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Early Cinema - Primitives And Pioneers 2005

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Collection of 59 short films from the earliest days of cinema, preserved in the BFI archives and including such groundbreaking classics as Edwin S. Porter's 'The Great Train Robbery' (1903), the first film to use crosscuts and close ups to progress the narrative, as well as George Mèliés' fantastical 'Voyage A Travers L'Impossible' (1904) and many more. The technical and narrative innovations in these early works ensured the rapid development of cinema into one of the most vital art forms of the 20th century. The collection also includes newly-scored music from National Film Theatre pianists Neil Brand, John Sweeney and Stephen Horne.

Rental Formats:
DVD

Product Details

Discs
  • Early Cinema - Primitives And Pioneers - Disc 1 exempt
  • Early Cinema - Primitives And Pioneers - Disc 2 exempt
Runtime 3 hours 7 minutes
Director Edwin S. Porter, G.A. Smith, George Melies
Genres Documentary
Studio BFI VIDEO
Rental release 29 August 2005
Main languages English
Hearing impaired subtitles English

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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