Decades before the term special effects was coined, audiences of the newborn cinema were witnessing spectacular screen illusions, courtesy of the medium's first master magician: Georges Melies. Such films as the Eclipse (1907) and Long Distance Wireless Photography (1908) not only demonstrate Melie's astounding employment of double exposure, makeup, editing and theatrical trickery but provide mesmerizing insight into the social context of his work, which blended Victorian approaches to astronomy, superstition and feminine beauty with the unnatural wonders of the 20th century technology and heavy doses of slapstick. The centerpiece of the collection is the Impossible Voyage (1904), presented with the authentic frame-by-frame hand-coloring and narration penned by Melies himself. George Melies: Cinema Magician is a documentary on the filmmaker's life, integrating rare photographs, early drawings and numerous clips. It charts Melies rise from shoe factory worker to proprietor of Paris's mystical Theatre Robert-Doudin, where he learned the skills to become a cinematic illusionist and developed an interest in the supernatural, exquisitely represented in the Mysterious Retort (1906) and the Black Imp (1905).
Director: Georges Melies
Actor: Georges Méliès