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With the success of the Cinematograph exhibitions in Paris during
1895 and extending into 1896, the Lumieres made decisions on how to
the future of the device. Jules Carpentier, the Paris-based engineer
had made 25 of the machines for Louis Lumiere during 1895, was now
commissioned to manufacture two-hundred more. No machine would be sold.
The Lumieres would train cameramen/projectionists at their Lyon, France
headquarters and send them around the world to capture views (soon to be
called "actualities") that would be sent back to France for processing
then distributed for exhibition. Exhibitors were franchised by the
company but were required to use Lumiere employees, who were
projectionists, for all their presentations.
It was under the above arrangement, that a Lumiere cameraman arrived in Jerusalem during 1896. One film that he made had to have a profound effect on the audience of that day. People who had never been more than a few miles from home could be in Jerusalem and for one minute, actually see their departure from that holy city in that holy land.
We are standing on the observation platform, on the rear car of a train, for our last look at Jerusalem which is seen only through our eyes. Men are standing on the tracks looking at us. In the background are what appears to be stone ruins in an arid area. Abruptly, the train moves away from this scene and the view widens as the men appear to wave good-bye. As massive stone walls come into view, we realize there is a train station platform. We glide past the crowd in front of the station; there to bid us farewell. Christians, Jews or Muslims can relate to the people on the platform; seemingly wistful at our departure. There is a visceral appeal of being in a wonderful place and leaving it with sadness. Forty-four seconds after the start, the screen goes blank.
This type of picture, where the viewer is propelled through a scene by an unseen force, would be used (during the next few years) by a large number of cinematographers and would be called a "phantom ride."
A camera attached to a train pulls out of a station in Jerusalem, watched
genial onlookers. If one's mind and imagination are open, the effect is
thrilling, taking to its logical conclusion movement within a static frame,
and also reversing the experience of 'Arrivee d'un train'; now the audience
is no longer frightened by an oncoming threat, a passive victim to a
locomotive object, but part of that movement, with the camera transporting
us from reality, from the stable and still, a transport the cinema has made
its raison d'etre.
The film is cherisable for other reasons - the smiles of the observers left behind; for the complex interplay of gazing this prompts - with whom do we identify, the looker or the thing looked at: we share properties with both; the beautiful gliding movement which does not mirror any experience I've ever had on a train, that transport medium on its way out as cinema begins its conquest.
Most moving of all is the vision of late-19th century Jerusalem that rises miraculously from the reassuringly familiar station, vast ruins which are not as other ruins, but seem like petrified tears, as with the trees in 'Sleepy Hollow' or 'Saddle the Wind'. This view of a city, already weighed down with history and contention, yet untainted by the blight of the 20th century, is breathtaking, and a little humbling.
This has some of the most fascinating and beautiful footage of any of
the very earliest movies. The resourceful camera idea works out very
well, and the setting could hardly have been more interesting. The
blend of images and ideas in this short feature has rarely been matched
in such a short running time. It's well worth watching a number of
times, in order to appreciate all of the details.
Even aside from the subject being filmed, the film is quite resourceful in producing a reversed form of the "phantom rides" that were one of the staples of the very earliest years of motion pictures. The effect is convincing, making the viewers feel very much as if they were on board the train as it pulls away. Moreover, the camera field is set up perfectly, so as to catch plenty of action in the foreground and plenty of detail in the background. Cinematography doesn't get a lot better, in any era.
Even this display of skill might be eclipsed by the material itself. It's fascinating to see this view of Jerusalem, its inhabitants, and its scenery, and it's very fortunate that this footage preserves something of the Jerusalem of its era. The simple view of people from so many different cultures and of so many different personalities, all in one place, creates an atmosphere much quicker than words could have done. Then there is the background view of some of the ruins of old Jerusalem, plus a view of some newer structures. It all speaks eloquently of the history and humanity that is part of the city.
"Leaving Jerusalem By Railway" is one of the very best of the pioneering films from the mid-1890s. The combination of technical skill and imagination plus the fascinating material make it one of the movies of its time most worth watching and remembering.
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.
With the usual descriptive title I had assumed this would be footage of a train leaving a station in the way that most of the Lumière films I had seen on this collection so far had been about a static shot of an action occurring. So it did actually make me go "oh" to see that the camera this time was on the item that was doing the action and pointing away from it rather than towards it. To the modern eye of course all we're looking at is a train leaving a station and not even a particularly visually interesting station at that neither. However watched in context of the historical development of the media it is interesting to see the camera taking a person's view right down to the people waving at "it" as it leaves.
Unlikely to blow your mind or anything like that, but this film is interesting for seeing the development of ideas and techniques by Lumière.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's fairly unspectacular, but sort of effective. We see a cameraman in a train, actually right at the back of it and people are waving at him. The train moves further and further away and soon everybody we see is just basic dark silhouettes. The happiness in the early faces about something as simple as watching a train and how they use their hats to say goodbye to their loved ones in the train is nice to watch though. Unfortunately the mere physical quality of the film is not really that good, even for 1897 where a whole lot of films do actually look pretty good already, otherwise it could have been even better. 40 okay seconds I'd say and the first time really that Promio has not disappointed me.
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