Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sound Optional - Two "Soundtracked" Films

Voyage Dans La Lune (Voyage to the Moon): A 1902 Science Fiction Film

Most of the special effects are painted scenery. There are also some explosions. Probably the best thing about this film is the voyage to and from the move - they travel in a giant bullet shot quite ceremoniously from a very long cannon. The version below is in French, so read the synopsis first if you want to make sure you understand what's going on.

From the Internet Archive:

Le Voyage Dans La Lune is a 1902 French science fiction black and white film. It is loosely based on two popular novels of the time: From the Earth to the Moon by Jules Verne and The First Men in the Moon by H. G. Wells. It was written and directed by Georges Méliès, with help from his brother Gaston.

It is recognized as one of the first films of the science fiction genre, and for its innovative animation.

At a meeting of astronomers, one proposes to the rest a trip to the Moon. After addressing some dissent (the speaker pitches some paper at him), six brave astronomers agree to the plan. They build a space capsule in the shape of a bullet and a huge cannon to shoot it into space. The astronomers embark and their capsule is fired from the cannon with the help of a bevy of beautiful women (played by chorus girls of the Folies Bergères). The Man in the Moon watches the capsule as it approaches, and it hits him in the eye.

Safely on the Moon, the explorers get out of the capsule and watch the Earth rise in the distance. Something then explodes near them. They then unroll their blankets, and take a nap. They dream of celestial Folies-Bergères girls as the stars of the Big Dipper, Saturn, and another Moon, who call down a snowfall that wakens the explorers. The explorers seek shelter in a cavern and discover giant mushrooms. One astronomer opens his umbrella; it promptly takes root and turns into a giant mushroom itself. At this point, a Selenite (an alien inhabiting the Moon, apparently part man and part insect) appears, but it is easily killed by an astronomer (the creatures explode if whacked with a stick or umbrella). More Selenites appear and it becomes increasingly difficult for the explorers to destroy them as the creatures surround them. The Selenites arrest the astronomers and bring them to their leader. An astronomer picks the Chief Selenite up off its throne and dashes it to the ground, exploding it.

The astronomers run back to their capsule (popping pursuing Selenites on the way). Five get inside. The sixth uses a rope to tip the capsule over a ledge on the Moon and into space. A Selenite tries to seize the capsule at the last minute. Astronomer, capsule, and Selenite fall through space and land in an ocean on Earth, where all are rescued by a ship and towed ashore.

There is in fact a final scene of the film in which there is a celebratory parade in honor of the travellers' safe return. Parts of the final scene have been recovered but the entire scene has been lost.

The film is fun but the score is pretty bad. Many silent films posted on YouTube provide an opportunity for young musicians to score interesting films that are in the public domain and have their work heard, potentially by a lot of people. Here is a part of Voyage with an original score.

I would just turn the sound off and listen to the Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin while watching this, starting with "A Spoonful Weighs A Ton" and moving on to "The Gash" during the battle scene with the Moon people, with something else I guess in between.

Vision On: A British Show "For Deaf Children"

Vision On was a 1960s-70s show in Great Britain which served as an official offering for children who were hearing impaired. The show makes great use of sound in an entirely "optional" way, and the visuals are great. There are a lot of great clips on this video - my favorite is the cookoo clock that goes crazy and the cookoo has to put it back together.

[Vision On via Sandbox]

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