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Robert Paul is a largely forgotten name today, but he was a major
pioneer of British cinema, and was quick to grasp the commercial
potential of cinema in ways that better known pioneers such as William
Friese-Greene were not. He was more of a mechanic than a filmmaker
making, with Birt Acres, his own camera on which to shoot films in
1895, and also Britain's first projector, the Animatograph, with which
to screen them in 1896. Early in the 20th century he had a custom-made
studio built in Muswell Hill.
Bridge and street scenes were pretty common subjects for filmmakers in the early days of cinema because of the amount of movement. Blackfriars Bridge was apparently fairly new when this film was shot, replacing the previous bridge which had been built in the 1700s. There isn't a car in sight and what traffic there is proceeds at a stately pace. You even see people walking along the middle of the road. You wouldn't get away with that for very long today. Not unless you were selling roses or washing windscreens anyway
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not much happens in this short film during its 45 seconds running time. Butz that's not all bad. We see a heavily-frequented street and it's a day like any other. Carriages rush over the bridge and occasionally you see a man or woman, dressed as elegantly as it gets walk on the side of it. It's an okay watch mostly for the dresses, pompous hats (most of the men wear cylinders) and people's reactions. It's longer than most films of its time, but still bearable before it starts to drag. Weather seems to be a bit foggy, or it's just the not-too great quality of the version I watched. Okay movie, there's much better and worse out there, even from 1896.
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