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Bethléem, une place (1897)

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Title: Bethléem, une place (1897)

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1897 (France)  »

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Assembling a Crowd
24 November 2012 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Alexandre Promio was one of the Lumieres' world-trotting cameramen. He was credited with "Panorama du Grand Canal vu d'un bateau" which is sometimes claimed as the first traveling shot in the history of cinema. He also trained other Lumiere cameramen.

This street scene from Bethlehem shows a crowd of locals jumping on something in the middle of camera range. What are they seeking? The implication seems to be that they are beggars jumping on a handful of alms tossed onto the spot and the effect is simultaneously funny and sad.

Technically, this is not a terribly well-set shot. The far background is an undifferentiated mass of construction. Although that may be an artifact of the print rather than the negative, one of the pleasures of these old films is the architecture of these street scenes. However, another interesting aspect is their use of motion. The mass of people converging on a specific spot is startling and for 1897, novel.

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