1920’s Painlevé nature films on new Criterion Channel

While browsing through the oldest films available on Criterion’s new streaming service, I noticed several by Jean Painlevé.* These are from a DVD collection released in 2009 called Science Is Fiction: 23 Films by Jean Painlevé (parts also released earlier by BFI). From 1925 to 1982, Painlevé directed hundreds of short films, most around 10 minutes long.

The mesmerizing, utterly unclassifiable science films of Jean Painlevé (1902-89) have to be seen to be believed: delightful, surrealist-influenced dream works that are also serious science. The French filmmaker-scientist-inventor had a decades-spanning career in which he created hundreds of short films on subjects ranging from astronomy to pigeons to, most famously, such marine-life marvels as the sea horse and the sea urchin. This definitive three-disc collection brings together the best of these, and also includes the French television series Jean Painlevé Through His Films, rock band Yo La Tengo’s eight-film score The Sounds of Science, and an essay by film scholar Scott MacDonald.

The Criterion Collection
Read more 1920’s Painlevé nature films on new Criterion Channel

Archway screenshots from The Great Dictator

Inspired by the cinematography and set design of The Great Dictator (1940), I stitched together the vertical pan shot of the great arch at the Tomainian rally, about 3/4 of the way into the movie. I’m still baffled as to how this was made, considering you can see people clapping in the audience.

Tomainian arch in The Great Dictator (1940)

Also, my full review (posted on Letterboxd): Charlie Chaplin deftly plays on the edge of comedy and tragedy with this parody of Nazi Germany.  Read more Archway screenshots from The Great Dictator

Video clips and history of world cinema: 1908-1917

10 Years 10 Films (10Y10F) is a project to display embedded YouTube selections of cinema history. This is Part III of a series that gives the viewer a quick time-lapse view of how movie technology and style has developed throughout the world – one clip each year – from 1888 through 2017, starting with the foundations to see how filmmakers build upon or deconstruct them.

World cinema 1908-1917

1908 to 1917 was a decade of major change in the film business. Here are a few highlights:

American cinema saw an expansion out of New Jersey and New York, into Jacksonville, Florida, for warmer weather; it then took hold in Hollywood, California, between 1909 and 1915. “One-reeler” films (1000ft in length, or about 10 to 12 minutes of runtime) gave way to feature-length epics, tinted with different colors to match the mood of each scene. Intertitles containing lines of dialogue began to be used consistently from 1908 onward. Studio cameras became more portable, and 35mm film was accepted as an industry standard.

The “star system” began in 1909, emphasizing actors over plot lines to promote films. African-American movie makers entered the market, as well as more women directors. Film-making also began to take hold in Russia, India, and Latin America. 1917 marks the beginning of the Classical Hollywood era with films characterized by a formulaic narrative and style, particularly through major film studios like Universal and Paramount. Read more Video clips and history of world cinema: 1908-1917

Video clips and history of world cinema: 1898-1907

10 Years 10 Films (10Y10F) is a project to display embedded YouTube selections of early cinema. This is Part II of a series that gives the viewer a quick time-lapse view of how movie technology and style has developed throughout the world – one clip each year – from 1888 through 2017, starting with the foundations to see how filmmakers build upon or deconstruct them.

World cinema 1898-1907

The ten years here in Part II continue what Tom Gunning referred to as a “cinema of attractions”[1], where directors were focused on providing a spectacle (of effects or places around the world) for the viewer, in contrast to telling a unique story with character development and cultural criticism (which became more common as film length increased, around 1906). The merging of vaudeville theaters and Nickelodeons from 1905 to around 1912 brought movies to the masses – in Part III, we’ll see the adoption of the movie “star system,” the feature film business, African American movie makers, and more women directors. Read more Video clips and history of world cinema: 1898-1907