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The Lumière Brothers' First Films

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The Lumière Brothers' First Films

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This marvelously well-assembled video collects over 80 of the Lumière Brothers' first films, made between 1895 and 1897. These 50-second masterpieces—scenes of trains arriving in stations, acrobats performing dangerous-looking routines, and children playing, as well as travel footage and some simple but effective comedies—are essentially the first films ever made. Director Bertrand Tavernier ('Round Midnight, Coup De Torchon) provides knowing, reverent narration that is never somber, points out facts that could easily be overlooked, and persuasively argues the artistic merit of the films in addition to their obvious historic importance. Though many have considered the Lumière films inhibited by the conventions of 19th-century photography, Tavernier calls attention to the sophistication of many of their compositions. Furthermore, he points out that, though called "actualities" at the time, most of the apparently documentary films clearly show the guiding hand of the directors—illustrating that film has been distorting reality since its inception. Tavernier's obvious appreciation and enjoyment adds to an already stimulating experience, for the films, presented in their entirety and uninterrupted by unnecessary outside footage, still work on their own. As entertaining as it is fascinating, this tape should come as a standard feature with every VCR.