Curated by Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko

The enthusiasm of filmmakers for the new medium was enormous in 1902. They were inventing and experimenting with new techniques such as miniaturisation (Le Voyage de Gulliver à Lilliput et chez les géants), high camera angles (La Soubrette ingénieuse) or extreme closeups (Rires et pleurs). They are palpably pleased to present longer and longer fairytale productions and biblical stories consisting of many tableaux. Georges Méliès is at his peak in 1902, releasing Les Aventures de Robinson Crusoé, Le Voyage dans la lune – a film destined to go very far – brilliant trick films and much else. His lavish féeries are a worldwide success, but illegally copied by Edison in the US and imitated by Zecca for Pathé in France. In order to get some decent scènes à truc and à transformations into their sales catalogue even the Lumière brothers engage a professional magician, Gaston Velle.
A remarkable trait of the year is the profusion of reconstructed actualities, a specialty of Méliès ever since his impressive L’Affaire Dreyfus of 1899. Instead of showing the re-enacted Coronation of Edward VII we prefer the action-packed Éruption volcanique à la Martinique from May 1902, a work by Méliès considered lost until a hand-coloured print was discovered by the Filmoteca de Catalunya. It will be interesting to compare it to the reconstruction of the same event by Zecca. British films from 1902 such as Reservist Before and After the War or His Only Pair are characterised by a certain socio-critical impact while others such as How to Stop a Motor Car try to push the trick techniques of early cinema to the limit.
The very first magic of moving image still casts its powerful spell in the non-fiction views of A. Lumière et ses fils, Mitchell & Kenyon and Mutoscope & Biograph, but there is change in the air. Its motor is the French company Pathé Frères, which champions a new level of professionalisation in all sectors of its production and distribution. In 1902 Charles Pathé established his first agencies in London and Berlin and the ever-growing variety of genres in the Pathé catalogue attracted more buyers. Knowing the characteristics of genres such as Scène comique, Scène acrobatics, Scène historique, Scène d’actualité, Scène biblique, Scène de danse, Scène de plein air, Scène grivois fuels the imagination and allows us to read the Pathé catalogue like a picture book with moving images – and catalogues were used in this way by travelling cinema operators when they ordered films. A programme dedicated to Pathé Frères and its séries de production (as the genres were then called) will offer you an overview. Not only were films produced and sold and seen in 1902, they were also collected, and it will be exciting to see which films from 1902 Antonino Sagarmínaga acquired for the grand collection that he built up in Spain between 1897-1906, the best years of film history.

Mariann Lewinsky and Karl Wratschko