Monday, October 13, 2014

Georges Sadoul on the Lumières

An important early advocate for film, Georges Sadoul’s a monumental five-tome history of cinema, Histoire générale du cinéma, helped give the area of study a scientific legitimacy by focusing on its technological and economic bases (Bazin, on the other hand, would argue against this technological determinism). Sadoul was a strong advocate for early cinema (in particular, the Lumières and Méliès), French films, and socialist ones (for their ‘realism’).
Known for being a Marxist film historian and having rigid views, Sadoul reviewed films for the communist papers, presided over ciné-clubs, and helped create the Critic’s Week.
Sadoul travelled broadly to study cinema and his global approach favored smaller industries, which were comprised of the masses and who made films for the masses (in opposition to Hollywood, which the young Cahiers critics would reacted against).
Here are his brief entries on the three Lumières from the Peter Morris edition of his Dictionary of Film Makers. It’s the most precise description, which I’ve seen, of the origin of French- and cinema, in general.
This is the beginning of the film camera as we know it. What would it show us? - D.D.

Lumière, Antoine PHOTOG France. (Ormay, Haute-Saône 1840-Lyon 190?) The father of Auguste and Louis Lumière was originally trained as a painter and in 1860 became a photographer in Besançon, where his sons were born. In 1871 he moved to Lyon and in 1881 he opened a factory for his photographic products in Lyon-Montplaisir. His business prospered and became a major industry. By 1894 he was taking less of an active role in the Société Antoine Lumière et ses fils (founded in 1893) but in that year he became enthusiastic over the Edison Kinetoscope, which he had seen in Paris. He purchased one of these and asked his sons to develop a means for projecting its pictures. In 1895 he took the apparatus his sons had patented and organized the first public screening in Paris at the Grand Café with his friend and former collaborator, Clément Maurice. In 1896-97 he refused to sell the Cinématographe equipment to Georges Méliès and arranged for Georges Hatot to direct some films for their company.

Lumière, Auguste INVENTOR France. (Besançon Oct 20, 1862-Lyon April 10, 1954) With his brother, Louis, he filed the original patents on the Cinématographe, in the invention of which he played a small part. He later devoted himself to medical research. He directed one film: Mauvaises herbes/les Brûleurs d’herbe (1896).

Lumière, Louis INVENTOR France. (Besançon Oct 5, 1864-Bandol, Var June 6, 1948) He is, first and foremost, the inventor of the Cinématographe, but he was also an excellent film maker. In 1894 the Cinématographe represented a major advance over all existing equipment (various parts of which he had adopted) because it could not only record moving pictures anywhere but could project them on a screen. Its worldwide success was such that it gave birth to a new form of entertainment and a new industry; the name he gave the equipment has been adapted into the languages of most countries as the term for the art and industry of film. Few countries have retained the names of rival equipment – Bioskop, Biograph, etc. As a film maker he was the first to record “life as it happened” in his first very short films, all of which reflect his feeling for visual qualities, background, and framing. He used “close-ups” in Déjeuner de bébé, depth of field in Arrivée d’un train, and devised the first “comedies” with L’Arroseur arosé and Le Faux Cul-de-jatte. He trained numerous cameramen who traveled around the world and made major contributions to the development of documentaries, editing, and the film industry in various countries. His importance in the history of the cinema is considerable, even though he was eventually outstripped by his competitors in making commercial films and was indepted to the work of the American Muybridge (q.v.), Armat, Jenkins (q.v.) and Latham and the German, Skladanowsky (q.v.), who first demonstrated his equipment before Lumière. 1882: Perfected Van Monckhoven’s silver bromide on gelatin formula, creating the Etiquette Blue, photographic plates on which the Lumière factory’s success was based. December 1894: Developed a process for moving film using two perforations per frame, abandoning the Marey chronophotographic camera and the Kinetoscope in the process. The first films were made on paper. January-February 1895: Developed the apparatus (prototype built by Charles Moisson) for making films on 35mm celluloid. February 13, 1895: Patent granted for an “apparatus used for obtaining and viewing chronothotographic prints.” March 10, 1895: Additional patent granted for the perfected apparatus, now called Cinématographe. March 22, 1895: First projection of the film, La Sortie des usines, to the Société pour L’Encouragement à L’Industrie. Other presentations to the Congrès des Sociétés Française de Photographie (Lyon, June 10 and 12), to the Revue Générale des Sciences (Paris July 11) and at the Sorbonne (Paris Nov 16). Louis Lumière made some 30-40 films during 1895. December 28, 1895: First public presentation of the Lumière Cinématographe in the Salon Indien of the Grand Café, 14 boulevard des Capucines, Paris. 1896: Louis Lumière hires and trains many cameramen and operators (including A. Promio and Félix Mesguich) and sends them around the world. The Cinématographe is premiered in London (Feb 17), Brussels (Feb 29), Vienna and Madrid (April), Berlin (April 30), Geneva (May 1), Bombay (June 7), Belgrade (June 25), New York (June 28), Saint Petersburg (July 17), Bucharest (August), and later in Egypt, Japan, Australia, Canada, etc. 1897: Lumière’s representative leaves New York. The Cinématographes are placed on sale. 1898-1900: Louis Lumière experiments with large screen cinematography for the Paris Exposition. May-November 1900: Projection of widescreen (21 meters by 16 meters) films photographed on 72mm film with 8 pairs of performations per frame. November 3 1900: Lumière patent for Photorama, static, circular panoramic photography, which is exhibited in Paris in 1902. 1905: Last films made for the Société Lumière, which thereafter ceased the production and sale of films. 1920: Louis Lumière abandons his position with the Lumière factory. 1934: Makes his first stereoscopic films. May 1 1936: Premiere in Paris of stereoscopic films (which required special bicolored glasses for viewing).
DIR (in 1895, notably): La Sortie des usines (two versions), L’Arroseur arose/Le Jardinier, Forgerons Pompiers (four films), Le Déjeuner de Bébé/Les Repas de Bébé, Pêche aux poisons rouges, Le Débarquement, Saute à la couverture/Brimade dans une caserne, Lyon, place des Cordeliers, Characuteri mécanique, Atéliers de la Ciotat, Barque sortant du port/La Sortie du port, Arrivée d’un train en gare, Arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat, Partie d’écarté, Assiettes tournates, Chapeaux à transformations, Photographe (?1896), Démolition d’un mur (?1896), Querelle enfantine, Aquarium, Partie de tric-trac, Le Déjeuner du chat, La Voltige, Départ en voiture, Enfants au jouets, Course en sac, Baignade en mer, Le Maréchal-ferrant, Lyon, place Bellecour, Récreation à la Martinière, Lancement d’un navire à La Ciotata. See entry: Lumière Films in the companion Dictionary of Films.

Georges Sadoul

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