Wednesday, September 7, 2016

FILMBAY 2000 Greatest Films of All-Time (1888-2014) by Year # 0005 - ARRIVÉE D'UN TRAIN À LA CIOTAT, L' (August & Louis Lumière Lumière, 1895, France, 1m, BW)

L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, 1895

August & Louis Lumière Lumière

L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat

Directed by Auguste Lumière, Louis Lumière
Produced by Auguste Lumière
Louis Lumière
Cinematography: Louis Lumière
Production company: Société Lumière
Distributed by Société Lumière
Release date: 25 January 1896

Running time: 50 seconds
Country: France
Language: Silent


L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (translated from French into English as The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (US) and The Arrival of the Mail Train, and in the United Kingdom the film is known as Train Pulling into a Station) is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière. Contrary to myth, it was not shown at the Lumières' first public film screening on 28 December 1895 in Paris, France: the programme of ten films shown that day makes no mention of it. Its first public showing took place in January 1896.

This 50-second silent film shows the entry of a train pulled by a steam locomotive into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. Like most of the early Lumière films, L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat consists of a single, unedited view illustrating an aspect of everyday life. There is no apparent intentional camera movement, and the film consists of one continuous real-time shot.


This 50-second movie was filmed in La Ciotat, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. It was filmed by means of the Cinématographe, an all-in-one camera, which also serves as a printer and film projector. As with all early Lumière movies, this film was made in a 35 mm format with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

Contemporary reaction

The film is associated with an urban legend well-known in the world of cinema. The story goes that when the film was first shown, the audience was so overwhelmed by the moving image of a life-sized train coming directly at them that people screamed and ran to the back of the room. Hellmuth Karasek in the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote that the film "had a particularly lasting impact; yes, it caused fear, terror, even panic." However, some have doubted the veracity of this incident such as film scholar and historian Martin Loiperdinger (de) in his essay, "Lumiere's Arrival of the Train: Cinema's Founding Myth". Others such as theorist Benjamin H. Bratton have speculated that the alleged reaction may have been caused by the projection being mistaken for a camera obscura by the audience which at the time would have been the only other technique to produce a naturalistic moving image. Whether or not it actually happened, the film undoubtedly astonished people unaccustomed to the illusion created by moving images. The Lumière brothers clearly knew that the effect would be dramatic if they placed the camera on the platform very close to the arriving train.[citation needed] Another significant aspect of the film is that it illustrates the use of the long shot to establish the setting of the film, followed by a medium shot, and close-up. (As the camera is static for the entire film, the effect of these various "shots" is achieved by the movement of the subject alone.) The train arrives from a distant point and bears down on the viewer, finally crossing the lower edge of the screen.

3D version

What most film histories leave out is that the Lumière Brothers were trying to achieve a 3D image even prior to this first-ever public exhibition of motion pictures. Louis Lumière eventually re-shot L’Arrivée d’un Train with a stereoscopic film camera and exhibited it (along with a series of other 3D shorts) at a 1935 meeting of the French Academy of Science. Given the contradictory accounts that plague early cinema and pre-cinema accounts, it's plausible that early cinema historians conflated the audience reactions at these separate screenings of L’Arrivée d’un Train. The intense audience reaction fits better with the latter exhibition, when the train apparently was actually coming out of the screen at the audience. But due to the fact that the 3D film never took off commercially as the conventional 2D version did, including such details would not make for a compelling myth.

Films by Auguste and Louis Lumière

La Sortie de l'usine Lumière à Lyon La Voltige La Pêche aux poissons rouges The Photographical Congress Arrives in Lyon Les Forgerons L'Arroseur Arrosé Le Repas de bébé Le Saut à la couverture La Place des Cordeliers à Lyon La Mer (Baignade en mer) L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat Barque sortant du port La Charcuterie mécanique Bataille de boules de neige Partie de cartes Démolition d'un mur Carmaux, défournage du coke

The Lumière Brothers

French inventors and pioneer manufacturers of photographic equipment who devised an early motion-picture camera and projector called the Cinématographe (“cinema” is derived from this name). Auguste Lumière (b. Oct. 19, 1862, Besançon, France—d. April 10, 1954, Lyon) and his brother Louis Lumière (b. Oct. 5, 1864, Besançon, France—d. June 6, 1948, Bandol) created the film La Sortie des ouvriers de l'usine Lumière (1895; “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory”), which is considered the first motion picture.

Sons of a painter turned photographer, the two boys displayed brilliance in science at school in Lyon, where their father had settled. Louis worked on the problem of commercially satisfactory development of film; at 18 he had succeeded so well that with his father's financial aid he opened a factory for producing photographic plates, which gained immediate success. By 1894 the Lumières were producing some 15,000,000 plates a year. That year the father, Antoine, was invited to a showing of Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope in Paris; his description of the peephole machine on his return to Lyon set Louis and Auguste to work on the problem of combining animation with projection. Louis found the solution, which was patented in 1895. At that time they attached less importance to this invention than to improvements they had made simultaneously in colour photography. But on Dec. 28, 1895, a showing at the Grand Café on the boulevard des Capucines in Paris brought wide public acclaim and the beginning of cinema history.

The Lumière apparatus consisted of a single camera used for both photographing and projecting at 16 frames per second. Their first films (they made more than 40 during 1896) recorded everyday French life—e.g., the arrival of a train, a game of cards, a toiling blacksmith, the feeding of a baby, soldiers marching, the activity of a city street. Others were early comedy shorts. The Lumières presented the first newsreel, a film of the French Photographic Society Conference, and the first documentaries, four films about the Lyon fire department. Beginning in 1896 they sent a trained crew of innovative cameraman-projectionists to cities throughout the world to show films and shoot new material.

Additional Information


The work of the two most important French producers of this period, the Lumieres and 
Melies, provides an example of the textual conventions of the one-shot film. Perhaps the 
most famous of the films that the Lumieres showed in December 1 895 is A Train Arriving 
at a Station {L' Arrive d'un train en gare de la Ciotat), which runs for about fifty seconds. 
A stationary camera shows a train pulling into a station and the passengers disembarking, 
the film continuing until most of them have exited the shot. Apocryphal tales persist that 
the onrushing cinematic train so terrified audience members that they ducked under their 
seats for protection. Another of the Lumieres' films. Workers Leaving the Lumiere 
Factory {Sortie d'usine), had a less terrifying effect upon its audience. An eye-level 
camera, set far enough back from the action to show not only the full-length figures of the 
workers but the high garage-like door through which they exit, observes as the door opens 
and disgorges the building's occupants, who disperse to either side of the frame. The film 
ends roughly at the point when all the workers have left. Contemporary accounts indicate 
that these and other Lumiere films fascinated their audiences not by depicting riveting 
events, but through incidental details that a modern viewer may find almost unnoticeable: 
the gentle movement of the leaves in the background as a baby eats breakfast; the play of 
light on the water as a boat leaves the harbor. The first film audiences did not demand to 
be told stories, but found infinite fascination in the mere recording and reproduction of 
the movement of animate and inanimate objects. 

work, which depicted events that might have taken place even in the camera's absence, 
this famous film stages action specifically for the moving pictures. A gardener waters a 
lawn, a boy steps on the hose, halting the flow of water, the gardener peers questioningly 
at the spigot, the boy removes his foot, and the restored stream of water douses the 
gardener, who chases, catches, and spanks the boy. The film is shot with a stationary 
camera in the standard tableau style of the period. At a key point in the action the boy, 
trying to escape chastisement, exits the frame and the gardener follows, leaving the screen 
blank for two seconds. A modern film-maker would pan the camera to follow the 
characters or cut to the offscreen action, but the Lumieres did neither, providing an 
emblematic instance of the preservation of the space of the pro-filmic event taking 
precedence over story causality or temporality. 

Unlike the Lumieres, Georges Melies always shot in his studio, staging action for the 
camera, his films showing fantastical events that could not happen in 'real life'. Although 
all Melies's films conform to the standard period tableau style, they are also replete with 
magical appearances and disappearances, achieved through what cinematographers call 
'stop action', that is, stopping the camera, having the actor enter or exit the shot, and then 
starting the camera again to create the illusion that a character has simply vanished or 
materialized. Melies's films have played a key part in film scholars' debates over the 
supposed theatricality of early cinematic style. Whereas scholars had previously thought 
that stop action effects required no editing and hence concluded that Melies's films were 
simply 'filmed theatre', examination of the actual negatives reveals that substitution 

effects were, in fact, produced through splicing or editing. Melies also manipulated the 
image through the superimposition of one shot over another so that many of the films 
represent space in a manner more reminiscent of photographic devices developed during 
the nineteenth century than of the theatre. Films such as L'Homme orchestra {The One- 
Man Band, 1900) or Le Melomane {The Melomaniac, 1903) showcased the cinematic 
multiplication of a single image (in these cases of Melies himself) achieved through the 
layering of one shot over another. 

Despite this cinematic manipulation of the pro-filmic space, Melies's films remain in 
many ways excessively theatrical, presenting a story as if it were being performed on a 
stage, a characteristic they have in common with many of the fiction films of the pre- 1907 
period. Not only does the camera replicate the proscenium arch perspective, but the films 
stage their action in a shallow playing space between the painted flats and the front of the 
'stage', and characters enter or exit either from the wings or through traps. Melielis 
boasted, in a 1907 article, that his studio's shooting area required a theatrical stage 
'constructed exactly like one in a theatre and fitted with trapdoors, scenery slots, and 

For many years film theorists pointed to the Lumiere and Melielis films as the originating 
moment of the distinction between documentary and fiction film-making, given that the 
Lumieres for the most part filmed 'real' events and Melielis staged events. But such 
distinctions were not a part of contemporary discourse, since many pre- 1907 films mixed 
what we would today call 'documentary' material, that is, events or objects existing 
independently of the film-maker, with 'fictional' material, that is, events or objects 
specifically fabricated for the camera. Take, for example, one of the rare multi-shot films 
of the period. The Execution of Czolgosz with Panorama of Auburn Prison ( Edison, 
1901), a compilation of four self-contained individual shots dealing with the execution of 
the assassin of President William McKinley. The first two shots are panoramas of the 
exterior of the prison, the third shows an actor portraying the condemned man in his cell, 
and the fourth re-enacts his electrocution. Given films of this kind, it is more useful to 
discuss very early genres in terms of similarities of subject matters rather than in terms of 
an imposed distinction between fiction and documentary 

Many turn-of-the-century films reflected the period's fascination with travel and 
transportation. The train film, established by the Lumieres, practically became a genre of 
its own. Each studio released a version, sometimes shooting a moving train from a 
stationary camera and sometimes positioning a camera on the front of or inside the train 
to produce a traveling shot, since the illusion of moving through space seemed to thrill 
early audiences. The train genre related to the travelogue, films featuring scenes both 
exotic and familiar, and replicating in motion the immensely popular postcards and 
stereographs of the period. Public events, such as parades, world's fairs, and funerals, also 
provided copious material for early cameramen. Both the travelogue and the public event 
film consisted of self-contained, individual shots, but producers did offer combinations of 
these films for sale together with suggestions for their projection order, so that, for 
example, an exhibitor could project several discrete shots of the same event, and so give 
his audience a more and more varied picture of it. Early filmmakers also replicated 
popular amusements, such as vaudeville acts and boxing matches, that could be relatively 
easily reenacted for the camera. The first Kinetoscope films in 1894 featured vaudeville 
performers, including contortionists, performing animals, and dancers, as well as scenes 
from Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Again, the shots functioned as self-contained units 
and were marketed as such, but exhibitors had the option of putting them together to form 

an evening's entertainment. By 1 897 the popular filmed boxing matches could potentially 
run for an hour. The same was true of another of the most popular of early genres, Passion 
plays telling the life of Christ, which were often filmed recordings of theatrical 
companies' performances. A compilation of shots of the play's key events could last well 
over an hour. A third group of films told one-shot mini-narratives, most often of a 
humorous nature. Some were gag films, resembling the Lumieres' Watering the Gardener, 
in which the comic action takes place in the pro-filmic event, as for instance in Elopement 
by Horseback ( Edison, 1891), where a young man seeking to elope with his sweetheart 
engages in a wrestling match with the girl's father. Others relied for their humor upon 
trick effects such as stop action, superimposition, and reverse action. The most famous are 
the Melielis films, but this form was also seen in some of the early films made by Porter 
for the Edison Company and by the filmmakers of the English Brighton school. These 
films became increasingly complicated, sometimes involving more than one shot. In 
Williamson's film The Big Swallow ( 1901), the first shot shows a photographer about to 
take a picture of a passer-by. The second shot replicates the photographer's viewpoint 
through the camera lens, and shows the passerby's head growing bigger and bigger as he 
approaches the camera. The man's mouth opens and the film cuts to a shot of the 
photographer and his camera filling into a black void. The film ends with a shot of the 

passer-by walking away munching contentedly. 

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