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Pompiers à Lyon (1896)

| Documentary, Short
In the foreground, smoke billows. Four horse-drawn fire wagons approach and pass in front of a stationary camera. Two horses draw each wagon, and each wagon carries from two to eight ... See full summary »
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In the foreground, smoke billows. Four horse-drawn fire wagons approach and pass in front of a stationary camera. Two horses draw each wagon, and each wagon carries from two to eight firefighters. After the wagons pass, carts and pedestrians resume traffic on the street. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Documentary | Short

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Paris: les pompiers, I. Passage des pompes  »

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Lumière n° 778. See more »

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Combines Some of the Earliest Effective Movie-Making Ideas
21 March 2005 | by (Ohio) – See all my reviews

This brief footage of fire-fighting equipment in action in Lyon combines some of the earliest ideas that proved effective in making movies. The use of motion coming towards the camera (and thus towards the viewer) was already used in a number of even earlier Lumière movies, and the filming of fire fighters on the job seems quickly to have become a popular subject for a number of cinema's pioneers.

In this feature, the movement of large horse-drawn fire engines conveys a sense of action and of power. As with so many of the earliest movies, the very brief footage leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and creates a slight sense of mystery, though its likely that this was unintentional. What does come across clearly is both the power and the urgency behind the effort that is underway.

That the effect works probably comes equally from the technique and the material. Previous Lumière features had shown motion of persons and of trains coming towards the camera, to very good effect, and so trying to get the same effect with other subjects would have been a natural idea. Fire engines in themselves are also an attention-getter, automatically conveying a sense of emergency and danger. This is a simple feature, but like many such films in the Lumière filmography, it shows a good understanding of what works in making even the most basic of movies.


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