David Kalat continues his exploration of cinema's creation myths, arriving now at La Ciotat Méliès:
With Nightmare, in 1896, many of the fanciful visions and witty use of stagecraft are already in place, less than a year after he sat and watched the Lumière’s premiere screening. Has there ever been a learning curve steeper?
A broken machine. Nightmare! [via]
...Méliès admitted that he built his films around the tricks. He’d think up some crazy image, some outlandish stunt, and design a film to showcase it. If Méliès lived today, he’d be cranking out mindless CGI nonsense with the best of them. He was so many things: an artist, a magician, an engineer, a mogul—but as a dramatist he was a dilettante. Even the most narrative of his films are strings of grand illusions, not compelling stories on their own merits....
...By 1914, it was over. Méliès had run out of money and had to stop. Meanwhile, the entire French film industry was poised to collectively flush itself down the toilet, sacrificing their 16 year-long domination of the form. World War II had arrived, and the French government decided it had better uses for silver than wasting it on celluloid, and much of the country’s existing library of film creations were destroyed to salvage the silver for the war effort. Broke and desperate, fearful of losing his films to his creditors and rivals, Méliès burned his own films, watching his life’s work crackle and smoke into oblivion.