Originally published in the Northside San Francisco January 2012
After its original release in 1902, the French science fiction film Le Voyage Dans La Lune has now been re-released with a new soundtrack by the French group AIR. Directed by Georges Méliès, Le Voyage was the first science fiction film and was loosely based on Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon.
Upon its initial release, Le Voyage was extremely popular within the newly formed genre of moving pictures. Its most famous image depicted the moon as a human face with a bullet-shaped spacecraft painfully crashed into its right eye. In the story, earth travelers arrive on the lunar surface to discover that it is nothing more than a man’s face populated by little green men, a deliberate, surreal mockery of scientific beliefs regarding outer space. This was also the first film to utilize hand painted color, dissolves, time lapse photography and multiple exposures.
Despite its popularity and innovation, Méliès’ film was not the success it should have been during its time. Thomas Edison and his technicians, taking advantage of an era before copyright laws, reproduced and distributed this groundbreaking film throughout the United States and realized great profits from its success, profits that contributed to the financial ruin of Méliès.
Fast forward to 1993 when the only surviving hand-colored print of the film was discovered by the Filmoteca de Catalunya. The restoration process of the badly decomposed film took many years, culminating in the digital restoration at the Technicolor Lab of Los Angeles in 2010. The producers approached Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicholas Godin of AIR to compose the contemporary soundtrack to the restored version of Le Voyage. AIR’s minimal, melodic and dreamlike sound sequences have been widely integrated into television and film by directors such as Sofia Coppola. Though Le Voyage is only 14 minutes long, AIR were so honored to be chosen to compose the music for this classic French film that Dunckel and Godin composed an entire album devoted to the re-release of Le Voyage.
Le Voyage dans La Lune, a newly restored part of film history, is now living its second life in 2012. AIR’s original film score and full length feature CD soundtrack will be released on February 7th in the United States and Canada.