Georges Méliès' world may be marked by an atmosphere of wondrous possibility, but it’s also reflective of a perpetual frustration. For every fantastic voyage that ends in new discovery and a safe trip home, there's a character who's prevented from carrying out the most routine tasks (sitting on a chair, eating a meal) by the manipulations of malevolent (that is, directorial) forces. On the new Flicker Alley box set, which comprises all 173 extant Méliès films, spanning from the "actualités" of 1896 to the mini-epics of 1912 and 1913, we're given a chance to trace the entire trajectory of an extraordinary career. What we find is a world opened up to new possibilities of the fantastic by both technological advance and the transformative power of the imagination, but at the same time complicated by a marked ambivalence on the filmmaker's part. Still, if the earlier works are more likely to conceive of this world as being governed by a comic mischievousness, then many of the later efforts, even while maintaining an undercurrent of menace, look on the unknown with an open sense of wonder.
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