Like all the early Lumiere Brothers shorts, this consists of just one shot, of Auguste Lumiere, his wife and baby daughter having breakfast. in a rural setting. In itself completely banal, ... See full summary »
Like all the early Lumiere Brothers shorts, this consists of just one shot, of Auguste Lumiere, his wife and baby daughter having breakfast. in a rural setting. In itself completely banal, the shot derives its power from the fact that shows us living people filmed in a real setting over a hundred years ago. It is also historically important for being part of the original Lumiere Brothers film programme shown on December 28, 1895 Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
collision between the tradition of family values, the modernity of the new medium, and the inscrutability of nature.
Two loving parents feed their happy baby on the perch of their country home. It is often said that these early Lumiere shorts are primitive because they have not yet mastered basic film grammar, such as camera movement, editing or the close-up, films like these being a simple, static set-u;, the camera pointing at the scene from a middle distance. But as filmmakers like Godard, Ozu and Kitano, for instance, realised, that very grammar can be a violation of the integrity of the image, forcing us to concentrate of the structure in which the image is only a unit, rather than the image itself.
There is nothing primitive or simple about this particular image; as critics have noted, this film offers two levels of movement, one human, recognisable, communal (the family); the other (the trees blowing) part of a different order altogether, of nature, cycles, immemoriality. So while the family represents a similar idea of continuity as the trees, of the species being reproduced, it sis also offered in stark contraast to them, as each member of the trio will eventually die, for all the nourishment and fertility, while nature lives on, indifferent.
This frisson of mortality undercuts the film's essential conservatism, and differentiates it from the sinister surveillance of the earlier 'Sortie d'Usine'. This recognition that the powers of the camera-wielding Lumieres are in fact limited, that they are not as omniscient as they once thought they were, is perhaps dramatised in the figure of the father, one of the brothers, one of the first great director-stars, paving the way for Chaplin, Keaton and Welles. His crossing the line from director to star, from passive to active, from subject to object, represents a breach between the observer and observed, a breaking of that invisible line, a destruction of that contract Hollywood will try so desperately to enforce, between reality and fiction. The watcher is now the watched, distinctions and hierarchies have been abolished.
Ironically, immortality has been conversely guarenteed - while the man behind the camera is lost, fading into a mere eye, a role taken over by every viewer, the actor brother is trapped forever in this rigid, simple domestic scenario, feeding the ever-hungry, unthinking baby, a harbinger of the medium he invented.
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