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Carmaux: Drawing Out the Coke (1896)

Carmaux, défournage du coke (original title)
Carmaux is in south-central France, near the Tarn River. As a brick of coke, about four feet high and three feet wide, is gradually pushed out of a smelter into a yard, one worker sprays it... See full summary »
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Carmaux is in south-central France, near the Tarn River. As a brick of coke, about four feet high and three feet wide, is gradually pushed out of a smelter into a yard, one worker sprays it with water from a hose while two workers with long metal rakes wait to spread it out. Other workers buzz in and out of the foreground of the stationary camera. Atop the first level of the brick smelter, workers push full carts of coal along a track. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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1896 (France)  »

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Carmaux-i szén  »

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Edited into The Lumière Brothers' First Films (1996) See more »

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Primarily for historical interest
8 April 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This approximately 35-second long Lumiere Brothers short (Lumiere No. 122) shows a handful of workers attending to a block of coke (a processed form of bituminous coal designed to produce fewer sulfur and other fumes when burned, making it ideal for uses such as stoves and furnaces) as it emerges from an oven at the open coal mine in Carmaux, France, a town near the Tarn River in the south of the country.

While this Lumiere Brothers actuality surely has less staging than most of their other documentary shorts, it is also far less interesting aesthetically. The primary attraction here is historical. We get to witness a historical coal mining process, which appears surprisingly "messy", first-hand, at an important, historical French mine. It's interesting to note that carts full of coal are being walked across the top of the oven while it's surely still hot (the coke is just emerging and is steaming). Bituminous coal must be burned at a very high temperature to produce coke.

One aspect that captivated me for its mystery was just how the coke is moved through the furnace door to the waiting workers. Also note how even though the workers have long, forked "poles" to help break up the block of coke, they approach it very cautiously and try to quickly move away. There must have been a chance that pieces from the crumbling block would ricochet off the ground back towards the workers; maybe there was also a tendency for some "shattering" from the drastic, sudden change in temperature. No one ever said that coal mining was easy.


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