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Early Cinema - Primitives and Pioneers [DVD]
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
The quality of these restorations of the earliest moving pictures ever taken is stunning, as are the examples of the hand coloured films (every frame was individually painted).
The finest quality is from the 1895 films from the Lumiere brothers taken on stock from their own factory of such quality it has never degraded. Apart from the static framing and lack of panning and zoom they could have been taken yesterday, the film of one of the Lumiere brothers and his wife feeding their baby takes us vividly back one hundred and eleven years.
Personally the 1901 "Fire" is a favourite as I used to shop regularly in George Street, Hove where the Fire Station building remained virtually unchanged until at least the fifties. Another high point is the film made for Peak Frean showing every aspect of biscuit making from the furnaces that heated the ovens to a wonderful procession of heavily laden horse drawn and motor lorries leaving the factory.
A true wonder is Mehlies coloured fantasy "Voyage a travers l'impossible (extract) (1901)" an incredible mixture of "animation or collage?" and live action that is staggering.
The DVD may well be sub titled "Primitives and Pioneers" and that is true, but make no mistake, with the simple fixed focal length hand cranked cameras available these people produced fascinating films, some of the longer ones, examples "Rescued by Rover (1905)", "The Great Train Robbery (1903)", "Attack on a China Station (1900)", a documentary "A day in the life of a coalminer (1910)" all manage to present simple but effective plots without the aid of captions.
This DVD set is an essential round up of early films, for a history of the rest of the silent era I must wait until the eleven hour documentary "Hollywood" is released in August 2006..
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2009
I was amazed when watching this recompilation of classic and pioneers short films.
With a good DVD design, with additional information.
My first interest for this product was the short film "The great train robbery" one must-see classic. But I found amazing to have, at the same time, the first film shoot ever, by the Lumier Brothers, and other pioneer jewels like Mélies.
Something necessary for truly cinema lovers.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2005
There's something surprisingly compelling about these unassuming films which may document nothing more than the arrival of a train,spanish bullfight,or the making of biscuits.Remarkably,the viewer appreciates these subjects with the sense of wonderment that was felt at the time.
This two disc set is a perfect antidote to some of the technically advanced but heartless movies of more recent times.
I was reminded at times of that lovely documentary about a french primary school 'avoir et etre' where a whole wealth of emotions is articulated within an apparently limited frame.
Of course,'Early Cinema,Primitives and Pioneers' would've been robbed of it's impact had the accompaniments merely chugged along in a worthy manner.Quite frequently one is struck by how gently affecting the music(pianists Neil Brand,Stephen Horne and John Sweeney)is on it's own terms and it was surely a mistake not to credit the contribution of each pianist to the appropriate film.Strongly recommended!
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on 3 May 2015
This compilation presents 60 early films, a mixture of various genres from the formative years of cinema. The quality of the prints is very good considering the age of the films, which in general are a step above those which are available (free) online. I would highly recommend this collection to anyone interested in early cinema, or indeed the social history of the era.

One criticism is not with the films themselves but with the packaging - I know this was released a few years ago, but I was surprised by the poor quality of the sleeve. BFI releases these days are often a work of art, and are at the very least well-presented. The sleeve on this DVD resembles something I would knock-up in half an hour and print out on a ten-year-old inkjet with an ink cartridge in urgent need of replacement. Maybe it was a little joke, a kind of play on the "primitive" nature of the films, but it sticks out a mile when compared to any other BFI DVD or BluRay I've ever purchased (twenty or so), indeed I can't remember any commercial DVD I've ever bought looking so cheaply-produced.

But obviously I bought the DVD for the films, not the sleeve, so overall I am very happy.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Two discs of original early 20th Century films. We have probably seen extracts from all of them on the TV before but it is well worth the purchase to have a complete collection of those early film innovators. It is one of those albums that I have watched, in parts, many times. I am interested in film history and I make films myself and so these two discs are a constant reference. The reproductions are very good. A good purchase
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on 27 January 2015
`i love all early cinema, because it shows people reaching out to develop the medium. From the first Lumiere Bros. shorts, including the wonderful Train arriving at a Station, through Georges Melies and to The Great Train Robbery (with colour used!). More space should be given to Max Linder, who brought subtlety and grace years before Charlie Chaplin arrived.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2012
An atrocious release. Absolutely shameful. These two DVDs contain many hard-to-find films that I was delighted to get in a single compilation. However, the image quality ranges mostly from wretched to terrible. The Pathe group of films look the best of the bunch with "Ali Baba" and "Aladdin" looking fairly good, but unrestored. Not so with the Melies "Impossible Voyage", which has appallingly low image quality, and is offered only in an extremely abbreviated form.

The DVD cover states that these films have been "remastered", but that means nothing. NO restoration appears to have been done. In fact, many of the films seem to have been deliberately butchered. In quite a few movies there are actually shots that get repeated; that is, you see shot A, shot B, then shot A surprisingly repeats, then shot C.

"The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" comes in the most botched-up version I have ever seen. Not only are many frames missing and the image quality disgusting, but a few seconds that are missing in shot #4 where the man leaves his bed for a moment, suddenly appear stuck in at the END of the movie IN PLACE OF the actual ending.

So, it appears that someone actually made a conscious decision to re-edit the film and thereby falsify history.

(If you want to see an unabridged, un-cut-up version of "Rarebit", you must get it on the "Unseen Cinema" set, which isn't a perfect version but at least it's complete.)

The musical accompaniments to the movies are excellent, if slightly late to the image throughout DVD1. I must particularly compliment the musical soundtrack to "The Great Train Robbery", which is the best I've heard for this glacially-moving film; and thankfully, the image quality is acceptable. What I'll never understand is why someone does not strike a NEW print from the negative (that still exists at MoMA, reputedly in good condition), instead of always giving us the same tired old print we always see. Just pay minimum wage to some college students to brush in the few instances of color and give us a decent print.

The "Commentaries" are no more than one (ONE) sentence, or at most two or three sentences at the beginnings of each film. That is IT.

I cannot possibly recommend this dreadful release. Instead, for compilations of the earliest of early cinema, I suggest you buy the two Melies "Wizard" sets offered by Flicker Alley (you can get them here on Amazon), "The Genius of Segundo de Chomon" at Amazon (or Amazon Spain), the "Saved from the Flames" series from Lobster, "Landmarks of Early Film" (Image Entertainment, also available here at Amazon), and then pick up individual films wherever you can find them. Even the two "Gaumont Treasures" volumes with their too many long dramas and some unfortunate music are better than this DVD set. Also, but of lesser quality and interest is the "Edison: The Invention of the Movies" (Kino/MoMA).
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2013
Bought as a present for a film fan - he was delighted. Excellent product, excellent price,excellent service. What more can we ask?
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29 of 66 people found the following review helpful
After watching a documentary about the pioneering director and entertainer George Melies, whose work is included on this DVD, I was expecting this to be another fascinating and insightful look at the early days of cinema. What I got was a series of early films presented one after the other with little or no commentary. Most of the clips included are not so much pioneering ie, directors using the camera in much the same way as a still camera and capturing single moments with little or no talent. In fact, George Melies' work was the only decent example of cinematography presented here and they only showed one of his pieces.
My advice, watch 'Melies The Magician' instead. It comes with a great documentary, 15 or so of his full length films and dicusses more about the early days of the cinema than this DVD.
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