George Melies and His Greatest Masterpiece: The Conquest of the Pole

George Melies and His Greatest Masterpiece: The Conquest of the Pole


Who is Georges Melies: 

Marie Georges Jean Melies, known as Georges Melies was born in Paris in 1861 and a very early age showed a particular interest in the arts which led, as a boy, to a place at the School of Fine Arts in Paris where Meliesshowed particular interest in stage design and puppetry. In 1884, Melies started his studies in London because his parents insisted he learned English. Though in the circumstances of his parent wish he went to London, but he developed a keen interest in the internship of Maskelyne and Cooke.
On his return to Paris, he worked at his father's factory and took over the management of his father. The Robert Houdin Theater when it was put up for sale in 1888.
He was a full-time showman whose performances are revolved around magic and illusionist techniques which he studied while in London.
When the light brothers unveiled their cinematograph to the public on December 28, 1895 Melies was a member of the audience. What he witnessed clearly had a profound effect upon him. After the show he approached the Light Brothers with a view to buy their machine - they turned him down.
Determined to investigate moving pictures, Melies sought out Robert Paul in London and viewed his camera - projector building his own, soon afterwards. He successfully present his first film screening on April 4th 1896.
Melies began by screening other peoples films - mainly those made for the Kinetoscope but within the past, he was making and showing his own work, his first films being one real, one shot views lasting a minute.


Melies' principle contribution to cinema was the combination of traditional theatrical elements to motion pictures - he sought to present shows of a kind not possible in live theater.
In the Autumn of 1896, Melies looked at filmmaking. Whilst filming a simple street scene, Melies camera jammed and it took a few seconds to rectify the problem. Thinking no more about the incident, The effects of the film have been reduced to a new phenomenon.
Melies discovered from this incident that cinema had the capacity for manipulating and distorting time and space. He expanded upon his initial ideas and devised some complex special effects.
He pioneered the first double exposure (The Cursed Cave, 1898), the first split screen with performers acting the opposite (A Man of the Mind, 1898), and the first dissolve (Cinderella, 1899).

Melies tackled a wide range of subjects, including advertising films and serious dramas. He was also one of the first filmmakers to present nudity on screen with "After the Ball".
The film was released in 1912. In 1915 he was forced to turn his novel studio into a Variety Theater and resumed his pre-film career as a Showman.
In 1923 he was declared bankrupt and his beloved Robert Houdin Theater was demolished. Melies almost disappeared into obscurity until the late 1920's when his substantial contribution to cinema was recognized by the French and he was presented with the Legion of Honor and where he spent the remaining years of his life.

Georges Melies died in 1938 after making films in total - financing, directing, photographing and starring in almost every one.


Journey of Georges Melies:
At one year, Georges Melies lived as much in the nineteenth century as in the twentieth. Straddling two centuries, her life has been an exemplary case of multiple overlaps. When, in 1926, he was asked how, in a single life, he had been able to accumulate some forty years in the theater and twenty in the cinema, did not Melies answer that he had succeeded because two passions, theater and cinema, had "walked simultaneously (1)"? Throughout his life, Melies was thus caught between two fires, like those he fed simultaneously with his wife and the actress Jehanne d'Alcy, which he did at what they say the first "Star" of cinema. This kind of duplication, Melies will have widely practiced, since he was director of theater, first at the Robert-Houdin theater (1888-1914), then at the Theatre des Varietes artistique (1914-1922), while at the same time and in another register he presided over the Chambre syndicale de la prestidigitation (1904-1934).

Without forgetting - "superimposed" - this prodigious film career (1896-1912) which led him to realize more than 500 "animated views", as they said, short films in which he gave free rein to his imagination unbridled, as evidenced by titles such as The Omnibus des toques (1901), Voyage through the impossible (1904), Cheese automobiles (1907) and pharmaceutical hallucinations (1908). It is this work that is quite singular, filled with astonishing effects, that allows us to recognize the title of "cinematographist" - we did not say "filmmaker" - the most famous of the 1900s, he who remains, still today now, the director of animated views most frequently cited. Indeed, Melies is a record-breaking record: not only did he make the famous Voyage au Lune which, when it was released in 1902, gave rise to piracy on an unprecedented scale, particularly in the United States, but it remained more independent of all manufacturers of animated views, even if he had to sell his soul to the "devil" of Pathe, who commissioned his latest films (1911-1912).

It has become customary to say that Melies' work prefigures narrative cinema, Hollywood productions, science-fiction films, etc., but new voices have emerged in recent times. which give rather reason to the historian Jacques Deslandes: "Georges Melies is not inventing the cinema: he assures a succession (2). Indeed, Melies and his contemporaries have been less interested in inaugurating a new art than in perpetuating, through the cinematograph, these pre-cinema cultural practices such as the magic lantern, the stage number, the fairy-tale, and so on.

It is often said, in the same vein, that Melies' contribution to the "seventh art" was essential, forgetting at the same time that the "cinematograph" could not be truly considered, in the time of Melies, as the seventh of the arts . We also know that traditional history believes that one of the main merits of Melies would be to have introduced several processes of theater in the cinema (costumes, sets, stage machinery, etc.). It would be rather the opposite proposition that makes sense: what Melies did, with talent, is to introduce the cinematograph in the stage performances of which he had already mastered (the magic sketch, the magic trick, the great illusions , etc.) and that he performed on the stage of a theater of which he had taken the direction seven years before the invention of the Cinematographe Lumière. Melies himself had little illusions about his real belonging when he declared: "My cinematographic career is so closely linked to that of the Robert Houdin theater that we can hardly separate them." "

It is therefore Melies' attachment to pre-existing cultural practices that has determined his conception of cinematography, which has led him to deploy all his know-how of the scene without preventing him from exploiting in a complementary way and with great virtuosity the resources of the device to renew his repertoire. It has the merit of having taken advantage of the cinematographer's many possibilities of special effects, with a consummate mastery and skill, which make an animated view like The Black Devil (1905), which required dozens of crank stops, represents a real technical feat, in terms of the organization of studio shooting and that of the assembly of the negative in the laboratory. It is this same attachment, however stimulating, that will nevertheless prevent Melies from joining the emerging movement of "narrative cinema". Unlike some of his contemporaries, such as Alice Guy or his own brother Gaston Melies, he will not adhere to this new model and will remain firmly rooted in the "cinema of attractions" (or, to be more specific to the..

Meaning and Review of The Conquest of the Pole

Genre: Adventure

Year: 1912

Duration: 31 minutes

The story: A meeting of scientists is organized to determine the best way to get to the North Pole. Several ways are proposed. Among them, that of Dr. Maboul who is an Aerobus. The expeditions then leave for the polar regions. All fail, except that of the Aerobus, led by Maboul and six scientists, who will crash on the ground of the North Pole.



Vince12's review:

In 1912, Georges Melies is the author of many successful masterpieces. However, his work begins to sink into obsolescence and he cannot really compete with the studios of the Pathe. However, at the beginning of 1912, Melies realized one of his greatest masterpieces, A La Conquest du Pôle.

This film is intended to be at least as ambitious as The Journey In The Moon, of which it seems to be a kind of remake having this time frame the North Pole. For information, the film is based on a novel by Jules Verne, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras.

Attention SPOILERS!

Projects of polar expeditions are multiplying and a meeting of scientists is organized. The purpose of this meeting is to determine what will be the best means of transportation to reach the North Pole. In the end, the means chosen is the Aerobus of the engineer Maboul, a wacky scientist. Maboul then brought together six scientists from different nations to accompany him on his expedition.

The departure of the Aerobus attracts the crowds, however other adventurers try their chances with other means of locomotion. The race for the Conquest of the Pole then commits. All journeys, except for the Aerobus, end in a dismal failure. After having wandered for a long time in the skies and avoided obstacles of all kinds, the Aerobus reaches the North Pole but collapses on landing.

The explorers then go to discover this new territory. However, they find themselves confronted with the Snow Giant. The latter attacks them and devours one of the explorers. Then, the magnetic needle, axis of the pole, holds the members of the expedition glued to them. In the end, an airship intervenes to save them just in time. The explorers manage to come back victorious.

What about this film except that it's more than a new masterpiece for the filmmaker. Because indeed, A The Conquest of the Pole is part of its monuments of the seventh art. Melies takes us here in an adventure film in which the tone of Jules Verne's tales is obviously felt.

This is without a doubt the first (or one of the first) big adventure movie. Here we find all the ingredients of the genre: a congress of scientists who gather, a teacher with a strong personality, an unknown land to discover, an expedition that goes wrong, a gigantic monster .

At the level of the realization this film is again an incontestable proof of the genius of Melies. The pace is totally crazy and catchy. We find the universe completely wacky, magical and fantastic Melies. As such how not to mention the journey of the Aerobus in the heavens.

Needless to say, the special effects are once again at the rendezvous and staged in a particularly ingenious way. The Apogee is probably the end with the Ice Giant, an impressive scene that has become one of the most famous in the history of cinema. Some images remain etched in the memory of the viewer.

We could spend time enumerating the technical and visual qualities of this film which is totally innovative for the time.
But above all, we can only bow to the importance of such a film that will have a great influence on the seventh art. Influence that is felt through films such as The Lost World or King Kong among others.

You will understand Georges Melies pushes the limits of special effects and techniques to train us in a dream that awakens our imagination.

At the Conquest of the Pole is probably the second greatest masterpiece of Melies after The Voyage In The Moon, even if in a personal capacity, I confess that I prefer it to the latter.

In conclusion a monument of the history of the cinema, one of the greatest masterpieces of the one who is one of the greatest geniuses of the seventh art.
A brilliant film of paramount importance, always so magical. A must see !

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