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They Might Be Giants … Movie Review

moon film melies home

Any effort to determine the first screen epic would probably become hopelessly trapped in argument and fun, but as good a case as any can be made for the fourteen-minute 1902 film by Georges Melies, A Trip to the Moon, adapted from a novel by Jules Verne. Melies can be considered the first style-conscious filmmaker, though his imagination was always concerned with setting and mise-en-scene in a theatrical rather than a cinematic way. His primitive film of thirty short scenes shows an intrepid group of explorers building their space capsule, entering it, and firing it out of a cannon toward the moon. The scene in which it plops into the eye of the man-in-the-moon has become one of the most famous film stills in history. Once there, the astronomers discover snowstorms, mushrooms, and living creatures (really acrobats from the Folies Bergere, according to film historian David A. Cook). They escape the clutches of the moon creatures and their king and return home as heroes. Home Box Office and Tom Hanks, in a fitting conclusion to From the Earth to the Moon (1998), their twelve-chapter mini-series about the history of the American space program, re-enacted the creation of Melies' film as a tribute to the imaginative spirit that led man to the moon.

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