Prod.: AMBCO; 16mm. L.: 9 m. D.: 1’ 10” a 16 f/s
When films were first made in the 1890’s the camera design often limited them to a relatively brief section of film. While such technical limitations had been largely removed by 1903, the large number of films produced that were less than 100 meters (less than five minutes) indicates how cinema was still primarily thought of as a series of short but effective jabs of visual pleasure. Whether a gag, an acrobatic or dance performance, a display of physical pulchritude or even a disgusting swarming of cheese mites, the cinema in 1903 was still largely a means for displaying attractions. Many films from 1903 thematize this delight in looking, openly displaying cinema’s deep roots in scopophilia. Thus the enlargements of the close-up in these films are not truly the ancestors of later close-ups which point out a narratively significant detail or a revealing moment of performance. Instead, close framings in 1903 display a sick kitten, a lady’s ankle, or a hungry tramp smacking his lips for the sheer visual pleasure of display. A key subgenre of the cinema of attractions seen in this program is the facial expression film, in which close framing presents either a comic or grotesque facial expression, enlarged to a degree rarely experienced before cinema. Further, many of these films of display emphasize the mediation of vision through a magnifying glass, a keyhole or even a Biograph camera.