Watch the Films of the Lumière Brothers & the Birth of Cinema (1895)

When Auguste and Louis Lumière unveiled their inven­tion, the Ciné­matographe, at the Salon Indi­en du Grand Café in Paris on Decem­ber 28, 1895, the art form of film was born. Pri­or to that, oth­er inven­tors looked for ways to pho­to­graph­i­cal­ly cap­ture motion in a com­mer­cial­ly suc­cess­ful way but failed. Thomas Edi­son, for instance, hawked a device called the Kine­to­scope that looked a bit like a View-Mas­ter strapped to a pul­pit. It was big, bulky and, most impor­tant­ly, offered an expe­ri­ence to a sin­gle view­er at a time. The Ciné­matographe, on the oth­er hand, pro­ject­ed images on a wall, cre­at­ing, for the first time ever, a movie audi­ence.

Cinématographe_Lumière (1)

The Lumière broth­ers screened 10 short films that night, each run­ning about 50 sec­onds long. They are, as you might expect, about as prim­i­tive as you can get. Basic ele­ments of cin­e­ma like edit­ing or cam­era move­ment were decades away from evolv­ing into the cin­e­mat­ic gram­mar that we take for grant­ed today. You can see some of those ear­ly films above.

The Lumière brother’s first film was called Work­ers Leav­ing The Lumière Fac­to­ry in Lyon (La Sor­tie des usines Lumière à Lyon) and that’s entire­ly what the short shows: a sin­gle sta­t­ic shot of dozens of men and women, all of whom seem to be wear­ing hats, leav­ing a fac­to­ry for the day. It is a doc­u­men­tary in its most ele­men­tal form.

Above is The Water­er Watered (L’Ar­roseur arrosé), cinema’s first com­e­dy. It shows a gar­den­er water­ing some plants before a naughty kid steps on the hose, cut­ting off its flow. When the gar­den­er looks down the noz­zle, the kid takes his foot off the hose and Bam! — the world’s first exam­ple of some­one get­ting punked on cam­era.

And below you can see the Lumière’s most famous ear­ly short, screened in ear­ly 1896. It shows a train arriv­ing at a sta­tion. The cam­era was placed right at the edge of the plat­form so the train sweeps past the frame on a strong, dynam­ic diag­o­nal. Leg­end has it that audi­ences thought that the train was com­ing straight at them and pan­icked. That’s prob­a­bly not true but it did, for the first time, demon­strate the visu­al dra­ma that can be cre­at­ed by a well-placed cam­era.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

40 Great Film­mak­ers Go Old School, Shoot Short Films with 100 Year Old Cam­era

What David Lynch Can Do With a 100-Year-Old Cam­era and 52 Sec­onds of Film

A Trip to the Moon (and Five Oth­er Free Films) by Georges Méliès, the Father of Spe­cial Effects

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrowAnd check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing one new draw­ing of a vice pres­i­dent with an octo­pus on his head dai­ly. 

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