BOCAL AUX POISSONS-ROUGES
aka. "Goldfish bowl"
(Louis Lumière, 1895, France, BW)
Directed by Louis Lumière
Produced by Louis Lumière
Starring Andrée Lumière
Cinematography Louis Lumière
Release dates February 20, 1896 (UK)
At this stage the Lumieres seem to have been pointing their cameras at anything that would hold still enough to shoot and the gold fish that were swimming around in their round bowl don't seem to have objected to being observed.
In most wise, this is a pointer at what not to do in terms of shooting a motion picture. There is a pointlessness to the goldfish swimming around that rouses my impatience. The Lumieres would think this over and soon learn that opposing lines of motion would make the watcher observe the entire frame, most notably in their view of the Brooklyn Bridge.
By shooting the fish in a globular bowl, the Lumières effectively use a fisheye lens, which offers distortions. The history of cinema has witnessed a struggle between the objective and subjective camera and the optically distorting lenses like the fisheye lens has been a powerful tool for the subjective camera. Here it is at the start.
Many of the Lumière brothers' early films are simple observations: a train entering a station, workers leaving a factory. This silent short differs from their other films as in that it uses the distorting effect of a goldfish bowl to show something that can not be observed by the naked eye.
Despite this brief venture into experimental film, the brothers considered cinema to be “an invention without any future”, and subsequently sold their equipment to Georges Méliès. The rest is, as they say, history.
About 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.
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