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40 international directors were asked to make a short film using the original Cinematographe invented by the Lumière Brothers, working under conditions similar to those of 1895. There were three rules: (1) The film could be no longer than 52 seconds, (2) no synchronized sound was permitted, and (3) no more than three takes. The results run the gamut from Zhang Yimou's convention-thwarting joke to David Lynch's bizarre miniature epic. Written by
Mike D'Angelo <email@example.com>
Lumière et Compagnie is a very interesting documentary, giving the audience different perspectives on the meaning of cinema within the concept of its birth a century ago. Heavily centered on directors from France and other countries with strong historical or linguistic bonds to France (Romania, Algeria, Burkina Faso etc.), the movie nevertheless tries to adopt a universal discourse on cinema through evaluating it as a global language of art. Among the movies of the 40 directors and a couple of Lumière examples shown in the film there are certain approaches and themes I find interesting and very much related to the questions asked to the participant directors about the meaning of cinema and its future. Peter Greenaway's segment with the passing calendar years starting from the symbolic date of 1895 with a constant sitting naked man was in that sense very much reminding me the novelty of cinema when compared to the life of humanity and civilization, just like the 52 seconds passing in the life of that man, who is young and promising. The parts combining the whole film together with interviews and shots showing the audience how these individual movies were made was also a theme itself in the movies of Sanders-Brahms, Chahine, Lelouch and Axel, all emphasizing on the making of the movie more than the movie itself as Lumière et Compagnie was about. The concept of realizing the presence of a camera and trying to be on the screen was elaborately used by Booman and Allouache, whereby the latter strikingly combined it with his country's patriarchal social structure. I really enjoy Costa-Gavras' segment, which delicately reminds me of my status of audience after 50 seconds of eye contact with the audience on the screen, for which cinema is produced at the end of the day. Haneke is again outstanding with filming an already prepared television shot, maybe challenging the three rules of the game in an original fashion but I prefer such rule violations when done more sincerely like in the case of Ouedraogo when he was caught by the camera saying "in Burkina Faso we can make four takes with the soldiers". Most of the directors are optimistic and even emotional when commenting on cinema and its future, but somehow many of them sound to me as clichés; maybe they are not so good in speech that's why they chose to make movies. However I think the strongest statement was uttered by Yoshida that cinema cannot capture every moment and the director shooting his movie at the real time of the nuclear bomb attack would be dead. Very reminiscent of Chacun Son Cinéma (2007) prepared for the Cannes Film Festival by 33 directors, it is always fun to watch samples from great directors and the use of the so-called first movie camera as the basic concept is a very challenging and as much as a successful idea.
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