Lumière translates, in English, as light, and brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas (1862-1954) and Louis Jean (1864-1848), born in Besançon, France, would light up early cinema with a significant impact.
Their father, Claude-Antoine Lumière (1840–1911), operated a photographic firm, where the brothers worked, and after his retirement began making films. They were responsible for several historic patents, including film perforations (originally implemented by Emile Reynaud), allowing film to move through projectors; Louis took the dry-plate process, for still photography, and made major improvements leading towards moving images.
The license for the their film camera known as the cinematograph, was originally attibuted to its creator French inventor Léon Bouly in February 12, 1892, but was purchased by the brothers after Bouly was unable to pay for the patent for the Cinématographe Léon Bouly and lost it to Auguste and Louis.
The Lumière’s first film was Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon (1894). In this collection of ten short films, the subject matter ranges from employees exiting the Lumière factories in Lyon to a train arriving at La Ciotat, a baby eating and a bit of slapstick humor involving a sprinkler. These selections, like last weeks’ from Edison, came from the 1994 Blackhawk Films DVD, “Landmarks of Early Film” (1886-1913) which is still available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble and a must for any collector of serious cinema.
While watching my copy again, in preparation for this series on early cinema, I was constantly in awe by the simple silent beauty of early movies and how genius from the human mind, of these pioneers, took still photographic images and, through the creation of new technologies transported us into a new dimension. Everything we enjoy about today’s movie experience was made possible by these innovative and, unfortunately, often under-appreciated or forgotten, inventors.
The next time you are sitting in a darkened theater, awaiting the feature presentation, take a moment to pay homage to these pioneers and how thay took brief glimpses of reality and merged it with imagination to create an entirely new art form.
Lumière’s films, like Edison’s, looked at everyday life and ordinary experiences. Today’s jaded audiences would probably be bored at the simple joys of early cinema and that is naturally a shame because it is easy to fantasize about the pioneering days when each new image was something never seen before as captured on moving film. Many take for granted, in contemporary cinema, that in the beginning the images of people walking, eating, pulling pranks on one another and enjoying themselves were profound experiences when viewed on film for the very first time.
Another early classic of the silent era is Luis Buñuel’s 1930 L’Âge d’Or (Age of Gold) and his second film following 1929′s Un Chien Andalou.
L’Âge d’Or (1930), attacks organized religion and society and like, many future films by the celebrated Spanish director, was banned in most parts of the world. At the original screening, it so enraged audience members that some of them went through the lobby and destroyed Dadaist art works, on display by Salvador Dalí (who scripted d’Or with the director), Joan Miró, Man Ray and Yves Tanguy.
The 62-minute silent subtitled collection of interlinked vignettes offered everything from a documentary on desert scorpions to the sight of the hero throwing, from an upstairs window, a donkey, plow, feather pillow and archbishop!
The film opens with a scene of two lovers writhing in mud during a ceremony to commemorate the founding of the Eternal City of Rome. The film is an eye-opening experience containing just about every surrealist symbol possible and among the cast are fellow Dadaist artists Max Ernst and Paul Eluard.
Not for everyone but for lovers of the Dadaist art movement it will be more enjoyable, especially seeing the many surreal tropes that will become reoccurring leitmotifs throughout Buñuel’s filmography, including: religious iconography subverted, lavish dinner parties where nothing goes as planned and the fetishistic desires of men.