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This interesting footage is particularly worth seeing as a companion
piece to, and as a comparison with, the Lumière classic, "La Sortie des
usines Lumière". The two features have much in common, and they are
interesting for many of the same reasons.
In both movies, there is a rather sizable crowd moving towards the camera, knowing that they are being filmed. The main difference is that this movie features professional photographers, as they arrive to attend a congress of a photographic society. Their reactions are largely the same as were those of the factory workers, but many of the "professionals" seem more determined to hide their curiosity. On the other hand, a number of them show their interest even more eagerly, tipping their hats in a particularly jaunty fashion, demonstrating a bit of showmanship of their own.
As with the footage of the factory workers, the motion towards the camera is effective, and here the background scenery also has some interesting details. This film is also self-referential in one interesting respect, since the subjects of the film were also its initial audience. It's all rather interesting to take in.
To many historians, December 28, 1895, is the date considered as the
day where cinema was born, as it was in that cold day of winter when
the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière gave the first public screening
of their new invention, the Cinématographe. The brothers' devise would
change history of entertainment forever, as it took the idea of motion
pictures from the uncomfortable and individual experience of Edison's
Kinetoscope, to the more enjoyable atmosphere of a movie projected on a
screen. On that day the brothers showed 10 films, and the majority of
them were of the kind that later would be known as "actuality films",
movies showing an everyday event. However, one of the 10 films was a
bit more than a typical "actuality film", as it was actually the
register of an event in a fashion more akin to what we know now as
documentary films: it was the arrival of the Photographical Congress to
While December 28, 1895, was certainly the very first time the brothers showed their invention to the world, it wasn't really the first time the brothers' invention was shown to an audience, as months earlier, the brothers had been doing private screenings for the scientific community of France. The 1895 Photographical Congress that was celebrated at the community of Neuville-sur-Saône in Lyon, was one of the places where the Lumières screened their films for the first time. "Neuville-sur-Saône: Débarquement du congrès des photographes à Lyon", is essentially the recording of the arrival of the members of the Photographical Congress to Neuville-sur-Saône, marking the first time a camera was used to capture something more "special" than people moving or trains arriving. This time the new medium was being used to actually register the event in real time, pretty much in the same way as TV News work today.
Nevertheless, that was not the only thing that "Neuville-sur-Saône" an interesting early short film. The movie was shot when the Congress arrived, early in the morning, and that very same day was shown to its protagonists in the afternoon. One has to wonder how the photographers felt when they saw the images of their arrival actually moving, as if the even was being enacted again. The very same people that looked into the camera (perhaps thinking it was a normal photography) was now watching themselves in a motion picture depicting short seconds of their lives. It was certainly a unique experience, and no doubt the success of "Neuville-sur-Saône: Débarquement du congrès des photographes à Lyon" and their other films that day prompted the brothers to keep working in their preparation for that December day, when the world witnessed what a group of photographers did (and saw) months ago. 7/10
This film is a virtual remake of 'Sortie d'Usine', perhaps making it the
first self-referential movie. Instead of the workers streaming out of the
factory, we have fellow cinematograph specialists disembarking a liner for
congress. Instead of workers silently doing their masters' bidding, we
colleagues, friends, peers, fearlessly greeting the camera as equals.
This is a film about film - the Congressionists walk with their cameras; this film was precessed immediately for viewing at the conference. Already, the Lumieres' desire to 'objectively' record the world has turned into a naval-gazing admission of defeat, of the impossibility of objectivity untainted by subjectivity or ideology. Godard once suggested that the most honest film would be of a camera recording itself in a mirror. This film is an early grasping of what he means.
This is quite unique in the history of cinema, not only because it is one of the first films ever made, but because the people who appear on it are also the members of the first audience to see it projected onto a screen. The people filmed disembarking from a boat are photographers arriving for a congress on photography at which the Lumiere's demonstrated their invention - and how better to amaze your peers than to show them their own moving image smiling, waving or studiously ignoring the curious contraption greeting them on the dock. It's quite an interesting film - better than the more famous sortie de l'usine because the workers leaving the factory in that film were aware that they were to be filmed and were instructed not to stare at the camera (although a few obviously couldn't resist...)
I watched this film on a DVD that was rammed with short films from the
period. I didn't watch all of them as the main problem with these type
of things that their value is more in their historical novelty value
rather than entertainment. So to watch them you do need to be put in
the correct context so that you can keep this in mind and not watch it
with modern eyes. With the Primitives & Pioneers DVD collection though
you get nothing to help you out, literally the films are played one
after the other (the main menu option is "play all") for several hours.
With this it is hard to understand their relevance and as an
educational tool it falls down as it leaves the viewer to fend for
themselves, which I'm sure is fine for some viewers but certainly not
the majority. What it means is that the DVD saves you searching the web
for the films individually by putting them all in one place but
that's about it.
Anyway onto this film which is as the title suggests, lots of people getting off a boat. This is essentially a rerun of the Lumière film that saw lots of people leaving a factory and it is as exciting. The only thing that did make it interesting to me was the people in question react differently from those leaving the works in the other film. Maybe it is to do with their class, or maybe they are more savvy about cameras or maybe they are just told to do this but some wave, smile etc a reaction you would get today but interesting to see it then when such a thing was very much a novelty.
Other than this point of interest though, I found the film to be what it now is a historical novelty that can only be seen as such.
Louis Lumiere was a businessman. Since he was in the photographic
business (his families factory in Lyon, France produced what many
considered to be the best treated glass plates used in photography at
that time - the mid 1890s), he was also a photographer. But, I am sure,
he considered himself first-and-foremost a scientist. He considered his
new invention, the Cinematopgraph, to be a scientific instrument. That
is why during 1894 and 1895, he spent quite a bit of effort to gain
approbation from various scientific groups. He wanted to keep the
photographic community, in which he was well known, appraised of his
endeavors. One method of doing this was to attend, in June 1895, a
congress of photographers that was gathering at Neuville-Sur-Soane - a
town just a short distance north of Lyon.
Louis positioned his camera at the base of a gangplank down which delegates to the conference descended from a Soane river ferry. Certainly, all of the descending men and women knew, by that time, of Louis' invention - although it had not yet been made public. Later that evening the Lumiere brothers showed the congress attendees eight of their less-than-one-minute films. And in one of these films the members saw themselves descending from the boat.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
And a whole lot of them is what we we see in one of Louis Lumière's earlier short films. They're stepping off the boat in their expensive suits, posh hats and walking sticks. Shortly afterward the ladies follow, equally well-dressed and then many more pompous men. The whole spectacle goes for 45 seconds, rather long for a Lumière short film from 1895. Everybody depicted seems to be in a quite good mood and even if they're certainly not 100% sure what exactly is going on, they're smiling to the man with the camera, occasionally even greeting him by taking their cylinders off if their hands aren't occupied by holding a cigarette. Okay short-film, not as boring as some others, but not among the very best from Lumière either.
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