Footwear and Film Manufacturing in Second Industrial Revolution Paris
Examines the work of pioneer filmmaker Georges Méliès in relationship to Second Industrial Revolution's advances in technology, transportation, and chemistry
A free online version is forthcoming. This open access version made available by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Before he became an influential cinematic innovator, Georges Méliès (1861-1938) was a maker of deluxe French footwear, an illusionist, and a caricaturist. Proceeding from these beginnings, Méliès Boots traces how the full trajectory of Georges Méliès’ career during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, along with the larger cultural and historical contexts in which Méliès operated, shaped his cinematic oeuvre. Solomon examines Méliès’ unpublished drawings and published caricatures, the role of laughter in his magic theater productions, and the constituent elements of what Méliès called "the new profession of the cinéaste." The book also reveals Méliès' connections to the Incohérents, a group of ephemeral artists from the 1880s, demonstrating the group’s relevance for Méliès, early cinema, and modernity. By positioning Méliès in relation to the material culture of his time, Solomon demonstrates that Méliès’ work was expressive of a distinctly modern, and modernist, sensibility that appeared in France during the 1880s in the wake of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Praise / Awards
“Matthew Solomon’s Méliès Boots is a groundbreaking account of the material history of Georges Méliès’ working life. Rather than offer another biography or survey of his films, Méliès Boots points us to something unexpected: Méliès’ relation to the material cultures of fin-de-siècle manufacturing and innovation in France. This work expands studies of Méliès (and early trick films more broadly) beyond the heritage of the magic theater and into the ‘stuff’—the objects, materials, machineries, labors, and processes of modernity—that made filmmaking possible at the time.”
—Joshua Yumibe, Michigan State University
“Méliès Boots is an extremely compelling and remarkably researched contribution to cinema studies, and it brings fresh insight to the figure of Georges Méliès by situating his work deeply within the cultural and media archaeological context of his time.”
—Colin Williamson, Rutgers University
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