A Film Pioneer
The very earliest techniques discovered by Melies were enabled when the film he was working with was accidentally doubly-exposed or changed speed in some way. He also invented the purposeful double-exposure, used the first dissolve and the first scene of an actor playing opposite himself. He applied his sense of theater to films, being the first director to put scenes together, rather than film in a single shot.
Story was a part of Melies' oeuvre, but in general, he was more concerned with appearance and visuals (mise en scene) than in pushing the envelope of technique. The truth was that he had found techniques and a format that appealed to him, and he was most interested in exploring all the boundaries of that format. After a few years, cinema techniques had progressed to the point where his films were looking distinctly old-fashioned. His films fell out of favor, and he ultimately declared bankruptcy, losing his theater. After eking out an existence selling trinkets in a small shop, his was rediscovered in the 1930s, ending his days as a recipient of the Legion of Honour for his contribution to cinema. A quote about Melies describes his skill:
Ultimately, Georges Méliès wasn't a filmmaker. He was, in truth, a film magician. A conjuror who experimented with films, but who was more concerned with how the film reflected his concept for the tricks involved than for the evolution of the new art form. As a filmmaker, Méliès may have stopped producing important films by 1903. But as a magician, he continued to create dazzling presentations of cinematic marvel. - E.H. Larson
Inspirations from this film include the Smashing Pumpkins' 'Tonight, Tonight' music video and influences can also be seen in modern-day Victoriana, like the film Moulin Rouge.
Links and Sources
Georges Melies, Wikipedia
Georges Melies, EarlyCinema.com
Georges Melies, Victoria Cinema