sábado, 26 de abril de 2008

French Silent Cinema, por Richard Abel

French Silent Cinema

The general mobilization orders in early August 1914 brought all activity in the French cinema industry to an abrupt halt. Until recently, it has been customary to use the war to explain the decline of the French-vis-à-vis the American cinema industry. Although there is some truth to that claim, the French position had been weakening before the war began. By 1911, for instance, under pressure from MPPC restrictions and the 'independent' companies' expansion, Pathé's portion of the total film footage released in the USA had dropped to less than 10 per cent. By the end of 1913, in both numbers of film titles and total footage in distribution, the French were losing ground to the Americans on their own home territory. The war simply accelerated a process already well under way, and its most devastating effect, other than cutting off production, was severely to restrict the export market on which the French companies so heavily depended for distributing their films.
Although Pathé, Gaumont, Éclair, and Film d'Art all resumed production in early 1915, wartime restrictions on capital and material forced them to operate at a much reduced level and to rerelease popular pre-war films. Furthermore, they faced an 'invasion' of imported American and Italian films which quickly filled French cinemas, one of the few entertainment venues to reopen and operate on a regular basis. And many of those films were distributed by new companies, some with American backing. First came a wave of Keystone comedies, most of them distributed by Western Imports/ Jacques Haik, which had become a crucial foreign distributor just before the war. By the summer and autumn, through Western Imports and Adam, the films of Charlie Chaplin (nicknamed Charlot) were the rage everywhere. Next came Les Mystères de New York ('The mysteries of New York'), a compilation of Pearl White's ' first two serials, produced by Pathé's American affiliate and distributed by Pathé in France, and its only rival in popularity was the Italian spectacular Cabiria ( 1914). By 1916, through Charles Mary and Monat-Film, it was the turn of Triangle films, especially the Westerns of William S. Hart (nicknamed Rio Jim), and Famous Players adaptations such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Cheat ( 1915)), which ran for six months at the Select cinema in Paris.
Despite contributing to the onslaught of American films, as well as losing critical personnel like Capellani and Linder to the USA, Pathé remained a major distributor of French product. Not only did the company support feature-length productions from SCAGL (Leprince, Monca) and Valetta (Morlhon), but it sought out new film-makers, notably the famous theatre director André Antoine. Pathé also provided financial backing to Film d'Art, where Henri Pouctal was joined by young Abel Gance. Gaumont, by contrast, had to cut back its production schedule, especially after Perret left to work in the USA. Yet it maintained a strong presence in the industry, largely through Feuillade's popular, long-running serials as well as its circuit of cinemas (the second largest after Pathé's). Although continuing to produce films, Éclair never fully recovered from the double blow of the war and a fire that destroyed its American studio and laboratories in April 1914. Eventually, the company reorganized into smaller components, the most important devoted to processing film stock and manufacturing camera equipment: Éclair's camera, for instance, competed with Debrie's 'Parvo' and Bell & Howell's for dominance in the world market. Eclipse survived largely on the strength of its new film-making team, Mercanton and René Hervil. In spite of the odds, independent production companies actually increased in number, and some (those of André Hugon, Jacques de Baroncelli, and Germaine Dulac) even flourished. That they could succeed under such conditions was due, in large part, to the relatively widespread distribution their films had in France, through AGC or especially Aubert, whose circuit of cinemas continued to expand.
The French films available to spectators between 1915 and 1918 were somewhat different from before. Perhaps because it was now difficult for the French to laugh at themselves, at least as they had been accustomed to, the once prolific comic series almost disappeared. Pathé kept up the Rigadin series, but with fewer titles; Gaumont went on making Bout-de-Zan films and then concocted a series with Marcel Levesque. Production of large-scale historical films was also curtailed, unless they were conceived within a serial format, as was Film d'Art's Le Comte de MonteCristo ('The Count of Monte-Cristo', 1917-18), directed by Pouctal and starring Léon Mathot. Given French budget restrictions and the success of Pearl White's films, the serial became a staple of production, especially for Gaumont. There, Feuillade turned out one twelve-episode film per year, returning to the crime serial in Les Vampires ('The Vampires', 1915-16), then shifting to focus on a detective hero (played by René Cresté) in Judex ( 1917) and La Nouvelle Mission de Judex ('Judex's new mission', 1918). Otherwise, patriotic melodramas were de rigueur, at least for the first two years of the war: perhaps the most publicized were Pouctal's Alsace ( 1915), starring Réjane, and Mercanton and Hervil's Mères françaises ('French mothers', 1916), which posed Bernhardt at Joan of Arc's statue before the ruined Rheims cathedral. Soon these gave way, however, to more conventional melodramas and adaptations drawn from the pre-war boulevard theatre of Bataille, Bernstein, and Kistemaeckers. Many of these films were now devoted to women's stories, in acknowledgement of their dominant presence in cinema audiences and of their ideological significance on the 'home front' during the war. Moreover, they gave unusual prominence to female stars: to Mistinguett, for instance, in such Hugon films as Fleur de Paris ('Flower of Paris', 1916), Grandais in Mercanton and Hervil's Suzanne series, and Maryse Dauvray in Morlhon films such as Marise ( 1917). But most prominent of all,. between 1916 and 1918, in more than a dozen films directed by Monca and Leprince for SCAGL, was the boulevard actress Gabrielle Robinne.
Out of such melodramas developed the most advanced strategies of representation and narration in France, particularly in what Gance polemically called 'psychological' films. Some, like Gaumont's one-reel Têtes de femme, femmes de tête ('Women's heads, wise women', 1916), directed by Jacques Feyder exclusively in close shots, nearly passed unnoticed. But others were celebrated by Émile Vuillermoz in Le Temps and by Colette and Louis Delluc in a new weekly trade journal, Le Film. The most important were Gance's own Le Droit à la vie ('The right to life', 1916) and especially Mater Dolorosa ( 1917), both much indebted to The Cheat and starring Emmy Lynn. Through unusual lighting, framing, and editing strategies, Mater Dolorosa seemed to revolutionize the stylistic conventions of the domestic melodrama, perhaps most notably in the way everyday objects, such as a white window curtain or a fallen black veil, took on added significance through singular framing (or magnification) and associational editing. These strategies were shared by a related group of 'realist' melodramas which Delluc saw as influenced by certain Triangle films but which also derived from an indigenous French tradition. Here, Antoine's adaptations of Le Coupable ( 1917) and Les Travailleurs de la mer ('Workers of the sea', 1918) were exemplary, especially in their location shooting (one on the outskirts of Paris, the other on the coast of Brittany). But Delluc also drew attention to the photogénie of the peasant landscapes in Baroncelli's Le Retour aux champs ('Return to the fields', 1918) as well as certain factory scenes in Henri Roussel's L'Âme du bronze ('The bronze soul', 1918), one of Eclair's last films. Both kinds of melodrama would provide the basis for some of the best French films after the war.
By the end of the war, the French cinema industry confronted a crisis aptly summed up by posters advertising Mundus-Film (distributors for Selig, Goldwyn, and First National): a cannon manned by American infantrymen fired one film title after another into the centre of a French target. According to La Cinématographie française (which soon became the leading trade journal), for every 5,000 metres of French films presented weekly in France there were 25,000 metres of imported films, mostly American. Sometimes French films made up little more than 10 per cent of what was being screened on Paris cinema programmes. As Henri Diamant-Berger, the publisher of Le Film, bluntly put it, France was in danger of becoming a 'cinematographic colony' of the United States. How would the French cinema survive and, if it did, Delluc asked, how would it be French?
The industry's response to this crisis was decidedly mixed over the course of the next decade. The production sector underwent a paradoxical series of metamorphoses. The established companies, for instance, either chose or were forced to beat a retreat. In 1918 Pathé-Frères reorganized as Pathé-Cinéma, which soon shut down SCAGL and sold off its foreign exchanges, including the American affiliate. Two years later, another reorganization made Pathé-Cinéma responsible for making and marketing apparatuses and film stock and set up a new company, Pathé-Consortium (over which Charles Pathé lost control), which rashly began investing in big-budget 'superproductions' that soon resulted in staggering financial losses. After briefly underwriting 'Séries Pax' films, Gaumont gradually withdrew from production, a move that accelerated with Feuillade's death in 1925. Film d'Art also reduced its production schedule as its chief producers and directors left to set up their own companies. Only the emergence of a 'cottage industry' of small production companies during the early 1920s provided a significant counter to this trend. Joining those film-makers already having quasi-independent companies of their own, for instance, were Perret (returning from the USA), DiamantBerger, Gance, Feyder, Delluc, Léon Poirier, Julien Duvivier, René Clair, and Jean Renoir. Even larger companies were established by Louis Nalpas, who left Film d'Art to construct a studio at Victorine (near Nice), by Marcel L'Herbier, who left Gaumont to found Cinégraphic as an alternative atelier for himself and other independents, and by a Russian émigré film colony which took over Pathé's Montreuil studio, first as Films Ermolieffand then as Films Albatros. The two other principal producers were the veteran Aubert and a newcomer, Jean Sapène. Based on an alliance with Film d'Art, Aubert built up a consortium which, by 1923-4, included half a dozen quasi-independent film-makers. Sapène, the publicity editor at Le Matin, took over a small company named Cinéromans, hired Nalpas as his excutive producer, and set up an efficient production schedule of historical serials to be distributed by Pathé-Consortium. So successful were those serials that Sapène was able to assume control of and revitalize Pathé-Consortium, with Cinéromans as its new production base.
Although French production increased to 130 feature films by 1922, that figure was far below the number produced by either the American or German cinema industries, and French films still comprised a small percentage of cinema programmes. To improve its position, the industry embarked on a strategy of co-producing 'international' films, especially through alliances with Germany. This came after earlier repeated failures to create alliances with the American cinema industry or to exploit American stars such as Sessue Hayakawa and Fanny Ward; it was also impelled by Paramount's bold move to launch its own production schedule in Paris, resulting in such box-office hits as Perret's 'Americanized' version of Madame Sans-Gêne ( 1925), starring Gloria Swanson. Pathé, for instance, joined a new European consortium financed by the German Hugo Stinnes and the Russian émigré Vladimir Wengeroff (Vengerov), which initially backed Gance's proposed six-part film of NapoLéon and, through Ciné-France, managed by Noé Bloch (formerly of Albatros), underwrote Fescourt's four-part adaptation of Les Misérables ( 1925) and Victor Tourjansky's Michel Strogoff ( 1926). That consortium collapsed, however, when Stinnes's sudden death exposed an incredible level of debt. Further French-German alliances were then curtailed by heavy American investment, through the Dawes Plan, in the German cinema industry. The results of this co-production strategy were mixed. Although generally profitable, such films required huge budgets which, coupled with a high rate of inflation in France, reduced the French level of production to just fifty-five films in 1925 -- drying up funds for small production companies and driving most independent film-makers into contract work with the dominant French producers.
During the last half of the decade, every major French production company went through changes in management and orientation. After losing its Russian émigré base, Albatros secured the services of Feyder and Clair to direct films (especially comedies) that were more specifically French in character. Although Aubert himself began to take a less active role, his company's production level remained strong, especially through contracts with Film d'Art, Duvivier, and a new film-making team, Jean BenoîtLévy and Marie Epstein. Cinéromans launched a series of 'Films de France' features (by Dulac and Pierre Colombier, among others) to complement its serials; but when Sapène himself took over Nalpas's position as executive producer, the company's output generally began to suffer. Joining these companies were four others, all either financed by Russian émigré money or associated with Paramount. In 1923 Jacques Grinieff provided an enormous sum to the Société des Films Historiques, whose grandiose scheme was 'to render visually the whole history of France'. Its first production, Raymond Bernard's Le Miracle des loups ('The miracle of the wolves'), premièred at the Paris Opéra and went on to become the most popular film of 1924. In 1926-7 Bernard Natan, director of a film-processing company and publicity agency with connections to Paramount, purchased an Éclair studio at Épinay and constructed another in Montmartre in order to produce films by Perret, Colombier, Marco de Gastyne, and others. At the same time, Robert Hurel, a French producer for Paramount, founded Franco-Film, wooing Perret away from Natan after La Femme hue ('The naked woman', 1926) to deliver a string of hits starring Louise Lagrange, the new 'Princess of the French Cinema'. Finally, out of the ashes of Ciné-France arose the Société Générale des Films, which drew on Grinieff's immense fortune to complete Gance's NapoLéon ( 1927) and finance Alexandre Volkoff's Casanova ( 1927) and Carl Dreyer's La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc ('The Passion of Joan of Arc', 1928). Against this tide of consolidation, a few lone figures maintained a tenacious, but marginal, independence, among them Jean Epstein and especially Pierre Braunberger (the former publicity director for Paramount), whose Néo-Film offered a 'laboratory' for young film-makers.
During the 1920s the distribution sector of the industry faced an even more severe challenge. One after another, the major American companies either set up their own offices in Paris or strengthened their alliances with French distributors. In 1920 came Paramount and Fox-Film; in 1921 it was the turn of United Artists and First National; in 1922 they were joined by Universal, Metro, and Goldwyn, the latter two signing exclusive distribution contracts, respectively, with Aubert and Gaumont. That this could happen so easily was due not only to the Americans' economic power but also to the French government's inability either to impose substantial import duties on American films or to legislate a quota system restricting their numbers vis-à-vis French films. The American success stood in stark contrast to the French film industry's failure to rebuild its own export markets lost in the war. In the United States, for instance, no more than a dozen French films were exhibited annually from 1920 to 1925, and few reached cinemas outside New York. By the end of the decade, the number had increased only slightly. The situation was different in Germany, where a good percentage of French production was distributed between 1923 and 1926, in contrast to the far fewer German films imported into France. That too changed, however, when ACE began distributing German films in Paris, bypassing French firms altogether. By 1927 the number of German titles released in France surpassed the total production of the French cinema industry.
That the French distribution market did not capitulate completely to the Americans and Germans was due in large part to Pathé-Consortium. Whatever its internal problems and shifts in production, Pathé served, much as it did before and during the war, as the major outlet not only for its own product but also for that of smaller companies and independent producers. Cinéromans serials played a decisive role precisely at the moment when, in 1922-3, fresh from their conquest of the British cinema market and just before their intervention in Germany, American companies seemed ready to impose a block-booking system of film distribution within France. According to Fescourt, the serials functioned as a counter system of block booking in that, for at least nine months, they guaranteed exhibitors 'a long series of weeks of huge returns from a faithful public hooked on the formula'. Having taken over the contracts of AGC and negotiated others with Film d'Art and independents such as Feyder and Baroncelli, by 1924-5 Aubert complemented Pathé efforts as the second largest French distributor. Yet, even though other companies emerged, such as Armor (to distribute Albatros films), there were never enough independent French distributors, nor was there a consortium or network which could distribute the great number of independent French films. As the decade wore on, the French resistance to foreign domination began to weaken: Gaumont came under the control of MGM, while Aubert and Armor gradually moved within the orbit of ACE. However successful Pathé, Aubert, and others had been, the Americans and Germans secured a foothold within the French cinema industry at the crucial moment of the transition to sound films.
Compared to the rest of the industry, the exhibition sector remained relatively secure throughout the 1920s. The number of cinemas rose from 1,444 at the end of the war to 2,400 just two years later and nearly doubled again to 4,200 by 1929. At the same time, box-office receipts increased exponentially, even taking into account a short period of high inflation, going from 85 million francs in 1923 to 230 million in 1929. This occurred despite the fact that the vast majority of French cinemas were independently, even individually, owned (the figure was perhaps as high as 80 per cent), few of those had a capacity of 750 seats or more, and less than half operated on a daily basis. That the exhibition sector did so well was due partly to the enormous popularity of American films, from Robin Hood (with Douglas Fairbanks) to Ben-Hur. Yet French films, and not only the serials, also contributed: Feyder's costly L'Atlatitide ( 1921), for instance, played at the prestigious Madeleine cinema for a whole year. Equally important, however, the luxury cinemas or palaces, most of them constructed or renovated by Aubert, Gaumont, and Pathé as 'flagships' for their circuits, generated an unusually high volume of receipts. There were Aubert-Palaces in nearly every major French city as well as the 2,000-seat Tivoli in Paris. As its interests shifted to distribution and exhibition, Gaumont acquired control of the Madeleine, which, with the Gaumont-Palace, served to anchor its Paris circuit. Pathé renovated the Pathé-Palace into the Caméo, constructed the Empire and Impérial, and formed an alliance with a new circuit in the capital, Lutetia-Fournier. Only a few Paris palaces remained independent: the Salle Marivaux, constructed in 1919 by Edmond Benoît-Lévy, and the Ciné Max-Linder. Yet even the exhibition sector was not safe from American intervention. In 1925 Paramount began buying or building luxury cinemas in half a dozen major cities, culminating in the 2,000-seat Paramount-Palace, which opened in Paris for the 1927 Christmas season. By that time, the major French cinemas had long established a programme schedule which featured a single film en exclusivité along with a serial episode and/or a newsreel or short documentary. The Paramount-Palace introduced the concept of the double-bill programme. Furthermore, it was prepared to spend lavishly on advertising; within less than a year it was taking in nearly 10 per cent of the total cinema receipts in Paris.
Although Delluc abhorred them, serials were a distinctive component of the French cinema, remaining popular well into the late 1920s. Initially, they followed the pattern established by Feuillade during the war. In TihMinh ( 1919) and Barrabas ( 1920), Feuillade himself returned to criminal gangs operating with almost metaphysical power in a world described by Francis Lacassin as a 'tourist's nightmare of exotic locales'. Volkoff's adaptation of Jules Mary's La Maison du mystère ('The house of mystery', 1922) focused instead on a textile industrialist (Ivan Mosjoukine) falsely imprisoned for a crime and forced to exonerate himself in a series of deadly combats with a devilish rival. Another pattern began to develop out of films like Diamant-Berger's Les Trois Mousquetaires ('The three musketeers', 1921) and Fescourt's Mathias Sandorf ( 1921): the costume or historical adventure story which Sapène and Nalpas seized on as the basis for the Cinéromans serials. War heroes and adventurer-brigands from the period either before or after the French Revolution were especially popular. Fescourt's Mandrin ( 1924), for instance, depicted the exploits of a Robin Hood figure (Mathot) against the landowners and tax collectors of the Dauphiné region, while Leprince's Fanfan la Tulipe ( 1925) staged one threat after another to an orphan hero (nearly executed in the Bastille) who finally discovered he was of 'noble blood'. By resurrecting a largely aristocratic society and celebrating a valiant, oppositional hero, who both belonged to a supposedly glorious past and figured the transition to a bourgeois era, the Cinéromans serials also played a significant role, after the war, in addressing a collective ideological demand to restore and redefine France.
That ideological project also partly determined the industry's heavy investment in historical films. Here, too, the often nostalgic resurrection of past moments of French glory -- and tragedy -- contributed to the process of national restoration. Le Miracle des loups, for instance, returned to the late fifteenth century, when a sense of national unity was first being forged. Here, the bitter conflict between Louis XI (Charles Dullin) and his brother Charles the Bold was mediated and resolved, according to legend, by Jeanne Hachette -- and ultimately by a code of suffering and sacrifice. Espousing a similar code, Roussel's Violettes impériales ('Imperial violets', 1924) transformed the singer, Raquel Meller, from a simple flower-seller into a Paris Opéra star and a confidante of Empress Eugénie, all within the luxurious splendour of the Second Empire.
Later French films tended to focus either on one of two periods of French history or else on subjects involving tsarist Russia. Some took up the same era favoured by the Cinéromans serials, as in Les Misérables or Fescourt's remake of Monte Cristo ( 1929). Others followed the example of Le Miracle des loups, as in Gastyne's La Merveilleuse Vie de Jeanne d'Arc ('The marvellous life of Joan of Arc', 1928), starring Simone Genevois, or Renoir's Le Tournoi ('The tournament', 1928). The most impressive of the French subjects were Napoléon and La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc. In Napoléon, Gance conceived young Bonaparte ( Albert Dieudonné) as the legendary fulfilment of the Revolution, a kind of Romantic artist in apotheosis, which others like Léon Moussinac read as proto-Fascist. Everyone agreed, however, on the audacity of Gance's technical innovations-the experiments with camera movement and multiple screen formats, most notably in the famous triptych finale. La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, by contrast, deviated radically from the genre's conventions. Dreyer focused neither on medieval pageantry nor on Joan's military exploits, showcased in La Merveilleuse Vie de Jeanne d'Arc, but on the spiritual and political conflicts marking her last day of life. Based on records of the Rouen trial, Dreyer's film simultaneously documented Falconetti's ordeal playing Jeanne and created a symbolic progression of close-up faces, all within an unusually disjunctive spacetime continuum.
Several of the most successful historical productions, however, permitted the Russian émigrés to celebrate-and sometimes criticize -- the country from which they had fled. Michel Strogoff, the Impérial cinema's inaugural film, adapted Jules Verne's adventure novel about a tsarist courier who successfully carries out a dangerous mission in Siberia. By contrast, Bernard's Le Joueur d'échecs ('The chess player', 1926), which set box-office records at the Salle Marivaux, represented the triumph of Polish independence from the Russian monarchy, just prior to the French Revolution. More fantastical in style than either was Casanova, one of whose episodic series of adventures had Casanova meet and befriend Catherine the Great. All three of these films showcased magnificent set décors and costumes (by either Ivan Lochakoff and Boris Bilinsky or Robert Mallet-Stevens and Jean Perrier) as well as marvellous location shooting (by L.-H. Burel, J.-P. Mundviller, and others), whether in Latvia, Poland, or Venice.
The boulevard melodrama continued to serve as an important asset to the industry for several years after the war. Tristan Bernard's plays, for instance, helped to secure his son Raymond's initial reputation as a film-maker. The more 'artistically' inclined film-makers also continued to work within the bourgeois milieu of the domestic melodrama, extending the advances made during the war, often by means of original scenarios, in what Dulac was the first to call 'impressionist films'. In J'accuse ('I accuse', 1919) and La Roue ('The wheel', 1921), Gance experimented further with elliptical point-of-view shot sequences, different forms of rhythmic montage (including rapid montage), and patterns of rhetorical figuring through associational editing. Dulac did likewise in a series of films which focused predominantly on women, from La Cigarette ( 1919) to La Mort du soleil ('The death of the sun', 1922) and especially La Souriante Madame Beudet ('Smiling Madame Beudet', 1923), whose central character was inescapably trapped in a provincial bourgeois marriage. Perhaps the high point of this experimentation came in L'Herbier's 'exotic' El Dorado ( 1921), which deployed a remarkable range of framing and editing strategies (along with a specially composed score) to evoke the subjective life of a Spanish cabaret dancer, Sybilla (Eve Francis), and culminated backstage in a stunning 'dance of death'.
By the middle of the decade, the bases for film melodrama had shifted from the theatre to fiction, and across several genres. Some followed the path of L'Atlantide, drawn from a popular Pierre Benoit novel, by adapting either 'exotic' Arabian Nights tales or stories of romance and adventure in the French colonies, usually in North Africa. The latter were especially popular in films as diverse as Gastyne's La Châtelaine du Liban ('The chatelaine of the Lebanon', 1926) and Renoir's Le Bled ('The wasteland', 1929). Others exploited the French taste for fantasy, particularly after the success of 'Séries Pax' films such as Poirier's Le Penseur ('The thinker', 1920). These ranged from Mosjoukine's satirical fable Le Brasier ardent) ('The burning brazier', 1923) or L'Herbier's modernist fantasy Feu Mathias Pascal ('The late Mathias Pascal', 1925), to refurbished féeries, Clair's Le Fantôme du Moulin Rouge ('The ghost of the Moulin Rouge', 1925), or tales of horror, Epstein's La Chute de la maison Usher ('The Fall of the House of Usher', 1928).
The major development in the melodrama genre, however, was the modern studio spectacular, a product of the cultural internationalism which now characterized the urban nouveau riche in much of Europe and a new target of French investment in international co-productions. According to Gérard Talon, these films represented the 'good life' of a new generation and helped establish what was modern or à la mode in fashion, sport, dancing, and manners. Perfectly congruent with the ideology of consumer capitalism, this 'good life' was played out in milieux which tended to erase the specificity of French culture. Elements of the modern studio spectacular can be seen as early as Perret's Koenigsmark ( 1923), but the defining moment came in 1926 with a return to theatrical adaptations in L'Herbier's Le Vertige ('Vertigo') and Perret's La Femme nue, with their fashionable resorts and chic Paris restaurants. Thereafter, the modern studio spectacular came close to dominating French production. Yet some films cut against the grain of its pleasures, from L'Herbier's deliberately 'avant-garde' extravaganza, L'Inhumaine ('The inhuman one', 1924) to his updated adaptation of Zola, L'Argent ('Money', 1928), whose highly original strategies of camera movement and editing helped to critique its wealthy characters and milieux. A similar critique marked Epstein's 6½ x 11 ( 1927) and especially his small-budget film La Glace à trois faces ('The three-sided mirror', 1927), which intricately embedded four interrelated stories within just three reels.
The 'realist' melodrama, by contrast, sustained its development throughout the decade and remained decidedly'French'. Two things in particular distinguished these films. First, they usually celebrated specific landscapes or milieux, as spatial co-ordinates delineating the 'inner life' of one or more characters and, simultaneously, as cultural fields for tourists. Second, those landscapes or milieux were divided between Paris and the provinces, privileging the picturesque of certain geographical areas and cultures, often tinged with nostalgia. The Brittany coast provided the subject for films from L'Herbier's L'Homme du large ('The man of the high seas', 1920) and Baroncelli's Pêcheur d'Islande ('Iceland Fisherman', 1924) to Epstein's exquisite 'documentary' Finis terrae ( 1929), and Jean Grémillon's extraordinarily harrowing Gardiens du phare ('Lighthouse keepers', 1929). The French Alps dominated Feyder's exceptional Visages d'enfants ('Children's faces', 1924), while the Morvan provided a less imposing backdrop for Duvivier's Poil de carotte ('Ginger', 1926). Barge life on French canals and rivers was lovingly detailed in Epstein's La Belle Nivernaise ('The beautiful Nivernaise', 1924), Renoir's La Fille de l'eau ('Water girl', 1925), and Grémillon's Maldone ( 1928). The agricultural areas of western, central, and southern France were the subject of Feuillade's Vendémiaire ( 1919), Antoine's La Terre ('The land', 1920), Robert Boudrioz's L'Âtre ('The hearth', 1922), Delluc's L'Inondation ('The flood', 1924), and Poirier's La Brière ( 1924).
Another group of 'realist' films focused on the 'popular' in the socio-economic margins of modern urban life in Paris, Marseilles, or elsewhere. Here, for flâneurs of the cinema, were the iron mills and working-class slums of Pouctal's Travail ('Work', 1919), the claustrophobic sailor's bar of Delluc's Fièvre ('Fever', 1921), the street markets of Feyder's Crainquebille ( 1922), and the bistros and cheap amusement parks of Epstein's Cōur fidèle ('Faithful heart', 1923). Although their numbers decreased during the latter half of the decade, several achieved a remarkable sense of verisimilitude, notably Duvivier's Le Mariage de Mlle Beulemans ('The marriage of Mlle Beulemans', 1927), shot in Brussels, and the Benoît-Lévy/Epstein production of Peau de pêche ('Peach-skin', 1928), which juxtaposed the dank, dirty streets of Montmartre to the healthy air of a Charmont-sur-Barbuise farm. Perhaps the most 'avantgarde' of these later films were Dmitri Kirsanoff 's brutally poetic Ménilmontant ( 1925), with Nadia Sibirskaia, and Alberto Cavalcanti's documentary-like stories of disillusionment and despair, Rien que les heures ('Only the hours', 1926) and En rade ('Sea fever', 1927).
One last genre, the comedy, also remained solidly grounded in French society. The 1920s at first seemed no less inauspicious for French film comedy than had the war years. Le Petit Café ('The little café, 1919), Bernard's adaptation of his father's popular boulevard comedy, starring Max Linder (recently returned from the USA), was a big success, yet failed to generate further films. There was Robert Saidreau's series of vaudeville comedies, of course, and Feuillade's charming adaptation Le Gamin de Paris ('The Parisian boy', 1923), but not until 1924 did a significant renewal of French film comedy get under way, ironically from the Russian émigré company Albatros. The initial model of comedy construction was to update the figure of the naïve provincial come to the sophisticated capital, as in Volkoff's Les Ombres qui passent ('Passing shadows', 1924). Another was to transpose American gags and even characters into an atmosphere of French gaiety, as in the Albatros series starring Nicholas Rimsky, or in Cinéromans's Amour et carburateur ('Love and carburettor', 1926), directed by Colombier and starring Albert Préjean. The real accolades, however, went to Clair for his brilliant Albatros adaptations of Eugène Labiche, Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (The Italian Straw Hat, 1927) and Les Deux Timides ('The timid ones', 1928), with ensemble casts featuring Préjean, Pierre Batcheff, and Jim Gerald. Accentuating the original's comedy of situations, Clair's first film thoroughly mixed up a wedding couple and an adulterous one to produce an unrelenting attack on the belle ipoque bourgeoisie through a delightful pattern of acute visual observations. Almost as successful was Feyder's Les Nouveaux Messieurs ('The new gentlemen', 1928), which provoked the ire of the French government, not for its satire of a labour union official (played by Präjean), but for its so-called disrespectful depiction of the National Chamber nto an exuberant social satire, pitting a blithely assured but ineffectual bourgeois master against his bighearted, bumbling servant, played with grotesque audacity by Michel Simon.
By the end of the decade, the French cinema industry seemed to evidence less and less interest in producing what Delluc would have called specifically French films. Whereas the historical film was frequently reconstructing past eras elsewhere, the modern studio spectacular was constructing an international no man's land of conspicuous consumption for the nouveau riche. Only the 'realist' film and the comedy presented the French somewhat tels qu'ils sont -- if not as they might have wanted to see themselves -- the one by focusing on the marginal, the other by invoking mockery. With the development of the sound film, both genres would contribute even more to restoring a sense of 'Frenchness' to the French cinema. Yet would that 'Frenchness'be any less imbued with nostalgia than was the charming repertoire of signs, gestures, and songs that Maurice Chevalier was about to make so popular in the USA?
Abel, Richard ( 1984), French Cinema: The First Wave, 1915-1929.
--- ( 1988), French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/Anthology, 19071929.
--- ( 1993), The Cinf Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914.
Bordwell, David ( 1980), French Impressionist Cinema: Film Culture, Film Theory and Film Style.
Chirat, Raymond, and Icart, Roger (eds.) ( 1984), Catalogue des films français de long métrage: films de fiction, 1919-1929.
--- and Le Eric Roy (eds.) ( 1994), Le Cinéma français, 1911-1920.
Clair, René ( 1972), Cinema Yesterday and Today.
Delluc, Louis ( 1919), Cinéma et cie.
Epstein, Jean ( 1921), Bonjour cinéma.
Guibbert, Pierre (ed.) ( 1985), Les Premiers Ans du cinéma français.
Hugues, Philippe d', and Martin, Michel ( 1986), Le cinéma français: le muet.
Mitry, Jean ( 1967), Histoire du cinéma, i: 1895-1914.
--- ( 1969), Histoire du cinéma, ii: 1915-1923.
--- ( 1973), Histoire du cinéma, iii: 1923-1930.
Moussinac, Léon ( 1929), Panoramique du cinéma.
Sadoul, Georges ( 1951), Histoire générale du cinéma, iii: Le cinéma devient un art, 1909-1920 (l'avant-guerre).
--- ( 1974), Histoire générale du cinéma, iv: Le cinéma devient un art, 1909-1920 (La Première Guerre Mondiale).
--- ( 1975a), Histoire générale du cinéma, v: L'Art muet (1919-1929).
--- ( 1975b), Histoire générale du cinéma, vi: L'Art muet (1919-1929).

en: The Oxford History of World Cinema, EDITED BY GEOFFREY NOWELL-SMITH
Hay traducción castellana de este texto en: PALACIOS, Manuel y Julio PÉREZ PERUCHA coords., Europa y Asia (1918-1930) (Historia General del Cine Vol. 5), Madrid, Cátedra, 1997.

jueves, 24 de abril de 2008

Cine temprano, por Robert Pearson

Early Cinema

In the first two decades of its existence the cinema developed rapidly. What in 1895 had been a mere novelty had by 1913 become an established industry. The earliest films were little more than moving snapshots, barely one minute in length and often consisting of just a single shot. By 1905, they were regularly five to ten minutes long and employed changes of scene and camera position to tell a story or illustrate a theme. Then, in the early 1910s, with the arrival of the first 'feature-length' films, there gradually emerged a new set of conventions for handling complex narratives. By this time too, the making and showing of films had itself become a large-scale business. No longer was the film show a curiosity sandwiched into a variety of other spectacles, from singing or circus acts to magic lantern shows. Instead specialist venues had been created, exclusively devoted to the exhibition of films, and supplied by a number of large production and distribution companies, based in major cities, who first sold and then increasingly rented films to exhibitors all over the world. In the course of the 1910s the single most important centre of supply ceased to be Paris, London, or New York, and became Los Angeles -- Hollywood.
The cinema of this period, from the mid- 1890s to the mid-1910s, is sometimes referred to as 'pre-Hollywood' cinema, attesting to the growing hegemony of the California-based American industry after the First World War. It has also been described as pre-classical, in recognition of the role that a consolidated set of 'classical' narrative conventions was to play in the world cinema from the 1920s onwards. These terms need to be used with caution, as they can imply that the cinema of the early years was only there as a precursor of Hollywood and the classical style which followed. In fact the styles of filmmaking prevalent in the early years were never entirely displaced by Hollywood or classical modes, even in America, and many cinemas went on being pre- or at any rate non-Hollywood in their practices for many years to come. But it remains true that much of the development that took place in the years from 1906 or 1907 can be seen as laying the foundation for what was to become the Hollywood system, in both formal and industrial terms.
For the purposes of this book, therefore, we have divided the period into two. The first half, from the beginnings up to about 1906, we have simply called early cinema, while the second half, from 1907 to the mid-1910s, we have designated transitional since it forms a bridge between the distinctive modes of early cinema and those which came later. Broadly speaking, the early cinema is distinguished by the use of fairly direct presentational modes, and draws heavily on existing conventions of photography and theatre. It is only in the transitional period that specifically cinematic conventions really start to develop, and the cinema acquires the means of creating its distinctive forms of narrative illusion.

Various nations lay claim to the invention of moving pictures, but the cinema, like so many other technological innovations, has no precise originating moment and owes its birth to no particular country and no particular person. In fact, one can trace the origins of cinema to such diverse sources as sixteenth-century Italian experiments with the camera obscura, various early nineteenth-century optical toys, and a host of practices of visual representation such as dioramas and panoramas. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, efforts to project continuously moving images on to a screen intensified and inventors/entrepreneurs in several countries presented the 'first' moving pictures to the marvelling public: Edison in the United States; the Lumière brothers in France; Max Skladanowsky in Germany; and William Friese-Greene in Great Britain. None of these men can be called the primary originator of the film medium, however, since only a favourable conjunction of technical circumstances made such an 'invention' possible at this particular moment: improvements in photographic development; the invention of celluloid, the first medium both durable and flexible enough to loop through a projector; and the application of precision engineering and instruments to projector design.
In spite of the internationalization of both film style and technology, the United States and a few European countries retained hegemony over film production, distribution, and exhibition. Initially, French film producers were arguably the most important, if not in terms of stylistic innovation, an area in which they competed with the British and the Americans, then certainly in terms of market dominance at home and internationally. Pride of place must be given to the Lumière brothers, who are frequently, although perhaps inaccurately, credited with projecting the first moving pictures to a paying audience. Auguste and Louis Lumière owned a photographic equipment factory and experimented in their spare time with designing a camera that they dubbed the Cinématographe. It was first demonstrated on 22 March 1895 at a meeting of the Société d'Encouragement à l'Industrie Nationale. Subsequent to this prestigious début, the Lumières continued to publicize their camera as a scientific instrument, exhibiting it at photographic congresses and conferences of learned societies. In December 1895, however, they executed their most famous and influential demonstration, projecting ten films to a paying audience at the Grand Café in Paris.
Precisely dating the first exhibition of moving pictures depends upon whether 'exhibition' means in private, publicly for a paying audience, seen in a Kinetoscope, or projected on a screen. Given these parameters, one could date the first showing of motion pictures from 1893, when Edison first perfected the Kinetoscope, to December 1895 and the Lumières' demonstration at the Grand Café.
The Lumières may not even have been the 'first' to project moving pictures on a screen to a paying audience; this honour probably belongs to the German Max Skladanowsky, who had done the same in Berlin two months before the Cinématographe's famed public exhibition. But despite being 'scooped' by a competitor, the Lumières' business acumen and marketing skill permitted them to become almost instantly known throughout Europe and the United States and secured a place for them in film history. The Cinématographe's technical specifications helped in both regards, initially giving it several advantages over its competitors in terms of production and exhibition. Its relative lightness (16 lb. compared to the several hundred of Edison's Kinetograph), its ability to function as a camera, a projector, and a film developer, and its lack of dependence upon electric current (it was hand-cranked and illuminated by limelight) all made it extremely portable and adaptable. During the first six months of the Lumières' operations in the United States, twenty-one cameramen/projectionists toured the country, exhibiting the Cinématographe at vaudeville houses and fighting off the primary American competition, the Edison Kinetograph.
The Lumières' Cinématographe, which showed primarily documentary material, established French primacy, but their compatriot Georges Mélièlis became the world's leading producer of fiction films during the early cinema period. Mélièlis began his career as a conjurer, using magic lanterns as part of his act at the Théâtre RobertHoudin in Paris. Upon seeing some of the Lumières' films, Mélièlis immediately recognized the potential of the new medium, although he took it in a very different direction from his more scientifically inclined countrymen. Mélièlis's Star Film Company began production in 1896, and by the spring of 1897 had its own studio outside Paris in Montreuil. Producing hundreds of films between 1896 and 1912 and establishing distribution offices in London, Barcelona, and Berlin by 1902 and in New York by 1903, Mélièlis nearly drove the Lumières out of business. However, his popularity began to wane in 1908 as the films of the transitional cinema began to offer a different kind of entertainment and by 1911 virtually the only Mélièlis films released were Westerns produced by Georges's brother Gaston in a Texas studio. Eventually, competitors forced Mélièlis's company into bankruptcy in 1913.
Chief among these competitors was the Pathé Company, which outlasted both Mélièlis and the Lumières. It became one of the most important French film producers during the early period, and was primarily responsible for the French dominance of the early cinema market. PathéFrères was founded in 1896 by Charles Pathé, who followed an aggressive policy of acquisition and expansion, acquiring the Lumières' patents as early as 1902, and the Mélièlis Film Company before the First World War. Pathé also expanded his operations abroad, exploiting markets. ignored by other distributors, and making his firm's name practically synonymous with the cinema in many Third World countries. He created subsidiary production companies in many European nations: Hispano Film ( Spain); Pathé-Russe ( Russia); Film d'Arte Italiano; and PathéBritannia. In 1908 Pathé distributed twice as many films in the United States as all the indigenous manufacturers combined. Despite this initial French dominance, however, various American studios, primary among them the Edison Manufacturing Company, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company of America (after 1909 simply the Biograph Company), and the Vitagraph Company of America (all founded in the late 1890s) had already created a solid basis for their country's future domination of world cinema.
The 'invention' of the moving picture is often associated with the name of Thomas Alva Edison, but, in accordance with contemporary industrial practices, Edison's moving picture machines were actually produced by a team of technicians working at his laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, supervised by the Englishman William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. Dickson and his associates began working on moving pictures in 1889 and by 1893 had built the Kinetograph, a workable but bulky camera, and the Kinetoscope, a peep-show-like viewing machine in which a continuous strip of film between 40 and 50 feet long ran between an electric lamp and a shutter. They also developed and built the first motion picture studio, necessitated by the Kinetograph's size, weight, and relative immobility. This was a shack whose resemblance to a police van caused it to be popularly dubbed the 'Black Maria'. To this primitive studio came the earliest American film actors, mainly vaudeville performers who travelled to West Orange from nearby New York City to have their (moving) pictures taken. These pictures lasted anywhere from fifteen seconds to one minute and simply reproduced the various performers' stage acts with, for example, Little Egypt, the famous belly-dancer, dancing, or Sandow the Strongman posing.
As with the Lumières, Edison's key position in film history stems more from marketing skill than technical ingenuity. His company was the first to market a commercially viable moving picture machine, albeit one designed for individual viewers rather than mass audiences. Controlling the rights to the Kinetograph and Kinetoscope, Edison immediately embarked upon plans for commercial exploitation, entering into business agreements that led to the establishment of Kinetoscope parlours around the country. The first Kinetoscope parlour, a rented store-front with room for ten of the viewing machines each showing a different film, opened in New York City in April 1894. The new technical marvel received a promotional boost when the popular boxing champion Gentleman Jim Corbett went six rounds against Pete Courtney at the Black Maria. The resulting film gained national publicity for Edison's machine, as well as drawing the rapt attention of female viewers, who reportedly formed lines at the Kinetoscope parlours to sneak a peek at the scantily clad Gentleman Jim. Soon other Kinetoscope parlours opened and the machines also became a featured attraction at summer amusement parks.
Until the spring of 1896 the Edison Company devoted itself to shooting films for the Kinetoscope, but, as the novelty of the Kinetoscope parlours wore off and sales of the machines fell off, Thomas Edison began to rethink his commitment to individually oriented exhibition. He acquired the patents to a projector whose key mechanism had been designed by Thomas Armat and C. Francis Jenkins, who had lacked the capital for the commercial exploitation of their invention. The Vitascope, which projected an image on to a screen, was advertised under Edison's name and premièred in New York City in April of 1896. Six films were shown, five produced by the Edison Company and one, Rough Sea at Dover, by the Englishman R. W. Paul. These brief films, 40 feet in length and lasting twenty seconds, were spliced end to end to form a loop, enabling each film to be repeated up to half a dozen times. The sheer novelty of moving pictures, rather than their content or a story, was the attraction for the first film audiences. Within a year there were several hundred Vitascopes giving shows in various locations throughout the United States.
In these early years Edison had two chief domestic rivals. In 1898 two former vaudevillians, James Stuart Blackton and Albert Smith, founded the Vitagraph Company of America initially to make films for exhibition in conjunction with their own vaudeville acts. In that same year the outbreak of the Spanish-American War markedly increased the popularity of the new moving pictures, which were able to bring the war home more vividly than the penny press and the popular illustrated weeklies. Blackton and Smith immediately took advantage of the situation, shooting films on their New York City rooftop studio that purported to show events taking place in Cuba. So successful did this venture prove that by 1900 the partners issued their first catalogue offering films for sale to other exhibitors, thus establishing Vitagraph as one of the primary American film producers. The third important American studio of the time, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, now primarily known for employing D. W. Griffith between 1908 and 1913, was formed in 1895 to produce flipcards for Mutoscope machines. When W. K. L. Dickson left Edison to join Biograph, the company used his expertise to patent a projector to compete with the Vitascope. This projector apparently gave betterquality projection with less flicker than other machines and quickly replaced the Lumières as Edison's chief competitor. In 1897 Biograph also began to produce films but the Edison Company effectively removed them from the market by entangling them in legal disputes that remained unresolved until 1902.
At the turn of the century, Britain was the third important film-producing country. The Edison Kinetoscope was first seen there in October 1894, but, because of Edison's uncharacteristic failure to patent the device abroad, the Englishman R. W. Paul legally copied the non-protected viewing machine and installed fifteen Kinetoscopes at the exhibition hall at Earl's Court in London. When Edison belatedly sought to protect his interests by cutting off the supply of films, Paul responded by going into production for himself. In 1899, in conjunction with Birt Acres, who supplied the necessary technical expertise, Paul opened the first British film studio, in north London. Another important early British film-maker, Cecil Hepworth, built a studio in his London back garden in 1900. By 1902 Brighton had also become an important centre for British filmmaking with two of the key members of the so-called 'Brighton school', George Albert Smith and James Williamson, each operating a studio.
At this time, production, distribution, and exhibition practices differed markedly from those that were to emerge during the transitional period; the film industry had not yet attained the specialization and division of labour characteristic of large-scale capitalist enterprises. Initially, production, distribution, and exhibition all remained the exclusive province of the film manufacturers. The Lumière travelling cameramen used the adaptable Cinématographe to shoot, develop, and project films, while American studios such as Edison and Biograph usually supplied a projector, films, and even a projectionist to the vaudeville houses that constituted the primary exhibition sites. Even with the rapid emergence of independent travelling showmen in the United States, Britain, and Germany, film distribution remained nonexistent. Producers sold rather than rented their films; a practice which forestalled the development of permanent exhibition sites until the second decade of the cinema's history.
As opposed to the strict division of labour and assemblyline practices that characterized the Hollywood studios, production during this period was non-hierarchical and truly collaborative. One of the most important early film 'directors' was Edwin S. Porter, who had worked as a hired projectionist and then as an independent exhibitor. Porter joined the Edison Company in 1900, first as a mechanic and then as head of production. Despite his nominal position, Porter only controlled the technical aspects of filming and editing while other Edison employees with theatrical experience took charge of directing the actors and the mise-en-scène. Other American studios seem to have practised similar arrangements. At Vitagraph, James Stuart Blackton and Albert Smith traded off their duties in front of and behind the camera, one acting and the other shooting, and then reversing their roles for the next film. In similar fashion, the members of the British Brighton school both owned their production companies and functioned as cameramen. Georges Mélièlis, who also owned his own company, did everything short of actually crank the camera, writing the script, designing sets and costumes, devising trick effects, and often acting. The first true 'director', in the modern sense of being responsible for all aspects of a film's actual shooting, was probably introduced at the Biograph Company in 1903. The increased production of fiction films required that one person have a sense of the film's narrative development and of the connections between individual shots.

As the emergence of the film director illustrates, changes in the film texts often necessitated concomitant changes in the production process. But what did the earliest films actually look like? Generally speaking, until 1907, filmmakers concerned themselves with the individual shot, preserving the spatial aspects of the pro-filmic event (the scene that takes place in front of the camera). They did not create temporal relations or story causality by using cinematic interventions. They set the camera far enough from the action to show the entire length of the human body as well as the spaces above the head and below the feet. The camera was kept stationary, particularly in exterior shots, with only occasional reframings to follow the action, and interventions through such devices as editing or lighting were infrequent. This long-shot style is often referred to as a tableau shot or a proscenium arch shot, the latter appellation stemming from the supposed resemblance to the perspective an audience member would have from the front row centre of a theatre. For this reason, pre-1907 film is often accused of being more theatrical than cinematic, although the tableau style also replicates the perspective commonly seen in such other period media as postcards and stereographs, and early film-makers derived their inspiration as much from these and other visual texts as from the theatre.
Concerning themselves primarily with the individual shot, early film-makers tended not to be overly interested in connections between shots; that is, editing. They did not elaborate conventions for linking one shot to the next, for constructing a continuous linear narrative, nor for keeping the viewer oriented in time and space. However, there were some multi-shot films produced during this period, although rarely before 1902. In fact, one can break the pre-1907 years into two subsidiary periods: 18941902/3, when the majority of films consisted of one shot and were what we would today call documentaries, known then, after the French usage, as actualities; and 19037, when the multi-shot, fiction film gradually began to dominate, with simple narratives structuring the temporal and causal relations between shots.
Many films of the 1894-1907 period seem strange from a modern perspective, since early film-makers tended to be quite self-conscious in their narrative style, presenting their films to the viewer as if they were carnival barkers touting their wares, rather than disguising their presence through cinematic conventions as their successors were to do. Unlike the omniscient narrators of realist novels and the Hollywood cinema, the early cinema restricted narrative to a single point of view. For this reason, the early cinema evoked a different relationship between the spectator and the screen, with viewers more interested in the cinema as visual spectacle than as story-teller. So striking is the emphasis upon spectacle during this period that many scholars have accepted Tom Gunning's distinction between the early cinema as a 'cinema of attractions' and the transitional cinema as a 'cinema of narrative integration' ( Gunning, 1986 ). In the 'cinema of attractions', the viewer created meaning not through the interpretation of cinematic conventions but through previously held information related to the pro-filmic event: ideas of spatial coherence; the unity of an event with a recognizable beginning and end; and knowledge of the subject-matter. During the transitional period, films began to require the viewer to piece together a story predicated upon a knowledge of cinematic conventions.

The work of the two most important French producers of this period, the Lumières and Mélièlis, provides an example of the textual conventions of the one-shot film. Perhaps the most famous of the films that the Lumières showed in December 1895 is A Train Arriving at a Station (L'Arrivé d'un train en gare de la Ciotat), which runs for about fifty seconds. A stationary camera shows a train pulling into a station and the passengers disembarking, the film continuing until most of them have exited the shot. Apocryphal tales persist that the onrushing cinematic train so terrified audience members that they ducked under their seats for protection. Another of the Lumières' films, Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (Sortie d'usine), had a less terrifying effect upon its audience. An eye-level camera, set far enough back from the action to show not only the full-length figures of the workers but the high garage-like door through which they exit, observes as the door opens and disgorges the building's occupants, who disperse to either side of the frame. The film ends roughly at the point when all the workers have left. Contemporary accounts indicate that these and other Lumière films fascinated their audiences not by depicting riveting events, but through incidental details that a modern viewer may find almost unnoticeable: the gentle movement of the leaves in the background as a baby eats breakfast; the play of light on the water as a boat leaves the harbour. The first film audiences did not demand to be told stories, but found infinite fascination in the mere recording and reproduction of the movement of animate and inanimate objects.
work, which depicted events that might have taken place even in the camera's absence, this famous film stages action specifically for the moving pictures. A gardener waters a lawn, a boy steps on the hose, halting the flow of water, the gardener peers questioningly at the spigot, the boy removes his foot, and the restored stream of water douses the gardener, who chases, catches, and spanks the boy. The film is shot with a stationary camera in the standard tableau style of the period. At a key point in the action the boy, trying to escape chastisement, exits the frame and the gardener follows, leaving the screen blank for two seconds. A modern film-maker would pan the camera to follow the characters or cut to the offscreen action, but the Lumières did neither, providing an emblematic instance of the preservation of the space of the pro-filmic event taking precedence over story causality or temporality.
Unlike the Lumières, Georges Mélièlis always shot in his studio, staging action for the camera, his films showing fantastical events that could not happen in 'real life'. Although all Mélièlis's films conform to the standard period tableau style, they are also replete with magical appearances and disappearances, achieved through what cinematographers call 'stop action', that is, stopping the camera, having the actor enter or exit the shot, and then starting the camera again to create the illusion that a character has simply vanished or materialized. Mélièlis's films have played a key part in film scholars' debates over the supposed theatricality of early cinematic style. Whereas scholars had previously thought that stop action effects required no editing and hence concluded that Méliès's films were simply 'filmed theatre', examination of the actual negatives reveals that substitution effects were, in fact, produced through splicing or editing. Mélièlis also manipulated the image through the superimposition of one shot over another so that many of the films represent space in a manner more reminiscent of photographic devices developed during the nineteenth century than of the theatre. Films such as L'Homme orchestre (The One-Man Band, 1900) or Le Mélomane (The Melomaniac, 1903) showcased the cinematic multiplication of a single image (in these cases of Mélièlis himself) achieved through the layering of one shot over another.
Despite this cinematic manipulation of the pro-filmic space, Mélièlis's films remain in many ways excessively theatrical, presenting a story as if it were being performed on a stage, a characteristic they have in common with many of the fiction films of the pre-1907 period. Not only does the camera replicate the proscenium arch perspective, but the films stage their action in a shallow playing space between the painted flats and the front of the 'stage', and characters enter or exit either from the wings or through traps. Mélièlis boasted, in a 1907 article, that his studio's shooting area replicated a theatrical stage 'constructed exactly like one in a theatre and fitted with trapdoors, scenery slots, and uprights'.
For many years film theorists pointed to the Lumière and Mélièlis films as the originating moment of the distinction between documentary and fiction film-making, given that the Lumières for the most part filmed 'real' events and Mélièlis staged events. But such distinctions were not a part of contemporary discourse, since many pre-1907 films mixed what we would today call 'documentary' material, that is, events or objects existing independently of the film-maker, with 'fictional' material, that is, events or objects specifically fabricated for the camera. Take, for example, one of the rare multi-shot films of the period, The Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison ( Edison, 1901), a compilation of four self-contained individual shots dealing with the execution of the assassin of President William McKinley. The first two shots are panoramas of the exterior of the prison, the third shows an actor portraying the condemned man in his cell, and the fourth re-enacts his electrocution. Given films of this kind, it is more useful to discuss very early genres in terms of similarities of subject-matters rather than in terms of an imposed distinction between fiction and documentary.
Many turn-of-the-century films reflected the period's fascination with travel and transportation. The train film, established by the Lumières, practically became a genre of its own. Each studio released a version, sometimes shooting a moving train from a stationary camera and sometimes positioning a camera on the front of or inside the train to produce a travelling shot, since the illusion of moving through space seemed to thrill early audiences. The train genre related to the travelogue, films featuring scenes both exotic and familiar, and replicating in motion the immensely popular postcards and stereographs of the period. Public events, such as parades, world's fairs, and funerals, also provided copious material for early cameramen. Both the travelogue and the public event film consisted of self-contained, individual shots, but producers did offer combinations of these films for sale together with suggestions for their projection order, so that, for example, an exhibitor could project several discrete shots of the same event, and so give his audience a fuller and more varied picture of it. Early film-makers also replicated popular amusements, such as vaudeville acts and boxing matches, that could be relatively easily reenacted for the camera. The first Kinetoscope films in 1894 featured vaudeville performers, including contortionists, performing animals, and dancers, as well as scenes from Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Again, the shots functioned as self-contained units and were marketed as such, but exhibitors had the option of putting them together to form an evening's entertainment. By 1897 the popular filmed boxing matches could potentially run for an hour. The same was true of another of the most popular of early genres, Passion plays telling the life of Christ, which were often filmed recordings of theatrical companies' performances. A compilation of shots of the play's key events could last well over an hour. A third group of films told one-shot mini-narratives, most often of a humorous nature. Some were gag films, resembling the Lumières' Watering the Gardener, in which the comic action takes place in the pro-filmic event, as for instance in Elopement by Horseback ( Edison, 1891), where a young man seeking to elope with his sweetheart engages in a wrestling match with the girl's father. Others relied for their humour upon trick effects such as stop action, superimposition, and reverse action. The most famous are the Mélièlis films, but this form was also seen in some of the early films made by Porter for the Edison Company and by the film-makers of the English Brighton school. These films became increasingly complicated, sometimes involving more than one shot. In Williamson's film The Big Swallow ( 1901), the first shot shows a photographer about to take a picture of a passer-by. The second shot replicates the photographer's viewpoint through the camera lens, and shows the passerby's head growing bigger and bigger as he approaches the camera. The man's mouth opens and the film cuts to a shot of the photographer and his camera falling into a black void. The film ends with a shot of the passer-by walking away munching contentedly.

In this period, the multi-shot film emerged as the norm rather than the exception, with films no longer treating the individual shot as a self-contained unit of meaning but linking one shot to another. However, film-makers may have been using a succession of shots to capture and emphasize the highpoints of the action rather than construct either a linear narrative causality or clearly establish temporal-spatial relations. As befits the 'cinema of attractions', the editing was intended to enhance visual pleasure rather than to refine narrative developments.
One of the strangest editing devices used in this period was overlapping action, which resulted from film-makers' desire both to preserve the pro-filmic space and to emphasize the important action by essentially showing it twice. Georges Mélièli's A Trip to the Moon, perhaps the most famous film of 1902, covers the landing of a space capsule on the moon in two shots. In the first, taken from 'space', the capsule hits the man in the moon in the eye, and his expression changes from a grin to a grimace. In the second shot, taken from the 'moon's surface', the capsule once again lands. These two shots, which show the same event twice, can disconcert a modern viewer. This repetition of action around a cut can be seen in an American film of the same year, How They Do Things on the Bowery, directed by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. An irate waiter ejects a customer unable to pay his bill. In an interior shot the waiter throws the man out and hurls his suitcase after him. In the following exterior shot, the customer emerges from the restaurant followed closely by his suitcase. In a 1904 Biograph film The Widow and the Only Man, overlapping action is used not to cover interior and exterior events but to show the same event a second time in closer scale. In the first shot a woman accepts her suitor's flowers and smells them appreciatively. Then, rather than a'match cut', in which the action picks up at the beginning of the second shot from where it left off at the end of the first, as would be dictated by present-day conventions, a closer shot shows her repeating precisely the same action.
While overlapping action was a common means of linking shots, film-makers during this period also experimented with other methods of establishing spatial and temporal relations. One sees an instance of this in Trip to the Moon: having landed on the moon, the intrepid French explorers encounter unfriendly extraterrestrials (who remarkably resemble those 'hostile natives' the French were encountering in their colonies at this very time!). The explorers flee to their spaceship and hurry back to the safety of Earth, their descent covered in four shots and twenty seconds of film time. In the first shot, the capsule leaves the moon, exiting at the bottom of the frame. In the second shot, the capsule moves from the top of the frame to the bottom of the frame. In the third the capsule moves from the top of the frame to the water, and in the fourth the capsule moves from the water's surface to the sea-bed. This sequence is filmed much as it might be today, with the movement of the spaceship following the convention of directional continuity, that is, an object or a character should appear to continue moving in the same direction from shot to shot, the consistent movement serving to establish the spatial and temporal relationships between individual shots. But while a modern film-maker would cut directly from shot to shot, Mélièlis dissolved from shot to shot, a transitional device that now implies a temporal ellipsis. In this regard, then, the sequence can still be confusing for a modern viewer.
Linking shots through dissolves was not in fact unusual in this period, and one can see another example in Alice in Wonderland ( Hepworth, 1903). However, another English film-maker, James Williamson, a member of the Brighton school, made two films in 1901, Stop Thief! and Fire!, in which direct cuts continue the action from shot to shot. Stop Thief! shows a crowd chasing a tramp who has stolen a joint from a butcher, motivating connections by the diagonal movement of characters through each of the individual shots; the thief and then his pursuers entering the frame at the back and exiting the frame past the camera. The fact that the camera remains with the scene until the last character has exited reveals how character movement motivates the editing. Film-makers found this editing device so effective that an entire genre of chase films arose, such as Personal ( Biograph, 1904), in which would-be brides pursue a wealthy Frenchman. Many films also incorporated a chase into their narratives, as did the famous 'first' Western The Great Train Robbery ( Edison, 1903), in which the posse pursues the bandits for several shots in the fllm's second half.
In Fire!, Williamson uses a similar editing strategy to that employed in Stop Thief!, the movement of a policeman between shots 1 and 2 and the movement of fire engines between shots 2 and 3 establishing spatial-temporal relations. But in the film's fourth and fifth shots, where other film-makers might have used overlapping action, Williamson experiments with a cut on movement that bears a strong resemblance to what is now called a match cut. Shot 4, an interior, shows a fireman coming through the window of a room in a burning house and rescuing the inhabitant. Shot 5 is an exterior of the burning house and begins as the fireman and the rescued victim emerge through the window. Although the continuity is 'imperfect' from a modern perspective, the innovation is considerable. In his 1902 film Life of An American Fireman, undoubtedly influenced by Fire!, Porter still employed overlapping action, showing a similar rescue in its entirety first from the interior and then from the exterior perspective. A year later, however, Williamson's compatriot G. A. Smith also created an 'imperfect' match cut, The Sick Kitten ( 1903), cutting from a long view of two children giving a kitten medicine to a closer view of the kitten licking the spoon.
During this period, film-makers also experimented with cinematically fracturing the space of the pro-filmic event, primarily to enhance the viewers' visual pleasure through a closer shot of the action rather than to emphasize details necessary for narrative comprehension. The Great Train Robbery includes a medium shot of the outlaw leader, Barnes, firing his revolver directly at the camera, which in modern prints usually concludes the film. The Edison catalogue, however, informed exhibitors that the shot could come at the beginning or the end of the film. Narratively non-specific shots of this nature became quite common, as in the British film Raid on a Coiner's Den ( Alfred Collins , 1904), which begins with a close-up insert of three hands coming into the frame from different directions, one holding a pistol, another a pair of handcuffs, and a third forming a clenched fist. In Porter's own oneshot film Photographing a Female Crook, a moving camera produces the closer view as it dollies into a woman contorting her face to prevent the police from taking an accurate mug shot.
Even shots that approximate the point of view of a character within the fiction, and which are now associated with the externalization of thoughts and emotions, were then there more to provide visual pleasure than narrative information. In yet another example of the innovative film-making of the Brighton school, Grandma's Reading Glasses ( G. A. Smith, Warwick Trading Company, 1900), a little boy looks through his grandmother's spectacles at a variety of objects, a watch, a canary, and a kitten, which the film shows in inserted close-ups. In The Gay Shoe Clerk ( Edison/ Porter, 1903) a shoeshop assistant flirts with his female customer. A cut-in approximates his view of her ankle as she raises her skirt in tantalizing fashion. This close-up insert is an example not only of the visual pleasure afforded by the 'cinema of attractions' but of the early cinema's voyeuristic treatment of the female body. Despite the fact that their primary purpose is not to emphasize narrative developments, these shots' attribution to a character in the film distinguishes them from the totally unmotivated closer views in The Great Train Robbery and Raid on a Coiner's Den.
The editing strategies of the pre- 1907 'cinema of attractions'were primarily designed to enhance visual pleasure rather than to tell a coherent, linear narrative. But many of these films did tell simple stories and audiences undoubtedly derived narrative, as well as visual, pleasure. Despite the absence of internal strategies to construct spatial-temporal relations and linear narratives, the original audiences made sense of these films, even though modern viewers can find them all but incoherent. This is because the films of the 'cinema of attractions' relied heavily on their audiences' knowledge of other texts, from which the films were directly derived or indirectly related. Early film-makers did learn how to make meaning in a new medium, but were not working in a vacuum. The cinema had deep roots in the rich popular culture of the age, drawing heavily during its infant years upon the narrative and visual conventions of other forms of popular entertainment. The pre-1907 cinema has been accused of being 'non-cinematic' and overly theatrical, and indeed film-makers like Mélièlis were heavily influenced by nondramatic theatrical practices, but for the most part lengthy theatrical dramas provided an inappropriate model for a medium that began with films of less than a minute, and only became an important source of inspiration as films grew longer during the transitional period. As the first Edison Kinetoscope films illustrate, vaudeville, with its variety format of unrelated acts and lack of concern for developed stories, constituted a very important source material and the earliest film-makers relied upon media such as the melodrama and pantomime (emphasizing visual effects rather than dialogue), magic lanterns, comics, political cartoons, newspapers, and illustrated song slides.
Magic lanterns, early versions of slide projectors often lit by kerosene lamps, proved a particularly important influence upon films, for magic lantern practices permitted the projection of 'moving pictures', which set precedents for the cinematic representation of time and space. Magic lanterns employed by travelling exhibitors often had elaborate lever and pulley mechanisms to produce movement within specially manufactured slides. Long slides pulled slowly through the slide holder produced the equivalent of a cinematic pan. Two slide holders mounted on the same lantern permitted the operator to produce a dissolve by switching rapidly between slides. The use of two slides also permitted 'editing', as operators could cut from long shots to close-ups, exteriors to interiors, and from characters to what they were seeing. Grandma's Reading Glasses, in fact, derives from a magic lantern show. Magic lantern lectures given by travelling exhibitors such as the Americans Burton Holmes and John Stoddard provided precedents for the train and travelogue films, the lantern illustrations often intercutting exterior views of the train, interior views of the traveller in the train, and views of scenery and of interesting incidents.
In addition to mimicking the visual conventions of other media, film-makers derived many of their films from stories already well known to the audience. Edison advertised its Night before Christmas ( Porter, 1905) by saying the film 'closely follows the time-honored Christmas legend by Clement Clarke Moore'. Both Biograph and Edison made films of the hit song 'Everybody Works but Father'. Vitagraph based its Happy Hooligan series on a cartoon tramp character whose popular comic strip ran in several New York newspaper Sunday supplements. Many early films presented synoptic versions of fairly complex narratives, their producers presumably depending upon their audiences'pre-existing knowledge of the subject-matter rather than upon cinematic conventions for the requisite narrative coherence. L'Épopée napoléonienne ('The Epic of Napoleon', 1903-4 Pathé) presents Napoleon's life through a series of tableaux, drawing upon well-known historical incidents (the coronation, the burning of Moscow) and anecdotes ( Napoleon standing guard for the sleeping sentry) but with no attempt at causal linear connection or narrative development among its fifteen shots. In similar fashion, multi-shot films such as Ten Nights in a Barroom ( Biograph, 1903) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (Vitagraph, 1903) presented only the highlights of these familiar and oftperformed melodramas, with shot connections provided not by editing strategies but by the audiences' knowledge of intervening events. The latter film, however, appears to be one of the earliest to have intertitles. These title cards, summarizing the action of the shot which followed, appeared at the same time as the multi-shot film, around 1903-4, and seem to indicate a recognition on the part of the producers of the necessity for internally rather than externally derived narrative coherence.

Cinema initially existed not as a popular commercial medium but as a scientific and educational novelty. The cinematic apparatus itself and its mere ability to reproduce movement constituted the attraction, rather than any particular film. In many countries, moving picture machines were first seen at world's fairs and scientific expositions: the Edison Company had planned to début its Kinetoscope at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair although it failed to assemble the machines in time, and moving picture machines were featured in several areas of the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris.
Fairly rapidly, cinema exhibition was integrated into pre-existing venues of 'popular culture' and 'refined culture', although the establishment of venues specifically for the exhibition of films did not come until 1905 in the United States and a little later elsewhere. In the United States, films were shown in the popular vaudeville houses, which by the turn of the century catered to a reasonably well-to-do audience willing to pay 25 cents for an afternoon or evening's entertainment. Travelling showmen, who lectured on educational topics, toured with their own projectors and showed films in local churches and operahouses, charging audiences in large metropolitan areas the same $2 that it cost to see a Broadway show. Cheaper and more popular venues included tent shows, set up at fairs and carnivals, and temporarily rented store-fronts, the forerunners of the famous nickelodeons. Early film audiences in the United States, therefore, tended to be quite heterogeneous, and dominated by no one class.
Early exhibition in Britain, as in most European countries, followed a similar pattern to the United States, with primary exhibition venues being fairgrounds, music halls, and disused shops. Travelling showmen played a crucial role in establishing the popularity of the new medium, making films an important attraction at fairgrounds. Given that fairs and music halls attracted primarily working-class patrons, early film audiences in Britain, as well as on the Continent, had a more homogeneous class base than in the United States.
Wherever films were shown, and whoever saw them, the exhibitor during this period often had as much control over the films' meanings as did the producers themselves. Until the advent of multi-shot films and intertitles, around 1903-4, the producers supplied the individual units but the exhibitor put together the programme, and single-shot films permitted decision-making about the projection order and the inclusion of other material such as lantern slide images and title cards. Some machines facilitated this process by combining moving picture projection with a stereopticon, or lantern slide projector, allowing the exhibitor to make a smooth transition between film and slides. In New York City, the Eden Musée put together a special show on the Spanish-American War, using lantern slides and twenty or more films from different producers. While still primarily an exhibitor, Cecil Hepworth suggested interspersing lantern slides with films and 'stringing the pictures together into little sets or episodes' with commentary linking the material together. When improvements in the projector permitted showing films that lasted more than fifty seconds, exhibitors began splicing twelve or more films together to form programmes on particular subjects. Not only could exhibitors manipulate the visual aspects of their programmes, they also added sound of various kinds, for, contrary to popular opinion, the silent cinema was never silent. At the very least, music, from the full orchestra to solo piano, accompanied all films shown in the vaudeville houses. Travelling exhibitors lectured over the films and lantern slides they projected, the spoken word capable of imposing a very different meaning on the image from the one that the producer may have intended. Many exhibitors even added sound effects -- horses' hooves, revolver shots, and so forth-and spoken dialogue delivered by actors standing behind the screen.
By the end of its first decade of existence, the cinema had established itself as an interesting novelty, one distraction among many in the increasingly frenetic pace of twentieth-century life. Yet the fledgeling medium was still very much dependent upon pre-existing media for its formal conventions and story-telling devices, upon somewhat outmoded individually-driven production methods, and upon pre-existing exhibition venues such as vaudeville and fairs. In its next decade, however, the cinema took major steps toward becoming the mass medium of the twentieth century, complete with its own formal conventions, industry structure, and exhibition venues.

Balio, Tino (ed.) ( 1985), The American Film Industry.
Barnes, John ( 1976). The Beginnings of the Cinema in England.
Bordwell, David, Staiger, Janet, and Thompson, Kristin ( 1985), The Classical Hollywood Cinema.
Chanan, Michael ( 1980), The Dream that Kicks.
Cherchi Paolo Usai, and Codelli, Lorenzo (eds.) ( 1990), Before Caligari.
Cosandey, Roland, Gaudreault, André, and Gunning, Tom (eds.) ( 1992), Une invention du diable?
Elsaesser, Thomas (ed.) ( 1990), Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative.
Fell, John L. ( 1983), Film before Griffith.
--- ( 1986), Film and the Narrative Tradition.
Gunning, Tom ( 1986), "The Cinema of Attractions".
Holman, Roger (ed.) ( 1982), Cinema 1900-1906: An Analytic Study.
Low, Rachael, and Manvell, Roger ( 1948), The History of the British Film, 1896-1906.
Musser, Charles ( 1990), The Emergence of Cinema.
--- ( 1991), Before the Nickelodeon.

En: The Oxford History of World Cinema EDITED BY GEOFFREY NOWELL-SMITH

The Early Years, por Cherchi Usai

Origins and Survival

The history of cinema did not begin with a 'big bang'. No single event -- whether Edison's patented invention of the Kinetoscope in 1891 or the Lumière brothers' first projection of films to a paying audience in 1895 -- can be held to separate a nebulous pre-cinema from cinema proper. Rather there is a continuum which begins with early experiments and devices aimed at presenting images in sequence (from Étienne Gaspard Robertson's Phantasmagoria of 1798 to Émile Reynaud's Pantomimes lumineuses of 1892) and includes not only the emergence in the 1890s of an apparatus recognizable as cinema but also the forerunners of electronic image-making. The first experiments in transmitting images by a television-type device are in fact as old as the cinema: Adriano de Paiva published his first studies on the subject in 1880, and Georges Rignoux seems to have achieved an actual transmission in 1909. Meanwhile certain 'pre-cinema' techniques continued to be used in conjunction with cinema proper during the years around 1900-5 when the cinema was establishing itself as a new mass medium of entertainment and instruction, and lantern slides with movement effects continued for a long time to be shown in close conjunction with film screenings.
Magic lantern, film, and television, therefore, do not constitute three separate universes (and fields of study), but belong together as part of a single process of evolution. It is none the less possible to distinguish them, not only technologically and in terms of the way they were diffused, but also chronologically. The magic lantern show gradually gives way to the film show at the beginning of the twentieth century, while television emerges fully only in the second half of the century. In this succession, what distinguishes cinema is on the one hand its technological base -- photographic images projected in quick succession giving the illusion of continuity -- and on the other hand its use prevailingly as large-scale public entertainment.

Films produce their illusion of continuous movement by passing a series of discrete images in quick succession in front of a light source enabling the images to be projected on a screen. Each image is held briefly in front of the light and then rapidly replaced with the next one. If the procedure is rapid and smooth enough, and the images similar enough to each other, discontinuous images are then perceived as continuous and an illusion of movement is created. The perceptual process involved was known about in the nineteenth century, and given the name persistence of vision, since the explanation was thought to lie in the persistence of the image on the retina of the eye for long enough to make perception of each image merge into the perception of the next one. This explanation is no longer regarded as adequate, and modern psychology prefers to see the question in terms of brain functions rather than of the eye alone. But the original hypothesis was sufficiently fertile to lead to a number of experiments in the 1880s and 1890s aimed at reproducing the so-called persistence of vision effect with sequential photographs.
The purposes of these experiments were various. They were both scientific and commercial, aimed at analysing movement and at reproducing it. In terms of the emergence of cinema the most important were those which set out to reproduce movement naturally, by taking pictures at a certain speed (a minimum of ten or twelve per second and generally higher) and showing them at the same speed. In fact throughout the silent period the correspondence between camera speed and projection was rarely perfect. A projection norm of around 16 pictures ('frames') per second seems to have been the most common well into the 1920s, but practices differed considerably and it was always possible for camera speeds to be made deliberately slower or faster to produce effects of speeded-up or slowed-down motion when the film was projected. It was only with the coming of synchronized sound-tracks, which had to be played at a constant speed, that a norm of 24 frames per second (f.p.s.) became standard for both camera and projector.
First of all, however, a mechanism had to be created which would enable the pictures to be exposed in the camera in quick succession and projected the same way. A roll of photographic film had to be placed in the camera and alternately held very still while the picture was exposed and moved down very fast to get on to the next picture, and the same sequence had to be followed when the film was shown. Moving the film and then stopping it so frequently put considerable strain on the film itself -- a problem which was more severe in the projector than in the camera, since the negative was exposed only once whereas the print would be shown repeatedly. The problem of intermittent motion, as it is called, exercised the minds of many of the pioneers of cinema, and was solved only by the introduction of a small loop in the threading of the film where it passed the gate in front of the lens (see inset).

The moving image as a form of collective entertainment -what we call 'cinema' -- developed and spread in the form of photographic images printed on a flexible and semitransparent celluloid base, cut into strips 35 mm. wide. This material -- 'film' -- was devised by Henry M. Reichenbach for George Eastman in 1889, on the basis of inventions variously attributed to the brothers J. W. and I. S. Hyatt ( 1865), to Hannibal Goodwin ( 1888), and to Reichenbach himself. The basic components of the photographic film used since the end of the nineteenth century have remained unchanged over the years. They are: a transparent base, or support; a very fine layer of adhesive substrate made of gelatine; and a light-sensitive emulsion which makes the film opaque on one side. The emulsion generally consists of a suspension of silver salts in gelatine and is attached to the base by means of the layer of adhesive substrate. The base of the great majority of 35 mm. films produced before February 1951 consists of cellulose nitrate, which is a highly flammable substance. From that date onwards the nitrate base has been replaced by one of cellulose acetate, which is far less flammable, or increasingly by polyester. From early times, however, various forms of 'safety' film were tried out, at first using cellulose diacetate (invented by Eichengrun and Becker as early as 1901), or by coating the nitrate in non-flammable substances. The first known examples of these procedures date back to 1909. Safety film became the norm for non-professional use after the First World War.
The black and white negative film used up to the mid1920s was so-called orthochromatic. It was sensitive to ultraviolet, violet, and blue light, and rather less sensitive to green and yellow. Red light did not affect the silver bromide emulsion at all. To prevent parts of the scene from appearing on the screen only in the form of indistinct dark blobs, early cinematographers had to practise a constant control of colour values on the set. Certain colours had to be removed entirely from sets and costumes. Actresses avoided red lipstick, and interior scenes were shot against sets painted in various shades of grey. A new kind of emulsion called panchromatic was devised for Gaumont by the Eastman Kodak Company in 1912. In just over a decade it became the preferred stock for all the major production companies. It was less light-sensitive in absolute terms than orthochrome, which meant that enhanced systems of studio lighting had to be developed. But it was far better balanced and allowed for the reproduction of a wider range of greys.
In the early days, however, celluloid film was not the only material tried out in the showing of motion pictures. Of alternative methods the best known was the Mutoscope. This consisted of a cylinder to which were attached several hundred paper rectangles about 70 mm. wide. These paper rectangles contained photographs which, if watched in rapid sequence through a viewer, gave the impression of continuous movement. There were even attempts to produce films on glass: the Kammatograph ( 1901) used a disc with a diameter of 30 cm., containing some 600 photographic frames arranged in a spiral. There were experiments involving the use of translucent metal with a photographic emulsion on it which could be projected by reflection, and films with a surface in relief which could be passed under the fingers of blind people, on a principle similar to Braille.

The 35 mm. width (or 'gauge') for cellulose was first adopted in 1892 by Thomas Edison for his Kinetoscope, a viewing device which enabled one spectator at a time to watch brief segments of film. The Kinetoscope was such a commercial success that subsequent machines for reproducing images in movement adopted 35 mm. as a standard format. This practice had the support of the Eastman Company, whose photographic film was 70 mm. wide, and therefore only had to be cut lengthwise to produce film of the required width. It is also due to the mechanical structure of the Kinetoscope that 35 mm. film has four perforations, roughly rectangular in shape, on both sides of each frame, used for drawing the film through the camera and projector. Other pioneers at the end of the nineteenth century used a different pattern. The Lumière brothers, for example, used a single circular perforation on each side. But it was the Edison method which was soon adopted as standard, and remains so today. It was the Edison company too who set the standard size and shape of the 35 mm. frame, at approximately 1 in. wide and 0.75 in. high.
Although these were to become the standards, there were many experiments with other gauges of film stock, both in the early period and later. In 1896 the Prestwich Company produced a 60 mm. film strip, an example of which is preserved in the National Film and Television Archive in London, and the same width (but with a different pattern of perforations) was used by Georges Demený in France. The Veriscope Company in America introduced a 63 mm. gauge; one film in this format still survives -- a record of the historic heavyweight championship fight between Corbett and Fitzsimmons in 1897. Around the same time Louis Lumière also experimented with 70 mm. film which yielded a picture area 60 mm. wide and 45 mm. high. All these systems encountered technical problems, particularly in projection. Though some further experiments took place towards the end of the silent period, the use of wide gauges such as 65 and 70 mm. did not come into its own until the late 1950s.
More important than any attempts to expand the image, however, were those aimed at reducing it and producing equipment suitable for non-professional users.
In 1900 the French company Gaumont began marketing its 'Chrono de Poche', a portable camera which used 15 mm. film with a single perforation in the centre. Two years later the Warwick Trading Company in England introduced a 17.5 mm. film for amateurs, designed to be used on a machine called the Biokam which (like the first Lumière machines) doubled as camera, printer, and projector; this idea was taken up by Ernemann in Germany and then by Pathé in France in the 1920s. Meanwhile in 1912 Pathé had also introduced a system that used 28 mm. film on a non-flammable diacetate base and had a picture area only slightly smaller than 35 mm.
An alternative to celluloid film, the Kammatograph (c. 1900) used a glass disc with the film frames arranged in a spiral
The amateur gauge par excellence, however, was 16 mm. on a non-flammable base, devised by Eastman Kodak in 1920. In its original version, known as the Kodascope, this worked on the reversal principle, producing a direct positive print on the original film used in the camera. Kodak launched their 16 mm. film on the market in 1923, and around the same time Pathé brought out their 'PathéBaby', using 9.5 mm. non-flammable stock. For many years 9.5 was a fierce competitor with 16 mm., and it survived for a long time as a reduced projection gauge both for amateur film-making and for the showing of films originally made on 35 mm.
Filoteo Alberini, unidentified 70 mm. film ( 1911). Frame enlargement from a negative in the film collection at George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
There were also more exotic formats, using film divided into parallel rows which could be exposed in succession. Of these only Edison's Home Kinetoscope, using 22 mm. film divided into three parallel rows with an image-width of just over 5 mm., each of them separated by a line of perforations, had any significant commercial application.

As early as 1896, copies of films which had been handcoloured frame by frame with very delicate brushes were available. The results achieved by this technique were often spectacular, as in the case of Georges Méliès's Le Royaume des fées ( 1903), whose images have the glow of medieval miniatures. It was very difficult, however, to ensure that the colour occupied a precise area of the frame. To achieve this, Pathé in 1906 patented a mechanical method of colouring the base called Pathécolor. This method, also known as 'au pochoir' in French and stencil in English, allowed for the application of half a dozen different tonalities.
A far less expensive method was to give the film a uniform colour for each frame or sequence in order to reinforce the figurative effect or dramatic impact. Basically there were three ways of doing this. There was tinting, which was achieved either by applying a coloured glaze to the base, or by dipping the film in a solution of coloured dyes, or by using stock which was already coloured. Then there was toning, in which the silver in the emulsion was replaced with a coloured metallic salt, without affecting the gelatine on the film. And finally there was mordanting, a variety of toning in which the photographic emulsion was treated with a non-soluble silver salt capable of fixing an organic colouring agent. Tinting, toning, mordanting, and mechanical colouring could be combined, thus multiplying the creative possibilities of each technique. A particularly fascinating variation on tinting technique is provided by the Handschiegl Process (also known as the Wyckoff-DeMille Process, 1916-31), which was an elaborate system derived from the techniques of lithography.
The first attempts (by Frederick Marshall Lee and Edward Raymond Turner) to realize colour films using the superimposition of red, green, and blue images date back to 1899. But it was only in 1906 that George Albert Smith achieved a commercially viable result with his Kinemacolor. In front of the camera Smith placed a semi-transparent disc divided into two sectors: red and blue-green. The film was then projected with the same filters at a speed of 32 frames per second, and the two primary colours were thus 'merged' in an image which showed only slight chromatic variations but produced an undeniable overall effect. Smith's invention was widely imitated and developed into three-colour systems by Gaumont in 1913 and the German Agfa Company in 1915.
The first actual colour-sensitive emulsion was invented by Eastman Kodak around 1915 and shortly afterwards marketed under the trademark Kodachrome. This was still only a two-colour system, but it was the first stage in a series of remarkable developments. Around the same time a company founded by Herbert T. Kalmus, W. Burton Westcott, and Daniel Frost Comstock -- the Technicolor Motion Picture Corporation -- began experimenting with a system based on the additive synthesis of two colours; disappointed by the results thus obtained, the three changed tack in 1919 and began exploring (still with two colours only) the possibility of using the principle of subtractive synthesis first elaborated by Duclos du Hauron in 1868. This worked by combining images each of which had filtered out light of a particular colour. When the images were combined, the colour balance was restored. Using the subtractive principle the Technicolor team were ready within three years to present a colour film -- The Toll of the Sea ( Chester M. Franklin, Metro Pictures, 1922) -created on two negatives and consisting of two sets of positive images with separate colours printed back to back.
The late 1910s and early 1920s saw many other inventions in the field of colour, but by the end of the decade it was clear that Kalmus and his associates were way ahead of the field, and it was their system that was to prevail for professional film-making throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Meanwhile the great majority of films during the silent period continued to be produced using one or other of the methods of colouring the print described above. Literally black and white films were in the minority, generally those made by smaller companies or comic shorts.

Almost all 'silent' films had some sort of sound accompaniment. Early film shows had lecturers who gave a commentary on the images going past on the screen, explaining their content and meaning to the audience. In a number of non-western countries this practice continued long beyond the early period. In Japan, where silent cinema remained the rule well into the 1930s, there developed the art of the benshi, who provided gestures and an original text to accompany the image.
Along with speech came music. This was at first improvised on the piano, then adapted from the current popular repertoire, and then came to be specially commissioned. On big occasions this music would be performed by orchestras, choirs, and opera singers, while a small band or just a pianist would play in less luxurious establishlnents. Exhibitors who could not afford the performance of original music had two choices. The first was to equip a pianist, organist, or small band with a musical score, generally consisting of selections of popular tunes and classics in the public domain ('cue sheets'), which provided themes suitable to accompany different episodes of the film. The second, more drastic, was to fall back on mechanical instruments, from the humble pianola to huge fairground organs powered by compressed air into which the 'score' was inserted in the form of a roll of punched paper.
Music was sometimes accompanied by noise effects. These were usually obtained by performers equipped with a wide array of objects reproducing natural and artificial sounds. But the same effects could be produced by machines, of which a particularly famous and elaborate example was the one in use at the Gaumont Hippodrome cinema in Paris.
From the beginning, however, the pioneers of the moving image had more grandiose ambitions. As early as April 1895, Edison put forward a system for synchronizing his twin inventions of phonograph and Kinetoscope. Pathé also seems to have attempted the synchronization of films and discs around 1896. All such systems, however, were hampered by the lack of amplification to project the sound in large auditoriums.
The alternative to synchronizing films and discs was to print the sound directly on the film. The first experiments in this direction took place at the beginning of the century, and in 1906 Eugéne-Auguste Lauste patented a machine capable of recording images and sound on the same base.
An early example of split-screen technique in an unidentified documentary on Venice. Title on print Santa Lucia, c. 1912
It was only after the First World War that the decisive steps were taken towards the achievement of synchronized sound film. The German team of Vogt, Engel, and Massolle established a method of recording sound photographically by converting the sounds into light patterns on a separate film strip and their TriErgon system was premièred in Berlin in 1922. Kovalendov in the Soviet Union and Lee De Forest in the United States were also working in the same direction. De Forest's Phonofilm ( 1923) involved the use of a photoelectric cell to read a sound-track printed on the same strip of film as the image. Meanwhile the introduction of electric recording and the thermionic valve as an offshoot of radio technology solved the problem of amplifying the sound to make it audible in theatres.
In 1926 the Hollywood studio Warner Bros. presented Don Juan, with John Barrymore, using the Vitaphone system of sound synchronization. This was a sound-ondisc system, linking the projector to large discs, 16 in. in diameter, which ran at a speed of 33¼ r.p.m., with the needle starting at the centre and going outwards. The Vitaphone system was used again the following year for the first 'talking' picture, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, and continued in being for a few more years. Meanwhile a rival studio, Fox, had bought up the rights on the TriErgon and Photophone patents, using them to add sound to films that had already been shot. Fox's Movietone soundon-film system proved far more practical than Vitaphone, and became the basis for the generalized introduction of synchronized sound in the early 1930s.

The size and shape of the 35 mm. film frame remained virtually unchanged throughout the silent period, at about 23 mm. Oust under 1 in.) wide and 18 mm. (0.75 in.) high. The spacing of the frames meant each foot of film contained 16 frames. This too has remained unaltered, and continues to be the standard today. When projected, the ratio between width and height worked out at between 1.31 and 1.38 to 1. With the coming of sound the frame size was altered slightly to accommodate the sound-track, but the projection ratio remained roughly the same -- at approximately 4:3 -- until the arrival of widescreen processes in the 1950s. In the silent and early sound periods there were a few attempts to change the size and shape of the projected picture. The sides of the frame were occasionally masked out, to produce a square picture, as in the case of Murnau's Tabu ( 1931). In 1927 the Frenchman Henri Chrétien presented the first anamorphic system, known as Hypergonar, in which the image was 'squeezed' by the camera lens to accommodate a wider picture on the frame, and then 'unsqueezed' in the projector for presentation on a wide screen. This was an early forerunner of CinemaScope and the other anamorphic systems which came into commercial use in the 1950s. Other experiments included Magnascope ( 1926), which used a wide-angle projector lens to fill a large screen, and devices for linking multiple projectors together. As early as 1900 Raoul Grimoin-Sanson attempted to hitch up ten 70 mm. projectors to produce a 360-degree 'panorama' completely surrounding the spectator. More famous (though equally ephemeral) was the Polyvision system used in the celebrated 'triptych' sequence in Abel Gance's Napoléon ( 1927), where three strips of film are simultaneously projected alongside each other to produce a single image.

The normal method of projection from the earliest times involved placing the projector at the back of the hall and projecting the image on to the screen in a cone of light over the heads of the audience. Occasional attempts were made to devise alternative spatial arrangements. In 1909, for example, the German Messter Company experimented with showing its 'Alabastra' colour films through a complex system of mirrors on to a thin veiled screen from a projection booth placed under the theatre floor. It was also possible to project on to the screen from behind, but this process (known as back-projection) took up a lot of space and has rarely been used for public presentation. It came into use in the sound period as a form of special effect during film-making allowing actors to perform in front of a previously photographed landscape background.
Throughout the silent years projectors, whether handcranked or electrically powered, all ran at variable speeds, enabling the operator to adjust the speed of the projector to that of the camera. For its part, camera speed varied according to a number of factors: the amount of available light during shooting, the sensitivity of the film stock, and the nature of the action being recorded. To keep the movements of the characters on the screen 'natural', projectionists in the years before 1920 showed films at various speeds, most often between 14 and 18 frames per second. (The flicker effect that these relatively slow speeds tended to produce was eliminated by the introduction early in the century of a three-bladed shutter which opened and closed three times during the showing of each frame.) The average speed of projection increased as time went on, and by the end of the period it had regularly reached a norm of 24 frames per second, which became the standard for sound film. Faster and slower speeds were occasionally used for colour film experiments or in some amateur equipment.
The quality of projection was greatly affected by the type of light source being used. Before electric arc lights became standard, the usual method of producing light for the projector was to heat a piece of lime or a similar substance until it glowed white hot. The efficacy of this method (known as 'limelight') was very dependent on the nature and quality of the fuel used to heat the lime. The usual fuels were a mixture of coal-gas and oxygen or of ether and oxygen. Acetylene was also tried, but soon abandoned as it produced a weak light and gave off a disagreeable smell.

It is not known (and probably never will be known) exactly how many films of all types were produced during the silent period, but the figure is almost certainly in the order of 150,000, of which not more than 20,000 to 25,000 are known to have survived. With the rapid growth of the film business, films soon came to be printed in large numbers. For Den hvide slavehandel II ('The white slave trade II', August Blom, 1911) the Danish company Nordisk made no fewer than 260 copies for world-wide distribution. On the other hand many early American films listed in distributors' catalogues seem to have sold not more than a couple of copies, and in some cases it may be that none at all were printed, due to lack of demand.
Since the cinema was from the outset an international business, films had to be shipped from one country to another, often in different versions. Films might be recorded on two side-by-side cameras simultaneously, producing two different negatives. Intertitles would be shot in different languages, and shipped with the prints or a duplicate negative of the film to a foreign distributor. Sometimes only one frame of each title would be provided, to be expanded to full length when copies were made, and some films have survived with only these 'flash titles' or with no titles at all. Sometimes different endings were produced to suit the tastes of the public in various parts of the world. In eastern Europe for example, there was a taste for the 'Russian' or tragic ending in preference to the 'happy end' expected by audiences in America. It was also common to issue coloured prints of a film for show in luxury theatres and cheaper black and white ones for more modest locales. Finally, censorship, both national and local, often imposed cuts or other changes in films at the time of release, and many American films in particular have survived in different forms as a result of the varied censorship practices of state or city censorship boards.

In the early years of the cinema films were looked on as essentially ephemeral and little attempt was made to preserve them once they reached the end of their commercial life. The appeal of the Polish scholar Bolesław Matuszewski in 1898 for a permanent archive of film images to be created to serve as a record for future generations fell on deaf ears, and it was not until the 1930s that the first film archives were created in a number of countries to preserve surviving films for posterity. By that time, however, many films had been irretrievably lost and many others dispersed. The world's archives have now collected together some 30,000 prints of silent films, but the lack of resources for cataloguing them means that it is not known how many of these are duplicate prints of the same version, or, in the case of what appear to be duplicates, whether there are significant differences between versions of films with the same title. While the number of films collected continues to rise, the number of surviving films is still probably less than 20 per cent of those thought to have been made.
Meanwhile, even as the number of rediscovered films rises, a further problem is created by the perishable nature of the nitrate base on which the vast majority of silent (and early sound) films were printed. For not only is cellulose nitrate highly flammable, which may in some cases lead to spontaneous combustion: it is also liable to decay and in the course of decay it destroys the emulsion which bears the image. Even in the best conservation conditions (that is to say at very low temperatures and the correct level of humidity), the nitrate base begins to decompose from the moment it is produced. In the course of the process the film emits various gases, and in particular nitrous anhydride, which, combined with air and with the water in the gelatine, produces nitrous and nitric acids. These acids corrode the silver salts of the emulsion, thereby destroying the image along with its support, until eventually the whole film is dissolved.

The decomposition of nitrate film can be slowed down, but not halted. For this reason film archives are engaged in a struggle to prolong its life until such time as the image can be transferred to a different support. Unfortunately the cellulose acetate base on to which the transfer is made is itself liable to eventual decay unless kept under ideal atmospheric conditions. Even so, it is far more stable than nitrate and infinitely preferable to magnetic (video) tape, which is not only perishable but is unsuitable for reproducing the character of the original film. It may be that some time in the future it will prove possible to preserve film images digitally, but this has not yet been demonstrated to be a practical possibility.
The aim of restoration is to reproduce the moving image in a form as close as possible to that in which it was originally shown. But all copies that are made are necessarily imperfect. For a start, they have had to be duplicated from one base on to another, with an inevitable loss of some of the original quality. It is also extremely difficult to reproduce colour techniques such as tinting and toning, even if the film is copied on to colour stock, which, given the expense, is far from being universal practice. Many films which were originally coloured are now only seen, if at all, in black and white form.
To appreciate a silent film in the form in which it was originally seen by audiences, it is necessary to have the rare good luck of seeing an original nitrate print (increasingly difficult because of modern fire regulations), and even then it has to be recognized that each copy of a film has its own unique history and every showing will vary according to which print is being shown and under what conditions. Different projection, different music, the likely absence of an accompanying live show or light effects, mean that the modern showing of silent films offers only a rough approximation of what silent film screening was like for audiences at the time.

Abramson, Albert ( 1987), The History of Television, 1880 to 1941.
Cherchi Paolo Usai ( 1994), Burning Passions: An Introduction to the Study of Silent Cinema.
Hampton, Benjamin B. ( 1931), A History of the Movies.
Liesegang, Franz Paul ( 1986), Moving and Projected Images: A Chronology of Pre-cinema History.
Magliozzi, Ronald S. (ed.) ( 1988), Treasures from the Film Archives.
Rathbun, John B. ( 1914), Motion Picture Making and Exhibiting.

En: The Oxford History of World Cinema EDITED BY GEOFFREY NOWELL-SMITH