Sunday, March 29, 2009

4 Minutes of Magic!

Please, if you can spare just under 4 minutes...

A while back I listed one of my favorite films as being "The Black Imp". When most think of Georges Melies they think of his "Trip to the Moon" but for me, this and "The Cook in Trouble" are both delights. Made less than 10 years after the Lumiere Brothers first films; made before there were computers or even a standardized camera/film system, his feats are amazing!

When I had my first VCR many years ago I recorded a PBS show called "Matinee at the Bijou" one afternoon on a whim. I was lucky enough to end up with a Harold Lloyd film called "Dr. Jack". The next week, even luckier, I discovered "Safety Last".

I was so impressed by these I unwired my VCR and took it to my Dad's to show them to him they were just things he'd seen growing up...

A few weeks later I was treated to "The Thief of Bagdad" in a print restored in Britain by a gentleman named Kevin Brownlow.

A trip to the local library turned up "The Parade's Gone By", Brownlow's book on the "silent era" (the movies were never silent and a good many weren't black and white) and cinema became an ongoing love that continues. Some of you remember me posting about watching Mary Pickford movies just after we joined Netflix, things I couldn't rent locally. That local library has a cinema buff working in it's AV department who has made a point of acquiring things through the years; through him I first saw the films of Georges Melies on VHS many years ago, mostly unrestored as that is something that costs much less now in the age of the computer and DVD's than it did even 15 years ago.

I've spoken before of how easily I fall in love, not only with each of you who find your way here, but also those who have touched me through the magic of film. Abel Gance, Chaplin, Keaton, Pickford, Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, Louise Brooks...the list is not only most likely endless but still growing.

This all comes up now because just before I retired I heard a piece on NPR about a book: "The Invention of Hugo Cabret". The book, about an orpaned boy living in a Paris railstation who meets an old man running a toy store there...Georges Melies! In the interview they said that when it was nominated for a National Book Award a whole roomful of normally very staid librarians stood, clapped and cheered!

It was the last hardcover book I bought before I retired, hoping it might set my grandchildren on a course to love those same films that I have so dearly. (They have already watched Chaplin's "The Kid" spellbound and talked of it for days after.)

Dillon was already reading the Harry Potter books at the time, but since his parents hadn't heard of it, they said one of them had to read it first. Since neither of them had, I borrowed it back when they were on vacation last week and on Friday I started it at about 3:30 as we left to go to Lawrence for my nephew's last musical program before he graduates.

The book, written by someone who has illustrated other things, combines the illustrations into the narrative in a manner he compares to film. You read "scenes" then scenes are illustrated over the course of 10 pages or so, then the narrative picks up again from the last frame of illustration.

534 pages, by the time the program started at 7:30 I was down to the last 25...sitting in a room full of students and parents along with my wife and sister, having to raise my bifocals to wipe tears from my eyes. An amazing book!

A teacher I met through ICQ many years ago told me that "The Little Prince" is not really a children's book, though everyone thinks it is. I went to the library and found it (in the children's section) and read it for the first time since kindergarten or 1st grade...Ana was right!

This one, "The Invention of Hugh Cabret" may be a children's book to some, but if you've ever loved film...if you've ever had your heart stolen by someone in print or on the silver screen then perhaps it's not a children's book after all, or perhaps you have enough child inside to give your heart once again!

So as I wish you all and warm and kind "rest of your weekend" and a Monday that is kind as well, I'm off to pop a restored collection of Melies films in the DVD player courtesy of Netflix...


P.S.- For those who may wonder, I didn't put a link to Melies "Trip to the Moon" because I couldn't find a YouTube or Google version that was the full 13:48 runtime that didn't have someone narrating it. I don't need someone to explain to me what I can see (unless perhaps it's "Memento" or something similar) and the narrative is so distracting I just couldn't...


Teresa said...

Ooooh! Very cool! No fudging things in the old days, much planning and hard work to get it right.

Riot Kitty said...

Oh! What a sweet post, Alan.

kath said...

Oddly, I was reading about that book ( Invention) just a week or so ago. I was looking on Amazon for a book with good pictures and few words that a particular student in a different room would enjoy. I almost bought Invention for myself. Instead, I bought Boy With a Thousand Faces for him :)

I will put it on my wish list for another time.....


LucyTolliday said...

Its assumed that children wont like anything silent or b/w however they see beyond that and enjoy the quality and talent of the films.

JLee said...

Thanks for sharing this Alan, and I couldn't wait to tell you my daughter chose trumpet for next year's band! :)

Anji said...

Can you inagine how magical that would have seemed in 1905? I might have mentioned this somewhere before, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's great uncle was mayor of our village. The two schools in the village are called 'The Rose' and 'The Fox' in his honour. It's a small world.

zilla said...

I love The Little Prince. Assigned reading, in high school French class, and it kept everyone's interest.

I also love the idea of a roomful of cheering librarians. The few I've known well have been very passionate people!

Ange said...

Thanks for sharing. I've added "The Invention of Hugh Cabret" to the wishlist.
I'm gonna have to come back and follow the links later. You've made me realize I don't know as much about film as I thought I did.
Love the early films.
The Gold Rush was one of our first VHS tapes. My brother and I watched it until the tape gave out. I bet the kids would love it. I know they're fans of The Little Rascals and Shirley Temple.

I hope you have a great weekend, too. I was hoping to get some planting done, but it looks like snow on Monday, so I'm waiting patiently. I'm sure you know how that is. :)

Green tea said...

This reminded me of my maternal grandpa, a 5 ft 2 (I'm sure he was taller in his youth) English man.
Think Andy GumP.
He always loved talking about the time he played the piano at the theater during silent movies.
I wish I would have paid more attention to his stories.
By the time I was mature enough he was gone.
Thanks for this Alan, I'm going to the library and see what they have.