Georges Méliès (1861-1938)

Georges Méliès was an illusionist and an innovative filmmaker. He became famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest years of Cinema.

Georges Méliès (1861-1938), French filmmaker and cinematographer

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Early life

Georges Méliès was born in Paris in 1861. His family had a shoe factory on Boulevard Saint-Martin. Although he had a classical education, his artistic interests eclipsed his intellectual ones.

As a young man studying in London, he was very fascinated by stage illusion, visiting the Egyptian hall regularly run by the famous illusionist John Nevil Maskelyne.

Scene from The Vanishing Lady. we can see examples of disappearances and transformations.

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After returning to Paris in 1885, under pressure from his father, he entered the family business. After his father retired in 1888, he sold his share of the family business to his brothers.

Cinderella (1899),by Georges Méliès. the féerie Cinderella, based on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale. The film was six minutes long and had a cast of over 35 people, including Bleuette Bernon in the title role.

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Deeply inspired by the works of the Lumière brothers, he offered to purchase one of their Cinématographe devices. In 1897 Méliès built a glass studio at Montreuil-sous-Bois, in which he was able to process his works using an animatograph film projector.

Key Traits

Méliès was an especially prolific innovator in the use of special effects, popularizing such techniques as substitution splices, multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color.

He created the basic vocabulary of special effects, manipulating and distorting time and space to create illusions of appearances, disappearances, using jump cuts and other complex special effects such as the first double exposure, the first split-screen, the first overlapping dissolve, fade in fade out, stop motion photography and much more. He even added color to many of his films, hand painting each frame.

Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) (1902). The scene in which the spaceship hits the Moon’s eye would go on to become one of the most iconic images in cinematic history.

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His films include A Trip To The Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904), both involving strange, surreal journeys that are considered among the most important early science fiction films.

The Sun swallows the flying train in. The Impossible Voyage, 1904. French silent film directed by Georges Méliès.

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By the end of World War I, Méliès was a forgotten man: in his last years, he lived in misery working in Montparnasse station, until he was moved to the Leopold-Bellan hospital where he died in 1938.

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