Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Press (1919)

Press is a minute long piece of film showing a printing press going through its motions as it’s being set up for that night’s print run.

There’s not much here to review in the traditional sense, obviously, as it’s just a tiny snippet of documentary footage, but that doesn’t really matter. There is a beauty in the movement, a wonder in the slowness. And that’s enough.

One of the things I like about film is that pointing a camera at something and just letting it watch it exist, or occur, forces you, as a viewer, to really look at it. This narrowing of focus, this stripping away of distractions, somehow seems to elongate time, so that a minute of film stretches out more than a minute ever should, or ever would, imbuing it with a depth and density it might not usually have.

I do not know why.

__________

Notes

1. Another film watched via the BFI Player – Press
2. If you also like silent, wordless, minute long looks at things, you might be interested in watching some of my minute at a time series of videos
3. Although of course you might not be

_________

Film Information

Title: Press
Year: 1919
Duration: 1 minute

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly (1909)

To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly is a very short educational film (it’s only a minute long), made using stop-motion animation to explain how spiders travel across unexpectedly large distances. It was directed by F. Percy Smith, a naturalist and photographer who helped pioneer the use of many now-familiar film-making techniques, such as time-lapse sequences.

I love spiders and I love stop-motion creatures and I utterly love this. What a wonderful thing.

And a hundred and ten years old.

__________

Notes

1. I watched this, yes, via the BFI Player – To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
2. I think this may be my favourite thing
3. I just wish I’d seen it earlier so I could have incorporated this knowledge into Spiders Are Wonderful (multiple winner of the factual book of the year award in 2011).

__________

Film Information

Title: To Demonstrate How Spiders Fly
Director: F. Percy Smith
Year: 1909
Runtime: 1 minute

Categories
This Film Is More Than 100 Years Old

The “?” Motorist (1906) / The Automatic Motorist (1911)

The “?” Motorist is a pretty wonderful 3-minute long comedy sketch made in 1906 by WR Booth, an early pioneer in so-called “trick” films, where camera tricks and special effects were used to create breathtaking, impossible, visuals.

The “?” Motorist is a delight. It’s quick, funny, perfectly paced, with a strangely beautiful space interlude and a great final joke. The only downside is that it has a frightening moon with a terrifying face, as was the style at the time.

Then, five years later, he decided to make it again, but this time with a robot driving the car.

The Automatic Motorist, despite the robot, is unfortunately worse in almost every way. In typical reboot style, there’s more stuff, and almost all of it worse, so this is longer, slower, with worse jokes, and any number of shots that go on too long.

There is a, though, really lovely scene where they drive along the bottom of a lake and look at all the delightful newts swimming around, which I found really beautiful.

__________

Notes

1. I watched both of these on the BFI player – The “?” Motorist; The Automatic Motorist
2. Neither of those versions have music, but you can probably find versions with a score on youtube.
3. And many thanks to Vom Vorton for telling me to watch The “?” Motorist, as it was excellent.

__________

Film Information

Title: The “?” Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1906
Runtime: 3 minutes

Title: The Automatic Motorist
Director: WR Booth
Year: 1911
Runtime: 6 minutes

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque (1919)

Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque is a strangely charmless comedic version of Hamlet, directed and written by the humourist and animator Anson Dyer.

I think pretty much every joke falls flat here, not helped by the stilted pace of the animation. As with all things like this, maybe it’s just because I’m too far removed from the time to actually get any of them. But then again, when you watch some of his other cartoons, such as the cutting political satire shown off in Peter’s Picture Poems (1917), maybe Anson Dyer was just a tediously unfunny hack.

There is an excellent bit where a crow graphically eats a snail, though, and I did like this caption, too, so it’s not all awful.

The dog’s pretty cute too.

__________

Notes

1. I watched this on the free section of the BFI’s website, here: Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque
2. There are quite a few other things of his there as well.
3. Including another Shakespeare one, which I’ll presumably watch next year some time. And then immediately regret.
4. Also this has a moon with a face on it. I’m quite scared of moons with faces on them, and always will be.

__________

Film Information

Title: Oh’phelia: A Cartoon Burlesque
Director: Anson Dyer
Year: 1919
Runtime: 10 minutes

Title: Peter’s Picture Poems
Director: Anson Dyer
Year: 1917
Runtime: 3m minutes

Categories
This Film Is 100 Years Old

Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (1919)

Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (or, The Ornament of the Lovestruck Heart) was the first film made by the wonderful Lotte Reiniger, who’s most famous for The Adventures Of Prince Achmed (1926). She was only 19 or 20 when she made this.

Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens is only 3 minutes long, and, unsurprisingly, quite simplistic in style (no scrolling images, nor any backgrounds yet), but it’s still lovely. Like most of her films, it’s all animated using paper cut-outs to create silhouettes, and I’m always amazed at how expressive her characters are purely through their movement.

__________

Notes

1. This isn’t on any of my Lotte Reiniger DVDs, so I watched this on youtube.

2. This version is soundtracked by the composer Jennifer Bellor, although originally it would have been silent, obviously.

__________

Film Information

Title: Das Ornament des verliebten Herzens (The Ornament of the Lovestruck Heart)
Director: Lotte Reiniger
Year: 1919
Runtime: 3 minutes
Related Articles: Lotte Reiniger (wikipedia)