Bad Cinema Corner: 'Le Voyage Dans La Lune' (1902) [Part 2]
A Storied Review Based on "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" – #0001
Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902) – George Méliès
Also Known As: I Could Not Attend My Cousin’s Weird Theatre Play About Wizards On The Moon, So I Asked My Mom To Film It And Show It In Every Subsequent Family Meeting Ever To The Chagrin Of Everyone Else
Genre: Jules Verne’s stories would’ve been better with slapstick pratfalls.
RATING: ★ ★ ✰ ✰ ✰
“We will go to the moon, gentlemen!” George exclaimed. His glass of wine, etched with his profusely ornate full name and image, was raised to the heavens in a single motion. A couple of droplets of the liquid fell down from the receptacle onto his impeccably black suit. They bounced off of it. They just could not stick to the fabric. The moment they touched the floor, the drops of wine were transformed into simple water. Unfortunately, no one saw this. “By this time next month, we will have gotten to the moon! And back!” he exclaimed.
Forks, spoons, knives, all made from the finest gold-coated silverware in all of France fell down onto the table in amazement, following a predetermined pattern created by a complex system of magnets hidden inside the slab of wood. George had rigged all pieces of furniture in his house to create music in case certain objects were dropped onto them. This particular table, the party table, was set to the tune of "Greensleeves," his favorite medieval song. Everyone around him gasped, covering the brass melody with the sound of their lungs inflating.
“What do you mean ‘go to the moon’?” a corset devouring a woman said.
“I meant exactly what you just heard my friend. We-” He paused. With a circular motion, he imaginarily lassoed all the individuals sitting around his lavish mahogany table. His plan involved all of the people featured inside the dining hall. That was the reason behind their hasty beckoning to his mansion. “We will all have been to the moon and back.”
“Excuse me, George,” a frail old man sitting on the opposite side of the oval table said, “I’m afraid we are going to need a little bit more information on what you mean and, if you do not mind my nose getting into this business, the how.”
“With the power of magic, of course!”
Everyone nodded. It was their fault for not expecting such an answer from George Méliès, the man who had earned his seemingly infinite fortune through the art of magic. The money he used to burst such a big table with expertly prepared food for all forty of his closest friends to gouge in at any moment was nothing compared to what he could spare in order to create “another fun distraction for the masses.” And, since he was always so happy to share it around with whomever he deemed fit enough to work for him, they preserved the illusion that they, in fact, liked him for who he was, not what he represented. Some members of society might refer to the people sitting around that table as leeches every now and again, but they found it hard to feel insulted while being the prey of the continuous opiatic stupor they were able to afford with George’s fortune. He was, all in all, too generous for his own good.
“And, not only will we go to the moon,” George continued, raising his now empty glass of wine again and turning it mid-air before smashing it head first into the table. He immediately revealed the fact he had transformed the broken glass into a thousand-franc note. “They will love seeing it. And believe me,” he said while ripping the note into coins, “they’ll see it over and over again. It will be a fantastic spectacle!”
“Ah,” a man named Renoir to the left of George interjected. “You’re referring to another one of those moving image spectacles you do, right?”
“Of course! We are at the forefront of the single most impressive industry of entertainment ever conceived, gentlemen!”
A random cough interrupted his speech. A random, feminine cough he’d been hearing ever since he got married for the first time.
“And gentlewomen, of course.” His wife hummed a happy sound of acknowledgment after being considered among her peers. “And we need to continue pushing the envelope of movies now, my dear friends and families because, let’s be honest, this is not going to last very long. I’m afraid this movie thing is going the way of heliocentrism in a matter of years, if not months.”
A collective gasp. It didn’t come from their mouths but from their wallets.
“Well, let’s get to it, George! Let’s get to the moon right away!”
“Very well said. That is the spirit. I have the money, I have the place, and I can, with your hard work and help, create the stages. I’ll generously pay everyone involved, of course. The only thing I’m missing is actors, so I am afraid we will have to go on another quick tour around the premiere theater plays of Paris in order to scout the best out of the best. Which, of course, means gallons and gallons of alcohol will have to be consumed by us in order to maintain our alertness through the night! I, of course, will play the part of the protagonist, but I need as many acting-savvy people as we can find. And remember, money, as usual, is not a problem.” He laughed.
A single, trembling hand on the right side of the table was slowly raised. Somehow, George produced a spotlight which he shone directly into that person’s irises.
“I see someone has a question, here. Yes?”
The owner of the hand gulped, squinting his eyes to counteract the blinding light.
“What… what is this movie about, George?”
“It’s about going to the moon! Are you not paying attention? That is how I opened tonight’s speech, after all!”
“I—I am. It’s just… Why? Why are we going to the moon?”
“That’s simple. Because we can.”
“Ah. I see.”
“Now that it’s been mentioned, George…” a lovely lady with more bosom out than teeth said, “I’ve always wondered. Where do you get these crazy ideas?”
“From my brain, of course!” he laughed. People around him indulged. “No, but I kid. I presume you are all aware of the existence of Jules Verne, yes? Well, I read this magnificent story of his, From The Earth To The Moon —can’t believe it took me almost half a century to get around to reading the thing – that tells the story of some remarkable people being shot directly into the moon.” Everyone nodded in agreement, although, not everyone that nodded knew what the agreement was for. “Then, a few years back, I saw this magnificent opera called A Trip To The Moon, where this fellow remade the story, but comedically! And with actual beings living on the moon as opposed to the barren landscape conjured by Jules! And, during the intermission of this theatrical venture, I told myself, ‘George Méliès, you’ve found it. You found your next project!’ And I believed myself!”
Just as soon as he said that he took off his top hat and bowed, signaling the moment the room was supposed to erupt in cheers and applause. A rabbit started peeking out of the hat, however, it went back into the darkness of the head item when one young man, a dimwitted kid who fashioned himself as a writer-to-be, who still believed creating non-image related art could still earn him a living, stood up, quietly. George noticed the silent corner on his dining table of applause and signaled his guests to stop giving him a well-deserved seventh hip-hip-hooray.
“Jean,” he said, his eyes focused on the confused face of the non-applauding boy, “I can’t help but notice you don’t seem very into this endeavor.” In a matter of seconds, George erupted from the floor in order to be face to face with his interlocutor.
“No, I am,” he replied, “I was just wondering. Do they know?”
“Who is they?” George asked, inching towards Jean’s face as a matter of intimidation.
“The authors. The authors of the novel and the opera. Did you tell them you are, well, using their ideas?”
“No. Why would I need to? I do not necessitate their approval to create my art! They should be happy to know they were the inspiration for what will probably be our greatest feat yet! Besides, they already made their ideas public. I believe they knew the risk of going public with creative endeavors when they did.”
“This just seems… ill-advised. Doesn’t it feel like… stealing?”
George was visibly hurt by such slander. He placed his hand on his chest, simulating a heart attack. Fake blood started trickling down his water-proof jacket. As soon as it touched the floor, the fake blood transformed into wine.
“Listen, my friend,” George said, trying his best to pretend his smile was real and not a façade for his anger, “we are creating a spectacle for the masses. It’s just a simple fun pastime! It’s not like this will be remembered a hundred years from now! And, if it comes to pass, we can always invite these authors, good old Jules and the other one whose name I cannot remember at this point so we might as well pretend he doesn’t exist, so he can see how we improved on his ideas. Everyone wins! Especially, the masses. But, especially, us!”
The room’s wallets erupted in financial claps of gluttony.
“I suppose so,” said Jean half-heartedly. “I suppose.”
“And then,” Molly explained, “that is the moment George here jumps out of the crater and saves us from the Martian attack, however—”
“How am I supposed to save you from the Martians? I am scared of the Martians! What if they take revenge on me? Or worse, my family?”
“No, no, no, George,” Julie responded, “we’ve been through this. They are not real Martians. It’s just going to be me and Clay disguised as Martians. You are safe. Your family is safe. Everyone’s safe. It’s a movie! Our movie!”
“Oh. Ok. But I thought I was supposed to cut them in pieces with a sword. Am I cutting everyone in pieces? You are my friends! I don’t want to have pieces of friends instead of real ones!”
“Okay… I take back the ‘everyone is safe’ thing I said. No one is safe. Molly, can we give him, I don’t know, an umbrella instead of a sword? I mean, we are using a real sword right? Well, we were, I guess. Not now.”
“Ideally yes. But… I don’t know, an umbrella? Won’t it look fake? We can create our own sword with aluminum and a tube!”
“The umbrella could work, actually,” answered Pia. “I mean, it depends on how the lights are on set. If we can use a couple of flashlights to… flash the thing, we can create the illusion that the umbrella is a sword. Obviously, if we use the aluminum. Trust me, my sister has showed me how she does it. Besides, even if it looks fake, we can always fix it in post, right? I know how to use PhotoShop, can’t be too hard.”
George sighed, relieved.
“Listen, guys,” Molly said, “as long as we have fun and give it our best, we’ll be alright.”
Molly picked up the bunch of papers in front of her. On those pieces of paper, she had captured, with the help of her most expensive color pencils and a couple blots of watercolors here and there for style, the exact vision she had for her epic trip to the moon. Everything was on there, depicted in the best comic-book-style visuals she could muster. How they were to board a capsule that would be catapulted with such force it will be able to break through the ozone layer, “They won’t mind the extra hole, once we conquer the moon for Earthizens, we will have a second home to live in,” she had explained. How they would encounter a Martian civilization that attacks the expedition crew as soon as they get out of their spaceship. The epic battle, which would claim the lives of at least two astronauts and a couple hundred aliens. All of it, lovingly and masterlessly created in order to be shared with her closest friends. She took a look at her own drawings and, then, a look at her partners in crime. She could frame them if she could.
“Guys, we are going to make something real cool, here. I trust you. I trust all of you. That’s why I told you about this thing! I know it’s going to be awesome!” She prepared her arms to hug everyone around her as a way of thanking her for accepting their role as crew for her first ever foray into filmmaking. However, just as she was about to touch the shoulders of the people next to her, she was stopped by a vibrating cell phone and a question mark coming out of Julie’s mouth.
“My mom says she’s out buying the fabric for our costumes right now, Molly. She wants to know if the Martians *NEED* to look exactly as Marvin? Or can she buy different colored fabric? She says she’s not sure if there’s enough red and green cloth in the store.”
“Yes. The similar we look to Marvin the better! But we can play around with the colors. I just don’t want to bother her that much.”
“Ok, already told her. Says she’ll have them done by… next Friday. Besides, she volunteered herself, so, don’t think about it, OK?”
“Awesome!” Everything was coming together. Molly couldn’t help but emulate her favorite video game character as she leaped up and down while clapping in victory.
“Huh,” George said as he saw her friend performing such motion in front of his very eyes. “I didn’t think real people did this. Cartoons can be real, then.”
Laughter and a group hug followed.
However, their parade had a little shower cloud coming as Clay dared to ask a simple question.
“Do we have a camera?”
A muffled silence.
“We have our phones, Clay.”
“No, yeah, I know that. But… doesn’t this require more? More effort than that? This is no prank video, it’s an actual movie!”
Molly smirked again, this time, smugly, as she approached Clay and put her hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t worry, my friend. I’m way ahead of you. It’s nice that me and you are on the same channel, you dig? Like me and you are transcending time and space with our minds. I like that, Clay. I like that.”
“I don’t like you, Clay. But I like how you think. Not the same kind of liking, alright?”
Clay’s nervousness left him via a sigh created by the first broken heart of his life.
“So?” asked Julie. “I’m curious. How’re we solving the camera issue?”
Molly simply pointed towards the corner of the cafeteria. Everyone followed her index finger’s unwritten path until their eyes fell on top of the loneliest silhouette imaginable in the entire school. A yellow-skinned boy, alone on a large table that accentuated his lack of friends, was eating a rice-based meal that looked worse than it smelled. He was smiling, making a mess of himself, headbanging his head to the rhythm of unknowable foreign tunes that only he could hear or enjoy.
“The token foreign kid?” George asked. “Why him?”
Just as this question was uttered, the lonely kid took out a professional looking Cannon camera from his backpack. Using his empty Tupperware as support, he managed to set the camera right in front of him, ready to capture his every move in glorious 4k. The foreign took a deep breath, turned the camera on, and started yapping in an incomprehensible torrent of spoken hieroglyphics to the audience of his lens.
“He has a YouTube channel.”
“But,” asked Julie, “aren’t we enough for the project as is? Now we have to have an extra person? I only told my mom we needed four costumes!”
“Nah, you can chill,” Molly said. “We only need his camera, not his creative input.”
“So, we’re using him for his material stuff?” Clay asked.
And thus, the kids were introduced to the concept of an “executive producer.”