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Film / Lumière Films

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The "Lumière Brothers Films" are the short films shot in 1895 by cimematic pioneers Auguste and Louis Lumière. The Lumière brothers were photographers who owned a very profitable business manufacturing and selling photographic plates. They became aware of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope, an early motion picture device contained in a box in which one single viewer would look through an eyepiece and watch a film. Convinced that it would be more efficient to project images for group audiences to watch together, the Lumières invented the Cinematograph, the world's first true movie projector, an all-in-one device that exposed film, developed the negative, and then projected the developed film for an audience.

The Lumières filmed their first film, a clip of workers leaving their factory in Lyon, on March 19, 1895. On December 28, 1895, the Lumières showed ten films for an audience in Paris. This made history as the first ever public screening of motion pictures. All the films are 40-50 seconds long, and run for about 7 1/2 minutes if they're shown together without a break. The ten films were:

  • Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory (La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon)
  • The Sprinkler Sprinkled (L'Arroseur Arrosé)
  • The Photographical Congress Arrives in Lyon (Neuville-sur-Saône: Débarquement du congrès des photographes à Lyon)
  • Horse Trick Riders (La Voltige)
  • Fishing for Goldfish (La Pêche aux poissons rouges)
  • The Blacksmiths (Les Forgerons)
  • Baby's Dinner (Repas de bébé)
  • Jumping the Blanket (Le saut à la couverture)
  • Cordeliers' Square in Lyon (Place des Cordeliers à Lyon)
  • The Sea (Baignade en mer)

Not shown at this exhibition was an eleventh film, which was screened for the public the next month and became the most famous of the Lumière films:

  • Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat ("L'arrivée d'un train à La Ciotat")

An Urban Legend holds that Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, a 1-minute film which shows Exactly What It Says on the Tin, so startled the audience that people ducked out of the way when they saw the train coming at them. This is certainly nonsense, as moviegoers of the 1890s would have known that trains are in color, are in three dimensions, and make sound (and contrary to the popular cliché, the train wasn't coming head-on, the camera being on the platform).

But it is true that the films became sensations. The Lumières spent a decade making similar short films, but did not really believe in the new art form they were pioneering. Unbelieveably, Louis Lumière himself said that the cinema was "without any commercial future". The Lumières went back to their roots in photography, inventing the Autochrome process, an early method of color photography.

See also the cartoons of Charles-Émile Reynaud, another Frenchman, who worked in animation, and was showing films for the public three years before the Lumiere brothers.

Tropes found in the Lumière films:

  • Beach Episode: La Mer, the last episode in the original Lumière program, features five men and boys at the beach, running and jumping off a short pier into the water, then looping back around to do it again.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Several of the photographers arriving at Lyon wave to the camera or doff their hats.
  • Cheerful Child: Andrée Lumière, Auguste's little daughter, who is featured sticking her hand in a goldfish bowl and being fed by her parents.
  • Comedic Spanking: The gardener in L'Arroseur Arrosé catches the boy, yanks him over by the ear, and spanks him several times.
  • Cool Train: Look at that train! It's coming right at the camera, puffing steam! Isn't it cool? The very first train in a motion picture.
  • Documentary: The non-fictional Lumière films were this, if one defines "documentary" as simply capturing Real Life for a camera. They were called "actualities" at the time, and for much of early movie history they were more common than fictional works.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Most of their films describe exactly what the content of the picture will be in the title.
  • Funny Background Event: In Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, one of the women exiting the building spontaneously starts getting chased offscreen by a playful dog.
  • Garden-Hose Squirt Surprise: The Sprinkler Sprinkled contains the oldest gag in the history of motion pictures. A man is watering plants with a hose when a boy sneaks up behind him and steps on the hose. When the man looks at the hose's outlet, the boy steps off the hose and the man squirts himself in the face.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: In Jumping the Blanket the man who seems to be boss kicks the guy who's jumping in the behind after the jumper pulls up short at the edge of the blanket.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Their early films are all depictions of every day people doing every day things, like leaving a factory or watching a train arrive at a station. But the fascinating part is that these are the earliest things caught on film.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: The Victorian fashions seen in these films are unbelievable. The women leaving the Lumière factory are leaving work at a factory, for God's sake, and they still have long flowing dresses and big hats with flowers.
  • The Pre Hollywood Era: A lot of their films came out during this time period
  • Slapstick: While several of the films consist of the Lumières simply filming scenes they find interesting, others are actual works of fiction staged for the camera. Horse Trick Riders, in which a man tries to jump on a horse and fails several times before finally making it, is pretty clearly staged for a camera. The Sprinkler Sprinkled is also a staged comic film in which a little boy plays a trick on a gardener and gets spanked for it.
  • Slice of Life: This trope is what many of the Lumière films are all about: just moments of real life (or staged real life) presented for the camera.


Video Example(s):


The Sprinkler Sprinkled

From 1895, the first gag in the history of cinema.

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Main / GardenHoseSquirtSurprise

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