Brain Pickings

Georges Méliès: The First Cinemagician

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Earlier today, we looked at DJ Spooky’s exploration of the history of remix culture, in which he makes a passing mention of Georges Méliès — the seminal French filmmaker considered by many the father of special effects and referred to as “the first cinemagician.” Working in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Méliès pioneered techniques that are still among the most potent creative arsenal of today’s animators, from stop-motion to timelapse to dissolves to multiple exposures. His most influential work is collected in Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913) — an outstanding 5-disc, 13-hour collection of 173 rare and rediscovered Méliès gems, along with a beautifully illustrated booklet featuring essays by acclaimed National Film Board of Canada animator Norman McLaren.

Exquisitely digitized and even featuring 15 hand-colored films, the collection shines a new light on Méliès’ imaginative visual storytelling and its monumental creative legacy. For instance, the stop-frame multiplication in his L’homme orchestre can be seen in countless iconic visual artifacts of pop culture, such as the video-cloning in Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean.

His work was even the inspiration for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, the stunning 533-page illustrated book we featured last year.

Méliès Encore: 26 Additional Rare and Original Films by the First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1911) came two years after the release of the first collection and offered, as the title promises, 24 more rediscovered and restored Méliès and two by Spanish filmmaker Segundo de Chomon, filmed in Méliès’ style and originally mistakenly attributed to him. Méliès even appears in one of them, l’oeuf du sorcier (The Prolific Egg) — a groundbreaking exploration of scale, multiplication and transitions from 1902 and truly earns the great filmmaker his reputation as a “cinemagician.”

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