Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Birth of Cinema

A Kinetoscope parlor.

Part one of my film studies is done, and this Monday we started to take things from the beginning. As you probably know, there was no single inventor of film, but rather several independent contributors that together invented a new medium that we today take for granted.

The first photograph, with an exposure time of eight hours, was taken in 1826. The Zoetrope, invented in 1833, was a revolving cylinder with slots on the side and a strip of pictures that when spinning produced an illusion of movement.  In 1878 photographer Eadward Muybridge managed to take photos with half a second intervals, making it possible to study fast motion like running horses and flying birds. And of course, in 1888 Thomas Edison took credit for his assistant W. K. L. Dickson's work with designing a machine able to record motion, later becoming "Edison's Kinetoscope".

A Zoetrope with paper strips.

Motion studies by Eadward Mybridge.

I bet my readers can understand my excitement for this course. I thought I could share some of the wildly entertaining film clips from the late 19th century that we have seen in class. The wildly entertaining part is of course the obvious mark of time - a camera strategically mounted in one place, the film subject being scenes from everyday life ("actualities", as they were called) and the fascination for the moving image. Imagine the audiences amazement when seeing a wall being torn down, and played backwards!

Among the patriots of cinema, the Lumière name is among the most recognizable. In 1895 Louis and Auguste Lumière filmed workers leaving their photographic factory in Lyon (La sortie des usines Lumière), shown in public March 22 in Paris. There are three versions of this film, shot in different days in different weather - no matter if the sun is shining or if it was cold and rain hung in the air the women wore the same multiple layered outfits. Unbelievable.

In December 28, 1895, the Lumière Brothers held a screening at Grand Café in Paris, an event that would go down in history as the first film screening with a paying audience. The price was one franc for a 25 minute program containing ten films. Among those were Auguste Lumière and his wife feeding their baby (Repas de bébé, 1895) and the comedy skit The Sprinkler Sprinkled (L'arroseur arrosé, 1895).

And here we have the demolition of a wall at the Lumière factory that I mentioned earlier (Démolition d'un mur, 1896). Don't miss it in reverse! Extremely high-tech.
Thereafter is a man who obviously is quite unfamiliar with the cinematic medium in Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (Edwin S. Porter, 1902), a man that refuses to have his photo taken and therefore eats the photographer (The Big Swallow, 1901), and then my favorite: British humor in Explosion of a Motor Car (Cecil M. Hepworth, 1900), with a quite macabre comic elements.


Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

wow. thanks for sharing these clips. I LOVE watching old clips, it seems so surreal watching people from more than 100 years ago.

The Big Swallow is my favourite, it actually seems so modern.

Lolita said...

Deaf Indian:
Yes, the trick filming is really clever for 1901! Watching old film clips on a big screen is pretty cool, too!

Princess Fire and Music said...

I'm glad you're spotlighting these old clips! It was seeing how film progressed from the very beginning that got me into classic cinema in the first place -- after watching things like this all semester, Top Hat seemed like a technological masterpiece.

Mykal said...

Lolita: I love to see a student so excited about what they're learning! What a great time of life for you. -- Mykal

Tertúlias... said...

This is really VERY interesting!!!!!! Thank you!