‘Lost’ movie by silent film pioneer unearthed at Czech film archive

Researchers discover mislabelled 1904 Georges Mlis film Match de Prestidigitation, which had been thought lost forever

Researchers at the Czech national film archives have found a film by early cinema pioneer Georges Mlis that was thought to have been lost forever.

The two-minute silent film Match de Prestidigitation (conjuring contest) from 1904 was found on a reel given to the archives by an anonymous donor, labelled as another film.

Mlis, a stage magician turned film-maker from France, is credited with many technical and narrative developments in the 500-plus movies he made between 1896 and 1912.

The reel was titled Les Transmutations Imperceptibles, which is the name of another work by Mlis. But our specialist immediately realised it was another film, archives spokeswoman Jana Ulipova said.

Based on detailed analysis and research at the national library of France, among other places, we can say with certainty that it is Match de Prestidigitation, up to now considered lost.

The recovered film shows a magician who divides into two. The doubles then take turns to perform tricks before merging back into one man.

We are planning to show the film in cinemas as part of a collection of Mlis works, Ulipova said.

The Czech archives have 22 movies by Mlis, whose Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon) from 1902 is seen by many as the first science-fiction film.

Most of the films made by Mlis, who died in 1938, have been lost.

A painstakingly restored colour version of Le Voyage dans la Lune was screened at Frances Cannes film festival in 2011.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/11/researchers-find-film-early-cinema-pioneer-georges-melies-match-de-prestigidation