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New York, Brooklyn Bridge (1896)

New York, pont de Brooklyn (original title)
| Short, Documentary

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A stationary camera is set at a curve in the train tracks, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. From the bridge, a four-car streetcar approaches and turns to he viewer's left. As it ... See full summary »

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(uncredited)
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A stationary camera is set at a curve in the train tracks, with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background. From the bridge, a four-car streetcar approaches and turns to he viewer's left. As it passes, a train going toward the bridge passes on the tracks in front. It has four cars as well, with a few passengers aboard. A train engine that is moving backwards follows that train. A man atop a tall ladder works on a light pole. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Short | Documentary

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New York, Brooklyn Bridge  »

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I'd buy it
11 April 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

This approximately 45-second long Lumière Brothers short (Lumière No. 321) shows two trains from the old "New York and Brooklyn Bridge Railway", which eventually connected to the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) lines, predecessors of today's subway, passing over the Brooklyn Bridge.

Once again in a Lumière short, we have the visual composition of "obliques and processionals". An interesting angle was found that placed the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge on the left hand side of the frame but that also allowed the railway tracks to create an oblique from the lower left portion of the frame cutting all the way across to the right, then curving back towards the towers. This type of visual composition, which is found in a great number of Lumière actualities, both exaggerates perspective to emphasize depth and allows for more complex motion to be sustained for a greater length of time--the perfect way to exploit the novelty of this new artistic medium, the motion picture.

The processionals are created by the two trains, one in each direction. We first see a train coming from the center of the frame, making the curve and nearing us. Almost at the precise moment that the last car is about to exit the frame on our left, another train emerges from "behind" us, going the opposite direction, headed towards the curve and the distance. Just as the last car of this second train passes, and before its "backwards" facing engine comes along, a single, separate engine that had been parked in front of the control booth at the base of the bridge comes along in the direction of the first train.

This is beautifully complex motion, and it seems almost as if the trains would have had to be choreographed in this manner--to the extent that practice runs would have been necessary. The motions seem perfectly planned with respect to the camera. If it was a chance moment captured on the Lumière's cinématographe, it's hard to believe their good fortune.

Of course this short is also of great historical interest.


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