Solar Eclipse

  • Director: Nevil Maskelyne
  • Year: 1900
  • Runtime: 2m
  • Available on BFI Player

This film is believed to be the first surviving astronomical film in the world. Magician and astronomy enthusiast Nevil Maskelyne had to design and build a special adaptor for his camera in order to capture this solar eclipse, an event that has fascinated us for all of human existence.

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Danse Serpentine (Serpentine Dance)

  • Director: Louis Lumière
  • Year: 1896
  • Runtime: 1m
  • Available on Wikipedia, or with a slightly higher resolution but with interlacing issues at Ubu.com

The first couple of films I watched as part of my History of Cinema journey were, frankly, not that exciting. They are interesting and worthwhile for their technological achievements and historical importance. Unfortunately, as movies, they don’t have a whole lot to offer.

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Boat Leaving the Port

Shot using the Cinematograph of his own invention, this one scene short film features intrepid sailors watched over by the relatives of Lumière as they row boldly out to the seas.

The excitement ramps up in the second act as the sailors pass beyond the jetty only to find themselves immediately hit by the angry sea. We wonder how they will handle this sudden eruption of nature’s fury.

Then, in the final seconds of the film, we see the boat desperately trying to turn back to shore while being pummelled by some of the biggest waves ever captured on film that year.

Then it suddenly ends, the fate of the sailors left to the imagination.

With this abrupt ending, the film asks us to contemplate what it means to take on more than we can handle.

Fun Fact!

The Lumière brothers were the first to have a paid public screening of a projected film, basically inventing The Cinema, but then they later decided that movies weren’t going anywhere and so they quit making them.

See more from my study of The History of Cinema.

L’Homme Machine

(Machine Man)

An extremely early animation created by director Étienne-Jules Marey, a pioneer in filming motion pictures.

The most impressive thing about this film is that it’s from 1885, as it seems to be more a test than anything else.

Fun fact!

Marey was shooting movies at 60fps back then, way before it was cool.

See more from my study of The History of Cinema.

And Another Abandoned Gas Station

Another abandoned gas station concept.

This one was constructed from a plan and a side elevation using a perspective technique that, through the magic of a bazillion straight lines, projects these 2D renderings into a 3D space and this is now my favourite drawing thing ever.