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A Trip to the Moon @ Adelaide French Festival -Review

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by Jonathon Tonkin (subscribe)
I'm a 26 year old male Senior Reporter for Weekend Notes. I Graduated from A Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing and Communication) at UniSA in 2014. As well as writing for WN I have also done pieces for the Adelaide 36s and Mawson Lakes Living.
A different spin on the birth of Sci-Fi
Science fiction as we know it today is full of impressive technological feats. CGI and special effects transport out minds amongst the stars with relative ease. Spaceships, stars and terrestrial entities seem all too easy to be depicted on the screen. There was however a Day 1. A day when science fiction in film was unheard of and someone took it upon themselves to use their creativity and ingenuity to introduce us to a world beyond our imagining. This pioneer was Georges Méliès and this first film was Le Voyage dans la Lune or A Trip to the Moon.

Inspired by Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, A Trip to the Moon at the time was a technical masterpiece. The first of its kind to delve into the idea that we can imagine what exists outside of the confines of this world and put it on the screen. Méliès was already an accomplished illusionist and using film he discovered a new way to present magic to an audience. That's what science fiction was to begin with: magic, illusion and only dreams in our head. Méliès helped us realise those dreams.

A Trip to the Moon, Nexus Arts, Adelaide French Festival, Film
A Trip the Moon in restored colour.

A Trip to the Moon presented by Nexus Arts and the Adelaide French Festival was a way to bring those fledgling beginnings of a new genre to a new audience. Presented in an interesting format Nexus Arts brought in 3 of Adelaide's upcoming musicians to score a selection of Melies short films: The Jarrad Payne Trio, The Zeitgeist Orcastra and a quartet led by violinist Julian Ferraretto. Each group gave its own spin to a number of the works of Georges Méliès and breathed new flair and emotion into intriguing films of the black and white era.

The headlining act was of course A Trip to the Moon. Scored by the Jarrad Payne Trio, this film highlights the ingenuity and imagination of Georges Méliès. The very simple and effective techniques used were innovative for its time. Hand painted colour, multiple exposures and substitution splices may seem pretty choppy now but in 1902 no one had ever seen this. It comes together to form an image that can still astound audiences today. The beautifully detailed backdrops, the surreal images and character mannerisms. It delves more into the realm of fantasy than sci-fi but still portrays an out of this world experience. Accompanying this, the Jarrad Payne Trio has developed an appropriate score. An old industrial sound reminiscent of a grungy Victorian era with a French twang. The group do an effective job of creating a soundtrack, something that you can honestly imagine being sold with the original film. By keeping up a consistent sound a returning to similar riffs the film is assisted in joining scenes together.

A Trip to the Moon, Nexus Arts, Adelaide French Festival, Film
The Conjurer, 1899

Next up were The Zeitgeist Orchestra, a 3 piece group made up of cello, saxophone and piano. This is what I would consider a jam orchestra. They announce ahead of time that they haven't written a piece for the show and instead like to react to the film and each other during the performance. Plenty of bands have jam sessions where they just play freestyle and see what happens. They create music that generally allows people to lead or follow. In this instance not so much. The leader is the film and each performer follows with their own interpretation of what's being conveyed on screen. For the Zeitgeist's performance the band played scores to a number of Méliès early short films. Going back as far as 1899, these films showed the early beginnings of Méliès' work and how he produced magic and illusion in his work. It was in this period that it becomes evident that Méliès was primarily an illusionist who came across film as a new way to create and present his performances.

The last act was a quartet led by Julian Ferraretto, Made up of a violin, accordion, double bass and piano the group did an excellent job of creating a variety of sounds and tunes to complement the last set of films. With more instruments each unique sound could come in to match the vibe of the scene. The double bass was definitely a solid decision.

This last section of films details the period of around 1902 to 1908. Méliès is now more of a storyteller. His films are still full of trick, pantomime and slapstick but now have a tone and story to them. As short as some of these films were they still create funny stories and engaging characters.

A Trip to the Moon, Nexus Arts, Adelaide French Festival, Film
The Man with the Rubber head, 1902

This is a unique experience that I would recommend if the opportunity comes up. These older films can be harder to sell to a modern audience, however adding these little touches to refresh and liven up an older specimen can show the world how good and iconic this early work is. The closest thing I can recommend would be Nosferatu, which is coming up soon during the Fringe this year.
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Why? The revival of classic cinema.
When: 14th of January 2018
Where: Nexus Arts
Cost: $10
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