The anecdote Scott shares in his article about the slight dissonance in authenticity he experienced while watching “What a Wonderful Life” on his laptop reminded me of Georges Méliès 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon”. Specifically, the two varying versions of the film available on Netflix. One version is in black and white, and features an appropriate silent film sounding music and accompanying narration. The other is a digital restoration of the hand colored copies of the film and features trippy “Dark Side of the Moon” sounding music. So which is the more authentic version of Méliès film? There was never actually a set soundtrack for the film, but it was expected that each theater had their own accompaniment and narration. This seemingly points to the B&W version of the film being the more authentic. However, the fact that Méliès and his colorist Elisabeth Thuillier went through the pain staking process of hand coloring the individual frames, lends artistic authenticity to the color version.
But what about the weird acid soundtrack? Or the fact that I never watched this movie in an actual theater, with no live accompaniment, and no hand colored frames being projected before me? I watched this movie after scrolling through the bowels of Netflix for 15 minutes (coincidentally the run time of the movie).
Referring back to Berger, who speaks of the way in which reproductions of art are used to introduce the masses to the aesthetic experiences that once belonged only to “a cultured minority.” This is exactly what I imagine Netflix set out to do by uploading “A Trip to the Moon”. But by releasing two cuts, allowed the audience a limited but neat choice for their at home “authentic” experience of early 20th century cinema. Me personally, I prefer the color version with the wack soundtrack. It reminds me of the way hip hop artists use samples to make something completely new. While my preferred experience does not match the experience of audience members in 1902, I like to think that the wonder and the fascination the updated version provides me is the same as those who first saw it over a hundred years ago. And maybe that’s what makes it authentic.