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A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la Lune) is a 1902 French silent film directed by Georges Méliès. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, including Jules Verne's novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, the film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon's surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return with a splashdown to Earth with a captive Selenite. It features an ensemble cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, and is filmed in the overtly theatrical style for which Méliès became famous.
The film was an internationally popular success on its release, and was extensively pirated by other studios, especially in the United States. Its unusual length, lavish production values, innovative special effects, and emphasis on storytelling were markedly influential on other film-makers and ultimately on the development of narrative film as a whole. Scholars have commented upon the film's extensive use of pataphysical and anti-imperialist satire, as well as on its wide influence on later film-makers and its artistic significance within the French theatrical féerie tradition. Though the film disappeared into obscurity after Méliès's retirement from the film industry, it was rediscovered around 1930, when Méliès's importance to the history of cinema was beginning to be recognized by film devotees. An original hand-colored print was discovered in 1993 and restored in 2011.
A Trip to the Moon was named one of the 100 greatest films of the 20th century by The Village Voice, ranked 84th. The film remains the best-known of the hundreds of films made by Méliès, and the moment in which the capsule lands in the Moon's eye remains one of the most iconic and frequently referenced images in the history of cinema. It is widely regarded as the earliest example of the science fiction film genre and, more generally, as one of the most influential films in cinema history.
As the science writer Ron Miller notes, A Trip to the Moon was one of the most complex films that Méliès had made, and employed "every trick he had learned or invented". It was his longest film at the time; both the budget and filming duration were unusually lavish, costing ₣10,000 to make and taking three months to complete. Many of the special effects in A Trip to the Moon, as in numerous other Méliès films, were created using the stop trick technique (also known as substitution splicing), in which the camera operator stopped filming long enough for something onscreen to be altered, added, or taken away. Méliès carefully spliced the resulting shots together to create apparently magical effects, such as the transformation of the astronomers' telescopes into stools or the disappearance of the exploding Selenites in puffs of smoke. Other effects were created using theatrical means, such as stage machinery and pyrotechnics. The film also features transitional dissolves.
The pseudo-tracking shot in which the camera appears to approach the Man in the Moon was accomplished using an effect Méliès had invented the previous year for the film The Man with the Rubber Head. Rather than attempting to move his weighty camera toward an actor, he set a pulley-operated chair upon a rail-fitted ramp, placed the actor (covered up to the neck in black velvet) on the chair, and pulled him toward the camera. A substitution splice allowed a model capsule to suddenly appear in the eye of the actor playing the Moon, completing the shot.
As with at least 4% of Méliès's output (including major films such as The Kingdom of the Fairies, The Impossible Voyage, and The Barber of Seville), some prints of A Trip to the Moon were individually hand-colored by Elisabeth Thuillier's coloring lab in Paris. Thuillier, a former colorist of glass and celluloid products, directed a studio of two hundred people painting directly on film stock with brushes, in the colors she chose and specified. Each worker was assigned a different color in assembly line style, with more than twenty separate colors often used for a single film. On average, Thuillier's lab produced about sixty hand-colored copies of a film.
Film scholar Andrew J. Rausch includes A Trip to the Moon among the "32 most pivotal moments in the history of [film]," saying it "changed the way movies were produced." Chiara Ferrari's essay on the film in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, which places A Trip to the Moon as the first entry, argues that the film "directly reflects the histrionic personality of its director", and that the film "deserves a legitimate place among the milestones in world cinema history."