Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Anno uno 8 A: American Mutoscope 1896

Stable on Fire

1896. Cinema anno uno – Lumière!
1896. Year One of Cinematography
Programma 8 / Programme 8: A: American Mutoscope 1896

Introduce Céline Ruivo
♪ Grand piano John Sweeney
There are no intertitles in the films.
Cinema Lumiere – Sala Officinema/Mastroianni, 29 June 2016

Bryony Dixon introduces the BFI National Archive’s forthcoming Victorian film project. The aim is to restore large format films from 60 mm and 68 mm originals using new combinations of photochemical and digital technique as well as to digitise more than 500 British films made between 1895 and 1901. The project raises questions about duplication of archival work – some of the large format films were previously the object of an ambitious European restoration programme led by the Netherlands Filmmuseum, now EYE. It’s also about public engagement in the changing world of digital programming, how can we best present the material, to excite, educate and entertain?

Luke McKernan (Bologna catalog): "Amid the welter of projectors with extravagant names that competed for the public’s attention in the very first years of cinema, the Biograph, developed by Herman Casler, had established itself as a product above the others, with a sharper, steadier, and far larger screen image than any of its competitors, a true source of wonder in all who saw it. The key to this success was the unperforated film of approximately 68 mm width that the Biograph projector used. The American Mutoscope Company (the Mutoscope being the flip-card viewer that employed the same images, and inspired the invention of the Biograph) generated several European Biograph companies in 1897 when expanding into Europe."

"Approximately 300 original Biograph films dating 1896-1903 are held by the BFI (National Film and Television Archive) and EYE Filmmuseum (then Nederlands Filmmuseum); these two collections were restored at the end of the last century in a major project, resulting in projectable 35 mm prints. Even in their reduced, 35 mm form, these films show why journalist R.H. Mere called his article in “Pearson’s Magazine” of February 1899 The Wonders of the Biograph. Such films, in their size, clarity, and super-reality, were the wonders of their age. They are no less wondrous now."
Luke McKernan

Stable on Fire
William K. L. Dickson, Massachusetts, US 1896

American Falls, Luna Island
Cascate del Niagara, US 1896 - Niagara Falls.

Shooting the Chutes
William K. L. Dickson [?], New York, US 1896. - Coney Island.

A Hard Wash
William K. L. Dickson, New York, US 1896. - AA: A nasty racist joke.

Dancing Darkies
New York, US 1896. - AA: Five black dancers against a white background.

View on Boulevard, New York City
New York, US 1896. - AA: A wonderful display of deep focus: there are five layers of action in depth.

Wrestling Pony and Man
US 1896

Ten Inch Disappearing Carriage Gun Loading and Firing
New Jersey, US 1897

Empire State Express
New Jersey, US 1896. - AA: The train comes towards us on a railroad construction site.

35 mm. Da: EYE Filmmuseum

AA: The American Mutoscope and Biograph 68 mm films can be visually extraordinary as Luke McKernan states above. They moved via friction feed, not via sprocket feed. This show was screened at 25 fps; some sources say the original speed was 30 fps. The 35 mm prints screened today looked okay but not spectacular. I have seen more magnificent-looking prints of these early large gauge films, but they were of later productions.

The American Mutoscope Company had been established in December 1895. In 1898 its name was changed to American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. In 1909-1928 it was called the Biograph Company.

The Scot William K. L. Dickson (1860-1935) was a great inventor of the cinema, working for Edison since 1883, seminal in the Kinetoscope (1889), 35 mm cinema film and the perforation system. In April 1895 Dickson left Edison and teamed with the Latham brothers, and they mounted the first commercial movie screening on 20 May 1895. Dickson was a key partner in founding the American Mutoscope Company. In the summer of 1896 the superior Biograph projector was launched.

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