Some Notes on the Evolution of Style

by Marsha Landry

Attempting to position the textual evidence from the early years of cinema in relation to the cinema that we know today can become a difficult and thankless task, and one that few writing about the history of cinema have attempted.

The reasons are clear and logical: the silent, flickering, briefly glimpsed images that constitute the earliest films in cinema's history are easily, and readily, seen as early experimentations of a photographic process that would quickly grow and develop into complicated, fully formed art. Indeed, the rapid developments in film length, quality, distribution and, importantly, narrative perhaps contribute to the earliest offering of the cinema being swept aside as the medium progressed in leaps and bounds. It's hard to see these first few movies as proper antecedents of the expressive art form that movies quickly became: it is difficult to see them as art at all. Thus, and understandably again, the early period of film making has been sectioned off from the subsequent progression of cinema as an art form, the use of terms such as 'primitive cinema' and even 'early cinema' have endured and serve, however innocuously, to enclose the first films in a category away from the rest of cinema as an art. And yet, the study of cinema as a technology has no similar reservations about embracing the early films and gives them prominent positions within the story of cinema's progression from magic lantern to moviescope and beyond. It is the study of cinema as an art form that has conspicuously overlooked the earliest films as a major contribution the evolution and revolutions of film style.

This neglect seems somewhat illogical if one presumes to accurately produce a history, or commentary, of developing styles and techniques in film. Yet the trend is explainable given that the medium has endured and developed for over 100 years. An attempt to critically discuss the narrative style, form and content of early film is problematic, and not without risk. It is difficult, for example, to escape the overwhelming significance of a Lumière film and evaluate it on its own terms, as anything other than the 'primitive' birth of a medium that would grow into the platform for artistic expression that we recognise today, thus discounting its individual artistic merit. The extreme importance of the Lumière films as the first examples of film production may be the very factor that suppresses a careful consideration of their style and content. As such, it is relatively difficult to appreciate the films without appreciating that which proceeds, and so distinguishing their place in the development of the art. Therefore, a proper analysis is almost hindered somewhat by our 'knowing too much.' When considering the Lumière s in this way, there is a temptation to leap on towards Méliès and Porter, Griffith and Chaplin, and in some ways it is logical to do so. However, by placing the films in this very wide evolution of cinematic style, we risk avoiding a proper consideration of their individual artistic merits.

Some Notes on the Evolution of Style
Some Notes on the Evolution of Style

A proper analysis of the Lumière films perhaps relies on the viewer's partial suspension of knowledge and experience. For example, we are aware that the figures passing through the gates of Sortie d'Usine (1895) are workers leaving the Lumière factory (some publications even label the film as such) and that the man directing the demolition of the wall in Demolition d'Un Mur (1895) is Louis Lumière 's brother, Auguste(i). Our basic knowledge of these facts may create the rather naive impression of the Lumière s' creative process, leading us to falsely conclude that random events were shot from everyday surroundings. This neglects to appreciate the physical constraints of film-making that would make it impossible to do such a thing (it almost suggests that Louis Lumière always carried a camera with him and happened to be filming the factory gates as the workers left, or to be filming a wall when his brother decided to demolish it). In fact, it seems reasonable to suggest that even the physical activity of setting the camera up prompts a consideration of how one is going to film the scene in terms of distance, angle and so on. Indeed, in Lumière films there seems to be a careful consideration of how the action is portrayed. Also, in having to set the camera up, the events taking place before it may have had to be delayed, and so staged. This dispels the belief that the Lumière s merely filmed events as they happened in everyday life. Rather, they would have to be choreographed to an extent, so that they were captured at all. Our knowledge of who the subjects were in both of these films may also betray a sense of what impact the films had on their first audiences. We might consider whether these audiences would have known that they were watching workers leaving a Lumière factory, or indeed a factory at all. Likewise, how could they guess that it was Auguste Lumière, the brother of the man that made the film, who was instructing the demolition of a wall? Of course they may have known, but it is interesting to consider how the meaning of the films alter when the identity of the subject is withheld. We might contemplate, when the films are viewed away from the wider context of film's development (where the important facts may be Louis Lumière, inventor of the Cinematographe filming his associate and brother, Auguste), which other features become pertinent.

Marshall Deutelbaum encourages a re-evaluation of the Lumière films in 'Structural Patterning in the Lumière Films.'(ii) He refutes the criticism that has previously been afforded to the films, citing Gerald Mast's comparison of Le Repas de Bebe (1895) to amateur home movies(iii), and Louis D. Gianetti's terming of the films as "plotless" in his attempt to place them within the context of the documentary movement.(iv) Gianetti's comments are indicative of a emphasis of what is portrayed in the films over a consideration of how the events are portrayed - everyday life is being filmed so consequently it must be a documentary, regardless of style. Mast's comments demonstrate a somewhat backwards-looking slant on history; for example, because parallels exist between Le Repas de Bebe and home movies of much later on, does this mean that both examples were made in the same conditions and with the same intention? It seems dubious to suggest that the Lumière s would have used this new technology to simply make a 'home movie' or, indeed, 'simply' make anything at all. So, as with Mast's and Di Gianetti's comments, there is a danger of overlooking the style of early filmmaking in an attempt to contextualise them within proceeding movements and trends. Certainly, there are links between the first Lumière films and the documentary movement (not least in that neither achieve a straight portrayal of reality, as opposed to Arthur Lenning's definition, which Deutelbaum also takes issue with, of the 'documentary aspect of cinema' being 'the recording of unadjusted, unarranged, untampered reality')(v) but we must consider whether an appreciation of this neglects a proper analysis of the films' style of composition. By fitting the films too readily within a later genre of filmmaking, there is perhaps a danger of overlooking other important artistic elements.

Deutelbaum offers a re-consideration of the Lumière films' narrative structures, focusing particularly on the prevalent theme of a 'circular' narrative process, using the opening and closing of the gates in Sortie d'Usine (1895) as a pertinent example(vi). Likewise, André Gauldreault argues the narrative quality of L'Arrivee d'un train (1895) using Claude Bremond's model for basic narrative principals(vii). As such, the case for Lumière films as narratives has been clearly laid out. The aim of this discussion is to continue the argument over a range of Lumière films and, significantly, suggest how aspects of narrative style in the films, particularly composition and spatial relationship, evolve through proceeding fictional films. One of the drawbacks of Gaultreault's and Deutelbaum's argument is their reluctance to relate narrative elements within Lumière films to the fictional films that proceeded them. It is interesting, and seems logical, to compare the stylistic patterns of the first films with those more definable as narrative works of fiction. It appears wholly appropriate to assume, for example, that Hepworth may have seen Lumière films, and that their style of narration might have influenced his own filmmaking. Consequently, an attempt is made to appreciate the historical evolution of narrative style within the early years of cinema, and so avoid the impression that some writers have given of the various filmmakers working in vacuum, thus isolating particular figures as the founders of certain genres and techniques.(viii)

Repas de Bebe

To begin, then, with that alleged 'home movie,' Repas de Bebe. The composition of elements within the framed image, and the way that the characters interact with one another creates meaning for the audience, establishing what kind of family is being presented to us. (Of course, it is brother Auguste's family that is shown, but again we might wonder whether cinema audiences would have known this or even, in knowing this, whether they would be satisfied to think no further about the film's content. In any case, should we be content to rest our conclusions at this detail)? The family is seated in a row with baby in the centre and mother and father either side. A line of unity is therefore established that corresponds with the line of the table before them, and they interact with one another along this vertical axis. This line of unity also establishes an intimacy between the family members, an intimacy that is not shared by the viewer: the table acting as a barrier of separation between the subject and ourselves, and similarly in the way that each person turns away from us to interact with one another. This gives an impression of closeness and comfort within the family group, complemented by their expressions of delight and ease. The intimacy of the scene is emphasised in the father's and mother's mirrored postures and actions, as they take objects from the table before them and attend to their child. Likewise, the father and mother sit at their own table, enjoying their lunch, and the baby has its own table, mirroring the parents, with items placed before it in a similar way. Consequently, the sharing of posture between the mother, and father and of physical environment between the baby and its parents, complements the nature of the occasion as they share a meal with one another (the mother and father literally share food with the baby as they feed it and, towards the end of the film, the baby attempts to share its food with them, thus reciprocating the gesture).

Their contented manner is complemented by elements of their surroundings. The wine bottles to the right of the frame, the silver service in centre of the table and the china teacups to the left suggest opulence and wealth, a theme echoed in their leafy surroundings and particularly, just behind Auguste's left shoulder, some potted plants. The synthesis of all these elements in the framed imaged implies that a relatively wealthy family is being portrayed - the informal tone of their meal suggests that it is a regular occurrence for them to eat from silver plates and drink from china cups. (One wonders whether the Lumière s in fact dragged all of their best china and silver out because they were going to be filmed or if this is really indicative of their lifestyle). To the average person watching this film for the first time, this could have represented a window onto how the 'other half live' (the distanced perspective from the scene of intimacy could certainly evoke this impression) and so, suddenly, Lumière 's film becomes a subject for class division: of us watching them.

Partie d'ecarte

The themes of Repas de Bebe are continued and developed in Partie d'ecarte (1895). In this film, a group of three men sit around a table playing cards. There is a conformity to (i) their dress as they all wear hats, ties and suits, (ii) in their posture as they lean over the table and (iii) in their hand movements as they place their cards on the table. There is, again, an opulence to the setting as they sit outdoors around a decoratively styled table among exotic-looking plants and palms in the background. (Gardens communicate a lot of detail in these films and, presumably, they feature because the light would be better for filming outdoors). Unlike Repas de Bebe, however, there is an 'outside' element within this complicit group, in the form of the waiter/servant (the scene may be either a home or a club). Whereas the physicality of the three card players correspond in their sitting postures, the waiter remains standing outside of the arc created by the three men, and the uniform he wears contrasts with their smart uniformed dress. His dress symbolises work, whereas their perhaps symbolises leisure. His exclusion is exemplified in his different behaviour to theirs - his comical exaggeration contrasts with their relative calmness. His attempts to join with the group, in his excited responses to their game, are unsuccessful as the men almost completely ignore him, instead reinforcing their inner complicity by toasting each other with the beer that he has brought for them. In contrast to the previous film, Partie d'ecarte presents its audience with a class distinction on screen between the card players and the servant. It is a play-acted scene, and the behaviour of the servant is surely intended to be humorous, yet there is also a degree of social comment present in the players' behaviour towards the man who provides for them. There is a hint of injustice in their treatment of the lower class.

Demolition d'Un Mur

It is Auguste Lumière again who, perhaps unwittingly, becomes a figure of social status in Demolition d'Un Mur (1895). As he directs the demolition of the wall, certain aspects of his appearance and manner distance him from the men carrying out the work for him. He wears a shirt and tie while they wear overalls and caps, denoting their differing social roles: they are manual labourers while he looks as though he might work in an office. Consequently, contrasting social positions are established, with him having a degree of authority over them. This extends to his actions, as he stands around pointing, giving instructions while the men run around to meet his demands. He therefore comes across as a slightly bossy, pompous foreman-type character, who is quite happy to order others around while not actually getting his own hands dirty. (Of course, Auguste is possibly ensuring that the wall falls in the best way for the sake of the film and as such, interestingly, becomes a kind of on-screen artistic director). When the film is re-shown in reverse, with the wall magically reforming itself, it seems to be an act of defiance against the bossy foreman, as though the bricks and mortar are revolting against his command. There is an amusing moment where Auguste, in directing the wall's destruction in reverse, seems to wave his finger and point at the 'rebuilt' structure, as if chastising it for getting back up again. Viewed in this way, Demolition d'Un Mur is actually a rather comic film, and part of the delight of seeing the wall put itself back together is that it does so in antithesis to Auguste's bossy instruction.

Auguste Lumière 's apparent attention to how the scene in Demolition d'Un Mur should be played out corresponds with further concerns of form and style within the Lumière films. For example, the motion of the wall falling is captured effectively by the camera's diagonal perspective to its motion. As the wall collapses diagonally across the frame, its motion is forwards and to the side, whereas a face-on or side-on perspective would only capture forward or sideways motion. The event is therefore afforded a more dynamic texture, and the dramatic impact heightened somewhat as the wall reforms along the same diagonal axis of movement. This attention to the space, distance and angle of the framed image is prevalent in the Lumière films, and distances the work from the distinction of playful amateurism. Rather, there is an awareness of how aspects of composition can capture action and create effect.

Arrivee d'Un Train

The visual pattern of the wall collapsing is also observable in perhaps the most infamous Lumière film, Arrivee d'Un Train. The film is regularly offered for discussion because of the supposed effect it allegedly had on its audiences, causing them to fear for their lives as the train apparently zoomed ominously towards them. Even taking into account the newness of what they were seeing, this reaction seems extraordinary, reflected in Ian Christie's response to Maxim Gorky's lyrical description of the experience: "surely a slight exaggeration?"(ix) It seems more sensible to conclude that early audiences were aware of the effect that the flickering, monochrome image might have on them, without running out into the streets for fear of catastrophe. Furthermore, that they may have appreciated the film on those merits, just as we do today. Modern films do not effect us because we believe the events are real and may spill over into our world, rather we appreciate to realistic rendering of the illusion. While caution should be exercised in transferring modern cinema experiences onto the past, it seems quite conceivable that early cinema audiences would have appreciated the illusion of film as we do today. Tom Gunning, in his article 'Primitive Cinema: A Frame-up? Or the Trick's on Us'(x) alludes to this theme as he cites Mrs Sieppe's dismissal of the cinema as a trick ('It's a drick') in Frank Norris' 1899 novel McTeaugue: A Story of San Francisco.(xi) If audiences weren't fooled by Arrivee d'Un Train, then we must consider what else could be appreciated in its form. We might examine the way in which, like the wall collapsing, the events take place across the diagonal of the frame, illustrating the space and distance that the train moves across. As such, because the scale of the frame is clearly depicted, a sensation of the train moving closer and closer towards the viewer is effectively achieved. The film does not conclude, however, with the train halting at the station, rather it presents an interesting comparison between its motion and the movement of the passengers as they board and leave the train. The boarding passengers reproduce the motion and direction of the train as they walk down across the platform diagonally, right to left, on the same axis that the train has just traced. This establishes a correspondence between these people and the train itself, appropriate as they are about to join its directional movement out of the station diagonally left (although we are not shown the train departing in this way). The departing passengers travel along a different directional axis, from bottom left to top right on the diagonal. Subsequently, their pattern of movement conflicts with the train and the boarding passengers, an effect that the position of the camera portrays clearly. Our line of vision conflicts across both patterns of movement, highlighting their own conflicting natures. As a result, the film becomes a study of contrasting and complementing movement and form within everyday routine, revealing further dynamic texture than the titled description discloses.

Bataille de Boules de Neige

This attention to the axis of movement is evident in other Lumière films. The composition of Bataille de Boules de Neige (1896) establishes corresponding diagonal lines within the buildings, trees, lampposts, road, the two groups of snowballers and the cyclist's direction of movement as he unwittingly enters into the snowball fight. These elements form diagonally right to left within the frame, thus establishing an effective axis for the proceeding action to take place along. The narrative of the film is more overtly staged with the cyclist's choreographed entry into the action and his leaving without his hat at the end (surely displaying an attention to presenting the narrative within the right time over more realistic concerns). The film presents a narrative pattern of (i)equilibrium (ii)dis-equilibrium (iii)new equilibrium as the snowballers return to their original state after the disruptive narrative element (the cyclist) has escaped, therefore concurring with the narrative model that Deutelbaum constructs in his analysis of Sortie d'Usine and Demolition d'Un Mur(xii). The camera position also renders an authenticity to the occasion, with people passing before the camera and snowballs flying across the directional axis discussed previously, giving the impression of being part of the scene. Again, there seems to be an attention to events taking place across a diagonal plane, allowing for a creative depiction of themes and patterns of movement. One has to bear in mind that, on this wide street, the Lumière s could have placed their camera anywhere. The framing of Bataille de Boules de Neige represents not merely a choice, but a good choice. Likewise, the composition on the diagonal of Pompiers a Lyon (c.1896) creates the same effect of scale and space as the two previous films, allowing for an appreciation of the speed and movement of the horses pulling the fire carts, but also attends to the corresponding pattern of movement of the man slowly pulling his cart at the end of the film along the same axis. As such, a rather amusing comparison is made between the majestic pace of the horses and engines, as they sweep through the frame, and the slow plodding of the man as he pulls his little cart in their wake.

How it Feels to be Run Over

To establish whether the themes of narrative composition of the Lumière films continue through the progression of fictional narrative films, it is pertinent to compare them with later examples of early cinema. Cecil Hepworth's How it Feels to be Run Over (1900) establishes the same narrative pattern that was observable in Pompiers a Lyon. Just as the diagonal axis of motion encourages a comparison of the speeding fire carts and the little cart that the man pulls at the end of the film, so Hepworth's film uses the same compositional technique. First we see a horse and cart gallop along the street, at a safe pace. It throws up a cloud of dust in its wake, which Hepworth utilises for dramatic purpose as a speeding car emerges, heading straight for the audience. Hepworth has adapted and intensified the sensation of Arrivee d'Un Train, as the car now heads directly towards us, and also incorporates the theme of Pompiers a Lyon to establish a comparison between the two modes of travel: the traditional horse and cart represents safety whereas the modern motor car is a menace to the pedestrian. Hepworth takes further advantage of the Lumière compositional techniques to deliver his anti-modernity message. He takes this thesis a step further by exacting a kind of revenge on, or exposing a very real danger of, the motor car in Explosion of a Motorcar (1900). Again, we can observe how Hepworth employs a smooth motion across the slight diagonal axis for dramatic purpose, contrasting the sharp unexpectedness of the car exploding, similar to the car running into the camera in the previous film. Significantly, these examples demonstrate that Hepworth realised the ways in which compositional techniques could be used to create narrative effect.

Rescued by Rover

This awareness progresses in a film like Rescued By Rover (1905), which encapsulates many of the narrative techniques of the earlier Lumière films. (It should be noted here that a case is not being made for Hepworth as a pioneering auteur of early cinema, and we must acknowledge that Lewin Fitzhamon co-directed Rescued By Rover(xiii), and that Mrs. Hepworth created the story(xiv).

The aim is a discussion of the evolution of film style, rather than the evolution of the director). The film makes very effective use of spatial composition and symbolic elements for narrative purpose.

The film begins with a shot of a baby sitting, with a collie dog, on a table. Therefore, the image discloses an element of the film's narrative - its happy ending, and implicates the dog (Rover) and the baby as key narrative agents. The very fact that Rover sits on a cushion beside the baby reveals details of their domestic situation, they belong to a family who would allow a dog to sit on a table and so keep a pet to be enjoyed and admired. Also, that they have more than one table in the house, as this one presumably will not have dinner eaten off it, which could be indicative of wealth. In this way Rover, with his glossy groomed coat, corresponds with other elements of the frame that communicate a sense of opulence and wealth (as was true of elements within the Lumière films). There is an ornate fire-place and frame to the left of the shot, beside that a lamp of some kind and various pokers and implements for the fire. The style of tablecloth is relatively plush, the cushion certainly is, and an ornate chair and small table occupy the right of the frame behind baby, who is dressed neatly in smart white linens. On the small table sits a potted plant (to have a plant like this indoors communicates something of the family's wealth) and behind that the wall is finished with a kind of wood panelling. Consequently, this shot communicate the characters involved in the story, but also the type of characters and their situation, thus fulfilling a narrative objective on two levels.

We cut to a gypsy woman standing in the foreground of a park scene. Her status is denoted by her style of dress - a patchwork skirt and shawl - that contrasts with the smart white dress of the nanny who pushes a magnificent pram in the background. The two women are conflicted in their style of dress, but also in their spatial relationship to one another. Their background and foreground positions are divided by the line of the path that the nanny walks along, and the gypsy crosses over this line when she asks her for money - literally invading her space.

The next shot employs space in a similar way, as the two women's physical relationship to one another is reversed: this time the nanny is in the foreground, allowing for her to miss the gypsy lurking between the bushes of the background. The discord between the characters is illustrated again in their individual patterns of movement: as the mother travels diagonally up across the frame from left to right, the gypsy travels diagonally down from right to left, snatching the baby as the nanny talks to a soldier. This theme of divergence is exemplified as the gypsy leaves on the left of the fork in the path, and the nanny progresses to the right, not noticing that she no longer has a baby. The use of physical distances and contrasting patterns of movement helps to establish the different characters as good and bad. It is a stylistic feature that complements the events of the narrative.

When the nanny returns home we are again afforded a glimpse of the family's richly decorated surroundings - the potted plants, pictures, ornate lamp, grand fireplace and the plush curtains that the nanny passes through. A further suggestion of their comfortable lifestyle is the mother sitting embroidering, at a her leisure (and also in the fact that she has a nanny to look after her child for her). Their wealth is further demonstrated in the next shot as Rover jumps out of the large, open window into a ornate, leafy garden (this is similar to the way in which nice gardens communicated affluence in Lumière films).

The next series of shots are afforded the most attention in discussion of the film. There is indeed, as John L. Fell suggests, evidence of continuity in the 'matched screen direction and rhythm' of Rover's running from shot to shot(xv). However, a sense of time, space and distance is also communicated in these shots, particularly in the long take as Rover runs along a long street, diagonally from background to foreground, in the first shot of the sequence. Therefore, suspense is created as we acknowledge the scale of his task (without seeing yet what situation the baby is in) and also our admiration of Rover's intelligence and perseverance (we might ask how he knows which direction to travel over such a long distance, and also conclude that he is a very faithful pet for attempting it). This feeling is complemented as he jumps straight into the river that he is faced with, stopping only to shake off water at the other side. In this sequence, Hepworth uses space, distance and direction of movement to complement and enhance the narrative.

As Rover enters the street where the gypsy lives, there is a marked contrast between these surroundings and those presented previously in the film. This scene is sparse and desolate in comparison to the family's plush surroundings, a difference that is further pronounced by the large house with a leafy garden in the background, establishing a disparity with the bleak yard. The people standing outside their houses are in synthesis with the tone of the scene, their inactivity perhaps demonstrative of constraint, standing rather than reclining on delicate furniture as the mother did. Their dress - cloth caps, waistcoats, patchwork dresses - designates them as working-class: the other end of the social spectrum to the family that we saw previously. The contrast is reminiscent of the distinction between the card players and the servant in Partie d'ecarte.

This bleak theme is reciprocated in the gypsy's attic room. The walls are bare, with the bricks exposed at the left corner where the plaster has fallen away, and the sloping line of the roof serves to constrict the space - rendering a claustrophobic atmosphere. A stark shaft of light falls on the gypsy and the baby, pronouncing that there are no curtains (compared to the family's home that even had curtains over doorways), just as there is no furniture other than the chair that the woman sits on (again contrasting with the abundance of furniture in the family's home). A pile of rags make a bed on the floor, and as she lays the baby down, she takes a drink from a bottle that stands to the left of the frame on the floor, before cursing the baby and waving her fist. A connection is therefore established between the poverty of the surroundings, the drink and the woman's violent behaviour. This theme is reminiscent in tone of magic lantern displays, which Hepworth originally worked with(xvi). The contrast between this interior and the family's room marks a difference of status and wealth, firmly reinforcing a social element to the piece.

We are shown another interior as Rover, having returned back through a reversed series of previous shots, attracts the attention of his master, the baby's father. Again, there are all the compositional details of the previous house interiors, and they are reinforced by his style of dress - dark suit, white shirt and tie. As he runs along the street in the next shot, following Rover along a repeat of a previous scene, he wears a long coat and top hat which, as he reaches the foreground of the frame, he removes to smooth his hair. This refined manner of behaviour and the fact that he would even bother to put on 'outdoor' clothes, perhaps communicates his upper social position. This is replicated in his behaviour at the river bank where he seems unsure of how best to use the rowing boat to get across, nicely contrasted with Rover's heroic leap into the water.

As they enter the terraced-house yard, the difference between his dress and that of the residents is expressed emphatically. Interestingly, he runs from the same direction as the large house in the background and, while this is clearly not his house, this attaches him somewhat to its form and what it represents, as it conflicts with the bleak yard. As the father enters the gypsy's room and takes the baby, she tries to prevent him, and he pushes her down. The difference in their posture - her kneeling and him standing over her - is a stylised representation of their class, power and status. The advantage that he displays here is perhaps indicative of the universal advantage that one class has over the other. As he and Rover leave, the gypsy picks up some of the baby clothes as a reminder of the child. This reinforces the film's attention to clothes and objects as projections of class and personality. This gesture is complemented when, as he returns home with the baby, the father throws off a ragged shawl that the gypsy had put around their child.

The concern with the composition of elements and space within Rescued by Rover is reminiscent of the stylistic patterns that occur in the examples of Lumière films. They are concerns that are still prevalent in films today, although one should be cautious to avoid suggesting that they are the same as films today. Indeed, the purpose of the discussion, in highlighting some of the similarities in form between examples of early cinema, is to present a progression of style that evolves and continues today. In this way, the Lumière brothers are not the sole creators of narrative convention, just as Hepworth cannot be credited as a pioneer of continuity editing, because the conventions develop and adapt, just as they do in the ten year period discussed. Certainly, one should not dismiss these films as being so obviously 'primitive' that they have no artistic value, but also one should be careful not to neglect the evolutionary process of film style that continues in modern filmmaking. In bringing together two examples of filmmaking, we can begin to appreciate the continuous process whereby practitioners learn and develop from one another. Therefore, there is an avoidance to present one single artist as the 'inventor' of a certain convention or style because, as is suggested in this essay, the very nature of that style may well originate from an earlier source. Most importantly, this suggests that early filmmakers were not working in a random, experimental fashion, but instead had a refined sense of their chosen mediums potential directions and opportunities. In this way, the Lumière brothers did not simply point their camera at real life - or, rather, doing so involved a series of artistic choices - and Hepworth's films are not examples of amateur, naive dramatics. A re-evaluation of their technique should illuminate these filmmakers as important figures in the evolution of film style, a process that is constantly changing and adapting. As such, the Lumière s and Hepworth, and many others of the period, contribute strongly to the conventional styles of film narrative that are prevalent today.

James Walters.

Bibliography of References:

Barnes, John The Beginnings of the Cinema in England David and Charles, London, 1976

Burch, Noel'Porter or Ambivalence' in Screen vol. 19, no. 4 (winter 78/79)

British Film Institute Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers vol. 1 & 2 British Film Institute, London, 1993

Chanan, Michael The Dream That Kicks Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1980

Christie, Ian The Last Machine: Early Cinema and the Birth of the Modern World BFI Publishing, 1994

Elsaesser, Thomas (ed.) Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative BFI Publishing, 1990

Fell, John L. (ed.) Film Before Griffith University of California Press Ltd., 1983

Fell, John L. A History of Films Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1979

Holman, Roger (comp.) Cinema 1900-1906: An Analytical Study FIAF 1982

Salt, Barry'Film Form 1900-1906' in Sight and Sound Summer 1978

Salt, Barry'The Early Development of Film Form' in Film Form no. 1, 1976

(i) Both of these facts are provided in Barry Salt's commentary for Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers vol. 1 British Film Institute, 1993 (back)

(ii) Deutelbaum, Marshall 'Structural Patterning in the Lumière Films' in Fell, John L. (ed.) Film Before Griffith University of California Press Ltd., 1983, p. 299 (back)

(iii) Ibid. p. 299 (back)

(iv) Ibid. p. 300 (back)

(v) Ibid. p. 300 (back)

(vi) Ibid. pp. 301-303 (back)

(vii) Gaudreault, André 'Film, Narrative, Narration: The Cinema of the Lumière Brothers' in Elsaesser, Thomas (ed.) Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative British Film Institute 1990, p. 68 (back)

(viii) Noel Burch describes this misleading method of film history in his article 'Porter or Ambivalence' in Screen vol. 19, no. 4 (Winter 78/79) p. 95 (back)

(ix) Christie, Ian The Last Machine: Early Cinema and the Birth of the Modern World British Film Institute 1994, p.15 (back)

(x) Gunning, Tom 'Primitive Cinema: A Frame-Up? Or, The Trick's on Us' in Elsaesser p. 95 (back)

(xi) Norris, Frank McTeague: A Story of San Francisco New York: Signet 1964, pp. 85-6 (back)

(xii) Deutelbaum pp. 301-4 (back)

(xiii) Christie p. 29 (back)

(xiv) Fell, John L. A History of Films Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979 p. 50 (back)

(xv) Fell, p. 51 (back)

(xvi) Fell, p. 50 (back)

About Marsha Landry

Marsha Landry is an accomplished writer known for her expertise in the field of movies. With a keen eye for storytelling and a deep understanding of film analysis, she has established herself as a prominent voice in the world of cinema.

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