reniers film history

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The Invention of Cinema and the Production of Fantasy: 

The Invention of Cinema and the Production of Fantasy

Magic Lantern Shows: 

Magic Lantern Shows To understand the origins of cinema as a popular medium, it is important to acknowledge it predecessors. Magic lantern shows were very popular with Victorian audiences. They were basically slide shows that often consisted of an adventure story set in exotic locations. A slide from the serialization of Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin", America's first best-selling novel.


The Persistence of Vision: The brain retains images cast upon the retina of the eye for approximately 1/20th to 1/5th of a second beyond their actual removal from the field of vision. It is this phenomenon which causes us to see the individual blades of a rotating fan as a unitary circular form or the different hues of a spinning color-wheel as a single homogeneous color. It is also what causes us to see the separate frames of a strip of film as a continuous image. Zoetrope Thaumatrope Alongside the Magic Lantern Shows, the Victorians were also fascinated with optical toys based on the persistence of vision.

The moving image: 

The moving image Three individuals that played a central part in the transition from still photography to the invention of cinema are: George Eastman Etienne Jules-Marey Edward Muybridge


"You push the button - we do the rest" George Eastman In 1888 Eastman introduced the first mass produced, hand-held camera, which he named the Kodak. The camera used rolls of sensitized paper and in the following year Eastman brought out celluloid rolls of film. This innovation lead to the subsequent invention of the motion picture camera by Thomas Edison and the rise of cinema.


In the 1860s and 70s Edward Muybridge experimented with serial photography in an effort to capture movement on film. Muybridge was hired by the former governor of California, Leland Stanford, to settle a wager. The story is that Stanford, who owned a number of race horses. had gotten into an argument with a friend concerning how horses gallop. Stanford was of the opinion that at a particular point in a horse’s gallop all four feet are off the ground simultaneously. His friend believed that this was physically impossible. To prove his case Stanford hired Muybridge to come up with a way to photograph the precise movements of the galloping horse. Muybridge rigged together a series of cameras along a race track that were triggered by trip-wires. After developing ways to speed up the exposure time of the film and the camera’s shutter speed, Muybridge was able to prove Stanford’s case.


Muybridge continued experimenting with different optical devices and in 1879 he created the zoopraxiscope, a projector that showed images in motion. With his new invention, Muybridge went on a massive tour across America and England.


In 1884 the University of Pennsylvania commissioned Muybridge to make a further study of animal and human locomotion. The report, "Animal Locomotion" was published three years later and contains more than twenty thousand images.


Marey, Etienne Jules Like Muybridge French physiologist Marey was also interested in the study of animal locomotion. He too developed methods to capture motion on film. One devices that he created was a photographic gun that allowed him to quickly photograph a series of images on a photosensitive disc.

Development of Film Technology: 

Development of Film Technology There are three individuals who are most often credited with the “invention” of the motion picture: Thomas Edison the Lumiere Brothers


In 1894 Thomas Edison opened his first Kinetoscope parlour on Broadway. Patrons paid 25 cents as the admission charge to view films in five kinetoscope machines placed in a row. Edison's film studio was used to supply films for this sensational new form of entertainment. More Kinetoscope parlors soon opened in other cities He soon realized that he would make greater profits if more than one customer could watch a film at the same time and introduced a projection process which he name the Panoptikon.


Auguste and Louis Lumiere are credited with the world's first public film screening on December 28, 1895. They showed ten short films in the basement of the Grand Cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in Paris. The show lasted 20 minutes and was the very first public demonstration of their device they called the Cinematographe, which effectively functioned as camera and projector all in one.

Early Film Exhibition: 

Early Film Exhibition Early spectators in both Kinetoscope parlors and cinema houses were amazed by even the most mundane moving images. These early films were very short, one-reelers (a 10-15 minute reel of film - the projector's reel capacity at the time). Popular topics included: people at work, parades, women dancing, dogs terrorizing rats, twisting contortionists, and short pieces of animation.

Early Film Exhibition: 

Early Film Exhibition Films were initially shown as part of vaudeville shows and at fairgrounds. The earliest 'movie theatres' were converted churches or halls. In 1897 the first real cinema was built in Paris, solely for the purpose of showing films. By 1898 the Lumiere's company had produced a short film catalog with over 1,000 titles. In 1902 Thomas L. Talley built the first US movie theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The Electric Theater seated 200 and charged patrons a dime. By as early as 1910 American cinemas were attracting 26 MILLION PEOPLE A WEEK.


Georges Melies is credited for being the first person to give cinema a sense of wonderment. By using plot or storylines, magically characters and special effects, Melies introduced the idea of narrative to film. When the Lumiere brothers wouldn't sell him a camera, he developed his own and then set up Europe's first film studio in 1897. Over the next 15 years he created about 500 short films (few of which survived), and screened his own productions in his theatre. In 1911 he contracted with French film company Pathe to finance and distribute his films, but within two years he went out of business. Melies was a stage magician and a wizard at special effects. Film offered him the perfect medium to create stories of fantasy and illusion. In 1902 Melies released a 14-minute science fiction tale entitled Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon).


His assortment of trick photography included such things as hand-tinting, dissolves, wipes, 'magical' super-impositions and double exposures, the use of mirrors, trick sets, stop motion, slow-motion and fade-outs amd fade-ins. Although his use of the camera was innovative, the camera remained stationary. In other words, he recorded the all action from one position only, duplicating the experience of watching a play. It would take several years before filmmakers developed the quick editing and camera movements that we associate with contemporary films.


Edwin S. Porter is credited for creating the first American narrative film, The Great Train Robbery (1903), and for initiating the film genre of the Western. The film features fast paced action, location shots (although it was film in New Jersey, it has the look of the wild west), shootouts and horse chases. It also has an interesting closing scene in which one of the train bandits shoots back at the shooting camera.


German Expressionism and the Land of Ghost and Monsters Between 1919 and 1930 a number of films were made in Germany that came to constitute a movement known as “German Expressionism.” Common to these films is the use of a highly stylized look or mise-en-scene. The films feature such formal elements as dramatic, chiaroscuro lighting, surreal sets and props, and remarkably fluid editing and framing. “The ‘gothic’ appearance of these films is often accompanied by similar acting styles and macabre or ‘low-life’ subject matters. The overall effect is to create a self-contained fantasy world quite separate from everyday reality, a world imbued with angst and paranoia in the face of that which cannot be rationally explained.” Annette Kuhn, “History of the Cinema,” The Cinema Book, edited by Pam Cook.


The first feature film that we will watch is F. W. Murnau’s vampire classic Nosferatu (1922). I picked this film to start us off because we will see the influence that it had on classical Hollywood film and it also draws a direct connection between the power of film and fantasy. The influence of German Expressionism is especially evident in Hollywood horror movies and film noir.

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