Release Date: October 14th, 1888 (UK)
Directed by: Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
Cast: Annie Hartley, Adolphe Le Prince, Joseph Whitley, Sarah Whitley
Whitley Partners, Original length 4.33 seconds, 52 frames at 12fps
How do you review something that is less than five seconds long? Let alone something completely devoid of plot? Well, you can’t.
The reason I am talking about this film though is due to its historical significance.
It is the oldest surviving film, at least that anyone knows about. Maybe there are some other experimental pieces buried in a European cellar somewhere but who’s to say?
Now some people may say that 1877’s Sallie Gardner at a Gallop is the first “motion picture” but it wasn’t shot with a single camera, it was shot with multiple cameras with each photo frame being used like a flip book or animation.
Louis Le Prince, this film’s director, was a French artist and inventor and this short clip was a test of his newly invented motion picture camera. While his invention and this film are significant, Le Prince didn’t have a direct influence on what would become the motion picture industry.
Le Prince also made a few other short film clips but two years after this experiment, he vanished… literally. No one knows what happened to him but it’s suspected that he committed suicide due to impending bankruptcy.
Some have thought that this film may be cursed. Because in addition to Le Prince’s disappearance, Sarah Whitley, one of the people in the scene, died ten days after filming. Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, was also shot to death. However, that happened a few years after he testified in court in defense of his father’s inventions against Thomas Edison. But some people like to connect all of this to the film clip like it’s some 1880s Poltergeist.
Anyway, the clip is pretty basic and straightforward, as you can see for yourself below. It’s not really reviewable but it is worth shedding some light on for its place in early motion picture history.
Pairs well with: other very early and experimental films.