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Dragoons Crossing the Sâone (1896)

Dragons traversant la Saône à la nage (original title)
| Short, Documentary
A stationary camera looks across Burgundy's River Sâone toward a small military encampment. Four horsemen enter the water in the foreground, each riding his horse as it swims across toward ... See full summary »
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A stationary camera looks across Burgundy's River Sâone toward a small military encampment. Four horsemen enter the water in the foreground, each riding his horse as it swims across toward camp or leading it by the bridle as they swim. The men are shirtless. When they reach the middle of the river, seven more shirtless young men, each with a horse, start the crossing. Most begin astride their mount, but end up swimming alongside. Across the river, men stand in front of a large tent to watch and talk. Three officers on a makeshift pier talk to each other and ignore the young men's crossing. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Historical and novelty value
1 April 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This is an approximately 45-second long Lumiere Brothers actuality (Lumiere No. 186) of dragoons crossing the Sâone River on horseback to meet up with a "camp" on the other side.

I don't know much of the historical background of this actuality, but it looks like the dragoons and camp may be in this section of the Sâone River, which is in the northeast of France, to build a bridge. We can see the makings of a bridge in the upper right hand portion of the frame.

Aesthetically, there is a hint of visual composition that is found in many Lumiere Brothers shorts--the crossing dragoons suggest an oblique from the right hand side of the frame towards the upper left. Dragoons Crossing the Sâone also has what we could call "processional" action, another common Lumiere Brothers characteristic, which is often cyclical, but it's more linear here. The oblique is obscure at first as the short begins with only four dragoons who make it halfway across the Sâone River before seven more follow in the processional and make the oblique clear.

Also interesting are the twenty-something people in the camp on the far shore of the river. They stand relatively motionless, apparently waiting for the dragoons to arrive. Many of them have suits on, which seems strange if they're either in the military or a construction crew.

For me, this short isn't nearly as rewarding aesthetically as some of the Lumiere Brothers' other work. It has a fair amount of historical and novelty value, however.


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