Week 3: Early Cinema
EARLY FILM HISTORY
-Dominant model: film evolution as "progress" : Lumiere Brothers to Batman in IMAX
-evolution of TECHNOLOGY of image and sound manipulation: idea of "bigger and better" is
superimposed on film quality
-within this model, early film gets called PRIMITIVE FILM
-We need to challenge this model of progress: instead, examine DIFFERENCES, rejecting the
arrogant presumpton of progress which assumes that what is recent is good.
-One way to challenge the agenda of this history is by doing research into past to uncover new
information, complexities, and patterns
The first 20 years of film history is often simplistically charted like this:
a) Lumieres invent film: one-shot documentary films
b) Melies multi-shot narrative films: "invents" editing and special effects (e.g., A Trip to the
c) Porter multi-shot story films (e.g., Great Train Robbery)
d) D.W. Griffith as great White father of cinema who "invents" the language of film: The Birth of
A Nation is seen as the birth of the feature film in 1915.
This is an INADEQUATE version of early film history
-Cinema Studies scholars, as part of massive recent effort at film preservation, have reexamined
early film, finding new prints, or just descriptions of early films, collecting data to challenge the
narrow agenda of film-history-as-progress model of film history.
-the invention of cinema was preceded by a long history of "proto-cinema" reaching back to
Indonesian shadow plays, and incorporating technologies of painting, optics, theatre, public
lectures, even military technology (celluloid)
-Lumieres just one o