The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903)

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The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903)

The Kingdom of the Fairies (1903). 17 minutes. Directed by Georges Méliès. Starring Georges Méliès and Bleuette Bernon.

Together with A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904), The Kingdom of the Fairies is one of Georges Méliès’s most impressive silent short films. The story is of the variety that Méliès loved, involving an epic journey, fierce magical creatures, and a grand final spectacle with a parade. The plot, which is fairly simple, is enhanced by the beautiful and inventive visuals that Méliès incorporates throughout the film, and the movie as a whole functions as a kind of catalogue of the various special effects that Méliès was fond of using. Its elaborate sets and complex techniques are fascinating, and overall the film is one of Méliès’s best.

The movie begins in a royal palace with a prince and princess, whose betrothal ceremony we witness. An evil male witch materializes in the middle of the court, menaces the … Read the rest

Un Chien Andalou (1929)

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Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Un Chien Andalou (1929). 21 minutes. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Starring Simone Mareuil (as young girl), Pierre Batcheft (as young man and second young man), Luis Buñuel (as man in prologue), Salvador Dalí (as seminarian and man on beach), Robert Hommet (as third young man), Fano Messan (as androgynous young woman), and Jaime Miraveilles (as seminarian). Written by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.

Un Chien Andalou is a silent short written by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí that has developed a reputation among cineastes as required viewing. This surealist experiment, called “the most famous short film ever made” by Roger Ebert, was intended to shock audiences; Buñuel famously later said that he kept stones in his pocket at the premiere in case he needed to defend himself against enraged viewers. I would hesitate to say that it horrified the public, but it was a sensation and unnerved many of those who saw it. When viewing it recently, I had … Read the rest

The Great Train Robbery (1903)

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The Great Train Robbery (1903)

The Great Train Robbery (1903). 12 minutes. Directed by Edwin S. Porter. Starring Alfred C. Abadie (as sheriff), Broncho Billy Anderson (as bandit, shot passenger, and dancer), Justus D. Barnes (as bandit who fires at camera), Walter Cameron (as sheriff), Donald Gallaher (as little boy), Frank Hanaway (as bandit), Adam Charles Hayman (as bandit), John Manus Dougherty, Sr. (as bandit), Marie Murray (as dancer), and Mary Snow (as little girl). Written and produced by Edwin S. Porter.

The silent short The Great Train Robbery is considered to be a landmark in early film. It is the first Western (although it was not shot in the American West), the first action film, and one of the first narrative films. It features legendary Western actor Broncho Billy Anderson, who would go on to found Essanay Studios near Fremont, California. It also contains one of the most iconic final images in all of film: in the last frames, a bandit (played by … Read the rest

A Trip to the Moon (1902)

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A Trip to the Moon (1902)

A Trip to the Moon (1902). 16 minutes. Directed by Georges Méliès. Starring Georges Méliès (as Professor Barbenfouillis); Bleuette Bernon (as Phoebe); François Lallement (as officer of the marines); Henri Delanney (as captain of the rocket); Jule-Eugène Legris (as parade leader); Victor André, Delpierre, Farjaux, Kelm, and Brunnet (as astronomers); Ballet of the Théâtre du Châtelet (as stars and cannon attendants); and the acrobats of the Folies Bergère (as Selenites). Written and produced by Georges Méliès.

A Trip to the Moon is without a doubt one of the most iconic movies ever made. Fritz Kramer has argued that the film’s moon, which is styled as a human face, is so famous that it “is instantly recognizable even to people who have never seen a single silent film.” The movie is based on the Jules Verne novels From the Earth to the Moon (1865) and Around the Moon (1870), as well as H. G. Wells’s The First Men in the Moon Read the rest