November 1, 1912 [La Conquête du pole/The Conquest of the Pole]

I suppose it's a cliché to assert that cinema's more audacious dramas have replaced Georges Méliès' fantasies. I certainly agree that, as films make their way toward full-length narrative, and the techniques of cinema have become more dynamic—more "musical," as it were, creating visual point-counterpoint, rhythm and tone—it appears that parlor-tricks and alchemy have seen their day.

Have I adequately prepared the way for a rebuttal? I hope so, if only to pay tribute to Méliès, his dedication to mischief and wonder. For while his camera remains stolid, his subjects continue to emerge from the celluloid forest like shadows, sniffing the ground for Red Riding Hoods, deep in European forests. For Méliès, the dream continues, shining gray with pale frost, more a memory than a film. His giant of the Pole will remain in my head all my days, grotesque and undaunted, encased in plaster of Paris ice but grinning.

Such a film will never behave as it should; it remains blissfully impolite in its awkward gait and unaffected stance. Like a childhood recollection of a toy held close to one's face, his images fill the eye and demand more attention than may be warranted; but my attention will still—always—be granted. He fades—and I almost wanted to write, "He has become something like an aroma, faint and evocative"; but I won't deny him the place he deserves: in our half-lidded, gazing eyes, dreaming the fantasy-reality he has striven for with every capering imp and whirring trinket from his puzzle-box, appearing like sudden electricity—and then gone.


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