Saturday, January 06, 2018

Moving Pictures: "Bathing in a Stream" (Alice Guy, 1897)

This is a frame from an early film by Alice Guy, titled "Bathing in a Stream", from 1897. I was watching this short actualitie subject the other day and was reminded of a comment made by film historian Richard Koszarski (in an interview included on the Edison: Invention of the Movies DVD collection). Koszarski says that, essentially, that these early film subjects were conceived as "moving pictures" in the truest sense; that they have to be understood in terms of the conventions and expectations of still photography of the time.

Koszarski's statement is central to thinking about these early film subjects as sophisticated, fully realized cinematic works in their own right. The framing of "Bathing in a Stream", for example, is so exquisite, the movement of the water flowing down toward the camera, the actions of the people moving throughout the frame, is all meticulously organized and displays an expert eye for detail and composition.

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