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Chicago Police Parade (1897)

Chicago défilé de policemen (original title)
Walking four abreast, in groups of six rows, 144 of Chicago's finest parade past a stationary camera. Each of the six groups that pass is escorted by an officer. All are men, all are white,... See full summary »

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Walking four abreast, in groups of six rows, 144 of Chicago's finest parade past a stationary camera. Each of the six groups that pass is escorted by an officer. All are men, all are white, all look tall, all wear identical high-buttoned uniforms and badges and carry a nightstick. Almost all sport mustaches. Behind the police comes a horse-drawn carriage. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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police | parade | chicago illinois | See All (3) »

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Documentary | Short

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3 January 1897 (France)  »

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Chicago Police Parade  »

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First film shot in Chicago See more »

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Featured in Lumiere's First Picture Shows (2013) See more »

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Early minimalism
11 April 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This is an approximately 45-second long Lumière Brothers short (Lumière No. 336) showing a policeman's parade in front of a historic Chicago building (I'm not familiar enough with Chicago to know what building, unfortunately). Officers parade by, standing four side-by-side, in groups of six rows, wearing formal dress, and carrying "batons". A group of spectators stands against the building, watching the parade. Just before the cinématographe runs out of film, a horse-drawn carriage approaches behind the final group of officers.

Once again we have obliques and processionals--perhaps the most formal processional of the Lumière Brothers shorts. The oblique is formed by the angle of the camera with respect to the parade, again exaggerating perspective to give the processional a greater feeling of depth.

What is likely to stand out first for most viewers, aside from the historical novelty of the policemen's dress, is the relative conformity of the force. All of the officers are Caucasian, most are close in height and weight, and most have moustaches. The overall impression is not that far removed from the robot "armies" of a film like I, Robot (2004). This could be a police force of clones.

Given this conformity of look and motion, what catches the viewer's eye for most of the short, then, are the small variations--a slight tilt of the head, a difference of gait, an unusual size or weight, the absence of a moustache, and so on. Although unintentional, because the "school" was not to exist until far in the future, the effect of watching Policeman's Parade, Chicago at this point in time is similar to that of minimalism, especially minimalist music.

Aesthetically, it does not work as well for me, and the historical interest is not as great as in many other Lumière shorts. Although if you're interested in the history of police uniforms and/or Chicago, you'll want to seek this out.


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