“The show must go on.” (Credits: Donald Tong pexels.com)
The Longevity of Films
The grand daddy of all films was produced in 1895 by brothers, Louis and Auguste Lumière, who were pioneers of the motion picture concept and its execution. As their father before them, a portrait painter who moved on with the times and became a photographer, the brothers were obsessed with the device used to capture moments in time. They went on to experiment with the collections of stills to produce the predecessor of modern films.
The content was not the least bit scintillating, in fact, it involved a rather dull scene showing a horde of workers leaving a factory and civilly closing the gate behind them after they were done.
However, it might still seem quite interesting to note that the characters were not dressed for a period drama (think Pride and Prejudice or Les Misérables), they were ordinary working class Pierres, Jacques and Angeliques of the time, donning 1890s French industrial couture, minding their own business while being candidly immortalized in film.
The “lead”, who appears somewhere during the halfway mark of the 47-second-long video, was a rabid mongrel attempting to chase and bite a chunk off a man wearing an apron. Guess industry standards were meager in the old days.
This brings us to the main topic at hand. Why are films still relevant after so many decades?
Director Burke Roberts with his camera (Credits: pixabay.com)
Frankly, it feels as if centuries have elapsed. We have seen the biblical Moses divide the red sea in The Ten Commandments (1956), enjoyed the romantic upper-class societal adventures in Gone with the Wind (1939), witnessed the sinking of the legendary luxurious ocean liner in the eponymous Titanic (1997), marveled at the revival of prehistoric man-eating dinosaurs in Jurassic Park (1993) and so much more.
It is mind-boggling to just sit and process the sheer amount of information, expressions and ideas conveyed through film in its mega eventful 123 years worth of history. The faint of heart might just hyperventilate and pass out.
Not to fret, that is where this article comes in handy!
We shall take a gentle-on -the-nerves journey through film history to explain its humble origins from conception, through ‘’talkies’’, technicolor, up till the online multimedia craze widely circulated throughout the internet today.
Despite their revolutionary introduction of motion picture works, the Lumière brothers were smugly confident that the concept was doomed to fail and that it was nothing but a short-lived novelty since photography would always be the first love of the public…or so they thought.
The recent broadcast of the 90th anniversary of the Academy Awards would have made both brothers roll in their graves.
Painting the Rainbow
“Sweets did not look as pretty back in the 1920s” (Credits: rawpixel.com)
Some people still find it difficult to visualise the past in vivid colours, all thanks to the black and white (B&W) picture processing techniques from the earliest days of film and photography.
A great number of interesting online articles have surfaced in recent times, showcasing retouched works of iconic B&W old photographs, shocking many viewers. In the world of film, colour was gradually added to footage between the 1930s – 1960s.
It was not an overnight sensation though, which would have been drastic and probably blinded a few folks who were satisfied with the original “50 shades of grey”.
Silent B&W films were popular from the late 1890s – 1929 due to the expensive nature of processing coloured film. B&W silent films used the technique of title cards in conjunction with scenes, to provide the basis of plot and dialogue.
What happened was a series of developments that worked out their course. The advancement of film involved audio improvements as well.
And contrary to first impressions, there was sound in silent films, just that they were produced by an accompanying musician or orchestra during intertitles (frames between motion shots). The “silence” in “silent film” referred to synchronized or amplified sound that corresponded with the actions and dialogue shown onscreen.
In 1927, the winds of change arrived. The Jazz Singer was the first film to feature synchronized sound and recorded voice, otherwise known as a “talkie”.
The mute button was finally offline. (Credits: Pixabay.com)
When you grant people an inch, they will reach for a yard. It is vintage human behaviour. Thus, it was unsurprising that in addition to the first “talkie” being a talking piece, it had to involve singing.
The controversial movie, featured a white man (Al Jolson) with his face painted black and lips thickened with gloss, who mimicked African American jazz performers, singing and grooving to the words of “Mammy, my dear mammy”…racism was evidently still very much tolerated.
There is widespread belief that early film-makers were so infatuated by the newfound freedom for sound that many of their projects contained wordy scripts that revealed most of the story line. This was a huge difference compared to the miming and expressions required during the silent film era.
In 2011, the movie, The Artist, paid homage to the speechless days of cinematic history. The multiple award-winning film follows the heartbreaking tale of a silent film star (played by award-winning actor Jean Dujardin) who wanes in popularity as the talkies “take over”. Drama heightens as a fresh upcoming female performer (Berenice Bejo) is romantically entwined with the has-been and convinces him to make the ultimate transition in his career.
Dujardin and co-stars relied on the art of miming and exaggerated motions from the old days to convey the emotions of their characters to great effect. The involvement of an animal actor added to the challenge but according to Dujardin, the dog was easy to work with, through a load of improvisations and bribe sausages in the pockets.
As time progressed, films gradually involved better colouring techniques such as technicolor, , applying the use of lithographic dye-transfer processes. The results are vibrant and offer a full range of natural colours, as demonstrated by titles such as Manhattan Parade and Kiss me again (both produced in 1931).
Today, films have transcended the big screens, finding their way to online streaming portals such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, just to name a few. This move grants easier access to audiences who are too busy to visit the cinema and still wish to enjoy a wonderful viewing experience.
Glorious internet; instant classics at the push of a button. (Credits: fancycrave.com)
Once again, why do films withstand the test of time?
Because films are more than just a hobby, they are priceless expressions akin to artistic visuals exhibited at a gallery. They convey deep messages, vibes and meaning that influence thought processes and trends in society.
A film also serves as an escapade for those who are worn out by the routine in everyday life.
Why settle for normalcy when films let you experience so much more without the dangers or troubles associated with reality? You could sit in for the private family conversations of a mafia family (Godfather, 1972), time-travel (Predestination, 2014) or become a part of a historical event (Lincoln, 2012).
I have covered genres such as horror and comedy in my past articles, explaining how they go appreciated by the viewer. There are many other genres in film and content builders are tirelessly exploring and studying the human condition, nature and relationships, to form entertaining and sometimes, educational content.
An old lament goes that “television killed the radio”. There is strong doubt that films would ever be slain by futuristic instruments (this includes those hologram gadgets and other sci-fi doodads) because humans are visual and emotional creatures, films are an extension of us. Sometimes, all we wish to do is to distance ourselves from an event and to observe.
While we continue to think, feel and express our emotions, films will remain a huge part of our lives.
For engaging content on a wide spectrum of topics, head over to Premise TV, the interactive online platform that creates content based on the perspectives of our audience.
Author: Laurenzo Jude