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Opening the Nineteenth Century: 1896 (1991)

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1 October 1991 (USA)  »

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"Filter over left eye....now right, please."
31 March 2000 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The cinema of Ken Jacobs is most importantly about experiencing light, shadow, and motion on the screen, as stunning phenomena which don't require a "story" or a "plot" to thrill. "Opening the Nineteenth Century: 1896" is a Jacobs piece comprised of an 1896 tracking shot from a European train window, shot by the Lumiere brothers. In re-presenting this film, Jacobs distributes light-polarizing filters on wands, which audience members are asked to hold over one eye, then the other, and back again. This filter takes the "flat" information on the screen and imbues it with astonishing multi-planar depth. Trees, buildings, telegraph wires, all move horizontally across the screen in recessed space, all at different rates and in different three-dimensional spaces. The filter allows us to see this film in ways unimaginable to its makers. As Jacobs said at the conclusion of his presentation, "There it is, folks, 3D, 1896."


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