon is of considerable significance in the history of the cinema. Its success laid the foundations for the international preeminence of French films until the First World War. More than this, it established the appeal of films with 'staged' scenes over the everyday incidents, rudimentary documentaries, and outdoor scenes that had dominated film production since the days of Louis Lumière."