August 16th, 2004

krazy koati

Tripped the lights fantastic

While I haven't found the Georges Méliès films, I did watch Landmarks of Early Film, which runs from serial photographs through Edison Kinetoscopes and Lumière films -- things like workers leaving a factory, or guys pushing over a wall -- to A Trip To The Moon, The Girl and Her Trust, Winsor McCay, and the Keystone Cops.

The greatest surprise of these silent films? Not that they weren't silent; everybody has been told by now silent movies had musical accompaniment. My surprise was finding New York: Broadway at Union Square (1895-97) and Skyscrapers of New York City from North River (1903)'s accompaniment by ``Sidewalks of New York'' was not an anachronism. The song was written in 1894. I'd thought it was later. This is another irrationality of mine; if I recognize the music as something written after the film's release, it feels wrong. Yet if it's a completely new composition that's fine, even though a brand-new composition is by definition more anachronistic. Doesn't make a lick of sense.

Another wonder most have heard about is that black-and-whites were not always black-and-white. Many scenes are on tinted film, for art or variety's sake. And hand-painted frames add color that flickers, not quite fitting a shape or holding a steady hue. Colored clouds of smoke or the trails of color following women's dresses in The Great Train Robbery are pure magic, in a way I don't think could be done anymore.

Trivia: Making the first detailed topographic map of France took over a century, and four generations of Jean-Dominique Cassini's family worked on it. Source: Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society, Norman J.W. Thrower.

Currently Reading: The Clicking of Cuthbert, P.G. Wodehouse.