Georges Méliès once again travels into the ether, and once more manages to combine the sublime with the grotesque--and the burlesque, especially of, as Whitman put it, "the learn’d astronomer," whose capering command of the heavens is tenuous, to say the least, as the planets, again animated--with hilariously obscene visages, licking lips, eyeballs rolling, constantly mouthing occult French utterances of love and lust--literally take on a life independent of the scientist who observes them, and pass one another in comic satiation. Like Whitman, Méliès asserts himself above the empiricist--and in so doing, constructs a new rationality: his own, as camera-magician, attuned to the stars--and, it appears, their varied appetites--as no astronomer could ever hope to be.
And when we trust the magician, and go to the stars with him, what do we receive? The music of the spheres, a harmony that presages Eternity? Heavens forbid--so to speak. In this quintessence, erotically charged pranks and slapstick reign, and all the "the proofs, the figures ... ranged in columns, ... the charts and the diagrams" scatter like a deck of cards tossed without skill, until--if I may do damage to Whitman's poem--we are led to the decidedly "moist night-air" to look "up in perfect[ly appalled] silence at the stars." Méliès is no poet, but an iconoclast, deriding the decorous and the rational as he crams the come-hither world into the camera, cutting and jumping whatever he films until it can only be a film.
This is, in the end, a grand accomplishment, for Méliès' stories can be told only as animated pictures. The stage will not do, and the printed page even less so. This is a true cinematic reality, take it or leave it, vulgar and startling, approaching beauty--but with lovey-dovey smirks, nervous excitement brimming as the planets curl their lascivious lips and the Medieval astronomer dons his motley, more a clown than the white-face Sun and Moon.