An elderly gentleman in a silk hat sits on a stool in front of a store on the main street of town. He has a telescope that he focuses on the ankle of a young woman who is a short distance ... See full summary »
Wintertime in Lyons. About a dozen people, men and women, are having a snowball fight in the middle of a tree-lined street. The cyclist coming along the road becomes the target of ... See full summary »
A man opens the big gates to the Lumière factory. Through the gateway and a smaller doorway beside it, workers are streaming out, turning either left or right. Most of them are women in ... See full summary »
A man comes onto the stage through the fireplace, divides himself, and sits on stools on either side of a table. He places a woman's head on the table and a hat on her head. She speaks to ... See full summary »
A woman in ballet slippers wearing a large white hat and a long white dress - with ruffles, puffy sleeves and petticoats - dances across water with roiling waves behind her. She holds the ... See full summary »
As the camera looks down an open road, a horse and carriage approaches, and passes by to one side of the field of view. Soon afterwards, an automobile comes up the road, straight towards ... See full summary »
An elderly gentleman in a silk hat sits on a stool in front of a store on the main street of town. He has a telescope that he focuses on the ankle of a young woman who is a short distance away. Her husband catches the gent looking. What will the two men now do? Written by
This comic short has a similar plot to Smith's previous 'Grandma's Reading Glass' - a male protagonist looks at the world through the eyes of an optical instrument. Where the visions of the first film, however, were appropriate to a young boy - curious, novel, fresh, surprising ways of looking at the world as if for the first time (e.g. like the first cinema goers), the development of an individual consciousness as it were - the point of view in this film is typical of an aged lecher, as he gawps at the incipient sexual tease performed by a man and a bicycled woman as he ties up her shoelace, slowly raising her long dress to reveal a titillating glimpse of stockinged leg.
The move here from the encyclopaedic to the sexual and voyeuristic may be symptomatic of the 'wrong' turning taken by cinema, bemoaned by the likes of Godard, away from a curious interest in the world to vulgar, voyeuristic, prurient peepshows. But Smith is no fool, and the clatter the scopophile receives from one of his 'victims' is given to us too - we are no better than this pervert.
The set-up cries out for voyeurism - a distanced shot of an environment offers us a brief glimpse of the couple in the background - the only way we can learn more is with the aid of this man's instrument, significantly more phallic that Grandma's female lens. There is no distortion here, as was the case with the first film, but clarification, a feeling of being close to the action, but apart from it: enjoyment without risk, the dream of every voyeur.
In a sense, this simple plot - voyeur attacked by the man he spies on - foreshadows one of the great masterpieces of cinema and the ultimate analysis of cinematic voyeurism and the invasion of privacy, 'Rear Window'. The man's instrument may be phallic, but it is onanistic and sterile, especially in comparison to the fertile sexual relations presumably to be enjoyed at a later date by the couple. The cinematic gaze is already being made negative, anti-social, hidden, something to be punished, something unhealthy, anti-family, solitary. The watcher must be watched, controlled, as the victim's punitive action suggests.
But it's not that simple. The framing circle of the close-up is linked to the circles of the wheels and pedals of the bicycle, maybe even the circle of life that this courtship intimates, just as Jeff's voyeurism is framed against his reluctance to settle down with his girlfriend. A surprisingly ambiguous, analytical piece of self-reflexive cinema.
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