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"The Conquest of the Pole"-1912-Georges Melies's last successful silent film before the bankruptcy

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Published on Jun 2, 2013

"The Conquest of the Pole" (French: À la conquête du pôle) is a science fantasy film by Georges Méliès, produced by Melies's company Star-Film, based on the novel The Adventures of Captain Hatteras by Jules Verne. It was released in 1912 and deals with an extraordinary race to the north pole by rival parties of balloonists. "The Conquest of the Pole" follows the same formulaic narrative structure that Méliès had begun with "Le Voyage dans la lune" (1902). They begin with a meeting where Méliès's character introduces the plan for the trip. This is followed by a scene at a factory where the journey's vehicle is manufactured -- scenes of launching and travelling -- a fight with an enemy encountered at the destination - and, finally, the successful return home. "The Conquest of the Pole" was, if not the last, one of the filmmaker's last fantastical adventure spectacles. In a way, this film represents the end of an era in film history. Méliès had already been becoming increasingly irrelevant as far as the advancement of film technique and cinematic storytelling, and not long after this film, he would be done with the industry--pushed out mainly by competition, By 1912, films had changed: filmmakers like D.W. Griffith were regularly using such techniques as crosscutting and scene dissection between varied camera positions and perspectives. Feature-length films were becoming increasingly more popular and would soon become the dominant form--transcending the one and two reel structures that Méliès had helped make industry standards. The art and industry that Méliès built had by now outgrown him.

In 1912, Méliès continued making ambitious films, most notably with the féerie Conquest of the Pole. Although inspired by such recent real life events as Robert Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909 and Roald Amundsen's expedition to the South Pole in 1911, the film also included such fantastic elements as a griffith-headed aerobus and a giant monster that was operated by twelve stage hands. The film also has elements of Jules Verne's The Adventures of Captain Hatteras and is often said to be the third film of Méliès's fantastic voyage trilogy after A Trip to the Moon and The Impossible Voyage. Unfortunately, Conquest of the Pole was not financially successful and Pathé decided to exercise their right to edit Méliès's films from then on. After similar circumstances with The Snow Knight and Le Voyage de la famille Bourrichon in late 1912, Méliès broke his contract with Pathé. Meanwhile,For the rest of that year and well into 1913 he traveled throughout the South Pacific and Asia, sending footage back to his son in New York. But the footage was often damaged or unusable, and Gaston was no longer able to fulfill Star Film's obligation to Thomas Edison's company. By the end of his travels, Gaston Méliès had lost $50,000 and had to sell the American branch of Star Films to Vitagraph Studios. Gaston eventually returned to Europe and died in 1915. He and Georges Méliès never spoke to one another again.

When Méliès broke his contract with Pathé in 1913, he was too broke to pay back all the money that he owed the company. But a moratorium that was declared when World War I began in 1914 prevented Pathé from legally repossessing his home and Montreuil studio. Nevertheless, Méliès was bankrupt and unable to continue making films. In his memoirs, he attributes "his own inability to adapt with the rental system" with Pathé and other companies, his brother Gaston's poor financial decisions and the horrors of World War I as the main reasons that he stopped making films. The final crisis in 1913 was the death of Méliès's first wife Eugénie Génin in May, leaving him to raise their 12-year-old son André alone. In 1917 the French army turned the main studio building at his Montreuil studio into a hospital for wounded soldiers. He and his family then turned the second studio set into a theatrical stage and performed over 24 variety show revues there until 1923. Also during the war, the French army confiscated over 400 of the original prints of Star-Films's catalog of films in order to melt them down and retrieve their celluloid and silver content. Amongst other resources, the army used the raw materials of Méliès's films to make boot heels for shoes. In 1923, the Théâtre Robert-Houdin was torn down in order to rebuild the Boulevard Haussmann. That same year Pathé was finally able to take over Star-Films and the Montreuil studio. In a rage, Méliès personally burned all of the negatives of his films that he had stored at the Montreuil studio, as well as most of the sets and costumes. As a result many of his films do not exist today.

Ressources: Wikipedia.org, imdb.com
New soundtrack and dubbing: CinemaHistoryChannel
Music: Kevin Mac Leod (www.incompetch.com) licensed under Creative Commons licence http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-...

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