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This early cinematic instance of a close-upor, more accurately, a
medium close-up shot of the chest and face of the maker of this film
and others like it, Georges Demeny saying "Je vous aime" (French for "I
love you")was made at the request of Hector Marichelle, professor and
director of the National Deaf-Mute Institute in France, who planned to
use filmed speech to teach deaf students to speak and lip read. This
required close views of the performer's lip movements. The project was
given to Demeny by Étienne-Jules Marey, who headed the Station
Physiologique in Paris and whose chronophotographic scientific research
of motion is among the most important contributions to the invention of
movies. Despite these educational and scientific beginnings, however,
this project led Demeny to pursue and influence the commercialism of
Demeny as Marey's assistant at the Physiological Station was Virgilio Tosi says, "more than a mere second lead", especially given that Marey annually spent winters vacationing and working in Naples while leaving Demeny in charge of the Station. Demeny's interests were especially in physical education and, over the years, he and Marey photographed many gymnastics acts. Demeny assisted Marey from 1881 to 1894. In those years, they went from using a photographic gun to record images on rotating glass plates to using celluloid film rolls in the "Chronophotographe" camera. It was this project, initially for the education of the deaf, which led to their acrimonious divorce, as Marey continued to use film for his scientific research and Demeny pursued its commercial applications.
The films by themselves would be of little use for education. Although Marey was continually tinkering with his cameras and adopting new photographic processes, he seemed to be less interested in reproducing the illusion of motion. Although he made a projector as early as 1892, he was largely content with using a Zoetrope for confirmation and wasn't satisfied with a projector of his own until 1896. Demeny constructed a single-viewer device named the Photophone and, then, a projecting version called the Phonoscope. Like other early "movie" machines, these used images on a revolving Phenakistoscope disc and, in the case of the projector, added the principles of the magic lantern. Leopold Ludwig Döbler did as much with drawn animation in the 1840s, Franz von Uchatius in the 1850s, Henry Heyl with posed photographs in 1870 and Eadweard Muybridge with drawings based on chronophotography in the 1880s and early 1890s. Deac Rossell suggests that Ottomar Anschütz's work, especially, inspired Demeny. Demeny's Phonoscope was novel, however, in that, as Laurent Mannoni says, "For the first time chronophotographic pictures on a disc could be projected in sequence." To accomplish this, film positives were cut and pasted onto glass disks, which was an obvious obstacle to mass productions and was limited to the length of each rotationbefore the scene repeated itselfto only a second or two.
The Phonoscope was first presented to the Académie des Sciences on 27 July 1891. A Parisian audience of 1200 saw the Phonoscope and 30 films on 6 December, and the device was exhibited again in Paris at the Exposition Internationale de Photographie from 20 April 1892. Images of the Phonoscope and of "Je vous aime" were also printed in the publications "L'Illustration", "Paris-Photographe" and "La Nature". Hailed as the "optical equivalent of the phonograph" (Braun), Demeny dreamed of his machine replacing still photographs in frames and albums at home and combining it with the Phonograph to complete the illusion. Other aspirations included peephole slot-machines and larger projections for public consumption. With investors, Demeny founded the Phonoscope, Living Portrait, and Animated Picture Company on 20 December 1892 to market it.
As Rossell's research shows, Anschütz had been marketing "Sprechende Porträts" months before Demeny's "portraits parlants" (both translate as "Speaking Portraits"). Anschütz's movies also appeared in coin-operated peephole automats in public parlours as early as 1891anticipating the later Kinetoscope parlours and the failed plans of Demeny's group. Demeny's subsequent inventions for the intermittent movement of film and his contacts with two companiesthe Lumières and Gaumontseem of more original and lasting consequence to the history of early cinema.
His addition of a beater mechanism for intermittent movement to Marey's Chronophotographe, along with the Phonoscope, was marketed by Léon Gaumont in November 1895, but these devices were soon superseded by the Lumière brothers' reversible camera/projector Cinématographe. Before licensing and, eventually, selling his patents to Gaumont, Demeny looked to the Lumières for financing. In December 1894, Demeny showed his sketches for a "Grande Projecteur" to Louis Lumière. As Rossell reports, this large projector had "a new intermittent movement using a pair of claws motivated by an eccentric cam: the kernel of the later Cinématographe Lumière." With Léopold René Decaux, Demeny built his own reversible camera/projector, for Gaumont, in 1896. Gaumont eventually became one of the biggest movie studios in the world. Demeny's camera was used until 1914, including by Alice Guy, and the beater mechanism was widely used during the era, including in Edison's Vitascope.
The medium close-up also became popular in early cinema. The Edison Company used it to impressive effect on the screen in "The Kiss" (1896). Although Marey and Muybridge had photographed serial close-up images of hands and, in Marey's case, the human face, there was nothing proceeding "Je vous aime" for the close-up movie image being publicly projected. Despite Demeny's grimaced closed eyesa consequence of trying to block out the sunrays reflected from the mirrors used to achieve the desired strongly lit facial featuresand the film's brevity, it's not difficult to see how audiences would've been impressed and why it inspired such financial hopes. Regardless, Demeny was one of the most important pioneers in the invention of cinemabridging the gap from chronophotography to cinema.
(Sources: "Picturing Time" by Marta Braun. "The Great Art of Light and Shadow" by Laurent Mannoni. "Living Pictures" and "The Public Exhibition of Moving Pictures Before 1896" by Deac Rossell. "Cinema Before Cinema" by Virgilio Tosi.)
Ottomar Anschütz is an interesting and largely forgotten figure in the
history of chronophotography and the invention of movies. Unlike the
better-known chronophotographers Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules
Marey, whose concerns were artistic and scientific, respectively,
Anschütz mainly photographed serial images with the intent to reproduce
their motion for public entertainment and to do so on an industrial
scale, which today's authority on Anschütz, Deac Rossell, has made
clear in various writings. In this regard, Anschütz's career shared
more with those of Thomas Edison and the Lumiére brothers. As Friedrich
Tietjen has pointed out, however, the loop mode for the synthesis of
Anschütz's images, as well as Muybridge's, demanded and created
different experiences than celluloid films.
Anschütz was a professional photographer and a leader in the development of instantaneous photography before he took up chronophotography. His 1884 photographs of storks in flight inspired aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, whose gliding flights were also photographed by Anschütz (and others). For his earliest sequential photography, Anschütz copied Muybridge's system from Palo Alto, where a battery of cameras in a shed recorded horses in motion. He improved upon Muybridge's system, however, by inventing a focal-plane shutter. In 1886, he and an organ-builder named Schneider invented an apparatus of multiple small cameras for his work at Hanover, which was commissioned by the Prussian government for improving cavalry riding techniques and other military investigations.
Anschütz and Schneider also made their first version of a viewing device for reproducing motion in 1886. Anschütz built various machines for synthesis during his career and called them the "Schnellseher" ("quick viewer")also known as the "Tachyscope" or "Electrical Wonder". All models featured the images on either a disc or a strip, in the tradition of the optical toys the Phenakistiscope and the Zoetrope. The most commonly reproduced picture of a Schnellseher, a Scientific America illustration, is of an early version where a large Phenakitiscope wheel was turned on one side of a wall while several people viewed the continuous motion of up to 24 images per scene on the other end. The first public demonstration of it was given on 19 March 1887 for his patrons at the Prussian Culture Ministry in Berlin and other guests. Other versions of the Schnellseher were for home use, including Zoetrope improvements and "Sprechende Porträts" ("Speaking Portraits"), the latter of which likely inspired Georges Demeny's Phonoscope (see "Je vous aime" (1891)).
Likewise, the coin-operated peephole automated Schnellsehers were a precursor to the Kinetoscope. (According to Gordon Hendricks in his book "The Edison Motion Picture Myth", Edison's team, at one point in their invention trials, likely built their own Schnellseher.) The company Siemens and Halske manufactured these devices, and they were exhibited throughout Europe and the United States. They premiered 16 May 1891 in Frankfurt. At the 1893 World's Columbian Fair in Chicago, they competed with Muybridge's Zoöpraxiscope. Unlike the Zoöpraxiscope, the Schnellsehers incorporated intermittent movement from a flashing Geissler tube, which allowed for the use of photographs instead of the drawn animation used by Muybridge. Most impressively, Anschütz demonstrated a Projecting Electrotachyscope on 25 November 1894 in Berlin and began exhibitions for a paying public on 22 February 1895. This system included an intermittent Maltese-cross movement and projected images on a large screen measuring about 6 by 8 meters (19 ½ by 26 ¼ feet). Predating this, Henry Heyl had projected photographic images of a waltzing couple and other scenes in 1870 with his Phasmatrope, but those were of individually posed pictures rather than subjects captured instantaneously in real motion.
Horses, as with Muybridge and Marey, were a popular subject for Anschütz. All three men's enthusiasm for horses was also borne of scientific inquiry: training for sport in the case of Muybridge, physiological analysis for Marey, and military training for Anschütz. Two of his surviving series are from his Hanover work of military riders on horses jumping over obstacles. Three other remaining series available on the web and elsewhere are of athletic feats. Contemporaries remarked on the superior quality of his dry-plate images compared to the work of Muybirdge and Marey. It's somewhat odd, then, that historians have written much about the influence Muybridge and Marey had on art and have found no such connection with Anschütz. (See "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" (1880) and "Falling Cat" (1894).) Lost scenes made by Anschütz, however, suggest a more direct influence on subsequent entertainment filmmaking. A scene of card players may have been the basis for remakes by the Lumière brothers ("Partie d'écarté") and Georges Méliès ("Une partie de cartes") (both 1896). His barbershop scene perhaps inspired the Kinetoscope film "The Barbershop" (1894) or been a remake of it. Others seem to have been similar to comic expression films that were a popular subject in early cinema.
Yet, unlike the celluloid films, the movies of Anschütz's spinning discs and drums, as Tietjen has written, were circularrather than the linear nature of film that allowed, eventually, for narratives. They lasted only a second or two, but would repeat on a loop so long as the disc or drum were turned and unchanged. Naturally repetitive motions such as galloping horses fit this loop mode well, whereas these lost scenes may have appeared unrealistic. Tietjen, however, mentions how a film such as the Lumières' "La sortie des usines Lumière" (1895), with its opening and closing of the gates, could also conform to a loop.
Anschütz's attempts to industrially commercialize his motion photographs as entertainment represent the pinnacle of the loop mode of moviesending just as celluloid films were taking off. Despite the differences of these formats, the work of Anschütz was of significant influence on early filmmaking.
(Main Sources: "Ottomar Anschütz and his Electrical Wonder", "Living Pictures: The Origins of the Movies", "Breaking the Black Box: A Reassessment of Chronophotography as a Medium for Moving Pictures" by Deac Rossell. "Loop and Life: A False Start into Protocinematic Photographic Representations of Movement" by Friedrich Tietjen.)
"Chronophotography" is a term Étienne-Jules Marey coined to describe
his scientific instantaneous serial photography of motion on glass
plates and paper and celluloid roll film, as well as his camera and
projection inventions. Some continue to make a distinction between
chronophotography as pre-cinema history and cinematography, but it's a
thin arbitrary distinction, which is readily apparent when viewing a
film such as this one, the so-called "Falling Cat", which was
photographed on celluloidjust as were the films of the Edison Company
or of the Lumière brothers. Marey's film is shorter and not perforated,
but the main difference is that he wasn't interested in commercializing
his inventions and films. Nevertheless, authors like Marta Braun and
Virgilio Tosi have argued for Marey as the central figure in the
invention of cinema. At least, in examining the history of
chronophotography and the archeology and invention of movies, for me,
has added to the common narrative of film beginning with entrepreneurs
seeking commercial exploitation, a coincident narrative of film being
invented out of the necessities of scientific research.
Marey was a physiologist, an academic, president of various prestigious institutions and an accomplished experimental researcher whose interest in engineering furthered his research. He contributed to many fields: he made medical and motion graphing devices and methods, advanced aviation, pioneered the study of labor productivity, and demonstrated how a cholera epidemic in France was spread by contaminated water supply. He turned to photography as a means to study motion after seeing the sequential photographs of horses in motion by Eadweard Muybridge (see "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" (1880)). Marey, however, decided to go the single-camera route (as opposed to the multiple cameras Muybridge used) of a fixed point-of-view, as Jules Janssen had done earlier with his photographic revolver used to record the "Passage de Vénus" in 1874. Similarly, Marey initially used a photographic rifle to photograph images on rotating glass plates, as well as a single-plate box camera. The mechanic Otto Lund helped make these cameras. The chemist Eugène Chevreul provided specifications for the "black hanger"a dark shed or "set" for the experiments. On 15 October 1888, Marey announced, then showed on 29 October, to the Académie des Sciences that he was filming on paper film rolls. Coincidently, that announcement was one day after another Frenchman, Louis Le Prince, had taken his paper film experiments in Leeds (see "Accordion Player" and "Roundhay Garden Scene"), which were far more secretive due to Le Prince's commercial aspirations. In the summer of 1889, Marey started using newly-available celluloid film.
Over his career, Marey photographed images on thousands of glass plates and made nearly 800 films (Abel). Most of them were made at the Station Physiologique near Paris, with government funding and with assistants, who included, over the years, Georges Demeny, Lucien Bull and Pierre Noguès. He authored over 350 scientific books and papers (source: Deac Rossell, "Breaking the Black Box"). Human locomotion and gymnastics, the gait of horses and, especially, the flight of birds were favorite subjects. The most popular today, however, involves a catwhich seems natural given the abundance of cat videos available on YouTube and elsewhere. Braun lists 13 cat films made by Marey. Four of them involve a cat walking or trotting, but the rest are all a cat being dropped. Two of these series were presented by Marey in a published paper. This "Falling Cat", perhaps, even accomplished a feat more impressive than demonstrating a talent for playing the piano. By using its weight to twist mid-air to land on its feet, the feline did nothing less than contradict Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion and the mathematical law of conservation of angular momentum. Among other animals put to this task, the rabbit was the only other to succeed in confounding the science of the day.
Marey seems to have been more concerned with inventing the means for the analysis of motion than in its synthesisbeing content with viewing his films in a zoetropeand demonstrating them, such as at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. He even used sculptures based on his photographs in the zoetrope for a three-dimensional effect. In synthesizing motion, Marey was concerned with confirming the analysis of what couldn't otherwise be seen instead of mirroring reality back. As Braun put it, "Marey sought not to represent nature but to discover the laws that governed it." It was only after the Lumière brothers' Cinematographé that he would bother to complete his own reversible camera/projector in 1896. Unlike Marey, however, Demeny became interested in and pursued the commercial possibilities of these inventions (see "Je vous aime" (1891)).
Despite his disinterest in the commercial and spectatorial possibilities of movies, Marey was friends with, or at least met, some of those who were: including, in addition to Demeny, Muybridge, Edison, the Lumières and Ottomar Anshützall of whom were surely influenced by his work. This interconnectedness and coincident developments in scientific chronophotography and commercial movie development is why I don't consider there to be a single person, a date, or particular film that can be pointed to as the origin of movies. Additionally, despite, and unlike Muybridge, his disinterest in the artistic composition of his images (although he and Demeny did publish an artist's handbook), he had an impact on art similar to Muybridge. Marey's single-plate chronophotographs where images often partially superimposed over each other have especially been cited as an influence to artists from realists like Thomas Eakins, who took up chronophotography to provide models for painting, to Impressionists like Edgar Degas and Georges Seurat and the Surrealist Max Ernst. He especially inspired Futurist and abstract paintings such as Frantiek Kupka's "Les cavaliers", Giacomo Balla's "Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash" and Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase".
(Main Sources: "Encyclopedia of Early Cinema" edited by Richard Abel. "Picturing Time" by Marta Braun. "The Great Art of Light and Shadow" by Laurent Mannoni. "Cinema Before Cinema" by Virgilio Tosi.)
Sometimes ascribed as "The Father of the Motion Picture", Eadweard
Muybridge undeniably accomplished exploiting and sometimes introducing
a means of instantaneous and serial images to analyze and synthesize
animal locomotion. In part, the reasons for and the claims made of his
work support Virgilio Tosi's thesis that cinema was invented out of the
needs of scientific research. Conversely, they're informed by
Muybridge's background as an artistic location photographer and, as
Phillip Prodger suggests, in book sales and more useful to art than to
science, as Marta Braun has demonstrated (see sources at bottom).
Additionally, Muybridge quickly exploited their entertainment value via
projection to audiences across the U.S. and Europe. Muybridge pursued
both of these paths of invention: the path taken by Jules Janssen,
Étienne-Jules Marey and others for science and the path taken by
Ottomar Anschütz, Thomas Edison, the Lumiére brothers and others for
fame and profit.
Muybridge began taking instantaneous single photographs of multi-millionaire railroad magnate Leland Stanford's horses in motion in 1872. It was disputed at the time whether all four of a horse's legs were off the ground simultaneously at any time while running. Although no surviving photographs prove it, contemporary lithographs and paintings likely based on the photographs, indeed, show the moment of "unsupported transit". In between and interrupting these experiments, Muybridge was found not guilty of the admittedly premeditated fatal shooting of his wife's lover and possibly her son's father.
Publication of Marey's graphic measurements of a horse's movements reignited Stanford's interest in the gait of horses. In turn, Marey was convinced to switch to photography in his motion studies after witnessing Muybridge's work (see "Falling Cat" (1894)). This work in "automatic electro-photographs" began in 1878 at Stanford's Palo Alto Stock Farm. Multiple cameras were stored in a shed parallel to a track. A series of closing boards serving as shutters were triggered by tripped threads and electrical means. The wet collodion process of the time, reportedly, could need up to half a minute for an exposure. For the split-second shutter speeds required here, a white canvas background and powdered lime on the track provided more contrast to compensate for less light getting to the glass plates. Employees of Stanford's Central Pacific Railroad and others helped in constructing this "set" and camera equipment.
Contrary to unattributed claims on the web, this so-called "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" wasn't the first series photographed by Muybridge. Six series of Muybridge's first subjects were published on cards entitled "The Horse in Motion". The first is of the horse Abe Edgington trotting on 11 June 1878. Reporters were invited for the next two series on June 15th, and, as they reported, again, Abe went firsttrotting and pulling the driver behind in a sulky, which is what tripped the threads. The second subject that day was Sallie Gardner running and, thus, the mare had to trip the threads. Reporters noted how this spooked her and how that was reflected in the negatives developed on the spot. As one article said, she "gave a wild bound in the air, breaking the saddle girth as she left the ground." Based on such descriptions, it doesn't seem that this series exists anymore. The animations on the web that are actually of Sallie are dated June 19th on "The Horse in Motion" card. Many animations claimed to be Sallie on YouTube, Wikipedia and elsewhere, as of this date, are actually of a mare named Annie G. and were part of Muybridge's University of Pennsylvania work published in 1887, as the Library of Congress and other reliable sources have made clear. The early Palo Alto photographs aren't as detailed and are closer to silhouettes. The 12 images of Gardner also include one where she's stationary. The Morse's Gallery pictures are entirely in silhouette, while the La Nature engravings of these same images show the rider in a white shirt.
The shot of the horse stationary, as Braun points out, was added later and is indicative of the artistic and un-scientific assemblages Muybridge made of his imageswith the intent of publication, including in his own books. This was especially prominent in his Pennsylvania work, which included many nude models that were surely useful for art. Muybridge influenced artists from Realists like Thomas Eakins and Meissonier, Impressionists like Edgar Degas and Frederick Remington, to the more abstract works of Francis Bacon. His precedence has also been cited in the photography of Steven Pippin and Hollis Frampton, as well as the bullet-time effects in "The Matrix" (1999).
Muybridge lectured on this relationship with art when touring with his Zoöpraxiscope, which was a combination of the magic lantern and phenakistoscope. With it, he projected, from glass disks, facsimiles of his photographs hand-painted by Erwin Faber. Without intermittent movement, the Zoöpraxiscope compressed the images, so elongated drawings were used instead of photographs. Muybridge and others also used his images for phenakistoscopes and zoetropes. The first demonstration of the Zoöpraxiscope was to Stanford and friends in the autumn of 1879. A public demonstration was given on 4 May 1880 for the San Francisco art association, and Muybridge continued these lectures for yearspersonally touring the U.S. and Europe. Although there were predecessors in animated projections as far back as 1847 by Leopold Ludwig Döbler, in 1853 by Franz von Uchatius, and with posed photographs by Henry Heyl in 1870, the chronophotographic and artistic basis offered some novelty for Muybridge's presentations. They also led him to meet Edison and Marey and inspire the likes of Anschütz and othersthose who took the next steps in the invention of movies.
(Main Sources: "The Inventor and the Tycoon" by Edward Ball. "Eadweard Muybridge" and "Picturing Time" by Marta Braun. "The Man Who Stopped Time" by Brian Clegg. "Man in Motion" by Robert Bartlett Haas. "The Father of the Motion Picture" by Gordon Hendricks. "The Stanford Years, 1872-1882" edited by Anita Ventura Mozley. "Time Stands Still" by Phillip Prodger. "Cinema Before Cinema" by Virgilio Tosi.)
For an hour-long television-show episode, "The Weird World of Eadweard
Muybridge" does a good job of covering the life and work of the
photographer. It especially covers his still photography and his murder
trial well. Some demonstrations are made of the challenging wet
collodion process that he used for most of his career and how its
limitations led to the common 19th Century practice of touching up the
images. They say, for instance, that the sky would appear white in the
photographs, so clouds were added in for dramatic effect. Aside from
Muybridge's photography and Zoöpraxiscope exhibitions, the most
interesting part of his life is probably the fact that he killed a man
who may've fathered Muybridge's wife's son and that he was acquitted on
the basis of justifiable homicide.
Some of the right people are interviewed, too, especially Rebecca Solnit (author of "Motion Studies: Time, Space and Eadweard Muybridge" and "River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West"), Stephen Herbert (also an author and whose websites on Muybridge and Victorian cinema are wonderful resources that I visit frequently) and Marta Braun (author of "Picturing Time" and "Eadweard Muybridge"). Braun provides a brief overview of the enlightening observation she's made in her books that Muybridge's work, contrary to what others have thought and to how they were advertised, served little to no scientific purpose and, instead, he constructed "little stories". On the other hand, Jonathan Miller comes off as oddly dismissive. Andy Serkis (the Gollum from "The Lord of the Rings" movie trilogy) seems to be here only because the show wanted a celebrity to read Muybridge's writings and quotations; this is done in such an overwrought manner that it's sometimes unintentionally laughable.
Brief mention is made of the significant impactcovered better in some books on Muybridgehis photographs had on arteven if making the connection to Andy Warhol still seems a bit much to me. It's also suggested, although not well defended, that the animations of the Zoöpraxiscope discs influenced early cinema animation. A more interesting comparison is made between the battery of cameras Muybridge used for his instantaneous serial photography and the "time-slice photography", or "bullet time" visual effects, in "The Matrix" (1999). These comparisons also entirely undermine the host's dim comment when viewing the Zoöpraxiscope discs projected on a screen that, "It's really not cinema. You're only seeing about a half second of a story. It's not one point of view like cinema would be." Understanding, first, that cinema is not restricted by time, number of cameras, storytelling, or, as today's computer-generated digital films indicate, by the material used, one might find it more difficult to deny Muybridge's prominent place in the invention of cinema.
The Kino "Movies Begin" DVD prefaces this 2-minutes series of
animations of Eadweard Muybridge's photography with "Series Photography
1877-1885", but actually the instantaneous sequential photography shown
here is all from Muybridge's work for the University of Pennsylvania
between 1883 and 1886. Muybridge's work in series photography began in
1878 and continued for a couple years thereafter at multi-millionaire
railroad magnate Leland Stanford's Palo Alto Stock Farm in California
where he used a battery of cameras to capture animal locomotion,
especially the gait of horses (see "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop"
(1880)). He also toured the U.S. and Europe giving lectures with his
Zoöpraxiscope, a combination of the magic lantern and the
phenakistoscope, of hand-painted facsimiles of his photographs. Before
that, Muybridge was an artistic location still photographer and was
infamously found not guilty in a murder trial despite admitting to the
premeditated fatal shooting of his wife's lover and possibly her son's
The more than 100,000 photographs he took at the University of Pennsylvania represents his most voluminous portfolio. Although he covered many different subjects in animal locomotion, including for medical studies, the ones with nude models, especially women, are probably the most famous and are the subject of this brief homage. Eleven series of nude women are animated. They're "Child Carrying Flowers to Woman", "Woman Turning and Walking Upstairs", "Woman Walking Downstairs", "Woman Setting Down Jug", "Woman Picking Up Skirt", "Woman Picking Up Child", "Woman Pouring From Jug", "Woman Throwing Baseball", "Woman Jumping From Rock to Rock", "Woman Hopping on One Foot" and "Woman Sitting Down".
There's no evident scientific value to these images, contrary to Muybridge and the University's aspirations and claims, but there's obvious artistic worth. As Marta Braun says in her book "Picturing Time: The Work of Étienne-Jules Marey", "Muybridge, under the guise of offering us scientific truths has, like any artist, made a selection and arranged his selection into his own personal truth." There'd be no other reason for some of the models to be partially draped in such a way. Or for how Muybridge sometimes arranged his series of images in a way that was counterproductive to scientific measurement. They're unlike the chronophotogrpahy of an actual scientist; "Marey's studies of human and animal movements are everything that Muybridge's are not: disinterested, accurate, analytic, and systematic", as Braun states. Contrary to what the previous IMDb reviewer said, Muybridge actually continued to use multiple cameras and angels, which did lend themselves to creating brief artistic narratives. Among the series shown here, "Woman Jumping From Rock to Rock" begins from a head-on point of view and ends with a side view. In "Woman Hopping on One Foot", we see both a frontal and rear view, and "Woman Sitting Down" was also photographed from two different angles.
As others have pointed out, Muybridge's photographs were used by painters, from realists and impressionists to abstract artists. Francis Bacon, Edgar Degas, Marcel Duchamp, Thomas Eakins, Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier and Frederick Remington were among those who have been said to have been largely influenced by them. Muybridge's influence has extended into other arts, and, today, he remains one of the most intriguing figures in the history of the invention of motion pictures.
There was much-needed reappraisal of Eadweard Muybridge during the
1970s, which was the centennial of his instantaneous and sequential
photography of horses and other animal locomotion in California.
Especially considering the harm done by misinformation in such books as
"A Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture" by Terry
Ramsaye, which belittled Muybridge's contributions or erroneously
assigned them to others and which, generally, offers a false history of
the invention of movies while promoting Thomas Edison as the central
inventor. Besides this film, "Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer", two
books that remain among the best on the subject were published:
"Muybridge: Man in Motion" by Robert Bartlett Haas and "Eadweard
Muybridge: the Father of the Motion Picture" by Gordon Hendricks. An
exhibition and book titled "Eadweard Muybridge: the Stanford Years,
1872-1882" has been credited with initiating this series of
retrospective works and probably remains the best reference on that
period of Muybridge's photography. This documentary film actually
doesn't cover that initial period of instantaneous and sequential
photography very well and neither is it especially informative in
regards to the Zoöpraxiscope projection of animated pictures, but,
rather, does better at focusing on the earlier location still
photography of Muybridge and his later chronophotography for the
University of Pennsylvania.
Educationally and as an introduction to Muybridge, this is a valuable film. It was also an early source for animations of Muybridge's serial photography, which are now widely available on the web, as well as from other documentary sources. Critically and, occasionally, stylistically, this documentary is flawed, though. If you're an academic who subscribes to Marxist film theory, however, you'll surely disagree with me on this and, instead, concur with Thom Andersen's critical approach. The first indication of this trouble is that the film begins with a quotation from Mao Zedong. Most of the first part of the film, however, is a good biographical sketch, where zoom-ins on photographs are used to good effect. The Marxist speak and academic mumbo jumbo is largely saved for the end when discussing the University of Pennsylvania work. Here, we learn that there was "a dialectic of subject and method" and that the rectangular-grid backgrounds for the photographs "provides the most dramatic means of establishing the separateness of human beings form the physical objects surrounding them". Whatever that meansnot surprisingly, this was a 16mm student film.
Stylistically, the only annoyance was the filmmakers' tendency to sometimes get carried away with some of the animations, as well as with the music, and, especially, the over use of stroboscopic effects. I'd guess that this documentary itself could possibly induce seizures among some people just as was done, as mentioned in the film, for Muybridge's photography of artificially induced convulsions.
I don't mean to be harshly dismissive of this hour-long film, though. Despite being nearly 40 years old itself now, its history remains largely accurate. Although it does make the mistake of explaining how we see motion pictures as due to the "persistence of vision"that is, the illusion of motion is somehow fused from afterimages on our retinas; this, however, was commonly believed back then. Even today, many, if not most, continue to make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with how we perceive motion from a succession of still images, which, in fact, is a result of our brains making sense of what we see. (By the way, for both an accessible biography of Muybridge and a good explanation of how we perceive motion pictures, read Brian Clegg's popular biography "The Man Who Stopped Time"). Nevertheless, this is, generally, a good and brief introduction to the fascinating life and work of Eadweard Muybridge, who has been properly restored to his place as one of the most important figures in the history of the invention of movies.
"Early Applications" is the conclusion to historian Virgilio Tosi's
three-part educational series that accompanies his book "Cinema Before
Cinema: The Origins of Scientific Cinematography". The series
chronologically covers, first, the chronophotography of Jules Janssen,
Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey in "The Pioneers" and,
second, those who followed up on that work in much the same vein during
the evolution of cinematography in "Technical Developments Around the
Turn of the Century". "Early Applications" shows the films produced by
what everyone would recognize as "cinecameras" and by aid of special
The first films shown are pleasant enough: time-lapse photography of the growth of plants. These studies of plant movement were made from 1898-1900 by Wilhelm Pfeffer and are similar to the probably better-known films (at least among early cinema buffs who've seen them on home video collections or on the web) of F. Percy Smith ("The Birth of a Flower" (1910)) or the hand-colored films from the Pathé studio in the 1910s. Then, there's some microbial photography and high-speed photography of biological and physiological interest. After that, some of the films may be potentially unsettling for some viewers. They include locomotion studies of sometimes ill and otherwise disabled people and dogs; early 20th-Century surgery procedures on a lung cyst, the separation of conjoined twins and a leg amputation; and films of people being X-rayed, which is only disturbing if you think about the fact that the X-rays are medically unnecessary, and the subjects are unprotected from the radiation. (Although today's fee-for-service healthcare doesn't help any in this regard, either, but I digress.) Ballistic studies, animated geometry lessons and ethnological records round out the program, including finishing with a 1908 talkie of "Bushman Speaks into the Phonograph".
"Technical Developments Around the Turn of the Century" is the second
part of Virgilio Tosi's three-part educational series on the origins of
scientific films, which accompanies his book "Cinema Before Cinema: The
Origins of Scientific Cinematography". In the first part, "The
Pioneers", he covered the first chronophotographers Jules Janssen,
Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey. Here, he gives a brief
overview of those who followed in their footsteps. There's French
medical researcher Albert Londe, French General Hippolyte Sébert,
German photographer Ottomar Anschütz, German gymnastics professor Ernst
Kohlrausch, Marey's former assistants Georges Demeny, Lucien Bull and
Pierre Nogues, and Austrian zoologist Robert J. Lendlmayer von
I'd never heard of most of these men before, and at least some of them surely aren't of much interest to those not studying chronophotography or the origins of scientific filmmaking. Anschütz and Demeny, however, are especially intriguing figures in the development of cinema as a commercial medium, as well as a scientific one. And, besides, the demonstrations of the camera and projection inventions of these men, as well as animations of their sequential photographs makes whatever distinctions some make between chronophotography and cinematography seem pointlessly arbitrary for most purposes. (By the way, "chronophotography" was coined by Marey before the Lumières invention popularized terms stemming from "cinema".) They also support Tosi's thesis that cinematography was not born as spectacle, but rather out of the needs of scientific research. Even those like Muybridge, Anschütz and Demeny who turned it into spectacle or explored commercial avenues, began with more purely scientific aims funded by either rich patrons (in Muybridge's case) or government institutions (for most others).
Londe photographed the abnormal movements of disabled medical patients (often nude) for a hospital. As Tosi says in his book, Londe was "in some senses a true disciple of Marey". The most common photograph of Londe at work, as shown in this documentary and in the book, also shows Marey sitting nearby. Although they shared a devotion to scientific rigor, Londe's cameras with multiple lenses were quite different from the single-lens cameras of Mareybut similar to the designs by others. One animation shown here from Londe is of more entertainment interest, of a female tightrope walker.
Sébert is barely mentioned here or in Tosi's book. All of his images shown here are of the launching of torpedoes. He also used a multi-lens apparatus.
Likewise, Anschütz worked as a military photographer, where he recorded horses and riders to aid in training (see "Pferd und Reiter Springen über ein Hindernis"). He was more of an artistic photographer, however, like Muybridge. He also tried to industrially commercialize his chronophotography and invented various machines for home and public use that reproduced the illusion of motion from either disks or strips, in the tradition of the optical toys the Phenakistiscope and the Zoetrope. Tosi covers a bit of this, but it's largely outside of his topic. The authority on Anschütz's career is Deac Rossell, such as with his monograph "Ottomar Anschütz and His Electrical Wonder", as well as his book "Living Pictures: The Origins of the Movies" and various essays.
Tosi says that Kohlrausch was an academic and what today would be termed a sports physiologist. His odd wheel camera is an interesting sight. Because the wheel brought each glass plate before the same optical axis, it allowed him to record from a single point of view without the parallax effect that'd occur from multiple cameras or lens setups. One of the animations of his work is a double exposure showing two positions of the legs of an athlete as he balances on bars. Rossell has also written on the work Kohlrausch ("Ernst Kohlrausch: A Forgotten Pioneer of Chronophotography") and about his success in projection, which Tosi doesn't mention. Thus, although you wouldn't know it from reading most film history books, four of these chronophotographers (Marey, Demeny, Kohlrausch and Anschütz) beat the Lumière brothers and others to first reproducing the illusion of photographic motion on the screenand at least Demeny and Anschütz did so in front of the public. Muybridge and others did, as well, but usually with drawn animation.
Like Kohlrausch, Demeny was also a pioneer in physical education, and like Anschütz, he tried his hand at business. From 1881 to 1894, he was Marey's assistant at the Physiological Station near Paris. A project for the education of the deaf and mute led him to try to sell his peephole and projection devices. Later, he improved Marey's camera with a beater mechanism for intermittent movement and worked for Gaumont, which with Demeny's patents, became one of the biggest movie studios in the world (see "Je vous aime" (1891)).
Former assistants to Marey, Bull and Nogues, and the zoologist von Lendenfeld all worked in high-speed cinematography. Bull and von Lendenfeld both filmed microscopic images of the flight of insects and could record at rates up to 2000 frames per second. (Stephen Herbert of the Victorian Cinema website says that by 1924 Bull could reach even 100,000 images per second!) Animations from Bull of soap bubbles exploded by small projectiles are especially interesting. Nogues filmed from 240 to 300 frames per second with his cameras. The films of his shown are of the flight of birds and of gymnastics acts, which seems an appropriate conclusion to this entry given that those were favorite topics of Marey, too, whose workalthough discussed in the first part of this series and not herewas evidently of pervasive influence in chronophotography and early scientific filmmaking.
"The Pioneers" is the first part of a three-part documentary series
"The Origins of Scientific Cinematography" by historian Virgilio Tosi,
which were meant for teachers' use in educational settings and to
accompany his book "Cinema Before Cinema: The Origins of Scientific
Cinematography" (or "Il cinema prima di Lumière" in the original
Italian). It's the longest of the three films and, for my purposes, of
the most interest, as it deals with the three earliest
"chronophotographers" most responsible for pioneering the inventions of
the cinematographic camera, projection devices and motion pictures. I'm
generally more interested in fiction films than in scientific ones and
so am mostly interested in this series for better understanding the
origins of movies. Tosi's thesis is "that cinematography had its roots
The three men covered are the French astronomer Pierre Jules César Janssen, the English photographer located in America Eadweard Muybridge and the French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey. All three developed and used chronophotography (or cinematography) for discovering natural truths: from Janssen proving that the corona was part of the Sun and not a refraction effect of the Earth's atmosphere, to Muybridge proving there was a moment of "unsupported transit" in a horse's gallop, and Marey's extensive investigations into mechanical laws.
Janssen used a photographic revolvera cylindrical camera that took photographs by mechanics similar to those of gunswhich he attached to a horizontal telescope that peered into heliostat to record the 9 December 1874 transit of Venus across the Sun. By these means, 48 images could be taken in 72 seconds on a Daguerreotype metal disc. According to Tosi, this was the "first process to use cinematographic techniques". Unfortunately, Janssen's successful recording of the transit is no longer known to survive, but a disc of a test simulation of it remains. Animations based on it appear in this documentary and have also been available on the web. Janssen presented such artificial passages to the Académie des Sciences on 6 July 1874 before traveling with a group to Japan to film the real thing.
In California, beginning in 1878, Muybridge used multiple cameras for individual exposures of animal locomotion, especially the gait of horses (see "Sallie Gardner at a Gallop" (1880)). These experiments were funded by multi-millionaire railroad tycoon Leland Stanford, who was interested in finding a scientific basis for the training of his racehorses. Later, Muybridge also produced more artistically composed series imagesoften of nude modelsfor the University of Pennsylvania. Here, the film's narrator even says of Muybridge's Pennsylvania work that it "anticipated the function of a fiction film director." Muybridge also made a projection device called the Zoöpraxiscope to project drawn animations based on his chronophotography to the public and esteemed institutions and guests (including Marey) on his tours throughout the U.S. and Europe in between his photographic work and during the 1880s and early 1890s.
Marey was inspired to take up chronophotography for his motion studies, especially that of the flight of birds, by the work of Muybridge, but decided to use a single photographic rifle, with a rotating glass plate, based on Janssen's camera. Between 1888 and 1890, he made cameras more akin to early commercial cinematographic cameras and used paper roll film and, then, when it became available, celluloid film. Marey was among the first to record on film and, as in Tosi's book and this film, is a central influence in the invention of cinema (see "Falling Cat" (1894)).
Not only does this film provide a good historical overview of these three chronophotographers, which one can also just as well find in books, such as Tosi's, but it also includes excellent and sometimes rare images, including modern animations of the chronophotography. Additionally, there's explanation and demonstrations of photographic devices, such as a viewing from an original Zoöpraxiscope for color-painted drawings on circular phenakistoscope discs. There's only so much one can teach by telling; the benefit of the film is teaching by showing. This series, however, is probably only of interest to scholars of this field, especially academically, as the presentation is, apart from the purposes of learning, quite dull. The pauses in narration are sleep inducingeven if one takes the opportunities to jot down notes. Regardless, it's appropriate that a film about scientific filmmaking should itself be so educational and as was often the case with the images from Janssen, Muybridge and Marey, it shows us what we otherwise could not have seen.
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