1901: 6 movies

posted 2012 July 14

Pan-American Exposition by Night 
Director unknown; Cinematography by Edwin S. Porter
For the Edison Manufactoring Company
Shot in Buffalo, New York, USA

   First, we see a panning-view of the Expo site at day. Then, we notice a cut and we see the same area panned across again, but this time at night with the building all strewn with lights, so that it seems as if we're looking at an x-ray of the city. It's a simple idea, but to capture the magic of night-time like no other movie has, is a feat that must be witnessed.

L'omnibus des toqués blancs et noirs
Directed by Georges Méliès

   The title translates from French as "The omnibus of crazed whites and blacks", and that even-handedness just goes to show that this is not so much about race as it is about visual contrast. The street setting and the horse-drawn bus set an otherworldly, bewitching-hour mood, while the choreography is enjoyably clownish.

Panoramic View of the Morecambe Sea Front
Produced by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon; 
Shot in Morecambe, United Kingdom

   A gorgeous day, gorgeous photography, gorgeous angles, distances, and subjects. The silence of the solo faces and of the crowds underlines the haunting beauty of this movie, especially when the faces are calling out to the camera and playing musical instruments. Shot diagonally towards the boardwalk as the camera was rolled along, most likely by a horse-drawn carriage, the directors somehow got practically every person to participate, whether that means simply looking towards us in silence, waving, or chasing alongside of us. That intense, universal attention makes viewers feel self-conscious and feel as if there is something remarkable about our appearance. It creates a feeling of mystery and eventually leads us to reflect on the newness of the movie-medium and the awakening understanding of its potential. Did the characters in this documentary know we'd be watching them more than 111 years after their filming or were they only participating to later watch themselves on screen? In this sense, this movie builds on the interactive feeling that was introduced in Louis Lumiere's 1897 movie Départ de Jérusalem en chemin de fer.

Le diable géant ou Le miracle de la madonne 
Directed by Georges Méliès; 
Starring Georges Méliès

   Ambitiously-grand love story involving the devil and Saint Mary. Fabulous set decoration, and wonderful enlarging of the superimposed exposure of the devil. The title translates from French as "The giant devil or the miracle of the madonna".

Dislocation mystérieuse 
Directed by Georges Méliès; 
Starring André Deed

   This one can be a little hard to watch for viewers who have gotten used to seeing people in one piece. Still, it's creative, silly, and spooky. It's pretty similar to Melies' Nouvelles Luttes Extravangates (1900), but the isolated character and the cave setting adds to the eeriness. The great performance by Andre Deed makes the special effects that much more enjoyable.
   The title translates from French as "Mysterious dislocation".

The Artist's Dilemma 
Directed by Edwin S. Porter for Edison Studios. 
Filmed in New York, New York, USA.

   A fascinating depiction of a sleeping artist's dream. This movie brings up all kinds of questions and mysteries about the creative process. It's also interesting to see director Porter basically lift the Melies' style, techniques, and even several of his themes. But he presents them with an assured briskness and adds his own brilliant touches, like the staggered composition, that nobody can really be very angry.

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