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A Trip To The Moon Review Film Studies Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1179 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Nowadays, cinema is significantly commercial and digitalised. However, the unique and often entertaining black and white films of the early twentieth century should not be forgotten. They should in fact be revered as films in their own right.

A perfect example of early cinema at its peak is A Trip to the Moon (aka Le Voyage dans la Lune), which was directed by film pioneer George M li s in 1902. The majority of films from this period dealt with simple scenes of everyday life, such as the knocking down of a garden wall or the arrival of a train. However M li s made the transition from these early shorts to a more modern form of montage, which led A Trip to the Moon being regarded as a masterpiece of early cinema.

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The first scene of the film opens with a group of astronomers holding a meeting in order to discuss how to travel to the moon. The main astronomer, played by M li s, suggests that they build some type of capsule and fire themselves at the moon. After some argument, the scientists agree and build a cannon and a bullet-shaped capsule. They are launched at the moon via cannon by a group of showgirls and land comically in the eye of the moon. Once on the lunar surface, they meet the Selenites, the alien hostile inhabitants of the moon.

One of M li s main inspirations for the film would be Jules Verne s novel From the Earth to the Moon, from which he got the idea of the projected capsule at the moon. The film also contains elements from H.G. Wells novel The First Men in the Moon, for example, the underground moon cave with gigantic mushrooms and the vulnerable inhabitants, the Selenites.

M li s was a master of visual illusion due to him being a professional magician and a producer of theatre. He followed the example set by the main stage magicians of the nineteenth century, such as Jean Robert-Houdin, by integrating the newest technology into his theatrical spectacles. With film, M li s embraced its theatrical possibilities and through experimentation, he made swift advances in special effects, film editing, intricate sets and costumes, and literary content.

The set design of the various scenes is elaborate. The painted backdrops merge flawlessly with the constructed parts and props, creating settings with great depth. The set design, costumes, and anthropomorphic objects provide the film with a fantastical surreal appeal, which both attract and astonish audiences.

M li s was one of the first filmmakers to make use of special effects, using a number of ingenious techniques to create illusions. Cinematic devices such as stop-motion photography and film splicing were used to give the illusion of objects vanishing or changing. Examples of these techniques can be seen in the Selenites disappearing into a puff of smoke when hit by the scientists and the approach of the capsule towards the moon.

For the duration of the film, themes of spectacle, absurdity, and burlesque are given far more importance than scientific logic or realism (Gunning 70). For instance, in the supposedly scientific scene of the launching of the capsule, the cannon is loaded by a troupe of showgirls dressed in a burlesque version of sailor suits (Gunning 70). M li s openly acknowledged the dominance of special effects over the storyline in his films as he once wrote, As for the scenario, the story or tale, I considered it last I utilized it only as a pretext, a context for tricks or pleasing theatrical effects (Gunning 71).

A Trip to the Moon is not a forgotten gem of early cinematic history, but a film of energy, imagination, exploration, and humour that still pleasure audiences today.

2. A film review of Duck Soup (1933)

The film Duck Soup, starring the Marx Brothers, is a funny satire with lively gags and some of the best physical comedy ever in cinema. Although it is nowadays regarded as a comic masterpiece, the film received poor reviews when it first came out in 1933, mainly for its satirising of politics and warmongering.

Even to this day the Marx Brothers are greatly revered because of their masterful ability to treat their audience to riotous slapstick comedy, puns, riddles, and deadpan humour. All of the Marx Brothers comedy films were extensions of their vaudeville days (Gardner 15). Duck Soup is a perfect example of this as the visual gags that had previously been a success on stage, were then incorporated into their comic routines in their films. The 1933 film was directed by Leo McCarey.

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The film stars Groucho Marx, who plays Rufus Firefly, the new appointed president of the fictional nation of Freedonia. Firefly has a questioning attitude towards work ethic, which can be seen as he attempts to decrease work hours by shortening the length of lunch breaks for the workers. Rufus becomes infatuated with Mrs. Teasdale, but he is in competition for her hand with Ambassador Trentino of the neighbouring country of Sylvania. Rufus immediately insults the Sylvanian ambassador by slapping him across the face instead of shaking his hand. War is consequently declared between the two countries.

However, the plot of the film is not of any real importance as it mainly serves as a chance for the brothers to make fun of dictators, government bureaucracy and the irrationality of reckless war.

Duck Soup features the Marx Brothers at their very best. Both the continuous sequence of laughs and the satirical storyline are hilarious in their own right, but the film also provides the individual comedy sequences for the brothers, which are the real highlight of the film. The film contains some of their best material, providing a variety of comic settings and dialogue and some quite entertaining musical sequences. Two of their most iconic are featured in Duck Soup the mirror sequence and the lemonade stand scene.

The mirror sequence is by far the most entertaining scene in the film, where Harpo, and Chico, and Groucho are all dressed the same and they mimic each other s movements as if they re looking in a mirror at themselves. Another excellent example of Marx comedy is the peanut stand scene where Chico and Harpo engage in a quarrel with the owner of a lemonade stand next to Harpo s peanut stand.

Another humorous and surrealistic aspect of the film is in the final battle scene where the Brothers are dressed in an outrageous pastiche of military uniforms that complete the anti-war attitude of the dialogue (Gardner 87). The military uniforms worn by the Brothers are from several diverse nations and from different historical eras.

The film is a constant reel of comedy, from the opening scene, where we meet Groucho s character, to the final scene of the shelter being bombed. Similar to other great comedies of the 1930s, Duck Soup does not require special effects or a completely logically storyline to attract an audience. Nowadays, Duck Soup is widely considered to be a stunning success of film comedy, and the Marx Brothers’ best film.


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