Pioneering filmmakers Auguste and Louis Lumière, the inventors of the projected motion picture, held their first private screening in Paris in March of 1895. The streets of the French capital would go on to provide the brothers with plenty of life in motion for their new technology to capture in the years thereafter, and you can watch eight such real scenes compiled in the video above. With its startling clarity — and its more recently corrected motion and added sound — this selection of pieces of Lumière footage offers a rich six-minute cinematic time-travel experience to the City of Light between the years of 1896 and 1900.
Guy Jones, the uploader of the video on Youtube, provides the following guide to the locations:
0:08 — Notre-Dame Cathedral (1896)
0:58 — Alma Bridge (1900)
1:37 — Avenue des Champs-Élysées (1899)
2:33 — Place de la Concorde (1897)
3:24 — Passing of a fire brigade (1897)
3:58 — Tuileries Garden (1896)
4:48 — Moving walkway at the Paris Exposition (1900)
5:24 — The Eiffel Tower from the Rives de la Seine à Paris (1897)
These places have continued to provide generation after generation of filmmakers with locations for their urban cinematic visions. (The Eiffel Tower now provides an immediate visual shorthand for the city, though it certainly wouldn’t have in this Lumière footage, when it was less than ten years old.) That goes for French filmmakers as well as those of many other nationalities: even the Coen Brothers used Tuileries Garden for their short film Tuileries, previously featured here on Open Culture.
Or at least they used the subway station underneath Tuileries Garden, which wouldn’t open until 1900, the same year as the Paris Métro itself — and the year of the Paris Exposition, also known as the Exposition Universelle, which gave Parisians the chance to ride the moving sidewalk seen in the second-to-last Lumière segment.
Anyone familiar with the Paris of the 21st century will be quick to observe the differences between the city now and the city 120 years ago. But a Parisian of the 1890s might well have said they were the ones who lived in a city made unrecognizable to earlier generations, given Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s complete revision of the central city commissioned by Napoléon III and carried out between 1853 and 1870. For good or for ill, it’s just as much Haussmann’s Paris today as it was Haussmann’s Paris in the 1890s, and criticisms that the city has remained frozen in time aren’t without merit. But to see what has most dramatically changed about modern Paris — that is, what has changed about how people see and interact with modern Paris — we must turn to cinema. Might I suggest the work of Éric Rohmer?
via Boing Boing
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.