JDocumeniwry A HISTORY OF THE NON-FICTION FILM Erik Barnouw OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS London Oxford New York OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS. Erik Barnouw (June 23, – July 19, ) was a U.S. historian of radio and television Barnouw is also known for his history of documentary films, and for his film about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the L.A. Times said shook the. Documentary by Erik Barnouw, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide.
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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. But I could hardly have carried through with it except for the opportunity that came in to travel with my wife to some twenty countries, visiting film archives and studios and interviewing documentarists.
This unique odyssey was made possible by a commitment from Ox- ford University Press, a leave from Columbia University, and a grant from the JDR 3rd Fund; to all, a great debt of gratitude is hereby ac- knowledged. The names of many of the artists interviewed will be found in the source notes.
There is hardly any adequate way to thank the countless archivists, projectionists, interpreters, and others with whose help we viewed over documentaries of diverse periods and places, and scanned stills, scripts, and other materials. In thanking the organizations they represented, we want especially to thank the indi- viduals involved. We hope the result will seem, to some extent, to have justified their patient help to two wanderers with an excessive docu- mentary appetite.
Asso- ciation of Film Makers of the U. Bagnouw all, our warmest thanks. Glimpse of Wonders 1 Prophet 3 doucmentary. Images at Work 31 Explorer 33 Reporter 51 Painter 71 3. Sound and Fury 83 Advocate 85 Bugler Prosecutor 4.
Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film
Clouded Lens Poet Chronicler Promoter 5. Filmed by Louis Lumiere. Museum of Modern Art Prophet The inventors of cinema, who were legion, included diverse showmen, and others banrouw interests far from showmanship. Some of these were scientists who felt a compelling need to document some phenomenon or action, and contrived a way to do it.
In their work the documentary film had prenatal stirrings. Thus the French astronomer Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen wanted a record of Venus passing across the sun, an documrntary of 1 He devel- oped what he called a revolver photographique—a. The camera auto- matically took pictures at short intervals, each on a different segment of the plate.
The result— photographed by Janssen in Japan— was not yet a motion picture, but it was a step in that direction, and it gave ideas to others. For Janssen the important thing was: Stanford, a horse-breeder, sensed that the devices used by his trainers to improve gait and speed were based on imprecise knowledge of how a horse runs. Muybridge, already a celebrated photographer, undertook to provide data.
He placed a series of cam- eras—at first twelve, later several times that many— side by side along a track. From these cameras, parallel threads ran across the track.
A horse galloping through them clicked the cameras in swift succes- sion. The photos documentqry information on each stage of the gallop.
The study of animal motion became an obsession for Muybridge. By he had learned to project barnoouw of his photos with an adaptation of the magic lantern, and thus to present a galloping horse on a screen— at various possible speeds. The results were eye-opening to many who saw them. Muybridge had foreshadowed a crucial aspect of the documentary film: Muybridge applied the technique to numerous animals and later to men and women— athletes, dancers, and others, sometimes photographed in lovely nude sequences.
Documentary : A History of the Non-Fiction Film
These often evoked the poetry of ordinary, familiar actions: Such painters as Muybridge sequences— from Animal Locomotion, published Thomas Eakins and Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier began to use Muy- bridge’s work as a guide in depicting figures in motion.
Having seen a Muybridge galloping-horse projection, Marey wanted to do similar work with bird-flight, but birds could hardly be made to trip a series of threads on a pre-selected route.
So Marey followed Janssen’s lead, devising a fusil photographique, a photographic gun, with which he could follow a bird in flight while “shooting” at split-second intervals. At first, as in Janssen’s camera, the photos were successive images on bbarnouw same glass plate; but in he switched to strips of photographic paper and the following year to celluloid strips, putting forty images on one strip. Doxumentary birds in rocumentary, he “shot” such phenomena as a cat falling backwards from a height and landing on its feet.
He too learned to project the results on a screen. He was approaching mo- tion picture technology, but his embryo documentaries were scarcely three or four seconds long.
Georges Demeny, who began as assistant to Marey, was especially interested in problems of the deaf. He felt deaf people could be taught to lip-read, perhaps to speak, if they could see over and over the characteristic mouth movements connected with sounds.
So inwith his own adaptation of Marey’s equipment, he began to shoot and project close-ups of mouths articulating short phrases— “Vive la France” or “Je vous aime.
It remained for protean professional inventors like Thomas Alva Edison and Louis Lumiere— racing against scores of other in- ventors throughout the world— to develop the experiments into a commercial reality and an industry. Edison began the process; Lu- miere and others carried it forward.
To some extent, Edison shared the documentary ardor of the early experimenters. Before he created his peep-show kinetoscope— launched with explosive but short-lived success in — he had met Muy- bridge and Marey and discussed their work with them.
He himself often spoke of the archival and instructional value of motion pictures and sound recordings— in education and business. But in practice his film work quickly took a “show business” direction. In the end it was Louis Lumiere who made the documentary film a reality— on a world- wide basis, and with sensational suddenness. The reason why Lumiere and not Edison played this key role is rooted in sharp contrasts between their technical inventions. The camera with which Edison began film production was an unwieldy monster; several men were needed to move it.
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Also, Edison was in- tent on integrating the invention with another Edison specialty, elec- tricity, to ensure an even speed of operation. For both these reasons, the Edison camera was at first anchored in the tarpaper-covered stu- dio called “the Black Maria,” built at West Orange, N.
This camera did not go out to examine the world; instead, items of the world were brought before it— to perform. Thus Edison began with a vaudeville parade: They appeared at a fixed distance from the camera, usually against a black background, deprived of any context or environment. Filmed in the Black Maria for Edison’s peep- show kinetoscope, Library of Congress The Louis Lumiere camera, on the other hand— the cinematographe, launched in — was totally different.
It weighed only five kilo- grams; according to film historian Georges Sadoul, this was about a hundredth of the weight of the Edison camera. The cinematographe could be carried as easily as a small suitcase.
Handcranked, it was not dependent on electricity. The world outdoors— which offered no lighting problems, at least during the day— became its habitat. It was an ideal instrument for catching life on the run— “sur le vif,” as Lu- miere put it. A remarkable fact about this small box— a trim hardwood item of much elegance— was that it could with easy adjustments be changed into a projector, and also into a printing machine.
This meant that an operateur with this equipment was a complete working unit: In a sudden global eruption, Lumiere operators were soon doing precisely that throughout the world. Louis and his brother Auguste received a tech- nical education, but Louis left school at an early age because of se- vere headaches, and took up laboratory work for his father.
While still a teenager he invented a new procedure for documeentary photographic plates, which gave such startingly fine results that the Lumieres be- Prophet 7 gan to manufacture plates for rocumentary, using the new formula. Soon the family sold the photo studio and on the outskirts of Lyon organ- ized a factory to manufacture plates.
Louis designed the equipment and supervised every detail of the installation. By the factory had workers, sold fifteen million dry plates a year, and was the leading European manufacturer of photographic products— surpassed internationally only by the Eastman plant in Rochester, N.
The elder Lumiere now lived in semi-retirement, painting landscapes. Louis and Auguste produced further inventions, always patented in both their names, although in the case of the cinematographe Louis was the sole inventor, having worked out all the problems during one night of insomnia near the end of This time he photographed convention members— they included the astronomer Janssen— as they arrived by river steamer; next day, at the meeting, he let them see themselves disembarking.
The familiar, seen anew in this way, brought astonishment. Other closed showings were held for scientists in Paris and a photography assemblage in Brussels. A public unveiling was planned, but Louis Lumiere held this off until late in December Early in the year he had placed an or- der with the engineer Jules Carpentier for twenty-five cinematographies.
Throughout the year Carpentier was at work, in constant consultation with Louis Lumiere. Every secret of the apparatus was meanwhile guarded: All films shown and shot during were made with this equipment by the Lumiere brothers themselves— almost all by Louis. The films made during this year numbered several dozen, all about a minute long— at the moment, this was the maximum length of a reel.
They included several films that were soon to be world famous. Many Lumiere films were shown under a number of different titles; the French titles here used are as they appeared in Lumiere catalogues.
Leading the way, astronomer Janssen. In this we see a train approach, from long-shot to close-up. The camera is placed on the platform near the edge of the track. The arrival of the train— vir- tually “on camera”— made spectators scream eril dodge.
As we see passengers leave the train, some pass close to the camera, seemingly unaware of it. The use of movement from a distance toward the viewer, and the surprising depth of field in the sequence, offered audi- ences an experience barnouq foreign to the theater, and different from anything in the Black Maria performances.
None documentarry actors; Louis Lumiere rejected the theater as a model for motion pictures. When the gardener examines the nozzle to see what dovumentary wrong, the boy withdraws his foot and the gardener is drenched. Some regard it as the first fiction film. Prophet 9 French life that grows more fascinating as the years recede: The events are small but vivid. In mid-December of Carpentier began delivering to Lumiere the cinematographes ordered early in the year.