Queer Film School: “The Eclipse” (Méliès, France, 1907)
Welcome to my next ridiculous undertaking! It recently occurred to me that, while I love queer film, I don’t know nearly enough about it. And I want to change that! So I’m putting myself through my own rendition of Queer Film School, which will entail: me watching every queer film ever, in chronological order. This is going to take a very long time! I’m sure some sort of format will emerge eventually; bear with while that happens.
Let’s start at the beginning!
Film: L’Éclipse du soleil en pleine lune (The Eclipse, or, The Courtship of the Sun and Moon)
Director: Georges Méliès
How to Watch: Youtube
Oh my god! The FIRST ever movie with even a HINT of queerness in it, ever! This is so exciting!
Méliès was one of the very first filmmakers, and in the early 1900’s he was super prolific, making hundreds on hundreds of short films. If you have a mild interest in film history, you probably know about him from his short film, A Trip to the Moon (1902). Méliès is bonkers about space (and trust me brother, I GET it, space RULES).
Much like A Trip to the Moon, The Eclipse is about astronomers looking into space and seeing some crazy stuff. Méliès himself plays an astronomy professor who is telling his students about an upcoming solar eclipse. They all rush to the observatory to see it through the telescope. And let me tell you, that is one gayass eclipse they see up there.
The sun and the moon are both played by men (although the moon is a bit androgynous looking, causing some to question whether the actor is a man or a woman, but isn’t that, like, queer in and of itself?). It’s a very simple shot – the moon crosses in front of the sun (duh, eclipse). But what makes it queer is the homoerotic subtext. Look at this progression:
Celestial horndogs! Look at those faces! As they get closer, they both wink and lick their lips and make little kissy faces. And my god, can we take a quick look at how the moon is biting his lower lip just as he is eclipsing the sun?
That sequence is pretty much it for the queer content. Is it explicitly queer? Nah. I don’t think Méliès was trying to pioneer any sort of movement here. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was more trying to emulate the cross-gender acting of yore. Who’s to say!
But I will bet that there were some gay dudes in 1907 who were either unable to properly acknowledge their own queerness, or were keeping it super super secret. And I bet they loooooved this short. For, like, no reason.
SHOULD YOU BOTHER WATCHING IT?
Look, it’s only 9 minutes long. And it’s among the first films ever made. That’s pretty cool! If you care about film history, give it a watch. If you only want to see the eclipse part, here’s the link queued up to where that sequence starts. If you’re in the mood to watch a bona fide gay movie, this won’t really offer you much other than some cool historical context.