24 Frames per Second: In the beginning... was a garden... scene.

Uploaded by DukeLongfellow on 01.07.2012

Now, it's really difficult to find a starting point.
Ever since the Roundhay Garden Scene from 1888.,
we get many, many short films,
which are mostly documentary in nature.
And by documentary I mean like setting up a camera and
filming one scene, usually short.
This may not seem like much in our standards
where you can pick up any phone and randomly film a guy ramming into a street sign
but it is this period that marked the beginning of cinema,
it itself being the result of the industrial revolution.
A few big names spring up in the 90s, of which one of the biggest are
Thomas „lightbulb“ Edison, who in all fairness can't really take the credit for
and his assistant William Kennedy Dickson.
But, keep in mind, in the beginning of all of this,
you didn't have movie projections.
The Kinetoscope, a brainchild from the Edison workshop which you can see here,
isn't a projector, rather, you put your eyes on this thing
and through this whole mechanism,
the light is cast on the images as they rapidly move in front of you.
That isn’t to say that Edison didn’t want to do projections,
it’s just that they were a pain for his wallet
and the kinetoscope was doing very well on its own.
He would eventually join the bandwagon as people like the Lumiere brothers
made it work commercially, when he purchased the vitascope from Thomas Armat.
Interestingly, the Edison workshop made the first experiment
with recording sound to go along the short films.
Whether or not this was meant to go completely in sync with the pictures
is unclear to me since I read different explanations,
but you had kinetoscopes joined with a cylinder phonograph,
which combined made a kinetophone.
If you’re wondering how this looked and sounded, look no further,
here’s the only known surviving clip of these experiments–
the Dickson Experimental Sound Film, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Even though that happened, the combination of sound and film didn’t take off
and wouldn’t take off at least till the 1920s
and we have a lot of ground to cover by then.
So yeah, the kinetoscope was a success, a big one in fact,
but around 1895., the era of actual projections was in the wake.
And we simply cannot go through this era without mentioning
the one and only Lumiere brothers.
While they were not the very first to make public presentations,
they were definitely the big kahunas in the business.
Their most popular shots like the Workers leaving the Lumiere factory or
The train arriving at La Ciotat are kind of precursors to documentaries,
called “actualities,” showing in one simple shot some everyday scenes, events, etc.
lasting for the duration of the reel, which was some 50ish seconds.
Mind you, Edison’s films were also showing some simple scenes
but their disadvantage was that they filmed most of their stuff indoors,
with the exception of, you know, the Bucking Broncho.
Lumiere’s cinematographe was not only suited for outdoor shots but it was a great
piece of invention since you could shoot, develop and project with the same machine.
They also made some attempts at early comedy and fiction,
with the famous l’arroseur arrose that proves that some notions of hilarity are truly immortal.
This particular clip of Le Chacuterie Mecanique shows an imaginary machine
in which you put in a pig and as a result various other
meat products are instantly produced from that pig.
What I find interesting about this is that it is actually referred to by some
as the very first science fiction film.
Okay then...
Of other things I found interesting was the infamous Kiss,
directed by William Hesse and distributed by the Edison company.
This was seen as so inappropriate and dirty it drove some people mad.
Just this kissing scene! Really a difference in the times isn’t it?
Wiki states that a contemporary critic described it as this:
"The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other's lips was beastly
enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions
and repeated three times over. It is absolutely disgusting.“
Another, also from the Edison company, is the execution of Mary Stuart,
an interesting example of an attempted historical recreation and of the early uses of editing.
Now, there are many, many more clips and happenings during this time which I didn’t show.
I couldn’t possibly begin this thing I’m going for
without giving a mention to the very beginnings of cinema,
but their nature is such that it’s difficult to talk about them in any “reviewish format,”
a term I am still evading.
A lot of this is available on Youtube,
I think I watched some 50-60 of these early films by myself
so if you want to see more, the internet will kindly assist you.
Even more so given that these things are free due to copyright expiring.
I’ll see you soon when we enter Emile Reynaud.