Cinema is a young art.
It was born in Lyon in 1895 and it started with the filming of a group of workers getting out of a factory.
That factory belonged to the Lumière Brothers, the inventors of modern cinema.
Last week, I was invited to the avant-première of Lumière! L’aventure commence, a film put together and commented by Thierry Frémaux (the director of the Institut Lumière in Lyon as well as the Délégué Général of the Cannes Film Festival), which is out today in French cinemas.
If you are a cinema lover, this is something you can’t possibly miss.
Lumière! Shows 108 movies (completely restored) made by the Lumière Brothers and their camera operators between 1895 and 1905, in France and all over the world. The Lumière bros actually made more than 1400 movies in total, so this is just a small selection of their incredible patrimony.
I have the feeling that when you mention the dawn of cinema, and silent movies in general, people immediately think they are about to see something boring and very ‘has been’, but this is far from the truth and Lumière! is here to prove it.
These 108 super short movies (at that time they could last no more than 50 seconds) are incredibly modern and it is amazing how they already show all the potential of cinema as form of entertainment and art. The witty, accurate and sometimes very funny commentary by Frémaux guide us through an astonishing amount of different movies: from the family movies shot by the Lumière brothers in their houses and gardens, to the wonderful images taken around the world (Venice, Istanbul, New York, Chicago, even Japan in 1905!), and scenes of ordinary (and yet poetic) life in France: a snowball fight, boys swimming in a clear summer day, men playing the pétanque.
To my disbelief, many of the technical inventions of contemporary cinema were already present in those works: the constraints of the camera movements (they could be just still) obliged the operators to deeply creative filming ideas. Some of them still used today. Basically, the Lumière invented almost everything there is out there to see, even now, with just the extra help of modern technology.
Lumière! is such an enjoyable movie: you laugh, you cry, you marvel watching those images coming from a past that remind us, at almost every sequence, how similar we are to our ancestors.
At the end of the screening, Frémaux talked about the film and he showed us few more short films but, in this case, still to be restored. Wow! What a difference. The brightness, the perfection, the beauty of the black & white were lost without the patient and precious work of the restorers. I sincerely hope they will find the money to save all the movies from their inexorable ruin.
Useless to say, it was full of stars (never seen in all my life such a huge concentration of French actresses all together in the same room) and it was difficult to resist to the temptation of feeling one myself.
This is why I wasn't ashamed to take this picture:
As Frémaux put it so well in the film: cinema is something joyeux, tendre et universel, and it is also, in my opinion, the thing in this world that has more to do with dreams.
So let’s live the dream, until we can!