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Early Cinema - Primitives and Pioneers [DVD]
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Primitives and Pioneers
A fascinating collection of 60 films from the pre-1910 period of cinema is presented here with optional insightful commentary written by film historian Barry Salt. It includes a selection of 35mm films such as Pathé's Ali Baba et les quarante voleurs and Magic Bricks, plus a newly restored and tinted version of Edwin S. Porter's The Great Train Robbery.
This double-disc set provides an entertaining look at how many of today's film devices such as the close-up, the cut-away and editing, were first invented before the turn of the century by filmmakers such as George Méliès (with Voyage à travers I'impossible), G.A. Smith (with Mary Jane's Mishap), and the Hepworth Manufacturing Company (with Rescued by Rover).
The films, all preserved at the BFI National Film and Television Archive, have been remastered for this collection which is a must for the film enthusiast. This delightful anthology comes with a new isolated improvised score in Dolby Digital provided by Neil Brand, Stephen Horne and John Sweeney, pianists at the National Film Theatre in London.
Both discs include optional hard-of-hearing subtitles.
UK | 1895 - 1910 | black & white | silent with music | 187 minutes | Ratio 1.33:1 | Region 2 DVD
'an outstanding compilation...These are films to delight and instruct and should be owned by all serious moviegoers and teachers.' --Philip French, Guardian
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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..
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.
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.
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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