The Ithaca Silent Cinema community celebrates the 100-year anniversary of the famed Stewart Bridge trolley crash, staged for the Prince of India (Wharton Brothers, 1914). More information on Ithaca’s history in silent cinema can be found here. And if you are wondering whatever happened to the Wharton Brothers’ films: check the bottom of Cayuga Lake.
Last month, the British Library released more than one million images from 17th, 18th, and 19th century books to Flickr commons. They would like the images to circulate widely–and, to this end, have invited the public to “use, remix, and repurpose” them–but they have also invited the public into a kind of collaborative preservative-historiographic relationship. It seems that the library does not know a whole lot about the images that they have scanned. From the press release: Continue reading
About two weeks ago, a fire started at the archive.org scanning center in San Francisco. No one was hurt and, within 48 hours, employees were back at work scanning materials. According to the archive’s blog, they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cameras and scanning equipment, but most of their data was unaffected: Continue reading
Photographer Antonio Martinez created over 800 “modern dryplate tintypes” from b/w film to produce this stop-motion video, entitled “Near the Egress.” This complex and combinatory work remixes our visual histories and technologies. Here, the moving image precedes the motionless tintype. And digital video gives them both a different kind of life. All of this unfolds with a nod to yet another historical-technological-mythological origin: the circus, the fairground, the site of early cinema.
Taxidermist at Work on the Roosevelt Safari Specimens (1911, Smithsonian Institute Archives)
Posting has been slow and infrequent these last couple of weeks, mostly because I am lucky to be on research leave this semester and I have been trying to focus my writing energies elsewhere. At the moment, I am in the middle of revising a chapter that examines the intersection between ethnographic writing and cinema. It begins with the following excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt:
I almost always had some volume with me, either in my saddle pocket or in the cartridge-bag which one of my gun bearers carried to hold odds and ends. Often, my reading would be done while resting under a tree at noon, perhaps beside the carcass of a beast I killed, or else waiting for camp to be pitched; and in either case it might be impossible to get water for washings. In consequence the books were stained with blood, sweat, gun oil, dust, and ashes; ordinary bindings either vanished or became loathsome, whereas pigskin merely grew to look as a well-used saddle looks.”
A couple of days ago, my colleague Paul Flaig brought a fascinating trend to my attention. In the wake of Hugo and The Artist, a wave of new media applications have emerged that transform (ho-hum) full color and sound video into hi-def mimics of the silent era. See here, here, and here. The “Silent Film Director” app reached a startling 300,000 uploads in April of this year. As Paul pointed out, the reviews and comments on these applications are perhaps strangest of all (esp. for those who have spent years trying to get students excited about silent cinema). Just one example here. “The effects are really cool. You have black and white…”
A fantastic new resource for researchers and teachers of early cinema has just appeared online. The first twelve years of Moving Picture World have been digitized and added to the Media History Digital Library’s “Early Cinema Collection.” From the MHDL:
Moving Picture World was one of the most influential trade papers of the early motion picture industry and the period film historians call cinema’s “transitional era” (lasting roughly from 1908 to 1917). During this era and inside the paper, you can watch the transition from short film programs to feature films and witness the transition from the dominance of Edison’s Trust to the rise of the “Independent” film companies that ultimately became the Hollywood studios.
The first issue includes some “novel uses for cinema,” instructions for making latern slides, a review of The Teddy Bears (Edison, 1907), and a full-page ad from the Miles Brothers (mentioned just last week): “Conversation gets you nothing. Real Johnny-on-the-spot service is what you want!”
The project was funded, in part, by Domitor and its members. For those who are interested in contributing, MHDL is still raising funds to digitize MPW through 1927, its last year of publication.
I just came across this compilation of Helen Hill films from NOLA’s 2010 Timecode festival. The reel includes Madame Winger Makes a Film: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century (around 3:50), as well as a handful of other shorts from the Harvard collection of Helen Hill’s work. I have written about Hill elsewhere and am happy to see some of her films circulating online. Madame Winger is one of my favorite Hill shorts; it encapsulates so much of her (playful, instructive, extraordinary) practice.
On April 21, 2011, a twenty-two-year-old Basque film student named Aitor Gametxo uploaded this remix of D.W. Griffith’s one-reel Sunbeam (1912) to Vimeo:
Variation on the Sunbeam (Aitor Gametxo, 2011)
By the end of August 2011, Variation on the Sunbeam had begun to attract the attention of cinéphiles, professional scholars, and film historians. On August 31, Kevin Lee celebrated the work as “remix video at its best.” On September 5, Kristin Thompson posted the film—in a “bid to help it go viral”—on the blog she shares with David Bordwell, Observations on Film Art. On September 6, Roger Ebert tweeted about Gametxo’s Variation with a hat-tip and link to Thompson and Bordwell. On September 8, Luke McKernan shared the “singularly inventive film” on Bioscope, a blog dedicated to silent cinema.