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Exceptional but with two tiny quibbles...
MartinHafer19 August 2011
This is the first of six episodes of the wonderful mini-series "Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood". Not surprisingly, it's an introduction to the birth of cinema in Europe and follows the film industries of several nations (especially France and Denmark but also Germany, Italy and Britain to a lesser extent) through WWI. The narration is nice as Kenneth Branagh had a very nice delivery. However, the big stars were the film clips--which tended to be from prints of extremely high quality.

This particular show was brilliant and informative from start to finish. However, I have a couple minor quibbles. First, unless you are already pretty familiar with early European cinema, you'll probably feel a bit lost as various names are tossed about rather rapidly. For me, a total film nut, it wasn't an issue as I was familiar with UFA, the Lumière Brothers, Abel Gance and the rest. But the casual viewer might be best served if they sit there with a cheat sheet or internet connection so they can research on IMDb and other sources what they are talking about in the show. Second, the film, at least at the beginning, seem to try very to elevate European cinema by degrading the American film industry--which was NOT necessary. Europe could stand on its own and Branagh did not need to tell us how Europe was superior to America. The more he did this, the more the viewer might be inclined to either doubt him or think the film had a case of envy. Still, it's a great show--and nothing like it has been made before or since. Well worth seeing as an intermediate or advanced discussion of European films up to about 1919.
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First episode of essential silent cinema documentary
jrd_7324 May 2016
I am re-watching the Cinema Europe series, which was an eye opener to me when I watched it six or seven years ago. At the time, I declared it the best documentary series on film ever made.

On a second viewing the first episode, "Where It All Began," proved nearly as remarkable as the first. I did not know that one hundred and forty people died in a charity showing in Paris due to the film catching fire. I did not know of an early British re-staging of the Battleship Potemkin story. I did not know that the British were the first to use separate shots for close-ups. I did not know that the practice of shooting multiple endings dated from the first decade of the twentieth century (a long way from DVD extras). Finally, because of this first episode, I know want to see: The Mysterious X (1913), Germinal (1913), and Night of Revenge (also 1913), and The Abyss (1910), starring European cinema's first sex goddess, Asta Nielsen.

This first episode lived up to my memory of it.
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