In this early short film, Georges Méliès uses his extraordinary range of talents to create a work of art which is both entertaining and, for its time, a huge technical achievement. This is Méliès’ first attempt at making a film with the narrative structure of a play and should be considered as the earliest example of the kind of plotted film we are familiar with today. The multi-talented Méliès had a hand in every part of his film – including conception, set design, acting, direction and editing. The result is a work that has stood the test of time remarkably well and is considered one of best adaptations of the Bluebeard story.
What makes this a particularly rewarding cinematic treat are Méliès imaginative surreal embellishments – in particular the startling dream sequence in which Bluebeard’s wife is tormented by the spirits of his former wives and an array of giant keys. As with much of Méliès’ output, ‘masterpiece’ somehow seems to be too small a word to describe such a great piece of work, particularly when you consider the technology at the great man’s disposal and the fact that he was constantly pushing against the boundary of a new art form. Méliès was ahead of his time in more ways than one: watch out for the first example of product placement in cinema history as a giant bottle of Mercier champagne makes a surprising appearance in one scene. —James Travers
Georges Méliès (December 8, 1861 – January 21, 1938), full name Marie-Georges-Jean Méliès, was a French filmmaker famous for leading many technical and narrative developments in the earliest cinema. He was very innovative in the use of special effects. He accidentally discovered the stop trick, or substitution, in 1896, and was one of the first filmmakers to use multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color in his films. Because of his ability to seemingly manipulate and transform reality through cinematography, Méliès is sometimes referred to as the “Cinemagician.”
Méliès was born in Paris, where his family manufactured shoes. He had two older brothers, Henri and Gaston. Before making films, he was a stage magician at the Theatre Robert-Houdin. In 1895, he became interested in film after seeing a demonstration of the Lumière brothers’ camera. In 1897, he established a studio on a rooftop property in Montreuil. Actors performed in front of a painted… read more
As the pioneer turns 150, Hugo is reminding audiences of his vital legacy.