Not all that bad
By a customer
from London, UK
, 10 Sep 2007
Here's the difficulty with silent shorts from the days when cinema was still in its cradle, let alone it infancy - at first glance it's akin to watching dull cine footage taken by an amatuer. But then in the late 1890s and early 1900s the techniques were still to be laid out, let alone really evolve. Can we blame the director, usually the one cranking the cameras handle, for poor composition when it was sometimes a feat to just get a clear moving image? Stop to think to that what you are watching on these two discs are some of the first celluloid scenes of real life in the greatest of US cities. It seems so mundane and yet other worldly. Just look at the strange uniforms of the police for one! Gaze in wonder at the fish market scene which looks so familiar and yet so strange too.
It is also useful when watching these shorts to try and put yourself back into the mindset of those paying their hard-earned pay to get watch these shorts in a rudimentary cinema or in the galleries of viewing machines cranked by hand - the famed nickelodeon of NYC springs to mind. These men women and children were astounded by this new thing invention of moving images. Notice how many in the close up crowd scenes stop start to pose as if they think the camera is about to take a still shot and then realise they are being recorded for eternity in movement! No wonder so many people start flapping their arms about in wild abandon, or walk stiffly by like peacocks when on one of the many parade scenes caught by the early pioneers.
People watching these films wanted to see familiar scenes and places and wanted to see lots of movement. Once these two factors were achieved we begin to see the element of fantasy and manipulation creeping in. Indeed, the DVD set has a small set of shorts outlinning a minor 'epic' of vice by a crooked builder.
Waht is shoddy about this package is the lack of explanation or footnotes. Really it would have been helpful to have more context. But c'est la vie. Also turn the volume to mute. The backing soundtrack to the shorts is indeed terrible!
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