El falso Méliès. Note sul dibattito in merito al restauro del Voyage dans la lune a colori

Raffaele Pavoni

The 2011 edition of the Cannes Film Festival was inaugurated with the screening of a restored copy of a colour version of Georges Méliès’ Voyage dans la Lune, a footage found in Barcelona seventeen years before. The operation, conducted by a French-based film preservation private company, aroused a heated debate among scholars and film historians about the morality of the choices made. Roland Cosandey and Jacques Malthête’s pamphlet, appeared on Journal of Film Preservation, is in this sense emblematic: the object of restauration, according to these critics, would be nothing more than a pirate copy, hand-painted and distributed in the Spanish market. In the field of film restoration, the question of the fidelity to an “original”, true or presumed, has always been a battle ground, above all for what concerns the artefacts of the early cinema: most of the times, indeed, they lived an autonomous and uncontrollable life, circulating in distinct versions, with different cuts and colours, even inside the same country. To define what is an original, to this extent, is a necessarily subjective act, that calls into account the double nature of film, both as a material object and a spectacular experience. In this sense, as I will try to explain, the two opposite strong positions are not irreconcilables: if the restoration of Voyage’s colour copy represents, at a philological level, an evident mystification of the original, nevertheless it recognizes and valorizes the “originality of fake”, and in doing so acquires legitimacy.